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Surrounded by spectacular banks and ditches, the great medieval castle’s impressive ruins stand beside the attractive market town of Helmsley. The fortress was probably begun after 1120 by Walter Espec
Most of Helmsley’s surviving stonework defences were raised during the late 12th and 13th centuries, by the crusader Robert de Roos and his descendants. They include a pair of immensely strong ‘barbican’ entrances and the high, keep like east tower, unusually D-shaped in plan, which still dominates the town. But Helmsley is not only a medieval fortress. During the Elizabethan period the Manners family remodelled the castle’s chamber block into a luxurious mansion, whose fine plasterwork and panelling still partly survive.
The castle’s first and last military trial came during the Civil War. Held for King Charles, it endured a three month siege before being starved into submission in November 1644 by Parliamentarians by Parliamentarians under Sir Thomas Fairfax, who was seriously wounded in the fighting. Fairfax then dismantled the defences but spared the mansion, subsequently the home of his daughter and her husband, the profligate Duke of Buckingham.
Demoted to a romantic backdrop when later owners moved to nearby Duncombe Park, Helmsley Castle has recently undergone a thorough makeover by English Heritage, making it more accessible to a wide range of visitors. This includes a brand-new visitor centre also providing tourist information, an audio tour, and an imaginative hands-on exhibition in the mansion range.
1 Apr-30 Sept 10am-6pm Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun 1-31 Oct 10am-5pm Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun 1 Nov-29 Feb 10am-4pm Mon Thu Fri Sat Sun 1-20 Mar 10am-5pm Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Adult £4.00 Children £2.00 Concession £3.00 Family £10.00 English Heritage members Free