What a spectacular abbey, and so little known - Easby, on the banks of the Swale just outside Richmond in North Yorkshire. Our visit today was helped by an hour or so of bright spring sunshine. The whole place was enchanting.
It dates from the twelfth century, and has been in ruins since the sixteenth century - Turner pained it, with the abbey looking much as it does now. The building that has survived best - the walls almost full height, and the fine windows in tremendous condition - is the refectory, which appears to have been almost as grand as the church. My 90-year-old father particularly wanted to see Easby as it's one of the few North Yorkshire abbeys he has not visited. He was astonished by the grandeur of the buildings. It's not that far off the beaten track, admission is free, and I'll certainly be going again.
Then into Richmond for lunch, one of the busiest and nicest of North Yorkshire market towns with a very elegant central square.
My last - indeed I think my only previous - visit was in early 1989, covering the by-election which saw William Hague returned to Parliament for the first time. He's standing down in May, so my Richmond visitations have bookended his Parliamentary career. I remember the by-election campaign keenly. Both the Social Democrats and Liberal Democrats contested, and between them got 54% of the vote. If they had worked together, Hague wouldn't have had a chance. The Social Democrat, a local farmer called Mike Potter, was a strong candidate. I went canvassing with him, and couldn't understand why he shoehorned mention of his girlfriend into just about every doorstep conversation. I quickly found out. Lunching with Lib Dem canvassers, one of them made loud mention of how a middle aged bachelor wouldn't go down well with the Richmond electorate. For a liberal party, the Lib Dems were shameless in latching on to homophobic sentiments in by-elections. They did the same thing in Bermondsey.
And in case you are wondering the 1989 by-election came about when Leon Brittan took up a post in Brussels as a European Commissioner.
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