HOMEPAGE Helmsley Area Scenes

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2a. Helmsley (2a) Helmsley Castle

Ryedale Views of Helmsley Town, North Yorkshire

Managed by English Heritage

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See also 1. Helmsley (1) - Streets, Buildings and Market Place

2b. Helmsley (2b) - Duncombe Park

10. Helmsley (3) All Saints Parish Church

This is a spectacular castle in the lovely North Yorkshire town of Helmsley.

Helmsley Castle, North Yorkshire

A model of the medieval structure of Helmsley Castle, North Yorkshire.


Helmsley Castle Helmsley Castle
Helmsley Castle Helmsley Castle

Granddaughter Niamh and the East Tower and Autumn frolics with Granny Molly at Helmsley Castle.


The deep inner moat-ditch of Helmsley Castle, part of the extraordinarily well preserved defensive earthworks.


The East Gate Tower and the west range of Helmsley Castle. The West Tower is at the end on the right.


Helmsley Castle, North Yorkshire Helmsley Castle, North Yorkshire

Some details of the deep ditch defensive earthworks on the north side of Helmsley Castle, North Yorkshire.


The East Gate Tower and the West range, the latter includes the West tower on the right - view from the Walled Garden.

Helmsley Castle, North Yorkshire

Details of the west range of Helmsley Castle, North Yorkshire

The original Helmsley castle was built by Walter d'Espec ("A valiant soldier of the Conqueror") in the early 12th century ~1120, but most of the oldest buildings in existence are from the time of Robert de Roos ~1200, whose family retained the castle until 1688. Throughout the medieval period the castle was strengthened and improved well into Tudor times but during the 17th century Civil War much of its defences were dismantled so it could not be used as a Royalist stronghold. Helmsley Castle was besieged by the Parliamentarians in 1644, the Royalists were starved out and the Roundheads made it unusable! but fortunately English Heritage takes good care of the ruinous residue!


The ruins of Helmsley Castle viewed from the road up to Duncombe Park.

The ruins of Helmsley Castle viewed from the road up to Duncombe Park. In the centre of the picture is the ruins of the South Barbican entrance and in the distant right the East Tower of the castle Keep.

Helmsley Castle, North Yorkshire

The south gate and a triple sculpture of armed men.


Helmsley Castle, North Yorkshire


Helmsley Castle, North Yorkshire


Click for the start of the new Helmsley Castle picture sequence


On the left - most of the west range was rebuilt between 1563 and 1587 - including mullioned and transformed windows, panelling, plaster friezes and ceilings and some fancy fireplaces!

West range and eastern tower.


Another view from the walled garden to the west of Helmsley Castle, North Yorkshire.


The ruined stark forbidding keep of Helmsley Castle in front of the more stylish and pleasing 15th century domestic buildings.

The ruined stark forbidding East tower of Helmsley Castle in front of the more stylish and pleasing 15th century domestic buildings. Much of the west side of the 'Keep' remains, but much of the eastern entrance has gone!

The interior of the East Gate Tower of Helmsley Castle

The remains of the keep and gatehouse of Helmsley Castle high above the main defensive ditch of the castle.

The remains of the East tower of Helmsley Castle high above the main defensive ditch (moat) of the motte and bailey Norman castle.

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The East tower - the characteristic ionic image of the Keep (and Helmsley itself!), seen from Helmsley town.


Helmsley Castle, North Yorkshire

The intact west side of the East gateway of Helmsley Castle, North Yorkshire.

Old fireplaces in the west range of Helmsley Castle, North Yorkshire.


Cannon balls and an unexploded bomb! from the English Civil War.


The southern end of the western range of buildings of Helmsley Castle, North Yorkshire.



Weapons and arrow heads in the display of historic objects found in the castle grounds.


Click for the start of the new Helmsley Castle picture sequence


Helmsley Castle viewed from above Helmsley on the footpath to Rievaulx.


What Helmsley Castle once looked like in the13th century!

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Views of Helmsley Castle from the parkland of Helmsley Castle, North Yorkshire

Duncombe Park


Duncombe Park


Duncombe Park




Helmsley Castle
Helmsley, North Yorkshire
Helmsley Castle is located in North YorkshireHelmsley CastleHelmsley Castle
Coordinates 54.2391°N 1.0655°WCoordinates: 54.2391°N 1.0655°W
Grid reference grid reference SE6183
Site information
Controlled by English Heritage
Condition Ruins
Site history
Demolished English Civil War
Helmsley Castle (also known anciently as Hamlake) is a medieval castle situated in the market town of Helmsley, within the North York Moors National Park, North Yorkshire, England.

Although the estate of Helmsley was granted to Robert, Count of Mortain following the Norman conquest; there is no evidence that he built a castle in the area. The castle, constructed in wood around 1120, was built by Walter l'Espec. Helmsley Castle 1 history architecture positioned on a rocky outcrop overlooking the river Rye. Featuring double ditches surrounding a rectangular inner bailey, the castle bears little resemblance to the motte and bailey castles built at the time (seen nearby at Pickering Castle). Helmsley Castle 2 history architecture The castle at Helmsley was only 1.9 miles (3 km) from Rievaulx Abbey and Walter l'Espec granted the land for the abbey. Aelred, who was the abbey's first novice master, was known to be involved in l'Espec's affairs (military and personally) and Helmsley was often used as a place of safety during periods of instability. Helmsley Castle 3 history architecture

Walter was childless and on his death in 1154 the castle passed to his sister Adelina who had married Peter de Roos. Helmsley Castle 4 history architecture In 1186 Robert de Ros, son of Everard de Ros, Helmsley Castle 5 history architecture began work on converting the castle to stone. Helmsley Castle 6 history architecture He built two main towers, the round corner towers and the main gateway on the south side of the castle. Helmsley Castle 7 history architecture He died in 1227, granting the castle to his older son William who lived there from 1227 to 1258. Helmsley Castle 8 history architecture The only change made to the castle during this time was the construction of the chapel in the courtyard. Helmsley Castle 9 history architecture William's son, Robert, inherited the castle and was Lord of Helmsley from 1258 to 1285. His marriage to Isabel d'Aubigny (heiress to Belvoir Castle) funded the building of the new hall and kitchen, as well as strengthening the castle. This may include the building of the impressive South Barbican which was constructed between 1227 and 1285. He built a wall dividing the castle into north and south sides, with the southern half for the private use of the lord's family in the new hall and east tower, and the northern half containing the old hall to be used by the steward and other castle officials. The strengthening of the castle continued into Robert's son William's life. Helmsley Castle 10 history architecture William de Ros II died in 1316. The East Tower may have been heightened specifically for the visit of King Edward III; who stayed at the castle for around five days in 1334.

Helmsley Castle remained in the possession of the de Roos family until 1478 when Edmund de Roos sold it to Richard, Duke of Gloucester who later became Richard III. Helmsley Castle 11 history architecture Richard did nothing to the castle, staying instead at Middleham Castle. After Richard III's death at the Battle of Bosworth, Helmsley Castle was restored to Edmund de Roos by Henry VII.

The remains of the East Tower
Edmund died childless in 1508 and the castle passed to his cousin Sir George Manners of Etal on whose death in 1513 his son Thomas inherited it. Helmsley Castle 11 history architecture He was created Earl of Rutland in 1525. On his death in 1543, Thomas was succeeded by his son, Henry, but it was under the rule of his grandson Edward, that the castle was altered next. He had the old hall converted into a Tudor mansion, converted the 13th-century chapel into a kitchen linked to the old hall by a covered gallery, and knocked the new hall down. The south barbican was converted into a more comfortable residence at this time. Helmsley Castle 12 history architecture A letter of April 1578 describes the slow progress of the mason's work (and the payment of a £10 sum to the mason), and that timber was available for a gallery in the attic of the mansion. Helmsley Castle 13 history architecture On Edward's death in 1587 his brother John Manners inherited the castle, followed by John's son Roger, and then Roger's younger brother Francis. On the death of Francis in 1632 the castle passed to George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham through his marriage to Katherine, Francis' daughter. Helmsley Castle 14 history architecture

During the English Civil War, the castle was besieged by Sir Thomas Fairfax in 1644. Helmsley Castle 15 history architecture Sir Jordan Crosland held it for the king for three months before surrendering. Parliament ordered the castle to be slighted and much of the walls, gates and part of the east tower were destroyed. Helmsley Castle 16 history architecture However the mansion was spared. Helmsley Castle 17 history architecture The castle had by this time been inherited by George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham who married Mary, daughter of Thomas Fairfax in 1657.

After his death in 1687 the castle was sold to Charles Duncombein 1695. Helmsley Castle 18 history architecture He was a banker and politician who was knighted in 1699 and became Lord Mayor of London in 1708. The 40,000 acre estate was purchased for the sum of £90,000 (roughly £11,000,000 in 2018). His sister Mary's husband, Thomas Brown, inherited the castle on Charles's death in 1711. Thomas changed his name to Duncombe. He hired William Wakefield, a protégé of Sir John Vanbrugh, to build a country house at Duncombe Park overlooking the castle and left the castle to decay. The castle was designed as a picturesque backdrop for the Duncombe Park estate, and was even sketched by the great JMW Turner. As the castle fell into disrepair the local community took advantage of the site to hold fêtes, pagaents and even agricultural shows. The vicar of All Saint's Church Charles Norris Gray often held events in the castle throughout the latter part of the 19th century. The castle passed into the hands of the Office of Works in 1923 (under the guardianship of Sir Charles Peers), who began the clearing of debris and trees from the site. The castle's remarkable earthworks were planned to be part of an anti-tank defence during the Second World War. Although it is still owned by the Feversham family of Duncombe Park, the castle is now in the care of English Heritage.

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See also 1. Helmsley (1) - Streets, Buildings and Market Place

2b. Helmsley (2b) - Duncombe Park  and 10. Helmsley (3) All Saints Parish Church

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