DUNCOMBE PARK, (the seat of Charles Duncombe, Esq.) in the township of Rievalx, and parish of Helmsley; ¾ mile SW. from Helmsley.
This noble seat of the Duncombe family was built from a design of Sir John Vanburgh. " The character of the building is Doric, the east front is rather heavy, but the west presents a good specimen of that order. Here is a noble terrace, terminated by two handsome circular temples, from which is a most beautiful prospect. Embossomed in trees appears the noble tower of Helmsley castle, and near it, occasionally, peeps forth part of the town; and deep beneath is seen a beautiful valley, with the river Rye winding among hanging woods. On entering the hall the spectator is struck with the general air of greatness it conveys; here is a fine piece of sculpture called the Dog of Alcibiades, said to be the work of Myron;" Dallaway in his description of statuary and sculpture, says " it was discovered at Monte Cagnuolo, and procured by Henry Constantine Jennings, Esq. who brought it to England, and from whom it was transferred to Mr. Duncombe for a 1000 guineas (one guinea = 21 shillings -CH). It ranks among the five famous dogs of antiquity." Here is also the famous statue called Discobulus, which, says Gilpin, "is esteemed the first statute in England. It exhibits on every side the justest proportions, and the most pleasing attitudes." "Notwithstanding the prejudice and iliberal language often used against the fame of Sir John Vanburgh as a builder, he certainly contrived to give an air of grandeur to his structures, rarely to be met with. The saloon here (now library) may be adduced among others in proof of the assertion, it possessing an uncommon air of magnificence." It is 87 feet long, and 20 broad, thrown into three divisions by ionic columns, and adorned with four antique statutes of Apollo, Bacchus, Mars, and Mercury, also two good busts of Cicero and Horace. The paintings, which are by the first masters, and in the highest estimation, are very numerous:- they have been collected with great judgement, and the easy access to the seeing of them say Dayes, is an honourable testimony of the liberal spirit of their present owner. In this splendid collection of paintings are the scourging of Christ, painted by old Palmer, in successful competition with Titian; the head of St. Paul by Leonardo de Vinci, esteemed the finest work of that great painter; a magnificent Land-storm, by Nichola Pousin; and a Candle-light Scene (old woman and girl) by Rubens, purchased, it is said, for 1500 guineas. The lovers of poetry will, we presume, feel no small gratification from the perusal of the following poetical description, (never before printed) by the late Rev. Dr. Drake, addressed to Thomas Duncombe, Esq.
[Description(s) edited mainly from various 19th century sources by Colin Hinson. ©2010]