Ripon’s residents, day trippers and tourists, are spoilt for choice when it comes to heritage attractions in the city and surrounding villages that they can visit.
Top of the hundreds of historic buildings and sites in the area is Ripon Cathedral, founded in 672 AD by Wilfrid, the city’s celebrated patron saint.
Ripon and District Light Railway
Within earshot of the iconic building’s quarterly clock chime is a light railway with engines, track and station, that can be found in the canal-side garden of Neill Clayton on Dallamires Lane.
Ripon & District Light Railway – a project developed over 36 years by Mr Clayton and a small group of rail and engineering enthusiasts – is among 14 locations that can be visited free of charge as part of the Heritage Open Days programme being promoted by Ripon Civic Society (RCS) in partnership with Ripon Business Improvement District.
Details of the programme, which runs from September 9 to 18, can be found by clicking here.
The cathedral, dating back 1,350 years and the railway, with its component parts gathered from the Victorian and Edwardian periods, are the oldest and youngest heritage gems in a treasure trail of locations representing different aspects of the religious, social and economic history of the Ripon area.
Included among the locations that will be open to visitors is another church that bears the name of the city’s patron saint.
St Wilfrid’s Catholic Church on Coltsgate Hill, is considered an architectural masterpiece with its Pugin-designed reredos and classic stained glass among many spectacular features in the Grade II* listed building.
The Heritage Open Days at the church will run from 10.30am until 16.30, except for Sunday September 18, when the times will be 11.30 until 16.30.
Just half a mile away, another religious establishment – the Chapel of the Hospital of St Mary Magdalen, built in the 12th century to care for people suffering from leprosy – enjoys the same Grade I listed status as the cathedral and 82-foot Ripon obelisk.
The stand-out structure on Market Square, features in the open days programme on September 13 when people are invited to gather there at 11am for a guided walk and talk about Ripon’s former industries, led by members of RCS.
Tourism and trains
Among the city’s different industrial sectors, tourism has been a key element of the city’s economy since the 1800s when Fountains Abbey was established as a visitor attraction.
The opening, in 1849, of the Leeds and Thirsk Railway, increased accessibility to the area and in 1902 a scheme was promoted to link Ripon Railway Station on North Road, to the city centre and Fountains Abbey with a narrow gauge electric street tramway.
Mr Clayton, pointed out:
“Sadly, the scheme did not come to fruition because of fears about costs and the disruption that would be caused in laying tracks through medieval streets.”
“While the plan came to nothing, it provided the inspiration for our venture and we look forward to giving those who come to our open days on September 11 and 12, an insight into what might have been, by showing them a static display.
“Unfortunately, as we are weather-reliant, we can only proceed if it is not raining and we are not allowed to provide rides for members of the public.”
Because of the size of the site, visitors will be shown around in groups of up to six.
The other locations involved in the Heritage Open Days are: Clifton Castle (near Masham), The Ruin, St James and the Methodist Church (Grewelthorpe). St John’s Parish Church (Sharow) and, in Ripon: the Courthouse and Workhouse museums, The Gazebo, Masonic Hall and Grammar School Library.