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.
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….
Sunday 11th September sees two supreme musical talents brought together for one captivating evening at Markenfield Hall – Dr Richard Shephard, Musical Director of the York Mystery Plays and Richard Mantel, General Director of Opera North.
Dr Richard Shephard’s Life in Cathedral Music began at an early age and his tall tales and anecdotes from behind the scenes at some of the most important Cathedrals in the country – including our very own York Minster – make for a light-hearted tour of this nation’s choral powerhouses.
Richard Mantle will lead the St Wilfrid’s Occasional Singers who will bring the evening to a close by performing Dr Shephard’s arrangement of Alcuin’s Sequence to St Michael; which he composed to mark the re-dedication of the Chapel at Markenfield back in 2001.
Richard Shephard’s talk – My Life in Cathedral Music – will take place on Sunday 11 September 2016. Refreshments from 7:00pm and the lecture at 7:30pm. Tickets £20 from 01765 692303 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Following a two-month-long exile, Sylvia – the Hall’s Black Swan – will be returning home tomorrow (Thursday) along with her new mate. Roland, her previous mate was savagely (and very sadly) killed by an Otter back in April after a spree that saw over 50 Carp caught and consumed on and around the moat.
The past two months have seen many visitors questioning why the Swans were missing and the Hall’s Owner Lady Deirdre Curteis comments: “we have had Black Swans on the moat at Markenfield continuously since the 1980s, when my husband and I were given a pair as a ‘house-warming’ present. They have become synonymous with the Hall and our visitors have really missed seeing them – we’ve missed seeing them too. They develop personalities and become a part of the family. Sadly we lost Roland, and Sylvia was then removed for her own safety until we were sure that the Otter had moved on. We are very happy to say that Sylvia was young enough to be introduced to a new mate and that they are both coming home to the Hall tomorrow.”
At the moment Sylvia’s new mate remains nameless. Can you help? If you can suggest a name for our newest arrival, please let us know. You can email the Hall at email@example.com or via the Hall’s Facebook page.
Visitors to the Hall will be able to see the Swans in situ when it opens its doors to the public from Saturday 11th to Sunday 26 June, 2:00pm to 5:00pm each day. For further information please call the Administrator on 01765 692303 or see markenfield.com
It was a bright, sunny spring day – the kind that Wordsworth would have loved – the golden daffodils nodding gently towards the moat; and there in the car park, glinting in the sunshine… a fish! Or to be precise – part of a fish. Not the sort of thing that one normally finds in the car park but, presuming it had been dropped by a passing Heron, we didn’t think too much of it… until the next day – when there was another one… and then another one.
Soon the orchard and surrounding fields were littered with fish – dragged from the moat, partially eaten and then discarded. The first thought was a Fox. This was then replaced with the rather horrifying thought of Mink. All the while the fish were stacking up and all we found was a small number of footprints by the side of the moat.
And so it was that we came to borrow a Trail-Cam, only then were we to discover that the moat had a new inhabitant – an Otter.
He has been filmed on numerous occasions, in the Orchard, next to the house itself and on the water – sleek, graceful and absolutely ginormous!
Delight at the new arrival soon turned to horror however, when the fish supply began to dwindle and Roland the Black Swan became his next meal. “We were horrified” explains the Hall’s Owner, Lady Deirdre Curteis. “We have had Swans attacked by foxes before and therefore they slept on the water for their own safety – it never occurred to us that an Otter would take such a big and powerful bird. Sylvia, Roland’s surviving partner, has been temporarily removed for her own safety until the Otter’s food source has dried up and then we believe that it will move on. Sadly, for the first time ever, there won’t be Black Swans at the Hall when we open to the public on 30 April.”
What the Hall does have – all be it temporarily – is one of the UK’s most enigmatic and endangered mammals. Whilst we can’t guarantee that visitors will see one whilst doing the Moat Walk, there will be a display of otterly fascinating images and facts pertaining to our new lodger.
Markenfield will be open from 30 April to 15 May, and again from 11 to 26 June, from 2:00pm to 5:00pm each day (last entry 4:30pm). For further information please see markenfield.com or contact Sarah Robson on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01765 692303.
Our visitors to the Hall are lovely – not only do they say nice things about us, but they bring us things too. It’s amazing what we’ve been given over the years and more often than not the items are fascinating… and sometimes, just sometimes, they’re quite incredible.
Take for instance the Celebrant, at a Blessing in the Chapel, who went home on the Saturday and dug out an old postcard of the Great Hall showing a long-gone giant rocking horse that used to take pride of place when the Hall was laid out like a picture gallery of family portraits dating back to 1566. It arrived in the post on the Monday and gave us a tantalising glimpse of a time long-gone.
Just recently two of our Volunteers have brought in photographs of their families visiting the Hall in the 1920s. The photographs are wonderful – but made all the more astonishing by the fact that the two totally-unrelated volunteers seem to have brought in photographs of the same family group.
Ian Curteis says “we know that people have visited the Hall for years – Wilfred Owen and Lewis Carroll being among the more familiar names – but it is the public visitors that are now casting light on the history of the Hall. We always knew that people visited the Hall when it was used as the Farmhouse and as storage, as we have visitors recounting hair-raising trips up to the roof and wandering along the battlements, but we had no idea just how many. All the postcards and early photographs show what life was like here back then, and just how much (or rather how little) the Hall has been changed.”
And so we got to thinking – if our volunteers have photographs of the Hall… who else might?
We are planning an exhibition of images – photographs, postcards and even illustrations – of Markenfield as seen by its earliest visitors. Can you help? Do you have any images that you would be willing to share? You wouldn’t need to part with the original – you could scan and email a copy, or post a photocopy. If you think you could help please contact Sarah Robson, the Administrator, on 01765 692303 or email@example.com
On Tuesday 5th January at 6:00pm the ancient Chapel at the heart of Markenfield Hall will play host to an outstanding Service: a Sung Evensong marking the Eve of Epiphany – almost the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas – and the arrival of the Three Wise Men at the stable in Bethlehem.
Conducted by the Bishop of Beverley, the Rt Rev’d Glyn Webster, the Choir will be the outstanding Occasional Singers from St Wilfred’s Harrogate who will be led by Richard Mantle – Director of Opera North.
The music will include Hymn a la Vierge by Pierre Villette, and O Magnum Mysterium by Vittoria (1572) expressing wonder that animals should see the new-born Child in their midst. Markenfield lies at the centre of its farm, where the livestock are currently inside for the winter. It is always possible that they may add their “lowing” to the soaring voices within.
All are most welcome.
If there’s one thing that we get through a lot of at the Hall at this time of year… it’s logs. With three open fires, and a wood-burning stove of epic proportions, the log shed is nothing if not well stocked.
All the wood burned at the Hall is gathered from the Estate’s woodland – Spring Wood. It is brought in one autumn, left to season for a year and then chopped and stored in the Log Shed before being brought into the house in small loads as needed throughout the week.
And that was where the problems started…
We were turning the lights off after a guided tour when we noticed a couple of small beetles on one of the tables in the Drawing Room. They were leg-in-the-air so we swept them to one side thinking we’d look at them in better light the next day. The next day? They’d moved! This time they were under the lamp. So we went on a bug hunt and low and behold – there were more – under lamps and on window cills.
Fearing the worst we Googled Death Watch Beetle – far to big. Woodworm – still far too big. So, feeling slightly more positive that the house wasn’t been chewed from the inside out, we called the Architect… Take a photo he said, it’s simple he said. Have you ever tried to take a photo of something the size of a grain of rice?
This is what we came up with!
So we rang the Bug Man. Send me a sample he said, it’s simple he said – put them in a pot and post them.
So off we went, pot in hand – and they’d all gone! We hunted high and low and finally found some huddled under a cloth in the Log Shed. Into the pot they went and on the end of my desk the pot went, waiting until I could find a jiffy bag. And then the noises began…
I blamed the Office Dog originally – thinking she was chasing rabbits in her sleep and making squeaking noises, but no. Then I blamed the heater, but no. Then the printer, but no. Finally in desperation I put the pot to my ear – the beetles were singing!!!! Never has a jiffy bag been found so quickly. Into the post they went and then we waited.
Five days later we got a phone call – he had no idea!
We went through a few facts: where they were, what they did, why they seemed to be indestructible (he’d had them in the freezer for 24 hours and they were still singing when he took them out)!!!
His first idea was disastrous: Museum Beetles. Within 10 minutes we’d formulated a plan to remove every single piece of wood from the Hall, vacuum all surfaces, carpets, nooks, crannies and under all furniture plus under the carpets. Thankfully we received a second phone call confirming that they were actually Ash Bark Beetles – a non-destructive beetle that lives purely in the bark of wood and does not eat furniture – hallelujah!
So – crisis averted – a Hall without logs would be a very sad place indeed!
“OF YOUR CHARITY pray for the souls of the last members of the Markenfield family to live here, before the house was confiscated by the Crown for High Treason and they had to flee into exile for life or live out the remainder of their lives in desperate poverty.”
So begins the Schedule of Service for the Requiem Mass dedicated to the last of the Markenfields to live at Markenfield Hall, three miles south of Ripon. The Mass will be held on Saturday 22nd August at 11:00am in the Mediaeval Chapel at Markenfield, where the Markenfields would have heard their daily Mass.
The Service will be the 10th annual Requiem Mass to held in the Chapel, and owner Lady Deirdre Curteis is delighted to be maintaining the tradition she began with husband Ian Curteis, saying “We were appalled when we pieced together what had happened at Markenfield in 1569. Ian, an Anglican, was so moved by the story of the family’s suffering at the hands of his fellow Protestants that he decided to establish this annual Requiem Mass for the last Markenfields.”
Markenfield Hall was confiscated following the Rising of the North – the Catholic rising of the great Northern Lords against Queen Elizabeth I and her suppression of their Faith – marking the catastrophic downfall of Sir Thomas Markenfield and his family.
The Yorkshire contingent of the Rising, led by Sir Thomas, gathered in the Courtyard at Markenfield on 20 November 1569. They heard Mass in the Chapel and then rode out, under the banner of the Five Wounds of Christ. Despite the Northern Lords’ noble show of strength, Elizabeth’s forces won out. The lucky ones fled. Many more were not so lucky and hundreds of men were hanged for their loyalty to their Faith and to Sir Thomas.
Sir Thomas himself fled to Scotland, but with eventually had to flee to the Low Countries where he later died. In August 1592 a papal correspondent wrote that “Sir Thomas Markenfield has been found dead, lying on the bare floor of his chamber, no creature being present at his death… He died this last week in Brussels, in very extreme want and in a most miserable cottage.” Perhaps among his last thoughts were of his beloved Chapel at Markenfield. The last of the family, Sir Thomas’s daughter in law Elizabeth, was given a pauper’s burial in 1600.
The Mass will be celebrated by Father Ronald Creighton-Jobe of the Brompton Oratory in London and sung by the Monks from Ampleforth Abbey. All are welcome to attend. If you would like further information, please contact Sarah Robson, The Administrator, on 01765 692303