HELMSLEY (St. Matthew), a market-town and parish, and the head of a union, in the wapentake of Ryedale, N. riding of York; comprising the townships of Beadlam, Laskill-Pasture, Rivaulx, and Sproxton, and the chapelries of Bilsdale-Midcable, Haram, and Pockley; and containing 3475 inhabitants, of whom 1465 are in the town, 23 miles (N.) from York, and 218 (N. by W.) from London. This place, which is of great antiquity, and was formerly of considerable importance, derives its name from elm and slac, a narrow vale. It belonged in the reigns of Richard I. and John to the family of Roos, who in 1200 built a strong castle for their baronial residence, which in the parliamentary war, being garrisoned for the king, was besieged and taken by Fairfax, in 1644, and soon afterwards dismantled by order of the parliament. The remains of this structure, which stood on an eminence, and was surrounded by a double moat, consist principally of detached portions of the state apartments and the offices, and part of the keep and gateway. The town is situated on the declivity of a small eminence, sloping gently towards the river Rye, which gives name to the wapentake; the houses are mostly built of stone, with thatched roofs, and the inhabitants are supplied with water from springs and from a rivulet called the Boro' Beck, which, after running through the town, falls into the Rye near Helmsley bridge. The environs are extremely pleasant, being diversified with extensive woods and fertile valleys. Duncombe Park, a noble mansion within a mile of Helmsley, was built in 1718, of the Doric order, from a design by Vanbrugh. There are some mines of coal, chiefly of an inferior description, on the moors; and good limestone is quarried for building. The market is on Saturday; the fairs are on May 19th, July 16th, Oct. 1st and 2nd, and Nov. 5th and 6th, for cattle, sheep, and linen and woollen cloth. The powers of the county debt-court of Helmsley, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Helmsley.
The parish is 16 miles long, from north to south, and comprises about 50,000 acres. The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £11. 8. 6½.; patron, Lord Feversham: the vicarial tithes have been commuted for £405, and the glebe comprises 36 acres. The church is a large and handsome structure, partly Norman, and partly in the early English style, with later insertions, and having a tower at the west end; it contains some elegant screen-work, and an hexagonal font of early English character. At Haram and Pockley are chapels of ease, the latter built in 1822, at the expense of the late Lord Feversham. Bilsdale forms a separate incumbency. There are places of worship for Independents, the Society of Friends, and Wesleyans. The poor-law union comprises 47 parishes or places, and contains a population of 12,010. George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, after he had withdrawn from the court and cabinet of Charles II., spent a considerable portion of his time here, this period of his life being distinguished by revelries and profligacy which soon reduced him to comparative indigence: he died at Kirkby-Moorside in April, 1687.