“I REMEMBER the pond and fountain in Friary Gardens,” says Ann Gladstone, in response to our query a couple of weeks ago about a feature that was in the centre of Richmond’s park until the 1950s. “It was pretty, it may have had a few water lilies in it, and people threw coins in while they made a wish.”

Ann has lived for much of her life in Richmond.

The Northern Echo: Cradock Hall in Frenchgate Richmond is on the right of this Google StreetView image - you can just see it peering over the hedge

“We used to have our November 5 bonfire in the middle of Newbiggin, and we built snow igloos during the harsh winter of 1947,” she says. “We sledged down Bargate, but the police took our sledges and put them in the cells for us to collect the next morning, when we repeated the sledging again!”

She continues: “The stone arch which can be seen in Queens Road above the Sicilian restaurant was the entrance to a long drive to Cradock Hall (now No 23 Frenchgate, which is boarded up and overgrown).

“In 1977, we lived in the hall for a year and, according to local gossip, it had been the home of a doctor who took children’s tonsils out on his kitchen table.

The Northern Echo: In Friary Gardens, Richmond, in the 1950s. Just behind the bench at the front is a circular bed which is believed to have been the site of the fountain. To the right, is a trench in the path where the water supply once ran

“We were told that in the kitchen (now the garage) chimney for the sweep boys to climb up to clean out the soot.”

Cradock House looks a fantastically unkempt sort of place, and ties in with one of our other recent storylines. A month ago, we told of the Reverend John Cradock, the vicar of Gainford who built Gainford Hall in 1603 – he was a colourful clergyman who made so many enemies that they arrested him mid-service in Durham Cathedral and he may have been murdered by his own wife.

The Northern Echo: The restaurant in Queens Road, Richmond, which used to be the driveway to Cradock Hall. Picture: Google StreetView

His son, Sir Joseph Cradock, became the first Commissary of the Archdeaconry of Richmond in 1636 and built Cradock Hall around 1660. He was elected MP for Richmond in 1661, but only lasted a year until he was unseated by an opponent who proved that because he was a deacon he was disqualified from standing for Parliament.

He remained active in the town and is said to have incited a mob to attack an unpopular hearth tax collector.

The hearth tax was introduced in 1662 and was quite a progressive measure as the richest men with the largest houses and so the most fires would pay the most tax. However, it was despised by the rich because not only did they have a big tax bill but they had to allow an inspector to root around their homes and count the number of hearths.

The Northern Echo: Snow in Bargate in 2008 - a good place for a sledge, despite the cobbles, apparently

Jane Hatcher, in her History of Richmond, says that in 1673, there were 332 householders in the town liable to pay the hearth tax. About 40 per cent of properties had only one hearth but five houses had over 10.

And which was the house with the most hearths? Cradock Hall, with 20. Could that be why Sir Joseph didn’t like the hearth tax collector?

Sir Joseph died in 1686 and was buried in Richmond. His son, Thomas, took up residence in Cradock Hall. He was the town’s MP for 1679 to 1689, and he died the following year.

It looks like the roadside hedge of Cradock Hall has not been pruned ever since.