Home of England’s oldest coroner and magistrate
The Feathers Hotel in Market Place, Helmsley, North Yorkshire, opened for business early in 1959 having previously been two private houses, both owned by the local Duncombe Park Estate, and each with very different but equally fascinating histories. The Duncombe family’s connection with the town dates from 1694 when Sir Charles Duncombe, a very wealthy London banker, acquired the manor and castle of Helmsley from the bankrupt estate of the late 2nd Duke of Buckingham.
From 1782 until 1958 the main building of The Feathers Hotel and its predecessors housed a succession of medical doctors and their families. Many of them were men of especially high standing in the district; the most notable being the multi-skilled Dr Francis Porter, who worked until his death at the age of 93 in 1933, when obituary notices recorded that he was the country’s oldest coroner and magistrate. The adjoining cottage, which forms the public bar of the hotel, was from at least 1780 until 1948 continuously the home of the Thorpe family, including three generations of market-toll collectors.
By the end of 1958 both properties had become vacant and were sold by the Duncombe Park Estate to Jack and Peggy Feather, who converted the doctor’s house into a family hotel. It naturally became known as The Feathers. In 1963 the dilapidated Thorpe’s Cottage was developed into a snack bar. Local oak furniture-maker, Bob Cartwright was commissioned to provide all the wood fittings, and later provided many more items of furniture as the business expanded over several years. Bob’s grandfather was the famous Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson, so the family firm’s distinctive carved-mouse trademark can now be seen throughout the bar, on the counter, and on pillars, window sills, tables, chairs, and stools.
The hotel was acquired by The Coaching Inn Group in 2015, and continues to meet the needs of today’s market while respecting and retaining many features of its fascinating heritage