This bank holiday I ticked off another city of the alphabet in my Visit 26 towns or cities starting with each letter of the alphabet challenge as part of the 101 things to do in 1001 days project (www.dayzeroproject.com) and ticked off the letter R with Ripon, a small cathedral city just North of Harrogate, North Yorkshire. It is the fourth smallest city in England.
First impressions were that it is a beautiful town. Lots of open spaces and as we turn into summer lots of trees and flowers in bloom. One of the frustrating things about trying to get to Ripon is its lack of train station. Even my tiny housing estate has its own station but theirs closed down in 1967 and has yet to be reopened. Looking into the cities history it does mention ongoing council debates to have a station re-opened so things may change in the future. In the meantime it’s accessible by bus or car.
The bus stops right next door to a small shopping arcade which leads onto the market square. Visiting on a Sunday lunchtime we missed two key things that Ripon is famous for, its markets (on a Thursday) and the 9am Hornblower call. This happens every day and the horn is blown at all four corners of the square and has been a tradition for many centuries. It would be nice to go back again to see the markets but not being a morning lover I can’t imagine ever going to back early enough for the hornblowing!
We started our journey by looking around the Cathedral which is thought to date from 672AD. The cathedral is huge! And very beautiful, I could spend ages just staring at the brightly coloured stained glass windows. When we got there Sunday service was about to finish and we were welcomes in to look around but also listen to the last 10 minutes of the choir sing. With the choir in the background it made for a lovely accompaniment to the building.
There are three museums in the city but two of them are only open 1pm -4pm so we decided the next stop should be lunch and The Black Bull pub. What started as a quiet lunch soon got very busy with one poor barmaid trying to serve beer, take food orders and waitress until she eventually found some young lad to help her out. A usual pub chain menu, we ordered carbonara and lasagne. Both were absoluetly lovely. I’d complain about the portion size being a little on the small size but at £5.50 per meal it wasn’t really a problem.
Now onto the museums. The work house museum was fantastic. I’m a family tree enthusiast and currently working on tracing mine. I found out that one of my ancestors was in Hull workhouse. I know it affected her for the whole of her life and have wanted to find out more about work houses to discover how it affected her mental health. Even though it was a different place it’s one of few that are now a museum as many were turned into hospitals. Ripon museum has set out an old section into how it would be for inhabitants both for the poor and also tramps as they were treated differently. A fascinating journey for anyone looking into personal history
Next onto the police and prison museum. Another building that actually used to do what it now shows you the first thing you see is an old police telephone box. For anyone that’s seen Dr Who it’s pretty much the same but without the techie goodies inside. Inside the museum the old police cells are all turned into mini displays from old uniforms to a replica cell, how they were occupied for hard labour. The rooms of punishment tools was particularly interesting, everything from truncheons to manacles to a man trap! Then a room full of the history of handcuffs, one for finger printing and so much more. There really was a lot crammed into a small space. Not so good for the claustrophobic but I guess if I’d have been a criminal in olden times the cramped quarters would have worked as good punishment for me!
Last little museum was the courthouse museum. Each of these three museums cost £4 each but you could get an annual multi pass for £9. I think for the court house the £1 fee from our multi pass was about the right charge as it is basically 3 rooms with not a great deal to see. However the staff there know so much local history it’s worth £3 just to talk to them! This happened at the work house museum too. I found out so much about the history there but also on how to further my own research. It’s this type of customer service that brings people back again and again.
Sadly we didn’t get to see the shops as the look around the city features took up most of our day. This is a rarity in some places and I would definitely like to come back again and see more of what they have to offer.