Result: Richmond Town 2-0 BEADS (North Riding Cup Quarter-Final)
Venue: Earl’s Orchard (Saturday 11th January 2020, 2pm)
Att: 40 (approx.)
This weekend looked to be leading to a trip to one of the grounds that A) wouldn’t seem to be about for much longer, and B) the club may not continue either, for many a differing reason. As it was, this was how it turned out and it was to be probably the most spectacular offering that could have been given, and the town didn’t seem too shabby either! Yes, I was off to North Yorkshire and Richmond Town’s rather famous Earl’s Orchard ground, which sits in the shadow of the town’s old stronghold – Richmond Castle. The old fortification looms over the ground and allows this old venue to become one of the most picturesque venues in football, and today it would be hosting the North Riding Cup clash between the hosts and Beechwood, Easterside and District Social Club – or BEADS, as they thankfully go by more regularly, and will continue to be called from now on!
A train from Manchester to Darlington took up my morning, and after narrowly missing my planned bus, a rather windy twenty minute wait was navigated through before the next service rolled into the stop right outside the station. A half-hour ride later, I was stepping foot in the town centre of Richmond, right outside its Wetherspoon’s offering which, rather helpfully, was located right across the road from the return bus stop. Duly noted. Because of this, the ‘Spoons would be my nailed on final stop-off and I thus began my tour de drink with a visit to the Turf Hotel, just the other side from a barber’s named the “Men’s Room” – which looked as though it was within an old public toilets or something. Clever.
A rather uninspiring pint of Amstel was had here, before I headed slightly uphill to the market area that was taken up with cars for the most part today, along with a tree-cutting service at work alongside the military museum (or whatever the place was). I was mostly taken in with the King’s Head Hotel and wondering if it had a public bar or not. I wasn’t quite sure at first, and so played it safe; instead I made my way a few doors on where the Castle Hotel is to be found. A pint of Stowford Press was had in here, as I fancied something different for once, and this visit provided something unexpected. A programme. A Richmond Town programme. From other fans. For this match! Oh, be still my programme-collecting alter-ego.
Finishing up and now with a little extra haste in my plans (I wanted to ensure I grabbed one), I returned to the, apparently haunted, King’s Head and had a peer inside. Seeing fonts, I knew I was in luck and continued on through the doorway for a Bud Light. From there, I crossed through the car-park/square area and downhill via the castle steps, though these weren’t exactly in the best of shape in terms of being level, and almost led me to death. It’s a good job handrails exist! Anyhow, I soon got back down to road level and got to Earl’s Orchard – where the lady on the “gate” (just a table) took my £3 for both entry and programme, on the basis she’d remember me when I returned. I suppose they weren’t expecting a large crowd then?
The town of Richemond in Normandy was the origin of the Richmond name, which itself then derived from this rural part of North Yorkshire and spread around the world. Richmond, previously held by the Kingdom of Mercia and Edwin, Earl of Mercia, was handed over by William the Conqueror to Count Alan Rufus as thanks for his service in the conquests, and it would therefore become the Honour of the Earls of Richmond, with this dignity also held by the Duke of Brittany from the mid-1100’s to 1399. As a result, Rufus founded Richmond in 1071 and named it Hinderlag, later adding the castle to defend his lands in 1086, with the walls and keep encompassing the Market Place area. Upon the death of John V, Duke of Brittany in 1399, Henry IV took control with the Earldom later awarded to Edmund Tudor and merged with the crown upon his son’s coronation as Henry VII. During the English Civil War, Richmond’s castle was taken over by the Covenantor army, led by Lord Newark, David Leslie, and this duly led to conflict in the locality between the Catholics and Scottish Presbyterians.
In later years, Richmond grew as a centre of Swaledale wool during the 17th and 18th centuries, allied with the nearby lead mining industry in Arkengarthdale and it is from this era that the Georgian architecture began to be added to the town’s look. In 1830, one of Europe’s first gas works was built here and a permanent military presence was added in 1877, with a garrison stationed at Richmond Barracks. The railway station still stands, despite closing as such in 1968 after over 120 years service, and it is here that one of the “drummer boy” legends finds its roots – where a drumming lad was instructed to fit inside a small underground tunnel and drum to allow the soldiers above ground to follow the tunnel’s path into the castle keep. Alas, he fell silent along the way, his disappearance never explained. A few rugby players hail from Richmond, the likes of Calum Clark of Saracens, George McGuigan, Rob Andrew and Tim Rodber call it home, as do inventor of the lifeboat, Henry Greathead, J.J. Fenwick (founder of the department stores that carry his name), Olympic silver medallist, rower Zoe Bell, Theo Hutchcraft of synth-pop duo (and one of my personal favourites) Hurts, and Peter Aury – opera singer who provided vocals to The Snowman‘s “Walking in the Air”.
I returned back up the steep incline and back to the square, where I was soon deciding which watering hole to pick from out of the three in front of me, before I set eyes on a surprise fourth: the Town Hall Hotel, which I hadn’t known existed until this point. It looked the most interesting of them at that point too and so I duly opted for it, A swift Amstel whilst watching a bit of the early kick-off took up the majority of the twenty minutes or so until the game was due to start, before I took advantage of the steep hill once more, it being far kinder when going down-hill, that’s for sure!
Crossing the road bridge, I returned to Earl’s Orchard and headed back inside and passed the table, which had no moved a little more into cover, with the odd squally shower having begun to hit the town. The two teams were just about to kick-off too, so there was no time to waste. As for the ground itself, there isn’t much to speak of – with it being just a fully railed pitch, although the club building, which houses the changing rooms, food bar and all other facilities stands behind the far goal and, despite being a fair way from the pitch itself, offers a decent view with cover given from here. There are some seats too and these have been sourced from elsewhere, but not in the usual way. You’ve seen the likes of seats from Roker Park, Maine Road, Leeds Road and many other old stadia being used elsewhere, but Richmond have gone their own way and installed….BUS SEATS. Not only bus seats, but they are even equipped with seatbelts for when the action gets too much. Unfortunately, this game wasn’t going to offer up much to require those to be of use today. Anyway, with the castle towering over the twenty-two players and benches (well, people sat down or milling around, as it was too windy for the dugouts to be put out!) here’s the story of Richmond Town F.C….
Richmond Town Football Club was founded in 1945 as Richmond AFC, although football has been played at the Earl’s Orchard ground for at least nine decades, and within Richmond itself for over a century. The current club has seen itself play under a number of guises aside from its original title, being named Cameron United and (perhaps unfortunately depending on your viewpoint) The Young Conservatives during the 1960’s, before returning to take on the town name – first as Richmond Town A.F.C., before dropping “A” for the current name. Unfortunately, the information out there is few and far between, but here’s what I’ve managed to source – with some thanks to the blog “put Niels in goal”. It does, however, seem as though success may have been thin on the ground, for the most part.
They played, for a time in the 1980’s, in the Darlington & District League, prior to making the switch into the Teesside League in the latter part of the decade and then, latterly, the Wearside League in 2012. Indeed, Richmond Town won a quadruple that year too, bidding farewell to the Teesside League in style by lifting the league title (having finished as runners-up the year before) alongside silverware in three cup competitions – the league’s MacMillan Bowl, Lou Moore Trophy and the North Riding Saturday Cup. Unfortunately, they have found cup success to only come within touching distance since, reaching the final of the Wearside League Cup in 2013, the Shipowners Cup of 2017 and the Monkwearmouth Cup last season. They’ve remained in the Wearside League throughout this period, and finished last season in 4th place.
The game got underway with the hosts starting the brighter, their #9 giving the BEADS ‘keeper an easy stop, whilst #11 was played in moments later, but chose to try and chip the visiting custodian, only to see the ball, simply, clutched out of the air. BEADS’ own #9 was then guilty of his own striking faux pas, mirroring his opposite number’s chance by allowing the Richmond stopper a much easier save than he ought to have been required to, before the latter #9, of a Richmond persuasion, Ben Darville, finally opened the scoring around half-way through the first period, but was denied by a fine stop, but the gloveman was treated harshly by the footballing gods, with the rebound falling right back at the feet of the striker, who found the net. 1-0.
The ‘keeper than had to be at his very best to spurn #11’s shot when one-on-one with the attacker, before he again showed good awareness to keep #10 at bay, after the home forward’s good work had created a chance for himself out of very little. That would largely be that for the first half and, as such, my next job on the list meant a visit to the food bar was in order for me, and I opted to go all in with a sausage and bacon barm which, quite simply, was tremendous. Kudos for that, and for just the £3 too; I couldn’t complain with that.
The hosts again began on the front foot as the second half drifted through its early stages, and the way these early chances went, you began to think it may be one of those days. It was at this point I was offered some admission money when (unknowingly) manning the “gate” table, but made sure to be honest and decline! Not one, but two were cleared off the goal-line by a BEADS defender, as the visitors continued to frustrate their hosts – who hold ambitions to enter Step 6 next season. First, #7 showed a good touch to work some space, but saw his attempt cleared away at the last, whilst #8 was the next man to be denied at the final fence, as it were, his back-post drive blocked out and the danger was averted.
BEADS then almost had a little luck go their way, as a cross in drifted on the wind and off the crossbar of Town’s goal, but it would be Richmond who would eventually add a second with around fifteen minutes to play, when #16, Ben Clarke, found himself played clean through and he duly raced away and fired home with aplomb. The impressive BEADS ‘keeper would keep his side in with a shout a few more times more before the final whistle, denying #11 on the challenge, #18 with a save at the near post after an old-school route-one attack and lastly showing good handling to keep hold of #8’s free-kick. But it would be Richmond who would deservedly progress on the balance of play by 2-0, though the game had been far more entertaining, thanks to the visitors’ defensive efforts – allowing them to never quite be out of the contest.
Post-match, I was stopped on the footway just alongside the pitch by Town manager Neil Tarrant, who had a chat about the game and the club’s future plans (I best not say too much as I don’t know what’s official!), prior to making my way along the river and to a gate. The other side of this gate played host to fields. Wet fields. And streams. And mud. Lots of mud. It wasn’t fun. Eventually though, I was able to safely negotiate Richmond’s next attempt at claiming my life and got onto something a little more terra firma – the more solid towpath which leads to a few steps that take you up to road level and the old station building that not only houses a café/bar, but also its own microbrewery. As such, I opted to try out a bottle of Richmond Pale Ale and was happy I did so, it’s pretty good!
Finishing up where the rails used to lie, I returned into the centre and the trio of pubs that I had left to visit – the all-but neighbours of the Golden Lion and Bishop Blaize and the club sponsoring Talbot just across the narrow street that runs between them. As to be able to squeeze them all in and allow for a swift one back in the Wetherspoon’s, I reckoned I’d best switch onto the bottled lagers and found that Sol was seemingly the favoured option in these parts. That was fine with me, and I duly stayed on the stuff in each of the three, with a number of Richmond players in the latter enjoying a couple of jugs of beer in the corner, as they celebrated securing their semi-final place. Anyhow, there was little to really report on and I soon got back to the ‘Spoons – named the Ralph Fitz Randal – for a Strawberry & Line draught Kopparberg to round off my trip.
The bus was caught in good time and I was dropped back outside the station with around ten minutes until the train back towards Victoria. However, delays whilst having my usual homeward nap saw my awakening at Leeds offer me an acceptable dilemma. I was certain to miss my planned connection now, but I could instead get into Oxford Road station where my connection would depart from, whilst I could wait out the time until the next one in the nearby Grand Central – a bar I’d not visited in some time. That was what happened and no further issues saw me home for 9pm so, all in all, can’t have too many complaints. That was that then and, overall, my trip to Richmond had been a good one. Yes, the game wasn’t great but – what with the weather – that was to be expected. Otherwise, the town, pubs and travel had gone well and the sausage and bacon barm was of elite levels! Nice one Richmond and, who knows, I could be back sooner rather than later….!
Ground: 4 (but with backdrop, 10)
Value For Money: 9