The true story of the Lass of Richmond Hill
Sweet Lassie Cottage - the cottage with a story to tell!
The legend of the Lass of Richmond Hill … made famous by the song of the same name … is a love story dating from the late 1700’s. According to the tale, a lovely young girl named Frances I´Anson lived with her family in London town. Her father had ambitions for who she would marry, as she was a pretty and lively young woman. Frances, however, had other ideas. She was smitten by a certain Leonard McNally, an Irish barrister and playwright who was several years her senior. Frances’ father disapproved of the match and sent her to live in the family home in Richmond in Yorkshire, to put an end to the affair.
But Frances and Leonard pined for each other. Leonard discovered where she was living and made his way to the house in Richmond. He sent his lover a message via a servant of the family to meet him at the far gate (possibly Millgate?) and there she ran into his arms. He whisked her away in his waiting carriage and they eloped and married in 1787.
On dark evenings, one can just imagine McNally’s carriage waiting in the moonlight on the steep slopes of Millgate or the old Market Place … ready to speed away, probably down to the river Swale and far away into the dark night …….
Leonard McNally himself wrote the love song which has survived to this day. No-one knows for sure what the lass of Richmond Hill looked like, except that she was very beautiful. In the song, she is likened to a ‘rose without a thorn’, hence the thorn-less rose on the cottage name-sign.
There are various beautiful lassie images in the cottage, and a small collection of genuine ‘’lassie’’ memorabilia.
A real likeness of Frances I´Anson, produced shortly after her death. The closest thing we have of a photo of the lassie.
Oil painting from 1876 by George Dunlop Leslie.
The Lass of Richmond Hill
Painting on glass dating from early 1800s, artist unknown.