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Helmsley’s famous fans

Helmsley has been a celebrity favourite for many a year – in fact many a century!

First established over 500 years ago, our very own Black Swan Hotel welcomed William Wordsworth as one of the hotel’s first famous guests. He often stayed here with his sister, Dorothy. Wordsworth’s wife Mary was Dorothy’s best friend, and Mary lived in Hackness near Scarborough, so The Black Swan was often a welcome stop en route from the siblings’ family home at Grasmere, in the Lake District.

There’s even a fantastic account of a stopover in the summer of 1802 in Dorothy’s journal:

“…we stopped at the same inn where we had slept before. My heart danced at the sight of its cleanly outside, bright yellow walls, Casements over- shadowed with jasmine, and its low, double gavel-ended front. . . . Mary and I warmed ourselves at the kitchen fire. We then walked into the garden, and looked over a gate, up to the old ruin which stands at the top of the mount, and round about it the moats are grown up into soft green cradles, hollows surrounded with green grassy hillocks, and these are overshadowed by old trees, chiefly ashes. I prevailed upon William to go up with me to the ruins [of Helmsley Castle]”.

More recently, many stars of the large and small screen and the music world have enjoyed a stay at the Black Swan when they’ve been filming in the local area, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Rupert Everett, Bryan Adams, Anne Robinson and Alicia Dixon. It’s even welcomed royalty as Princess Anne once spent the night in the hotel. (When it comes to royal visits, there’s rumours Prince Harry was in town a little while ago, which we can neither confirm or deny…)

But you could bump into a famous face around every corner in Helmsley…ask any local and they’ll have tales of “the time David Beckham went to the toy shop”, having a chat with Dame Maggie Smith, or when Daniel Craig stopped by for some sartorial advice.

If you’ve enjoyed a relaxing pint at the Feversham Arms, you may have been sat next to Steve Coogan or Michael Parkinson, happily chatting to other guests. During a stay at the Feathers Hotel you may have been next door to Tony Robinson or you might have shared a bar snack with previous Dragon Theo Paphitis or current England manager Gareth Southgate.

If a coffee is more your thing, you could have bumped into sporting hero Rebecca Adlington at Crema. She probably didn’t have the big slice of cake we did…

If you have kids you’ll no doubt of heard of Sam & Mark, the presenting duo – well following Sam’s wedding to wife Anne at the Black Swan in 2012, the duo have both been seen reminiscing in town.  

Some of the finest pheasant shooting in the country has attracted other famous faces including Vinnie Jones, Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), Jacky Stewart, Viscount Lindley, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Nigel Havers. Princess Anne isn’t the only Royal to enjoy a visit – King Juan Carlos of Spain and (former) King Constantine of Greece came to enjoy a shoot, and left with a stick from our famous Stick Man! 

Helmsley really does have the X Factor according to a previously-spotted Shayne Ward. And if history is your thing, you’d be in good company with Jeremy Irons, who visited Helmsley castle last summer when he was doing a Brideshead reunion at Castle Howard.

If you enjoy a spot of shopping, Veneto shoe shop seems to be a magnet for celebs – Vic Reeves and his wife Nancy bought spotty wellingtons, Rory Bremner and his wife stopped by, Debbie McGee has teeny feet and the late Victoria Wood bought some stunning red boots. If you love good food and were loitering over the delicious goodies at Hunters of Helmsley, over the last few years you might have seen Ian Botham, Jamiroquai’s Jay Kay, Eileen from Corrie, Bucks Fizz and a variety of Emmerdale regulars. Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has also been spotted in the town, and hopefully found some culinary inspiration.  

Helmsley Arts Centre has played host to a wide range of acclaimed performers including Germaine Greer, Jay Rayner, John Challis, David Starkey, Martin & Eliza Carthy, Jo Caulfield, Anita Harris, Jenny Eclair, Peter Snow, Dan Cruickshank, Henry Blofeld & Peter Baxter, Alan Acykbourn, Tom Wriggleworth, John Suchet, John Sergeant, Rodney Bewes, Ian McMillan, Nicholas Parsons, Mike Harding, Ann Widdecombe… the list goes on.

The political world is not immune to Helmsley’s charm. We can claim Boris Johnson actually started his political career here! When he first decided to try to become an MP in January 1995, he was persuaded to come and talk to local Conservatives. But there was a blizzard and by the time he got over the hills from York to Helmsley the snow was so heavy that no-one came to the meeting…

But whoever chooses to visit our lovely town, we try and give everyone a bit of star treatment. Who needs Hollywood when you’ve got Helmsley?!