THE MARKENFIELD IRREGULAR: Issue 35
ARCHIVES are not always about the distant past. The story of Markenfield continues and even now is creating or recording what is happening here today for future generations. Janet Senior, who of course wrote the authoritative The Markenfields of Markenfield Hall, and Dr Maryon Dougil have, weekly for over a year now been reading through and cataloguing boxes of twentieth century papers, letters and reports – in particular relating to the 1980s restoration.
We had already acquired the working papers of the architect of that time John Miller, with all his sketches, proposals and ideas; many never carried out. These will now live alongside such things as the Condition Report of 1962 which proposed that the mediaeval first-floor entrance directly into the Great Hall – a grand exterior staircase over the present front door – be rebuilt… to read more please click HERE
The renowned local group, The Dales String Quartet, resident at Markenfield Hall near Ripon, have an outstanding new viola player.
Joanna Wesling, formerly of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (pictured) and now a regular with Opera North, is a resident of Ripon and has joined forces with this local group who have captivated audiences at its Markenfield concerts in recent years. “Ripon is so lucky to have such a rich musical life” Jo commented, “and this first rate group could easily be mistaken for a more famous quartet”.
Their growing profile and reputation means that other nationally renowned musicians, such as clarinettist Thomas Verity, are due to perform with them in October. Their next Markenfield concert is on July 8 and includes Mozart’s famous ‘Dissonance’, Shostakovich’s powerful 8th and Borodin’s lyrical 2nd quartet.
Tickets can be purchased from Markenfield Hall (01765 692303) or The Little Ripon Bookshop.
Book early to avoid disappointment.
Visitors to Markenfield Hall who arrive by car are greeted by the imposing sight of the Hall’s Tudor Gatehouse as they approach, but this entrance is a relatively modern addition – in Markenfield terms at least.
Walkers who gaze up at it from the Old Mediaeval Road below, en-route to nearby Fountains Abbey, are looking at it the way that visitors would have done 700 years ago. But for a quirk of fate – and a turnpike act of 1777 – Markenfield would be one of the most recognisable houses in Yorkshire as the nearby A61 would run along this now-Bridleway just 200m from its façade.
Some historians have thought, and indeed it would make sense, that this East side was the site of the original entrance to the 1310 house (see sketch) and that side of the Hall is built more defensively than the rest.
This East Wing of the Hall has been home to the Hall’s tenant farmers for the past 45 years and they have tended the East Garden within the moat all that time. Now however and the gardens have come back under the care of the Hall’s Owner Lady Deirdre Curteis. With her eye for detail and the vision of Head Gardener Giles Gilbey the garden is undergoing a transformation to bring it more in keeping with the rest of the borders around the Hall.
The enormous undertaking of removing all the original planting began back in April and has been on hold due to a couple of unforeseen birds’ nests, but will be restarting next week as the young have now flown.
Visitors can see the work progressing when the Hall opens its doors to the public from Sunday 11 to Sunday 25 June (2:00pm to 5:00pm each day). Further information can be obtained from the Hall’s website www.markenfield.com or from the Administrator on 01765 692303.
The Markenfield Irregular: Issue 34
MARK-IN-FIELD. The most elegantly carved mediaeval tomb in Ripon Cathedral is that of Sir Thomas Markenfield (d. 1398) in the North Transept. And most curious
is his unusual collar, which shows a couchant stag within an elaborate fence round a little field. Many learned essays have been written to prove that this was a badge marking his adherence to the House of Lancaster; others think it is simply a play on the family name – Mark-in-Field (a “mark” being your quarry in a hunt) similar to the mediaeval humour shown by a rebus in heraldry.
A similar image has now been identified, sketched onto the back of a letter written about 1590. It is in the form of a pendant, and has a little ring at the top. The letter, now in the North Yorkshire County Archives, was written by William Mauleverer, a relation of the Markenfields by marriage, setting out his case to claim some of the… to read more please click HERE
It was a seemingly innocuous envelope that landed last December on the doormat. What it contained was not so.
It contained maps and plans outlining a proposal for the “Markenfield New Village Settlement” a development of hundreds of new houses covering the farmland from The Old Mediaeval Road down to the A61.
Accompanying the alarming maps was a letter offering to make the owners “millionaires”.
Needless to say, a letter was sent back explaining that the land they were proposing to build upon was worth more to the owners as it was, on an emotional level, than having millions of pounds in the bank and having to drive through something akin to Milton Keynes each and every time they wanted to leave home.
And so life went back to normal – peaceful, quiet and happily un-rich.
Until the Developer turned up at the door one day armed with a clipboard and pamphlets…
…needless to say he was not welcomed with open arms and was in fact threatened with the police should he return!
Markenfield is special – and it will stay that way.
THE MARKENFIELD IRREGULAR: ISSUE 33
Markenfield has acquired a most intriguing 7″x5″ sepia wash sketch of the house from the north-east, dated 1825. It is by George Cuitt the Younger of Masham (1779-1854) who in his day was well known. One’s first impression is that very little has changed: the N side of the moat, which forms the foreground, is much rougher and irregular, there is what appears to be a mooring post as if those who lived there kept a boat on the water, and there are little gates and walls illustrating how the house and land was at this stage divided between two tenant farmer families – the Harrisons and the Hawkesworths. To read more, please click HERE to open Issue 33 of the Irregular.
Research can be a thankless task – especially online. You can spend hours looking through lists of searches containing the word Markenfield (now bear in mind the the Archive & Research Group have identified over 16 possible spellings of Markenfield over the years) and some days the most exciting thing that pops up is a pair of Markenfield Lounge Pants – I kid you not!
But not last week… last week contained one of those rare days when you click on that link and you’re transported back precisely 116 year in time to a Great Hall hung as a portrait gallery and faces from the past stare out of the screen at you.
Fast forward to today and a visit from three Volunteers from the Pennine Heritage Digital Archive, who have been lovingly taking care of a collection of photographs taken in 1900 by a Mr George Hepworth.
Mr Hepworth seemingly worked his way around Yorkshire, photographing historic houses – and how gad are we that he did?!
He donated the glass negatives to the Hebden Bridge Local History Society in 1916 and they were digitised and put online by the lovely people we met today.
We now have 11 (yes 11!) images from 1900 that show the Hall pre-restoration, but as a quite-obviously much-loved and very much cared for family home – home of the Foster family, tenant farmers of the day… and still tenant farmers to this day.
One of the most-commented upon things in the Hall’s Visitor Book is the atmosphere at Markenfield – benign, tranquil – spiritual even.
One of the hardest things to do is to maintain that atmosphere for all to enjoy.
The Hall isn’t just a visitor attraction – it is first and foremost a family home, and much-loved family home at that. It isn’t Chatsworth, or Harewood, where the family can take to a a private wing of the house for some peace and quiet – the family live in the rooms that the public see, and this quite often turns them into a visitor attraction too!
Don’t get me wrong… the family very much enjoy welcoming visitors into their home. But as you may have read in the latest newsletter, the number of guided tours has sky-rocketed over the past 12 years and there hasn’t been a week since the beginning of April when we haven’t had a tour or a wedding.
Weddings involve an awful lot of preparation and furniture moving – setting up on the Friday and putting back the following Monday. We don’t have a Function Room – we use the Drawing Room, or the Great Hall – imagine someone getting married in your Living Room…
And so we have introduced the idea of Quiet Weeks… one week a month where we have no groups, no weddings and no upheaval. The furniture stays where it should be, the tea urn is switched off and the house get to recharge its atmosphere ready for its visitors the following week.
Shhhhh…. it’s quiet week….
THE MARKENFIELD IRREGULAR: Issue 32
A DISCOVERY. Property forfeited during the 1569 Rising of the North was disposed of to loyal and trusted advisors to Queen Elizabeth. Markenfield was such a property – the Markenfield family having taken such a leading role in the rebellion – and was gifted first for a fixed 21 years to Laurence Meres and then, in perpetuity, to Sir Henry Gates, MP. (1515 – 1589).
Alan Robiette has discovered that Trinity College Dublin has a manuscript New Testament, in Wycliffe’s English translation, which dates probably from the early 15th century and once belonged to Gates. This retains his handwritten notes on the flyleaves, recording the births of all his children – down to the hour of the day, as well as the date and place of each birth – and the names of their godparents. In his own words… To read more, please click HERE to open Issue 32 of the Irregular.
Lime Tree Project
For our latest project we plan to help fund the replacement of the sycamore trees that line the west-side of the moat and provide a green backdrop to the range of outbuildings in the Courtyard. What you might not have noticed is that the amount of greenery is getting less and less each year. The whole row has succumbed to Honey Fungus and all seven trees are slowly dying – an eighth tree was removed a couple of years ago for safety reasons. The cost of the felling and replacement with trees some 12 ft tall with guards to prevent the cows damaging them, is about £3,000. As we cannot provide that level of funding, we felt that individual Friends might wish to support us with sponsorship. The form enclosed with this Newsletter offers you an exciting opportunity to support something that will last for hundreds of years. The replacement trees are to be Tilia Cordata, better known as small-leaved lime, or linden.
It is said that a tree standing in the courtyard of the Imperial Castle at Nuremberg is a linden tree, planted by Empress Cunigude, wife of Emperor Henry II of Germany. Their reign was near the beginning of the 11th century. Though old and sparse, the tree still stands today.
Will our trees last 1000 years? Probably not (although it would be entirely possible), but we can certainly hope they will last several hundred, and as we walk round the moat in June and July we can revel in the wonderful, intoxicating scent of their flowers.
We plan to commemorate the sponsors, but have not yet decided the most suitable format for this.
This isn’t only open to members of The Friends, so if you would like further information on sponsorship, or would like to make a donation to the Project, please download a form HERE