From Religion to Defense (official post)

To start out our first full day in the York area, we went to four different places. One was Mount Grace Priory and Helmsley Castle.

In short, Mount Grace Priory was once a monastery that held monks who wanted a simple and secluded life. They would work in the fields, and live in peace with others who were members of the monastery, but they would only get together for two reasons. One was to worship God. Below, you can see Sir Victor on some rock where a wall once stood. This is possibly where housing for the laymen or servants were. Or some building to that effect.

Helmsley Castle, our third stop of the day, was tour-guided by one of our students. According to this student’s presentation, the castle has a long history of ownership between families. Many owners who passed away heirless would pass the castle on to their sisters, which only meant their brother-in-laws would get ownership. The castle eventually became government property in the mid-20th century. However, during the time it was passing through probate hands, the building was added on to and reinforced at least five times. Below is a picture of Sir Victor standing in the diorama of the castle.

Not much of this structure remains. While the house-like structure in the middle, slightly to the left, remains pretty well in-tact and serves as a museum, the don-jon-like tower in front of Sir Victor is in ruins. Below is a picture of Sir Victor in front of the landscape where the wall facing the outside once stood.

This is definitely in stark contrast to some of the structure we have already seen on our adventure through the United Kingdom. We have seen castles that were well reserved from their hey days. Helmsley Castle lacks the colorful decorations and paintings that places like Stirling Castle had put on display in their exhibits of all the different rooms that were utilized at that site.

However, there have been other castle sites like Dunstaffnage Castle that lay in a bit of ruins. However, that building was not in too much ruin because we were free to walk on top of the castle walls, down by where the kitchens were, go up into the gate house, and sit by the well (or well like structure) that sat in the middle of the court yard. In other words, we got more at Dunstaffnage Castle than walls that we barely got off the ground at Helmsley. However, Helmsley Castle did have the ground’s structure and shape working for them because it sits on top of a hill (bailey?). None of the castles we have seen thus far was equipped that way for defense.

Today was definitely an interesting day filled with both religion and defense buildings. We also visited two other castles, but they are talked about in a different post by another student in the class. Tomorrow, we will be staying within York and exploring the medieval structures there. Stay tuned!


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