Information for Visitors
Though in a 13th century style, most of the stonework you see is obviously more recent -Victorian in fact. However the stones of the lower part of the tower are older, dating from the 12th century.
The splendid chancel arch is similarly preserved from the 12th century building. One of the largest in Yorkshire, its style (with its double cone moulding and triple bands in between) is an unusual one (not often found outside East Anglia).
The nave arches are
also late 12th century, although their pillars were rebuilt
in the 19th century.
The stained glass windows here tell the story of the 12th century lord of the manor, Sir Walter L'Espec, who founded Rievaulx Abbey (as well as Kirkham Priory) and was responsible for the building of Helmsley's 12th century church.
On the south wall of the aisle is an ancient piscina (for the priest's hand-washing before Communion), suggesting there was a chapel here in the Norman building.
An old painting, made from the north transept looking across to the south transept and showing the chancel arch, gives a good idea of what the interior was like before 1868.
The north transept houses St Aelred's Chapel. Notice the misericords (monks' seats which doubled as perches when standing was required). And the votive candle stand is here. The huge stone altar is of Frosterley marble from County Durham.
The church's high altar is of wood, and along with the reredos, altar rails and sedilia, is even more local in origin, the work of "Mousey" Thompson of Kilburn, with his characteristic adze finish and mouse trademark standing proud.
This work in the sanctuary and chancel, begun in the 1930s, was finally completed in 1949 with the wall panelling which carries a war memorial to the 22nd Dragoons, a flail tank regiment involved in the D Day landings, stationed here (at Duncombe Park) during the Second World War. The banner is new, installed here in 2006, when former members, including actor Ian Carmichael, attended a special service.
At the west end, the simpler tower arch, like the others, is also 12th century. It leads to the baptistry, in the space under the belfry. The font dates from the major rebuilding of the church in 1868. (The original was then moved to St. John the Baptist's Church, Pockley.) Notice on the west wall the slave yoke, taken from a freed African slave; on the north wall a letter from Dr. David Livingstone to Mrs. Gray, mother of Helmsley's Victorian Vicar Gray and wife of the first bishop of Cape Town; on the south wall 3 pikes (constables' halberds from the days of declaring open fairs and markets from the market cross) and photographs showing the church before the 1868 restoration; on the floor the tombstone of the 15th century lord of the manor, executed for choosing the wrong (Lancastrian!) side in the Wars of the Roses.
More information can be found in: