Helmsley Old Vicarage

Name: Vicarage

Date of Temple Moore Work: c.1900

Work done: Design and build

Church Description

Helmsley was at the centre of Vicar Gray's parish and sphere of influence, so it's unsurprising that there's a particular concentration of Temple Moore buildings here.

The handsome vicarage on Bondgate that Moore designed for Gray is a remarkable departure from the gothic style. It draws instead from the baroque architecture of the reign of Queen Anne (1702–14), which also underwent a revival in the late 19th century.

Opening times: The vicarage is now the offices of the North York Moors National Park. There is an excellent collection of photos of old Helmsley at www.helmsleyarchive.org.uk

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Helmsley is well-off for former vicarages. The timber-framed wing of the Black Swan hotel which fronts onto the market square is one; Canon's Garth, behind the church, is another.

Vicar Gray outgrew the latter around the turn of the century. Having become known nationally as a trainer of clergymen, he found himself short of space to accommodate them. Trainee clergy and lay readers were put up in the wing to the rear of the building, under Gray's watchful eye.

The new vicarage was built in hammer-dressed sandstone with a plain tile roof and stone chimney stacks. It consists of 7 bays with 2 storeys and an attic. The sash windows sit beneath cambered stone arches. Today Moore's building is the main office of the North York Moors National Park Authority. Helmsley has recently acquired yet another new vicarage, behind the town cemetery.

When the National Park Authority took possession of the old vicarage in 1974 the bell pulls that were used to summon the servants from the attic to the lower floors were still in place. The building is said to be haunted and various National Park staff have attested to a supernatural presence in the building.

Life at the vicarage was governed by strict rules. A trainee clergyman's day began at 6am with a cold bath and proceeded with breakfast, which was held in silence. The vestry door of the church was locked at 6.55am against latecomers for the 7 o'clock service. Any mistakes a clergyman made in conducting the service were noted and analysed in detail afterwards.

Besides the church and the vicarage, Moore also designed Helmsley's town hall 1901 a 17th-century-style building which is not one of his most admired. Pevsner called it “a serious, somewhat dull job”.

Things to do nearby

Helmsley Castle

Castlegate Helmsley YO62 5AB

01439 770442

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/helmsley-castle

A thousand years of Yorkshire weather haven't quite finished off this splendid old ruin. It was built after the Norman Conquest by the Bond-villainesque-sounding Walter L'Espec. In Tudor times it was converted into a mansion, but it could still hold its own as a military fortress, as it showed during the English Civil War when it was besieged by Parliamentarian troops. The Royalist forces inside held out for three months before surrendering. Parliament ordered that the castle's defences should be partially demolished, and they have remained in a state of romantic dilapidation ever since. Complete wheelchair (and pushchair) access at ground level. English Heritage members get in free.

Sutton Bank

Sutton Bank National Park Centre Sutton Bank Thirsk YO7 2EH

01845 597426

http://www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/sutton-bank-256

James Herriot thought it the finest view in England, and who's arguing? The extraordinary panorama from Sutton Bank takes in a huge swathe of North Yorkshire, from the pancake-flat Vale of York in the south, the more undulating countryside of the Vale of Mowbray and the distant Pennines. A couple of miles away is the famous White Horse of Kilburn. A mile or so in the other direction is Lake Gormire, one of only four natural lakes in Yorkshire. (The others are Semerwater, Malham Tarn and Hornsea Mere, in case you're wondering.) Add the towering crags of Roulston Scar and the Whitestone Cliff and you have plenty to keep you occupied for hours. If the weather forces you inside, the National Park Centre has recently had a hi-tech revamp. It's a good way of getting to know the North York Moors.

Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx Nr Helmsley YO62 5LB

01439 798228

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/rievaulx-abbey

Rievaulx Abbey was once among the finest in Europe, and its atmospheric ruins still convey a sense of what it was like in its prime. Worth visiting for the location alone: beautiful riverside fields in the emerald depths of Ryedale. On the hillside above the abbey are the National Trust-owned Rievaulx Terrace and Temples, a contrasting bit of 18th-century classical landscaping with fine views.

Mouseman Visitor Centre

Kilburn YO61 4AH

01347 869100

http://www.robertthompsons.co.uk/

Former workshop of the celebrated Arts and Crafts furniture maker Robert “Mousey” Thompson. The mouse theme comes from his trademark, a little wooden mouse that he carved on every piece he made. The visitor centre commemorates his life and work. Furniture is still made in his name at the new workshop over the road. It's as beautiful as it is expensive. Unsurprisingly the bestselling item in the shop is also the cheapest - a Mouseman napkin ring. Look out for the wooden mice dotted all over Kilburn, from the days when Mouseman pieces were more affordable. Even if your pockets won't stretch to it, it's definitely worth a call in, just to admire to gorgeous craftsmanship.

Cleveland Way

http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/clevelandway

Britain's second National Trail, a 109-mile circuit of the North York Moors starting in Helmsley and finishing in Filey. You needn't commit yourself to the whole lot - turn sections into a circular day-walk. The opening stretch from Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey is very doable for any moderately energetic person, although you will have to come back the way you went.

Duncombe Park

Helmsley YO62 5EB

01439 770213

http://www.duncombepark.com/

It's a shame the house isn't open to the public anymore, but the grounds are lovely. Half of Duncombe Park's 450 acres (182 hectares) of parkland are managed as a National Nature Reserve. It contains some of Britain's oldest and tallest broadleaved trees, many of which are nearly as old as the house itself.

Helmsley Walled Garden

Cleveland Way Helmsley YO62 5AH

01439 771427

http://www.helmsleywalledgarden.org.uk/

One of Helmsley's hidden gems, tucked out of sight under the castle ramparts. The Walled Garden was created to supply fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers to the Duncombe Park estate. It fell into disuse in the 1970's, but in 1994 a determined band of local enthusiasts set out to restore it to its former glory. Today it is once again a working kitchen garden, where you can choose from a huge range of plants, vegetables, and seasonal fruits, or just savour the wonderfully tranquil atmosphere. The Vinehouse cafe serves delicious vegetarian food using produce grown in the garden.

Where to eat and drink

Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx Nr Helmsley YO62 5LB

01439 798228

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/rievaulx-abbey

Rievaulx Abbey was once among the finest in Europe, and its atmospheric ruins still convey a sense of what it was like in its prime. Worth visiting for the location alone: beautiful riverside fields in the emerald depths of Ryedale. On the hillside above the abbey are the National Trust-owned Rievaulx Terrace and Temples, a contrasting bit of 18th-century classical landscaping with fine views.

The Black Swan

Helmsley YO62 5BJ

01439 770466

http://www.blackswan-helmsley.co.uk/

Upmarket inn with posh nosh.

The Feversham Arms

Helmsley YO62 5AG

01439 770 766

http://www.fevershamarmshotel.com/

Highly regarded luxury hotel with its own spa. The prices are not for the fainthearted, but the AA Hotel of the Year Award speaks up for the quality of the place.

The Feathers

Helmsley YO62 5BH

01439 770275

http://www.feathershotelhelmsley.co.uk/

A local's local, with unpretentious pub grub.

Teashops, many and various!

Helmsley

Helmsley is laden with genteel teashops, to the occasional chagrin of the locals and the delight of visitors. Too many to name - wander around and take your pick. Pinkies up!

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