The Church of St. Helen and the Holy Cross at Sheriff Hutton
The parish church of Sheriff Hutton is dedicated to St Helen and the Holy Cross (I'll just call it St Helen's for short). This delightful historic building was built around 1100 and later enlarged by the powerful Neville family in the 15th century. The church was used by the Council of the North, a sort-of northern Parliament of powerful lords. The highlight of St Helen's is the tomb of Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales, the son of Richard III, who died in 1484. This is the only tomb to a member of the royal family in an English parish church.
Edward of Middleham's Tomb But is it actually Prince Edward's tomb? Why would a Prince of Wales be buried here and not in some grand cathedral or more traditional royal resting place? These are questions open to debate. The tomb was identified as that of Edward partly based on the presence of a small piece of 15th century stained glass set into the window above the tomb. The glass shows the Sun in Splendour, the symbol used by Richard III. ??As for the tomb itself, it is well carved, with a child's effigy of about the right age. Is it Edward? We don't know for certain, and probably never will. ??But why here? The answer may lie in Richard's short reign and sudden death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. It seems likely that Richard planned to build a grand chantry at York Minster for his son, but his defeat at Bosworth by Henry Tudor put an end to those plans. The tomb at Sheriff Hutton was likely a temporary measure, but became permanent after Richard's death. The new king, Henry VII, was not likely to put money into a grand tomb for the deceased son of his defeated enemy! ??Just east of the Middleham tomb is an effigy of Sir Edmund Thweng, who died in 1344. The effigy is beautifully carved, with great detail of the arms and armour still visible. ??Other features within the church are a medieval font, the Gower Chapel, and Neville Chapel, established by the Neville family in the 15th century. ??Behind the churchyard is The Glebe, a somewhat overgrown site of a motte and bailey fortification known as Bulmer Castle. This was built around 1100. A short stroll from the church brings you to the striking stone ruins of Sheriff Hutton Castle, where the 15 year old Earl of Warwick, nephew of Richard III, was held prisoner by Henry VII.
Sheriff Hutton Castle
The original motte and bailey castle, the remains of which can be seen to the south of the churchyard, was built here in the Forest of Galtres by Bertram de Bulmer, Sheriff of York during the reign of King Stephen (c. 1135-1154), The stone castle was built at the western end of the village by John, Lord Neville in the late fourteenth century. In 1377, John Nevill obtained a charter for a market on Monday and an annual fair on the eve of the exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14). A license to crenelate was granted by Richard II in 1382, although it is unknown whether building work had commenced before this date. The building has been credited to John Llewyn, who also built nearby Bolton Castle in 1378, on stylistic and documentary grounds.
The castle passed to John's son, Ralph Neville, the first Earl of Westmorland. Upon Ralph's death in 1425, the Neville estates were partitioned. The younger Ralph retained the title and the Durham estates and Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, later known as 'Warwick the Kingmaker', inherited the Yorkshire estates, including Sheriff Hutton.
Upon the death of Richard Neville in 1471 at the Battle of Barnet, his lands were given to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, brother of Edward IV. Richard often stayed at the castle during his tenure as Lord of the North. Its proximity to York made it convenient to Richard.
By the middle of October 1480, Richard was at Sheriff Hutton where he received news from the Earl of Northumberland that the Scots might attempt retaliation for the raiding party that Richard had led across the borders. Northumberland wrote to the magistrates of York ordering them to prepare an armed force. The men of York sent an alderman to Richard at Sheriff Hutton seeking his advice.
In 1484, Richard established a royal household for the young Edward, Earl of Warwick, son of George of Clarence, and John, Earl of Lincoln. In July 1484, Richard established the Council of the North, with its chief headquarters at Sheriff Hutton and Sandal Castle. The Council lasted for a century and a half.
In 1485, while awaiting the invasion of Henry Tudor at Nottingham, Richard sent his niece, Elizabeth of York, her sisters, and the Earls of Warwick, Lincoln, Lord Morley and John of Gloucester, to the castle.
The castle became the property of Henry VII and, in 1525, Henry VIII granted it to his son, Henry Fitzroy, who had been newly created as Duke of Richmond and Warden-General of the Marches. A survey of this date describes the castle as being in need of repair.
In 1537 Thomas Howard, the second Duke of Norfolk made repairs to the castle but, following the Council's relocation toYork in the mid sixteenth century, the castle went into decline. A further campaign of repairs was undertaken by Henry, Earl of Huntingdon in 1572. The Earl hoped the President of the Council would use the castle as a residence, and he described it as an 'olde Castell aamoste ruinated. In 1618 it was again described as ruinous. The Ingram family acquired the castle in 1622, and stone from the site was used by them in the building of nearby Sheriff Hutton House.
The castle remained in the Ingram family until the early twentieth century, by which time the ruins were being used as a farmyard. It was designated a scheduled ancient monument in the 1950s, and has recently undergone some repairs by English Heritage. Today the castle is privately owned.