Helmsley in 1843
Helmsley, Helmsley Black-Moor, is a market-town and parish in the wapentake of Ryedale, in the North Riding, about 218 miles from London, 22 miles north of York, and 6 miles west by south of Kirkby Moorside. It is situated upon a gentle eminence sloping towards the river Rye, and appears to derive its name from having been a place noted for stately elms, beneath which it is said that the Druids performed their mystic rites ; and from the dark heathy moor lands in the parish. The parish is one of the most extensive in England, comprising 29,020 acres, and measuring 16 miles from north to south. It comprises the townships of Helmsley, Haram, Laskill-Pasture, Pockley, Rivalx or Rievaulx, and Sproxton, and the chapelry of Bilsdale-Midcable, which includes that of Bilsdale-Birkham ; and it had an aggregate population, in 1831, of 3,411 persons, and in 1841 of 3,475.
The living is a discharged vicarage, with the curacies of Haram and Pockley, in the archdeaconry of Cleveland and diocese of York, with a gross income of £315. The town is neatly built, most of the houses being of stone and slated ; and the church, which is dedicated to All Saints, is a large and handsome old building. with an early hexagonal font. There are also some dissenting places of worship and several schools.
The town contains two branch banks, has a market on Saturday, and several fairs. The manufacture of linen yarn, spun on the handwheel from the distaff, was formerly carried on here to a considerable extent ; but the introduction of machinery in other places has destroyed this branch of industry, and left the town almost wholly dependent upon agriculture. The population of the township of Helmsley was 1,485 in 1831, and 1,465 in 1841, including 17 inmates of the Union workhouse. The town is the centre of a Poor-Law Union, which embraces 48 parishes. Helmsley was for a considerable time the residence of the profligate duke of Buckingham, after he retired from the court of Charles II in a state of indigence.
The neighbourhood contains many interesting natural objects and ancient remains. Among the former are coal-mines, and a rivulet, called the Boro' Beck, which supplies the inhabitants with water, and after leaving the town has a subterraneous course of about four miles. Of the latter the principal is Helmsley Castle, built by the Ross family, to whom the town belonged in the time of Edward I and II. It was held for Charles I in 1644, and besieged by Fairfax, to whom it at length surrendered ; and it was subsequently dismantled by order of parliament. Rievaulx Abbey, about two miles north-west of the town, and Byland Abbey, about four miles to the south-west at the entrance to the vale of York, are also interesting ruins ; and in the immediate neighbourhood is the beautiful mansion of Duncombe Park, the grounds of which present the most charming scenery. The mansion-house itself was completed in 1718, from a design by Vanbrugh. There are chapels-of-ease in the townships of Haram and Pockley, Helmsley-Blackmoor must be distinguished from the much smaller parishes of Gate-Helmsley and Upper Helmsley, in the wapentake of Bulmer, much nearer to the city of York.