Grid Ref: SE 607 834
Date: 1 November 2012


South Barbican at Helmsley Castle

Helmsley in North Yorkshire lies between Thirsk and Pickering on the A170. It is in the care of English Heritage. The major parts of the castle comprise two buildings - a keep with turrets and an accommodation block added in the 1550s. Once inside the castle precinct I could not picture the entire site. The English Heritage website has a picture taken from some distance, showing the whole site.

Walter l'Espec, Lord of Helmsley founded both the castle and nearby Rievaulx Abbey. L'Espec was prominent in the North of England in the reign of King Stephen, (1135-54) a period often known as the Anarchy because of the civil war between Stephen and his cousin, the Empress Matilda, daughter of King Henry I and widow of the Holy Roman Emperor, Henry V. Walter l'Espec had been Justiciar of the Forests and Justiciar of the Northern Counties under Henry I. At the Battle of the Standard, fought near Northallerton in 1138, l'Espec was one of the leading English nobles when they repelled a Scottish force under King David I. L'Espec obtained extensive estates in Yorkshire and Northumberland. In addition to Rievaulx, he also founded Kirkham Priory, in 1122.

The original castle, started in 1120 was of timber. The estate passed via his sister Adelina into the de Roos family and was Robert de Roos (also known as Fursan) who in 1186 started to build in stone including two towers and the main gateway on the souths side. Robert married Isabel the illegitimate daughter of King Malcolm of Scotland. He was also one of the 25 barons chosen to ensure that King John observed the provisions of the Magna Carta (1215). Robert de Roos went on the 3rd Crusade and was at the unsucessful assault on Acre in 1190. He became a Knight Templar and is buried in the Temple Church in London.

Robert de Roos died in 1227 and his son William who during the period fom 1227 to 1258 built a chapel in the courtyard. His son Robert held the estate from 1258 to 1285. He was active on new building works including raising the East Tower, building a new hall and kitchens. An interesting feature of his work is that he divided the site in two with a wall so that the southern part was used for his family with the new hall and East Tower while the northern part with its old hall was used by his officials.

During the reign of Edward IV, the castle was confiscated by the crown after Edward de Roos had been executed for taking the Lancastrian side, which had been defeated at the Battle of Hexham in 1464. It was then passed to George Duke of Clarence and after his death in 1478 to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III. After Richard's defeat by Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth, Helmsley Castle was given again to the de Roos family again, in the form of Edward de Roos, 11th Lord Helmsley, by the new king, Henry VII.

Subsequently the castle passed by marriage to the Manners family. Thomas Manners was created Earl of Rutland in 1525. His grandson, Edward, the 3rd Earl, made major changes in the middle years of the 16th century, altering the old hall to a Tudor style residence, connected to a new kitchen converted from the old chapel. He demolished the "new hall".

Edward Manners married Isabel Holcroft the daughter of a prominent Cheshire family of Vale Royal. Francis Manners, the 6th Earl died in 1632 and castle passed in marriage from Katherine Manners to George Villiers, who was 1st Duke of Buckingham.

The castle was held for the Royalist for three months during the Civil War, but fell to the beseiging forces of Sir Thomas Fairfax in 1644. It was then slighted to prevent it being used again by the Royalists by destruction of the walls, gates and part of the tower. The residence remained and by what now seems strange manourverings, it was inherited by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, who married Sir Thomas Fairfax's daughter. In 1687 the castle was sold to Charles Duncombe. The Duncombe family subsequently built a large house in the nearby Duncombe Park, leaving Helmsley Castle to fall into decay.



Castle spacer Castle
View from S. Barbican   View across the castle ditch towards East Tower
Helmsley Castle   Helmsley Castle
Tudor Mansion   Central Section
Helmsley Castle   Helmsley Castle
West Tower   East Tower

The Wikipedia article on Helmsley Castle is at odds on a number of points of the history of the de Roos and Manners families with the English Heritage Brochure so I have used the latter. The Wikipedia article has the castle being sold by the de Roos family to Richard Duke of Gloucester. There are some inconsistencies too in the very complicated descent of the Manners family which are resolved in a Wikipedia article on the Earldom of Rutland from which I quote the relevant paragraph below.

English Heritage Brochure

The Manners Family

"Thomas Manners (c. 1488–1543), son of the 11th Baron de Ros of Hamlake, Truibut and Belvoir, was created Earl of Rutland in the Peerage of England in 1525. He was the great-grandson of Richard Plantagenet. The barony of 'de Ros of Hamlake, Truibut and Belvoir' (sometimes spelled Ros, Roos or de Roos) was created by Simon de Montfort with a writ of summons to the House of Lords for Robert de Ros (1223–1285) in 1264. The title may pass through the female line when there is no male heir, and accordingly, when the 3rd Earl, Edward Manners (c. 1548–1587), left no sons, the barony of Ros passed to the family of his daughter Elizabeth (d. 1591) who became the wife of William Cecil, the 2nd Earl of Exeter. The 3rd Earl was succeeded as 4th Earl by his brother John (d. 1588). The barony of Ros was restored to the Manners family when Francis Manners, the 6th Earl (1578–1632), inherited it in 1618 from his cousin William Cecil (1590–1618). However, Francis died without male issue. On the death of the seventh Earl in 1641 the Earldom passed to his distant cousin John Manners of Haddon Hall, grandson of the second son of the first Earl."

Although the 3rd Earl had no male issue he had a daughter, Elizabeth, who inherited the barony of Ros but his brother inherited the Earldom of Rutland.

index button

Celebrating England

© Craig Thornber, England, United Kingdom    Main Site Address:  https://www.thornber.net/

W3C XHTML 1.0 1.0 Strict W3C CSS