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You are in: Northamptonshire » A Sense Of Place

Tuesday, 13th August, 2002 - 12:30 BST
A personal tour of Helmdon
Image of the Bell Inn, Helmdon
Helmdon's last remaining pub: the Bell Inn
'The only constant is change itself' - Helmdon resident Danny Moody gives a tour of a village with a long and fascinating history.

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Earls Barton - a personal tour

Sulgrave Manor

Helmdon village website

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Image of Danny Moody
Danny Moody

Helmdon nestles in the heart of the South Northamptonshire countryside and, although no great event or historical person has made it famous, it still has a tale to tell.

Helmdon has consistently reinvented itself over the centuries to keep pace with the changing times.

At the time of the Domesday book the economy was based on agriculture, and farms remained a dominant feature right up until the second half of the 20th Century.

Now, farm buildings have been converted into desirable residences, or knocked down altogether to make way for executive housing developments.

A history in stone

Image of the school buildings
School buildings on Station Road

Stone quarrying began in Helmdon as early as the mid-13th Century and its famed stone was described as "the finest building Stone I have seen in England" by J Morton in The Natural History of Northamptonshire.

Stone from Helmdon was used in such local buildings as Easton Neston, Stowe and Blenheim.

The village church has one of the earliest pieces of stained glass showing an artisan at work: the Campiun window depicts stonemason William Campiun and dates from 1313.

The quarries were in decline throughout the 19th Century and had closed altogether by 1950.

Railway crossroads

Image of the viaduct at Helmdon
The viaduct

Railways brought fleeting prosperity to Helmdon, lying as it did at the crossroads of the Great Central Railway and the Northampton & Banbury Junction Railway.  The Great Central viaduct was built in the 1890s and dominates the skyline to the east of the parish to this day.

The last locomotives passed through in 1966 and the only users of the viaduct now are sheep and the occasional dog walker.

The demise of the second railway, the Northampton to Banbury line, was inevitable with the growth of the motor car and van and it closed for passengers in July 1951, quickly followed by freight at the end of October in the same year.  Today the old goods yard is a coach depot.

Decline of the pubs

At one time the village boasted four public houses; today only the Bell in Church Street remains.

The Magpie closed its doors in 1909 and shortly after, in 1914, the Cross ended its life as a public house having been owned by Hopcrofts of Brackley since the early 1800s.  Both are now private residences.  The Chequers on Station Road was demolished in 1992 and has been replaced with housing.

But the inherent strength of the village is not in its transient buildings or industries, but rather in its keen sense of community spirit which endures, and is set to endure, for centuries to come.

The modern day Helmdon has a vibrant and active population who are ready to face the challenges of village life in the 21st Century.

Danny Moody is the webmaster for the Helmdon village web site which contains a wealth of information about the village, its people and history and is constantly updated with all the latest news and events. The photos used on this page are courtesy of the Helmdon village website.
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.

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