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Helmsley, North Riding of Yorkshire

Historical Description

Helmsley, a small market and union town, and head of a county court district, in the N.R. Yorkshire. The town is in a lovely situation, adjacent to the river Eye, under the Cleveland Hills, 14 miles W of Pickering, and 14 E of Thirsk, and has a station on the N.E. R., and a post, money order, and telegraph office (E.S.O.) It includes a spacious market-place, with a splendid monument erected in memory of William second Baron Feversham. There are two banks, several good inns, a church, a Roman Catholic and three dissenting chapels, and a workhouse. The church is of different dates from Norman downward, consists of nave, N aisle, transepts, and chancel, with western embattled tower, and contains the remains of a piscina of the 14th century, a brass, and several monuments. The church was largely rebuilt about 1869, a restoration which removed many of the older architectural features. The N transept has been more recently fitted up as a side chapel. A weekly market is held on Friday, and fairs are held on 19 May, 16 July, 1 and 2 Oct., and 5 and 6 Nov., for cattle, sheep, and horses. The township comprises 8812 acres; population, 1508; of the ecclesiastical parish, 2203. The parish contains also the townships of Eivaulx, Laskill Pasture, Pockley, and Sproxton. Acreage, 51, 606; population, 3718. The manor belonged to the family of De Roos, passed to the Dukes of Buckingham, was purchased in 1685 for £90, 000, by Sir Charles Duncombe, and belongs now to his descendant, Earl Feversham. The profligate Duke of Buckingham, after retiring from the court and cabinet of Charles II., made this the favourite scene of his sports and revelries, and he died in the neighbouring town of Rirby Moorside, in 1687, in obscurity and neglect. Pope alludes as follows to the sale of his estate:-" And Helmsley, once proud Buckingham's delight, Slides to a scrivener or a city knight."

Helmsley Castle or Castle Fursan, within the grounds of Duncombe Park, on an eminence overlooking the town, was built in the 12th century by Robert de Roos, was defended by two broad and deep moats, outer and inner; sustained a siege by the Parliamentarian force in 1644, and eventually capitulated to them, and is now an interesting ruin, with part of an Early English keep about 95 feet high. A range of buildings on the W side, close to the moat, is Tudor and well preserved, and probably was the residence of the Duke of Buckingham. Duncombe Park, the seat of Earl Feversham, burnt in 1879, was built in 1718 by Wakefield, after designs by Vanbrugh. The rebuilding was completed in 1894, but unfortunately one of the wings took fire during a hurricane early in that year and was completely gutted. It occupies a charming site amid magnificent grounds, is in the Doric style, somewhat heavy but very imposing, has a hall surronnded by lofty Corinthian pillars, and a saloon 88 feet by 24½, partitioned into three compartments by Ionic pillars, and contains a rich collection of paintings and sculpture, among the latter the Dog of Alcibiades and Discobolus, or the Quoit-Thrower, both ascribed to Myron, who lived about the year B.C. 440. The beautiful remains of Rivaulx Abbey, the first Cistercian house in Yorkshire, are a little to the NW. [See RIVAULX.] The living is a vicarage, with churches at Sproxton, East-moors, Carlton, Rivaulx, and Pockley, in the diocese of York; gross value, £340 with residence. Patron, the Earl of Feversham.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyYorkshire 
Ecclesiastical parishHelmsley St. Matthew 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records

Findmypast, in conjunction with various Archives, Local Studies, and Family History Societies have the following parish records online for Helmsley:


Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Helmsley from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for the North Riding of Yorkshire is available to browse.


Online maps of Helmsley are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following North Riding newspapers online:

CountyNorth Yorkshire
RegionYorkshire and the Humber
Postal districtYO62
Post TownYork