Helmsley in Rydale is one of the most attractive of North Yorkshire's country towns. Roads from Cleveland, York, Scarborough, and Thirsk converge here at it's wide attractive market place, dominated by the prominent memorial of 1867 to the second Earl of Feversham.
The town's buildings, are mostly constructed of the local limestone, with pantile roofs, which form a pleasing setting for the busy Friday market. Some half timbering in the former rectory house adjoining the Black Swan, at Canons Garth, and at the old Manor House in Castlegate, suggests 16th century origins, but much of Helmsley, was rebuilt last century, as part of the Feversham estate.
Borough Beck, which enters Helmsley from the North, and flows alongside a green, gives a village feel to this part of the town, and it's daffodils are plentiful in the spring, where it joins the river Rye which marks Helmsley's southern boundary.
Helmsley Castle was founded in the late 12th century but was extensively added to about 1200, with a remodeling of the West range by Sir Edward Manners in Tudor times. The Duke of Buckingham held the Helmsley estate in the 17th Century, until it was bought by a London banker, Sir Thomas Duncombe, from whom the Fevershams descended.
The mansion of Duncombe Park, probably designed by Vanbrugh but built by the amateur architect William Wakefield in the early 18th century, was largely destroyed by fire in 1879 and rebuilt to the original designs a few years later. The present Earl of Feversham has recently renovated the house and opened it to the public. The 600 acres of of parkland, including the superb terrace with classical temples at each end, re[resent a bold early landscaping enterprise of 1720 - 30.
It is thought that Wordsworth and His sister Dorothy may have stayed at Helmsley's Black Swan on their way to Brompton for William's wedding in October 1802. Dorothy's diary notes that they slept at a very nice inn and were well treated. Today's visitors have a choice of good accommodation including the purpose built Youth Hostel. The North Yorkshire moors National Park headquarters are in the old Vicarage, Bondgate, and Helmsley is the starting point for two long distance footpaths; the Cleveland Way and the Ebor Way. The Tourist Information Centre is located in the Town Hall.
A music and the arts festival which is part of the Ryedale and Helmsley Festival, is held in the each summer in the town
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