Wednesday, 1 July 2015
I had a wonderful birthday treat recently, when a friend took me out for the day to visit Markenfield Hall. It is a secret gem: the most unspoiled early 14th century fortified house in England and still a private home. It is only open to the public for a few weeks each year, though it is sometimes available as a venue for small weddings. Such a romantic setting... It is set in open countryside just south of Ripon in North Yorkshire (not far from the much more famous Fountains Abbey) about an hour's drive from Saltaire.
The estate was mentioned in the Domesday book but little is known about it prior to 1310. It retains a moat, gatehouse and crenellations (battlements). From 1310 to 1569 it was the home of the Markenfield family. In 1569, members of the family led an unsuccessful Catholic uprising against the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I, who then confiscated the house and land for High Treason. For the next 200 years the house was occupied by tenant farmers and, ironically, it was this that preserved it, as the tenants had neither the money nor the inclination to alter the buildings. In 1761 it was bought by the lawyer and MP Fletcher Norton, a descendant of the original Markenfield family. He maintained it but continued to let it to tenant farmers. He later took the title Lord Grantley and the house was passed down through generations until the 1980s when the 7th Lord Grantley began a programme of restoration that would see the house become their family home once more. The surrounding farm is still tenanted and the current farmers, the Fosters (whose family have been tenants there since 1882) now live in the modernised East Wing.
Do look at its website for detailed information about its history, as I can only hint at it here.