"HELMSLEY, is a market town and township, in the parish of its name, in the North Riding, 218 miles from London, and 6 n.e. of Kirkby-Moorside ; seated in the valley of Ryedale, which gives name to the wapentake in which it is situated. This is a very ancient British town, and where, as tradition states, the Roman power met with considerable opposition. In remote times, it was also a place where the Druids celebrated their mystic rites ; sufficient evidence of such having been furnished by some interesting relics occasionally discovered ; particularly a temple, which was found almost complete, a few years since, on Stoadfast hill, about eight miles north of the town. The present appearance of the town is neat, the houses being chiefly built of stone, and roofed with slate. A good trade formerly existed here, in the manufacture of linen and cotton cloths, but since the introduction of machinery into every district, these branches have been nearly lost ; and a little linen weaving, together with a trade in corn, and that for the sale of general necessaries, for the use of the inhabitants, comprise the traffic of the place.
The places for divine worship are the parish church, three chapels for dissenters, and a friends' meeting house. The church is a large and handsome structure, with a tower at the west end : the interior contains some beautiful screen work, and an hexagonal font, of early English character. The living is a vicarage, in the gift of the Right Hon. Lord Feversham, and incumbency of the Rev. George Dixon. A school, upon the national plan, has been established here by the before mentioned nobleman, to whom twelve of the boys are also indebted for clothing ; as are the same number of girls, to the bounty of Lady Feversham. Here is also an excellent grammar school, conducted by Mr. Lancelot Blackett. The principal object of attraction in this neighbourhood is Duncombe park, the magnificent seat of Lord Feversham. The mansion is a noble erection, in the Doric order of architecture, from a design by Vauburgh ; seated in the midst of scenery eminently delightful, which, as contemplated from the splendid terrace of Rye Vale, no description can do justice to. About two miles north-west, are the interesting ruins of Rivaulx abbey, the first Cistercian abbey in Yorkshire, and was founded in 1131, by Walter Espec, and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary : its revenues were very ample ; and sufficient remains of the venerable pile to indicate its importance in former times, deeply interests the lovers of the antique, and gratify all who may visit this delightful neighbourhood. The market is held on Saturday ; and the fairs are May 19th, July 16th, October 1st and 2nd, and November 5th and 6th, for cattle, sheep, and linen and woollen cloth. The parish of Helmsley contained, by the returns for 1831, 3,411 inhabitants, and the township 1,485 of that number, being an increase of only 35 persons (in the township), since the census taken in 1801."
[Transcribed by Steve Garton ©2000 from
Pigot's directory (Yorkshire section) 1834]