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Hambleton parish population estimates:  570 & 260 (2000)



Helperby and Brafferton Today.

A grear way to appreciate what these two villages have to offer is to come along to their now famous Helperby Open Gardens day. Yorkshire Life magazine thought the event was  wonderful!

In fact Northern Landscapes have made a short film of the 2010 fair -  View it here!



 Helperby & Brafferton - a History

What appears at first sight to be one village with two names, is most decidedly two villages. Which name comes first depends on from which direction you enter the villages, or in which of them you live.

Brafferton is the older village, the -ton denoting its Anglo-axon origin, but the first settlers were probably Roman, as the Roman road from Hovingham to Aldborough passed through the area of the villages to cross the river Swale here at a ford. This gives rise to the derivation of Brafferton, brad - ford - tun, "the town at the broad ford", and fords were always good places for an entrepreneur to set up in trade.

Even before its mention in the Domesday Book, Brafferton was a place of note. St Paulinus, after converting Edwin, the Saxon king of Northumbria, and before becoming the first bishop of York, chose the river Swale at Brafferton as a place of baptism. Ten thousand entered the river to be baptised, and no casualty resulted, even though the numbers were so great. In fact, those who entered with some "feeblenesse and infirmitie" or deformity, returned from the river "whole and reformed".

Helperby was probably a Danish settlement set up by a Danish chief outside the main Anglo-Saxon village. As the years have passed, Helperby has grown and is now much larger than Brafferton. There is a tradition that the name Helperby come from the river Swale providing St Paulinus with "help hard by", or Helper-by, when he needed water for the baptisms. it is, however, only a tradition. The manor or township of Helperby was given to Canons of the Church of St Peter, York, ie the Minster. Later it was in the hands of a famous northern family, the Nevilles.

Both villages have buildings of note. Each has a hall and manor house, being built at various times since the reign of Queen Anne. Brafferton has a church, a school, one pub, a coach garage and the site of a pound for straying animals. Helperby has a chapel, three pubs, all the village shops and the village well, known as the fountain.

The church of St Peter was originally dedicated to St Augustin, in whose train came Paulinus. The chancel and tower are 15th century. The nave is now wider than it is long, as the result of restoration in the years 1826-31 after a fire.

The present school was built in 1859 on a site given by the Christian Faith Society. The Brafferton estate was bought by the executors of the will of Robert Boyle in 1691. The rents were used to support the education of some Indian children at the William and Mary College of Virginia. Following the American War of Independence, the money was diverted to educate "Negroes in the British West Indies". The pound is a triangle of land opposite Brafferton Manor, and supports a magnificent beech tree.

The three pubs in Helperby and the one in Brafferton are the only ones remaining of some fourteen. That such a small community could support so many is not a reflection on its drinking habits, but a reminder that Brafferton/Helperby stand at what used to be the end of the navigable part of the river Swale. There were also Dales pack horse trails leading to the villages, which were where grain and wool could be exchanged. The railway coming to the villages effectively killed off the boat trade.

The Great Helperby Fire in the 17th century meant that there is very little evidence of older houses in the village, and just three houses have the appearance of being Elizabethan. Some of the Georgian houses are reputed to have incorporated timber from the barges that came up river.

The Fountain, built in 1897 to commemorate the 60 years of Queen Victoria's reign, also now commemorates the centenary of Lady Celia Milnes-Coates, who lived in Helperby Hall.

Although we are two villages, there are many times when we forget our differences and work well together. Just come to the village on the first Monday after July 11th. The whole community congregates for Helperby Feast, with fancy dress competitions and races down the main street, followed by all the fun of the fair. A great night for the family and the village.

David Pickering


from Baine's Directory of the County of York 1823


Map of Brafferton & Helperby, 1854
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BRAFFERTON, a parish in the wapentakes of Bulmer and Halikeld, and liberty of St. Peter's; 5 miles W. of Easingwold. Population, 178. Here is a National School for children of both sexes, supported by subscription. Brafferton and Helperby are apparently but one village, occupying opposite sides of the same street. The village takes its name from a ford across the Swale, it being originally Broad-Ford-Town, and now by a natural contraction Brafferton. This village has a parish church dedicated to St. Peter; the living is a vicarage, in the patronage of the Crown. On the outside of the chancel (south) are the arms of the Nevilles and other quarterings, carved on stone, and underneath running round in Anglo-Saxon Monastic Characters. "orate pro animo Radulphi Neville fundatoris hujus Ecclesiae" ‑ "soi deo honor et gloria! " and on the largest bell is also inscribed "Radulphus Neville Armiger, I.H.S. 1598."


HELPERBY, in the parish of Brafferton, wapentake of Bulmer, and liberty of St. Peter's; 4 miles NE. of Boroughbridge Population, 611.




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