Reports on 2009 Activities

The following reports give a flavour of what took place in 2009; see what you may have missed!

Visit to Beverley Minster and Meaux Abbey

On Wednesday 23rd September, Dr Mary Carrick (who had previously given a spirited lecture on Meaux Abbey on the previous Friday) accompanied Members to Beverley Minster, where they were given a guided tour by one of the resident Guides; he was most informative, and his use of a torch was very helpful!

A look around the outside of The Friary - which is now a Youth Hostel - revealed a mixture of brick and stone plus more recent restorations.

The Friary, Beverley
HAHS Members at the Friary, Beverley

Lunch for some at The Tea Cosy Cafe was very pleasant - especially as at this point it was a touch chilly...

The main event of the day was a visit the site of Meaux Abbey. We saw a lot of bumps and humps spread over a wide area; generally the hollows were walls, and the bumps were floors. We also saw the remains of the abbey mill; in more recent times this has been used as a farm house and farm outbuilding, and is now in a somewhat precarious state. This was where we disturbed a barn owl!

HAHS Members viewing the bumps and humps at Meaux Abbey
The remains of Meaux Abbey Mill

Members took a keen interest in mole hills and rabbit holes in which several fragments of tile were found.

Remains of stone wall at Meaux Abbey
Fragment of tile at Meaux Abbey

It was a most enjoyable day and gave more meaning to the previous lecture; the plans were really useful, and Mary Carrick's tour was first-rate.

Susan Hall and Pat Donnor


Visit to Pickering Castle

The evening of Wednesday 15th July cleared bright and warm in time for our visit to Pickering Castle. Peter Bleach opened the Castle late for us and gave us a very clear exposition of its building and history.

Peter Bleach addressing Members of the Society at Pickering Castle
Part of Pickering Castle's motte and two semi-circular baileys

The site was first used during the Harrying of the North - although it is possible that the earliest Castle was on Beacon Hill, eight hundred metres to the West - and remains in Royal hands, being part of the Duchy of Lancaster. It is a rare example of a motte with two semi-circular baileys and survived as a functioning Castle and the head of the Honour of Pickering until Hugh Cholmeley removed most of the timber and some of the stone to reinforce Scarborough during the Civil War. A brief siege by Parliamentary forces showed that Cholmeley was correct in his assessment that it would not be defensible but Tom Fairfax's similar assessment means that it was not slighted, so that much stonework survives still.


The splendid weather meant that the views from the top were excellent.

It was good to see our Chairman again at one of our visits!

Thanks to English Heritage and the Duchy of Lancaster for allowing us access - and especially to Peter Bleach for guiding us, allowing us lots of time, and for his clear and enthusiastically delivered talk.

Splendid views to be had from the top of Pickering Castle


Visit to Hungate, York

On Wednesday 17th June, eight members of the Society assembled at St Saviour's Church in York, where the Archaeological Resource Centre enables visitors to explore the archaeology and history of York. We were met by Peter Connelly, director of the 'Dig Hungate' project who told us how this area of the city is undergoing major re-development and, before the work starts, York Archaeological Trust is working alongside the developer on a major archaeological dig. 'Dig Hungate' was started in January 2007 and is scheduled to take five years, at a cost of £3.3 million. Members of Helmsley Archaeological and Historical Society visiting Hungate, York
Peter Connolly points out features of the Hungate excavation

Work started in the southern area of the site, the site of the Church of St John's on the Marsh, where a medieval cemetery was excavated. On the eastern side, a massively-pitted landscape from which boulder clay was probably used for brick and tile manufacture. A series of wells were created which, on collapse, were used as cess and rubbish pits - a goldmine for archaeologists!



By this point, it was raining hard, so we adjourned to the Hungate HQ to see some of the finds; a popular artefact was this discarded, intricately-carved grotesque.


Members might also be interested in the free-of-charge Hungate Open Day on Yorkshire Day, Saturday 1st August, 2009: open 10am - 3pm.

Grotesque found at the Hungate excavation

Our thanks go to Peter Connelly for his expert and knowledgeable guidance; you can hear him discuss the Hungate excavations here (Requires RealPlayer).


Visits to Foulbridge Manor and Dalby Forest

The morning of 28th May 2009 saw 21 Members visit Foulbridge Manor; Mrs Jill Nutt gave us a warm welcome, and a detailed description of her family's restoration of the medieval hall. The trees from which the Knights Templar Hall at Foulbridge were built were felled in 1288, and it is thought that the Hall was built between 1288 and 1290.

The roof timbers at Foubridge Hall
Members of Helmsley Archaeological and Hitorical Society visiting Foulbridge Hall

Click on the pictures to enlarge them

The Hall, encased within two farmhouses, consists of eight timber posts supporting elements of the roof structure; joints in the posts show that there were aisles on either side. The stone-built west wall is probably partly original, and includes a large Tudor fireplace.

In the afternoon, 17 members proceeded to Dalby Forest, where they were met by Brian Walker who is the Wildlife and Conservation officer for the Forestry Commission. Various ditches and earthworks were located and described, together with the remains of 'rabbit types' - stone-lined pits where warreners would trap the animals, principally for their fur for the felt industry.

Brian Walker describing the working of a rabbit type HAHS Members inspecting a rabbit type

A wooden tunnel or 'muce' would cross the pit, and allow free access to a walled enclosure inside which rabbit food would have been supplied as bait. Once sufficient rabbits were regularly visiting the type, the wedge supporting the hinged floor of the muce would be removed, and visiting rabbits would fall into the pit!

HAHS Members inspecting the circular, banked feature at Jingleby Thorn

In contrast, the usage of the circular, banked feature at Jingleby Thorn is unknown. Situated at the junction of two old tracks at SE89588979, it is thought to be post-1850 due to its absence and presence on various maps. Its damp, sunken centre prompted many speculative suggestions for its usage from Members of the Society..

Our grateful thanks go to Jill Nutt and Brian Walker for disseminating their expert knowledge to us!




Robson Wood

On Easter Monday, 19 Members of the Society visited Green Sykes, Robsonís Spring and Ness Great Woods courtesy of the landlords and the Woodland Trust. Helmsley Castle had two deer parks: the western one adjacent to the castle, and the eastern deer park downstream on the Rye on the old south road. The modern road south runs a mile west of the woods. We were hoping to find evidence of medieval deer park management, especially the park pale, which would have consisted of an internal ditch and an associated high bank (curved on the outside and vertical on the inside so that deer could jump in, but not out).

There was disappointingly little to see as large machinery has been driven down the rides, and extensive ditches cut and culverts inserted within the woods and on their boundaries. The low banks could be ancient or relatively recent. The extra wide ride between Green Sykes and Robsonís Spring wood has been reduced by planting, and the ditch has a low mound on either side. See photo.

The ride between Green Sykes and Robson’s Spring wood.  It shows trees growing in the ride and a slight bank on each side of the ditch. The eastern boundary of Green Sykes with an old oak, which could be the remnants of tree pasture or woodland.   The mixed species hedge is behind.

Click on the pictures to enlarge them

The curved (which is an indication of great age) eastern boundary of Green Sykes has a multi-species hedge (another indication of great age) on a low bank, but no ditch. There are old oaks in the adjoining field; these oaks could be the remains of tree pasture or former woodland. See photo.

Archaeology was difficult to discern but there was an abundance of ancient oaks, flora and a heronry for the Members to view.


Rievaulx Great Gate

David Johnson's presentation on the Rievaulx Great Gate (minus the technical gremlins of Friday, 17th April, 2009!) can be seen here (it's 16Mb - so you may need to be patient...).


John Collier Collection

Thursday 26th March 2009 saw a meeting at the National Park Office at which a selection of John Collier images were displayed as prints, and as a slide-show. Approximately forty local residents attended, many of whom brought their own old Helmsley photographs for scanning, and adding to the collection.


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