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Duncombe Park

Helmsley
North Yorkshire
Post Code : YO62 5EB
Telephone : 01439 770213
Admission Cost Admission Charge

Duncombe Park is an impressive early-18th century house set in landscaped gardens and surrounded parkland.

In 1695 the Helmsley estate with its medieval castle was purchased by Sir Charles Duncombe, a wealthy London banker. After Sir Charles' death, his nephew and co-heir, Thomas Dunscombe, commissioned the amateur architect William Wakefield of Huby Hall to build new house on the estate.

The site, some distance from the old castle, was chosen for its scenic potential.

To the east of the house a grass terrace was laid out overlooking the River Rye and the countryside beyond, probably by Charles Bridgeman. Circular classical temples, dated 1730, were set at either end of the terrace, the terrace is considered to be one of the finest achievements of English 18th century landscaping.

In 1758 Thomas Duncombe's grandson created another terrace with temples overlooking the Rievaulx Abbey, then part of the Helmsley estate.

Although the 18th century landscape at Duncombe Park has been well-preserved, the house has seen many changes.

In 1826 Charles Duncombe, the great-grandson of the original builder, was became Lord Feversham. His son, the 2nd Lord, commissioned Charles Barry to add detached service blocks to the house. These blocks, built in 1843, flank the entrance forecourt to the west.

During this period a conservatory was built in the woodland to the south and W.A. Nesfield created a formal parterre to the east of the house.

In 1879 a fire caused serious damage to the building but in 1891 - 94 the house was rebuilt by the Scottish architect William Young.

The building was later abandoned by the family when it was leased out as a girls school in 1924.

At the end of the 20th century the 6th Lord Feversham reoccupied and restored the family home.

He reintroduced some of the paintings originally in the house and commissioned new pieces of furniture to add to the few items that remained before the house was turned into a school.

The classical features of the house show that Thomas Duncombe and his architect were influenced by Vanbrugh's work. In fact the house is like a smaller Castle Howard but with a pedimented attic rather than a dome.

The building was originally designed with a central block containing a hall and saloon flanked by staircases, with apartments extending into the projecting wings.

The only room to survive almost unchanged since the early-18th century is the Hall. This is approached by an external flight of stairs and is two storeys high with great Corinthian half-columns.

The walls and ceiling are decorated with Baroque plasterwork, copied in the 1890s from the pre-fire designs by the London firm of George Jackson and Sons. On the walls are portraits of the banker Sir Charles Duncombe and some of his clients.

The other rooms date from the late-19th century, carefully redecorated by Lord and Lady Feversham at the end of the 20th century. The Saloon occupies the centre of the garden front, a long room divided at each end by Ionic colonnades, panelled in wood with a late-17th century style plaster ceiling.

From here is the Dining Room and the Withdrawing Room which has a neo-Rococo plasterwork ceiling and furniture in the Louis XV manner. The room contains family portraits including a painting of Thomas Duncombe and his family, dated 1741, and works by Mercier and Reynolds.

To the north of the Hall the rooms are smaller and from the Library a staircase leads up to a set of bedrooms, the Italian Bedroom displaying some early Italian paintings.

Visitors can view the 19th century servants' quarters for an idea of life below stairs in a Victorian house.

Duncombe Park is in the North York Moors National Park overlooking the medieval castle and river valley.

The house is surrounded by 35 acres of 18th century landscaped gardens and 400 acres of parkland which contains many magnificent old trees and a national nature reserve.

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Duncombe Park
House Features
18th century house,gardens and parkland
Opening Times
House: NOT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC EXCEPT FOR EVENTS; Gardens and Parkland: Jun-Aug: Sun-Fri, closed Sat, 10:30-17:00, last entry 16:00.
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