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Thursday, July 20, 2017

English Heritage around Helmsley

The weather turned today. It's been grey and on and off  it has been wet.

Within a minute of leaving the pub this morning it started raining but it soon stopped and I went to Rievaulx Abbey. Rievaux was a cistercian abbey which started construction in the 1130's. At one time Rievaulx was one of the wealthiest monastries in the country. Its good fortunes were impacted by debts on its building projects and lost revenue due to an epidemic of sheep scab in the 13th century and Scottish raiders and the black death in the 14th century. By the 15th  century the monks had abandoned the strict observance of the rule of St Benedict and were allowed to eat meat today.

Today Rievaulx has a new visitors centre and there is a good free audio tour. There is also a Rievaulx revisited exhibition.































There is an English Heritage castle in Helmsley but it is not signposted!!

Helmsley Castle was originally started by Walter L'Espec (who was the patron of Rievaulx Abbey). It was greatly expanded by the de Roo family and a tudor range can be seen. The Duncombe family decided that the Castle was not comfortable enough so hire John Vanbrugh ( Blenheim, Castle Howard ) to build a new Mansion and the castle was left to  become a romantic ruin.

There is a visitors centre and an audio tour.














It started to rain so I headed into town to get some lunch.





I'd have like to show you more of Helmsley (which is very touristy - lots of tea rooms ) but it was raining hard so I grabbed lunch and a paper and ate in the car. Now I looked at the forecast for Pickering and rain til 4. The forecast for Helmsley was rain to 3 so I worked out that the rain was heading East and that as Byland Abbey was to the west I'd go there and you know what the rain stopped.

Byland was a Savigniac foundation and was originally founded in 1135. It had a troubled start having to move 5 times. At one point it was at Old Byland which is near Rievaulx but Savingnac's and Cistercian's had services at different times and the bells were rung at different times and the monks never knew who was being called to service so it moved. Amusingly the Saviginiac's were absorbed into the Cistercian's and Rievaulx helped Byland establish itself at New Byland.

Sadly Byland it is not as well served as Rievaulx..... there is one EH member of staff in a small shed and no audio tour. There are no interpretation boards either (nice small museum though). There is a tearoom (which if I had known I'd have gone to instead of sitting in the car at Helmsley!! Actually it is a pub come tea room).

The church was about 330ft long which tells you it was a VERY substantial church.























Here you can see the EH hut.... The young lady on duty today was ever so nice and informative and I had a nice chat with her. The Abbey is worth a visit and deserves a few interpretation boards and an audio tour.