From pow­er­house to ruin

Landscape (UK) - - In the Home -

A dom­i­nant struc­ture

Be­side the town, and dom­i­nat­ing it, are the re­mains of a once-proud cas­tle. Perched high on its de­fen­sive mound, the cas­tle’s heav­ily for­ti­fied bailey and bar­bi­cans are still largely in­tact. Its four-storey East Tower is the tallest struc­ture in Helm­s­ley. To­day the whole com­plex is cared for by English Her­itage. “You re­ally sense the depth of his­tory as you come in through the South Bar­bican, just as vis­i­tors to Wal­ter Espec’s es­tate would have done in the 12th cen­tury,” ex­plains Adam Price, the site man­ager. He says he feels the cen­turies of his­tory ev­ery morn­ing when he ar­rives to “wake up the cas­tle”. “This build­ing was about one thing – dom­i­na­tion. The town’s in­hab­i­tants were in no doubt about who held the power here. It is im­pos­ing and awe-in­spir­ing.” Helm­s­ley Cas­tle was built by a Nor­man lord, Wal­ter Espec. It trans­formed the small town, for­merly known as Elmes­lac, into a pow­er­house of trade and mil­i­tary might. In 1120, Espec was granted al­most un­lim­ited power across north­ern Eng­land by the king, Wil­liam II. Helm­s­ley Cas­tle was de­signed to un­der­line his power and in­flu­ence. Passed to the de Roos fam­ily fol­low­ing Espec’s death, it was strength­ened through the 13th and 14th cen­turies. In the less tur­bu­lent 16th cen­tury, a Tu­dor manor house was added in the in­ner bailey. The cas­tle’s only ac­tive com­bat came in 1644, at the height of the English Civil War. Its Roy­al­ist gar­ri­son was be­sieged for three months by Par­lia­men­tar­ian forces. Only the threat of star­va­tion forced sur­ren­der. In recog­ni­tion of their brave re­sis­tance, the 200 oc­cu­pants were al­lowed to march out with hon­our, sport­ing their small arms weaponry. The vic­to­ri­ous Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans blew up and dis­man­tled parts of the cas­tle. It was then left derelict un­til 1695 when it was bought by Lon­don banker Charles Dun­combe. His de­scen­dants still own it. The fam­ily lived at the cas­tle un­til 1711, when they built a new man­sion in the ad­join­ing park­land. The cas­tle was kept a ro­man­tic ruin, vis­i­ble from the long hill­side drive­way that con­nects the two build­ings.

The East Tower of Helm­s­ley Cas­tle, built in the late 12th cen­tury, stands proudly on the mound. The build­ings by the moat are Tu­dor, and were built as res­i­den­tial apart­ments (above). › The im­pos­ing en­trance to Helm­s­ley Cas­tle. Adam Price, English...

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