You probably never heard of Helmsley Castle. It isn't one of those castles that they put in the movies or that they romanticize about in books or poems. But... Helmsley castle is one of those magnificent stone structure that has a spectacular thousand year history. Yes, owned by knights, passed down for generations, deaths in the family with no children and passed to cousins. It has been sieged. It has been rebuilt, and it has been added to. In short it has experienced all the things that you would expect a castle to experience over the course of almost a thousand years.
It started out as a wooden structure and over the centuries as it changed hands it grew and changed. Now it is still privately owned it is in the care of the English Heritage Society and for good reason. It is a ruins now but it is a magnificent ruins with a long history and a beautiful story.
Here is a look at a miniature model of the Castle as it stood at its peak.
And here is a picture of the grounds as it now stands. In the model above you see all of the structures that once stood. While those structures are mostly now gone their foundations still remain. The picture below shows what now stands of the buildings which is the very original keep on the left and on the right is living quarters which were added in the 16th century.
Behind the market town of Helmsley is a wooded area. Concealed by the trees but a glimpse of a ruined tower betrays its existence.
Helmsley Castle. Although ruined the Castle is very well preserved and quite a bit of its walls are in plentiful supply.
Our visit starts with a doorway over a wooden bridge giving us access to a view of a world long gone but firmly entrenched in our history as being associated with one of the Barons (Robert de Ros) who appended his seal to a famous document - the Magna Carta.
A document, a contract if you will, that was numerous in pages and outlined those grievances the Barons had with King John and his excesses. It also protected the Freeman by not taking away his possessions or dispossessing him, unless by a judgement of his peers ie in a court of law, amongst other things.
Once through the first doorway, we encounter another bridge and a Barbican and one would assume that from the pictures the bridge would have traversed a moat, which is now long dried up and just a sea of grass.
Looking up within the doorway you can see some magnificent stone carving of corbels. There are lots of plaques around giving information on the environs of the Castle.
Looking left you cannot help get a feeling of awe at seeing such a magnificent building in such good condition despite its age.
The west tower is interesting even though it is basically a shell. Built in 1190 and 1200 it was a four storey building that provided accommodation for the Lord and his Lady.
The solid oak doors in the walls led to the adjoining building.
Spotting some original window framing without its glass and fireplaces one above the other and amazingly a lintel with a heavy oak beam on each side of it.
Another amazing thing is to see a beam over a window and supporting three floors of stonework above it.
Inside the house oak panelling surround a large fireplace with ornate wood carving and plaster ceiling. These effectively cover the original stonework - a legacy from one of the previous Elizabethan owners.
Looking out from the windows you can see a walled garden which interestingly has bee hives in the grounds and nicely laid out flower and vegetable plots.
English Heritage has invested a lot of time and effort in preserving our historical buildings, if they had not then the age of the castle would have disappeared from the land.
800 years on from the acceptance of the Charter English Heritage have commissioned a theatre group ( "Time will Tell" ) to write a playlet that helps to explain how and why the Magna Carta was needed. Interestingly a copy of one of the pages can be seen in a glass case within the Helmsley House. In short, so much to see here and take a step into history.
Picture of the Magna Carta Facsimile at the castle.