Markenfield Hall

WhereMarkenfield HallType of EventSite Visit
WhenWednesday 2nd July 2014Tutor

On Wednesday 2nd July, 2014, 22 members visited Markenfield Hall by arrangement and were treated to a guided tour of the “most complete surviving medium-sized 14th century country house in all England” which has a moat, gatehouse and crenellated walls. The Hall was noted in the Domesday Book and further building was undertaken in the 13th and early 14th centuries and has changed very little since. Much of the present hall was built by John de Markenfield in 1310, when he was given permission by King John to crenellate i.e. make it a fortified building. It continued to be lived in by the Markenfield family until their unfortunate involvement in the Rising of the North 1569/70, when Roman Catholics rebelled against Elizabeth I in the cause of religious freedom. The rising was quelled and Sir Thomas Markenfield and his uncle, Sir Richard Norton, fled abroad to live in poverty, but at least they escaped being hanged, drawn and quartered with those who were captured. Elizabeth I gave the manor to Sir Thomas Egerton, but he probably never lived there and the following centuries saw absentee landlords who did not develop or modernise the house. 

It was bought in 1761 by a descendant of the Markenfield family, Fletcher Norton, who became the 1st Lord Grantley of Markenfield. He repaired the house but did not live in it and left it essentially unchanged. Restoration was not undertaken until 1980 when the 7th Lord Grantley of Markenfield began the task. He died in 1995 but Lady Grantley and her present husband continue to live in Markenfield Hall and preserve its history.

Led by a very knowledgeable guide, we went over the moat, through the gatehouse and into the courtyard to see the living quarters.

 Our guided tour started in the undercroft and kitchen areas before ascending to the vast and wonderful Great Hall which was probably built about 1280 and was originally freestanding before John de Markenfield started his extensions and fortifications linking it with other buildings around the courtyard. 

We then visited the chapel which had close links with Fountains Abbey until the suppression of the monasteries and which remained Roman Catholic until 1570, after the Rising of the North. There are two portraits of Sir Richard Norton, the leader of the Rising, in the Chapel and there is a beautiful double piscina from the early 14th century. The chapel was probably Protestant for a while after the suppression of the Rising, but fell into disuse until 1995 when, after a lapse of 300 years, it once again became Roman Catholic with Anglican services also held on alternate weeks.

The guide showed us a four-poster bedroom leading off the Chapel which was part of the original solar, but became the Great Chamber (Lord and Lady’s withdrawing room and bedroom) in 1310.

The tour finished with refreshments outside the Hall on the bank of the moat, where it was easy to believe that we were still in the fourteenth century.

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