Take a walk round
Helmdon, a small village set in open country in the south
of Northamptonshire, England.
Its people love Helmdon, though no great
event or historical person has made it famous. It is a vibrant
community with a tale worth telling.
Helmdon has a population
of around 900 and used to be a farming community, catering
mostly for its own needs. From the early 18th century there
was also a thriving lace industry.
Today people go to work chiefly in the towns around, such
as Banbury and Northampton, and even to London. It has a nine-member
Lane, an old drovers' route, runs across the south of
the village, and other roads come from Brackley, Sulgrave,
Weston and Wappenham.
Your route starts from the Welsh Lane.
Fields on the right
of Station Road
Go down Station Road and cross the bridge over a deep cutting. There are fields on your right, usually filled with sheep. To the right you can just see the church of St Mary Magdalene.
The first house on your left is the former stationmaster's house for the "Helmdon for Sulgrave" station on the long abandoned
Great Central railway. The railway opened in 1897, was later taken over
by the LNER, and closed in 1966.
Remains of the
Below the now sparse remains of the old station the line (which was built during the 1890s),
runs on an embankment and then traverses the valley on the nine
arch Great Central viaduct which crosses the Helmdon
After a tree-lined stretch of road, and some houses, on the left is Grange Lane which has a tunnel under the embankment to
reach Grange Farm.
The School Buildings on
On the right at the bottom of the hill,
you will find Helmdon County Primary
School. This much regarded school has in excess of 120 pupils,
over a third of whom come from Brackley and villages outside Helmdon.
Until as recently as 1992 a public house stood opposite called
the Chequers, dating
from around 1760.
The Bell, Helmdon's last
Now turn right up Church Street. On the right, just before the Bell, is Leeden Tye fronted by a little shop where boot polish was once made. The Bell, so called in earlier times because it was the nearest alehouse
in the village to the church, is today the only pub in the village
Shortly you will see the
Reading Room where many of the village activities take
place. The Reading Room is the focus
for many of the groups
in the village and is the venue for many of their activities
and events. It has on its walls photographs of the Village of the Year competitions won by Helmdon.
Almost opposite the Reading Room, on the other side of the road, is a short close. On the left is an old cottage called Shortlands, reputedly the oldest house in the village
The Old Bakehouse
on Church Street
Walking on up Church Street, you reach
on the right the Old Bakehouse,
still open in the 1950s for villagers wanting newly baked
The parish church of
St Mary Magdalene, on the highest ground in the village,
has stood by its old yew for many hundreds of years.
Fourteenth-century stained glass, the Campiun window, commemorates
one of its stonemasons. There
are six bells in the church tower of which the oldest is dated
1679, and over the centuries they have been rung to call people
to services, as well as in times of war, peace and celebration.
St Mary Magdalene Church
Up past the church is
Manor Farm (left) near where one of the early manor houses
presumably stood. Early
history suggests that Helmdon was once divided between
three manorial holdings and had no great squire. Just to the
south-east is Falcutt House.
The present Manor Farm house
After retracing your steps all the way down Church
Street, turn right. Immediately on the right hand side of the road is Stone Gables. A little way along the road on your left can be seen Helmdon's famous
landmark, the Great Central viaduct.
Under it ran the little valley railway known as the "nibble
and clink" or LMS railway
line. Along this small valley line cattle and coal went
to Banbury and Northampton markets. Its old station on the
right is a Coach Depot,
and just ahead is a small road bridge over the abandoned line.
The Great Central Railway
The war memorial
The village is proud of its war
memorial commemorating the fallen of World Wars 1 and 2. It was given grade 2 listed building status in 2015. In 2009 an American memorial was set up beside it which honours the Americans who crashed at Astwell Castle Farm in 1943.
The long barn at Priory Farm
in the 2000s.
Just on the left,along the Sulgrave Road, can be seen Priory Farm, which in Charles II's reign was the largest house in Helmdon. Its has a large long barn. now sadly in a state of utter disrepair.
Opposite Priory Farm is the road to Weston and Weedon Lois. Just up the hill on the right are Weston Hill cottages and there is evidence that this building was originally the village school, though it was not on this site.
On each side of the Weston Road were
the old stone quarries, which produced the pale Helmdon
stone for so many years. The building material was used
for many of the local houses as well as for much more famous
ones. Today it is the site of a large wood yard.
Going back to Priory Farm turn left and as you go up Wappenham
Road, you will find Fountain House, a late nineteenth-century brick house, on your right. It has hosted drama productions, fetes and sales.
Just beyond, Magpie Cottage used to be the Magpie public house. It prospered while it catered for the drinking
needs of the navvies employed on the Great Central Railway
in the 1890s, and closed soon after.
little way up on the left is the Old House, fronted by a
long abandoned shop, a flourishing butcher's business in
Just up fron the old shop, on the same side of the road, is a new house, restored from the the mid-nineteenth
century Baptist Chapel,
which closed some few years ago.
Above the bend in the hill is Home Farm, the only fully working
farm left inside the village. Some farmhouses were built
outside the village as a result of the mid-eighteenth century
enclosure of the open
fields, and the land is still worked from them.
On the right you will find Field Way, at the end of which is Field View House
Doorway of Long Acre
Then comes what is known as "The Square". On the right is Long Acre.
Proceeding down Cross Lane leads by the house called The
Old Manor, and thence to the Old
Cross, which used to be a public house. Here, and in
several houses in Helmdon, are stone features obviously cut for more prestigious houses and used
here because the masons had them left on their hands - or the stone could have come from Astwell castle which was drastically reduced in size in the last quarter of the eighteenth century.
Three deserted villages,
and Astwell lie on the fringes
The footpath to Astwell
The village straddles a network of old footpaths,
routes to Weston and Weedon Lois, and Wappenham, Radstone,
Whitfield, Astwell, Crowfield, Halse, Falcutt, Stuchbury and
Sulgrave. The central ones are much used.
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