Helmsley Launch: The Heart of a True Market Town
Whilst launching our new shop in Helmsley recently, our Fairfax and Favor team discovered exactly what a "market town" means, and why it is so wonderful.
When you google the gorgeous little town of Helmsley, which is situated in the North York Moors National Park and just over an hour away from York, a number of delightful architectural gems and charming experiences come up. The warmth of the local people is often mentioned, as well as the River Rye and Rievaulx Abbey, (you’d have to read our Best things to do in Helmsley blog to get the full list).
However, what people seem to come back to again and again when talking about this tiny point on an English map is that it is a small market town.
Our store view of the heart of Helmsley, by Lucy Saggers.
The History of Helmsley: A Market Town
Here is something that we didn’t know:
In the Middle Ages, settlements had to obtain (by custom or royal order), a “market right” in order to hold a regular market. Naturally, even the smallest town was likely to hope to become a market town, as it was an effective way to boost their local economy, attract visitors, create a source of income for families, and provide finances for the town’s defences.
Before long, of course, marketplaces were also commonly accepted as the best location for social interaction, which basically means they became hotspots for making and losing friends and potential partners, getting into trouble, and sharing juicy gossip.
Helmsley Marketplace, from the Helmsley Archives.
Out of some 2,000 new markets being established in England between 1200 and 1349, Helmsley was one of the earliest. Its original markets were held outside the church, but the current market square has remained the same since 1467.
And if you’ve ever been to a market, you’ll have noticed that market holders will often hold each other’s stores open when someone needs a break. They’ll share small change when one stall doesn’t have enough, watch for anybody looking to nick from their neighbours, point buyers in the direction of the stall that actually has the things they need, and spend most of the day gossiping away between customers.
Basically, a market is a little community, and the people within it support each other. So it makes perfect sense to us that in 2015 Helmsley won the Great British High Street Award for the Best Market Town in England.
Helmsley life, North York Moors website.
If you want to experience market day in Helmsley now, be sure to come on a Friday. There’s a beautiful square and an ancient market cross, and the market itself is a lovely mix of clothes, gifts and household goods, as well as foods and flowers. There’s also usually a craft fair held in the Town Hall right on the Market Square.
But even outside of market day, Helmsley is filled with magical little alleys and independent shops, and most importantly we have found that it is still imbued with the sense of community that comes with a marketplace: the people come together to support each other.
Our Fairfax & Favor Helmsley Launch
The brand new Fairfax & Favor store in Helmsley is on the road into the main Market Square, barely a one-minute walk away, and we feel right in the heart of it all.
When we hosted the Helmsley Fairfax and Favor Store Launch on the 21st of April, around fifty people came. Out of these fifty, a number were Fairfax & Favor team, supporters, and Board Members, but the rest were Helmsley locals and nearby business owners.
The Chairman of Helmsley Town Council, Jonathan Fairburn, was there, as well as the Vice Chairman Tony Porter.
Our gorgeous landlady Jill not only attended, she brought her husband and a number of her friends to show off her new tenant (that’s us!).
The Italian restaurant directly opposite our store – La Trattoria – provided the incredible canapes and also hosted our team dinner late into the night after the launch (don’t ask us about the pasta. Just try the pasta).
Tame and Wild, a company that creates the most sophisticated non-alcoholic sparkling drinks we have ever tried, provided the event with joyful flavours such as rhubarb elderberry rose and blueberry dandelion lavender…
Our neighbouring sweet shop, Laura’s Confectionary (a dangerously delicious place to find just around the corner) even donated little goodie bags with sweets and fudge for our guests.
Helmsley supporters, by Lucy Saggers.
So many people from within our new store home came to our launch to support us, and it just proved again why Fairfax & Favor wants to keep our shops in small English countryside towns with big hearts.
The Fairfax & Favor Helmsley Store
The best part of it all, for our team at least, is that (although it’s no market stand) our new Helmsley neighbours really seemed to love our store.
They adored the secret swinging library doors, the two hidden exits where our store team can whisk themselves into the books to collect new stock, bubbles, coffee, or whatever it is that our clients need from the hidden recesses of the shop.
A secret, by Lucy Saggers.
They loved the private appointment room, and hearing about our Fairfax & Favor team’s new favourite thing to do which is to host birthday appointments in there. Though with cake and balloons and the chance to try on as much stock as you like in an exclusive space with your friends… what is not to love?
They were suitably impressed by the work of our interior designer, the unstoppable Daniella So of Caulder Moore. Daniella put a lot of thought into paying homage to the Helmsley history and style in the design of the shop, and so the leather and cowhide sofas and chairs, the tactile counter, and the secret library doors were born. And of course, Daniella kept our distinctive navy walls, ‘walk in closet’ feel cupboards, seemingly unlimited comfortable places to relax, and ‘just because’ terracotta floors.
The bubbles probably helped! By Lucy Saggers.
Market Day is Every Day
Helmsley is such a special place (seriously, check out our Top Things to Do in Helmsley blog), with the most kind-hearted people. We already have customers coming from all around England, booking appointments and doing walk-ins. It makes us so happy to know that our customers are then exploring our neighbourhood, wandering from place to place just as they would in a real market, visiting Laura’s Confectionary and La Trattoria and Brown’s Department Store…
Be sure to book a private appointment with our store team when you visit, and then give yourself enough time to explore Helmsley. You won’t be disappointed.