IN recent weeks, we have become fascinated by the red brick building on the corner of Finkle Street and Richmond Market Place – fascinated because, if we are honest, we still can’t make up our minds as to whether it is quirkily characterful or downright ugly. It is, though, one of the few buildings in the square which does not have a listed status.

It was built in about 1890 by Darlington architects Clark and Moscrop, and now Richmond historian Mike Wood has very kindly sent us this magnificent picture showing what it was built upon: the last timber-framed building in the town.

When the picture was taken, that low building was occupied by Mr Ableson, who described himself as a “hair cutter and perfumer”. The front of the building also carries a board advertising the “Steam Power Dye Works” – presumably this was for dyeing clothes rather than for sorting out a lady’s roots that Mr Ableson was struggling to dye.

In the picture, all of the 18th Century buildings from Reed’s King’s Head Hotel, on the right, round to Finkle Street look in excellent condition, although because of the blinds shielding the goods from the blazing sun, you can’t quite make out the doorway that has “John Taylor Cutler” inscribed upon it (a cutler, of course, was someone who made cutlery).

But when was the picture taken?

The clue is on the poster on the far left, which announces the opening of the new Roman Catholic Church in Richmond with a “fancy bazaar”.

The Church of St Joseph and St Frances Xavier opened in 1868 – the “fancy bazaar” must have been to pay off the huge debts with which its construction saddled the congregation.

The low haircutter and perfumer’s place was demolished and replaced by Clark and Moscrop with a stationery shop for Mr Spencer, who sold almanacs and his own photographic postcards – and Mike also has a caricature of him.