Under powers granted in 1845, the York & Newcastle Railway opened a double-track branch from Eryholme - six miles south of Darlington - to Richmond on 10th September 1846. A temporary wooden platform served as a terminus until the permanent building welcomed its first passengers on 9th April 1847. Its layout included generous goods facilities as well as staff accommodation.
The main building was the work of the architect G T Andrews of York and specifically designed to blend in with this market town's character. The two-ridge train shed, lit by gas, covered a platform line and two sidings. The original platform was both low and short but it was lengthened in 1860 and 1915, on the latter occasion to cope with increased military traffic from the newly-established Catterick Camp. In its final form, it was 268 yards long.
A rearrangements of the offices and waiting rooms occurred during the First World War and, at about the same time, a large window at the buffer stop end of the platform was opened up to create a door for handling parcels traffic. The station bookstall was removed in 1940 and, during the Second World War, the stationmaster's office was requisitioned by the army as a base for the Railway Transport Officer. Electric lighting was finally installed in the late 1940s.
BR earmarked the line for closure in 1963 but this was vigorously opposed by locals; the proposal was duly withdrawn. However the next few years saw the line progressively run down. Goods traffic ended in 1967, allowing the railway to remove the sidings and signals. Passenger services were removed from the timetable on 3rd March 1969, after which the remaining track was lifted.
The main building lay derelict until the site was acquired by the District Council. In 2003, a community-based project was given the go-ahead to regenerate the station and it reopened in 2007 with two cinemas, an art gallery, heritage centre, food outlets and several rooms for public use. It is now a Grade II* listed building.