Helmsley was built around 1120 by Walter l’Espec (‘Walter the Woodpecker’), who gave the Cistercians land on which to build Rievaulx Abbey and founded the Augustinian priory of Kirkham in Yorkshire and Warden Abbey, also Cistercian, in Bedfordshire. He also built Wark Castle in Northumberland. In Edward II’s reign, Helmsley belonged to William Roos (or Ros), who died in 1316 and was the uncle by marriage of Maud Nerford, mistress of the earl of Surrey. In the early 1290s, he had been a competitor to the throne of Scotland.
To my almost certain knowledge, Edward II never visited the castle, but his son Edward III was here in 1334.
These photos were taken on a dismal Sunday morning! Click on them to see a larger version.
Graffiti from 1630 and 1813, carved into the gatehouse.
Brilliantly, I managed to delete almost all my pics of Knaresborough, which is a real shame, as most of what survives today was built by Edward II. Between 1307 and 1312, he spent £2174 rebuilding and restoring the castle, which he granted to Piers Gaveston in August 1307. Piers entertained the king here from 9 to 11 September 1307, and in early January 1312, the two men met here after Piers’ illegal return from his third exile. They then rode the seventeen miles to York, where Piers’ wife Margaret de Clare had just given birth to (or was just about to give birth to) his daughter Joan. After Piers’ death in June 1312, Edward II rarely visited Knaresborough, though he spent a few days here in January 1320 and February/March 1323.
In the twelfth century, the castle belonged to Hugh de Morville, one of the four murderers of Archbishop Thomas Becket. After the murder, on 29 December 1170, Morville and the three other killers sought refuge at the castle, the subject of a 1999 play called Four Nights in Knaresborough.
After Edward II’s deposition, the castle passed to his daughter-in-law Philippa of Hainault, then to her son John of Gaunt, then to his son Henry IV. In 1399, Richard II spent a night at Knaresborough on his way to imprisonment (and death) at Pontefract Castle.
Not too much is left of Knaresborough, and the castle remains are now a public park. When we visited, on a warm Saturday afternoon, lots of people were walking their dogs there, and wandering around or sitting on benches soaking up the sunshine, which I thought was great. I also had the pleasure of meeting Carole from Age of Treason.