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
Markenfield Hall, three miles south of Ripon and tucked privately away along a mile-long winding drive, has long been described as a hidden gem – or even Yorkshire’s best kept secret. So imagine the Owners’ surprise when, during the Hall’s first opening fortnight, all records were smashed and they saw a 50% increase in people through the door!
“We were astonished” says Ian Curteis (husband of the Hall’s owner Lady Deirdre Curteis). “Every afternoon we opened the door and in they came – and they just kept on coming!”
Of noticeable increase has been the number of walkers visiting the Hall. “We are lucky to be at the convergence of a number of footpaths and bridleways” continues Ian Curteis “that take people through some of the most beautiful and historically-interesting scenery in the area before finally ending up at nearby Fountains Abbey.”
Historical links with Fountains Abbey are strong, and the modern day ones have just been strengthened with the publication of a Heritage Walk, produced in conjunction with the Nidderdale AONB, the Historic Parks and Gardens Group, the National Trust and The Friends of Markenfield. The 6.5 mile circular walk takes in both mediaeval centres of power – Fountains and Markenfield – as well as the enigmatic landmark of How Hill. Copies of the walk can be download from the Nidderdale AONB website – alternatively an illustrated copy can be purchased from the Hall during its open days in June.
On Wednesday 3 June a public walk was organised to celebrate the launch of the Trail and a merry band of walkers tested the route – they stopped off at the Hall for a quick history lesson before making their way towards How Hill and recent reports suggest that a good time was had by all.
Markenfield Hall – tucked privately away along a mile-long winding drive, just three miles south of Ripon – has been described as “truly one of Yorkshire’s most astonishing hidden gems”  . Not visible from the road, a glimpse of the imposing east wall cannot be seen until visitors reach the old Mediaeval road near to the top of the drive.
As visitors reach the top of the drive, the imposing Tudor Gatehouse greets them – flanked by “the Borders within the Berm” (a Berm being the technical name for the strip of land between a house and its moat). These two strips of garden have, for the past 45 years, been tended meticulously by the Hall’s Tenant Farmers. Now however change is afoot 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 gardens are undergoing a transformation.
Work began in late January removing heathers and traditional bedding plants, and by February it was time to remove the three gigantic conifers that had for years obscured some fascinating architectural details on the south gable of the Farmhouse Wing.
Re-planting began in March when four espaliered Apricot trees were planted against the curtain walls of the Courtyard to form a framework against which the new planting plan could come together. Work is now fully underway to finish the re-planting before the Hall opens its doors to the public for the first time in May this year.
Visitors to the Hall can see the Berm in all its re-planted promise when the Hall opens its doors to the public from 2 to 17 May and again from 13 to 28 June (2:00pm to 5:00pm each day). Also on display in the Great Hall will be an exhibition charting the history of the Borders from when visitors were greeted by a Greenhouse in the 1960s through all the work that has taken place from the stripping through to the re-planting including details on the plants. There will also be the chance to buy some of the plants used at the Hall’s small Plant Stand.
Gosh – who would have thought it was February when I last wrote about the Dogs’ Entrance Doors and the on-going saga of problematic pintle? A lot has happened in the intervening five months…
The question on everyone’s lips must surely be – did it come off?
Well, after a fashion it did – just not in the way you would expect.
Common sense prevailed in the end at the decision was made to remove the door from its ornate hinges – that way it could be removed forwards rather than upwards – and it worked!
This meant that the bottom hinge could be removed, exposing the problematic-pintle, and allowing it to be drilled out and replaced.
Once it had been removed, the new stone could be fitted
The new pintle was the inserted into new lime mortar and a synthetic compound to hold it firmly in place. The doors were closed for 48 hours until the compound solidified and a fortnight ago the work to the doors was completed.
As one door opens… another one closes.
This Blog post is dedicated to the memory of John Maloney – Stone Mason and friend. John passed away suddenly at home shortly after completing the work.
“I always knew that when I looked back on the times I cried I would smile.
But I never knew that when I looked back on the times I smiled I would cry.”
“Eighteen-year-old Mairi and thirty-year-old Elsie, a divorcee and mother of a young son, were madcap motor-bikers who met while roaring round the Hampshire and Dorset lanes. When war was declared Elsie wrote to Mairi that there was ‘work to be done’, and suggested they go to London to join the Women’s Emergency Corps. Eventually recruited to the Flying Ambulance Corps, to help wounded Belgian soldiers, one of their colleagues in the Corps called them ‘Valkyries in knickerbockers.’” So begins Diane Atkinson’s book Elsie & Mairi go to War.
Diane will be speaking on her book, and the vital role that women played in the First World War, at Markenfield Hall on Saturday 26 July. The talk will highlight the role of “Aunt Kay”, sister of 5th Lord Grantley. Kay Norton left home at the age of 21 and began her “bachelor girl’s life” in London. Lord Grantley was drafted to France – to St Addresse near Ypres – and his memoir describes some of his time there… always with his characteristic gusto:
“With tents (but no tent boards), with snow all the time and bitter cold, I have never known such refined torture as the discomforts of St Addresse, except actually in the trenches. One day, sitting shivering with my back to the tent flap, I heard the soggy canvas being pushed aside… something prompted me to look round… my beloved sister Kay stood in the entrance to the tent. It was a vision that baffled my belief. It turned out that the active and gallant Kay had been in Paris for the past month with the French Red Cross, having wangled herself into the organisation, and to the forefront of its activities…”
Passionate about her topic, Diane Atkinson is campaigning to have a statue of Elsie & Mairi erected: “Even since I wrote the book Elsie and Mairi Go To War: Two Extraordinary Women on the Western Front in 2009 I have wanted to raise the funds for a life-size bronze sculpture of them to be placed in the village of Pervyse where they spent the First World War giving hundreds of wounded Belgian soldiers ‘the golden hour’ treatment before sending them to military hospitals behind the lines.
No other women worked so close to the fighting as Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm. Their various first-aid posts in the village of Pervyse, about 10 miles from Ypres, were a hundred yards from the German trenches, and for their courage and care in saving hundreds of lives they were awarded seventeen medals during the course of the War. By the Spring of 1915 they were known in newspapers and magazines as the ‘Angels’ and ‘Madonnas’ of Pervyse.”
Who knows whether Elsie & Mairi ever met Aunt Kay or Lord Grantley amongst the many horrors that were going on around them. But there is one thing that links all four of them – and all those wrenched from home and sent to foreign shores and that is courage. Hear Diane Atkinson talk on three truly remarkable women – on the front line of some of the worst fighting ever known and dealing with its consequences.
Markenfield Hall’s Literary Lectures in the Library will start with a bang this year, when internationally renowned historian and writer Philippa Gregory kicks off the series in June.
She will be speaking about her life, her work and her forthcoming book The King’s Curse, which is the final book in much acclaimed Cousins’ War series.
Ian Curteis says of the news “we are delighted to be welcoming Philippa Gregory here to the Hall. Markenfield is such an historic building, steeped in over 700 years of history, that to have a history writer of such renown is really a match made in heaven for the Hall and for the audience.”
The talk will take place on Tuesday 3 June at 3:00pm, and refreshments will be served from 2:30pm. Tickets are available from Sarah Robson on 01765 692303, a booking form can be downloaded from www.markenfield.com or tickets can be bought during the Hall’s Open Days from 3 to 18 May (2:00pm to 5:00pm each day).
“A Mr Johnson of Ripon removed from Markenfield 79 boxes of evidence, 1 little coffer and 2 littell bagges by commission (and to deliver) the same into the Exchequer”
Markenfield is a house of may mysteries, but perhaps the most prevailing – and most vital in its history – is the mystery of the 79 boxes.
Much of the history of the Hall pre-Norton & Grantley is unknown – and that is largely due to the lack of archival evidence. A lot of the history has been pieced together using the history books and references made to the Markenfield family that can be found in other archives and historical sources. What the Hall lacks however is its own primary evidence – the day to day papers, logs, maps and books that would have related to the daily business of the house and family.
It is believed that all the paperwork pertaining to the Hall was confiscated – along with the Hall – in 1569; after The Rising of the North and the failed attempt to put Mary Queen of Scots on the throne.
It has long been known that the mediaeval archive was missing – and it has long been believed that the papers had been mixed up with the Bridgewater archive and gone unnoticed and uncatalogued within a much larger collection.
That belief has now changed.
The Friends of Markenfield Archive and Study Groups have been undertaking independent research in to “the missing years” – the years between the confiscation by the Crown for treason and the purchase of the Hall by Fletcher Norton (1st Baron Grantley).
Contrary to popular belief, the Earls of Bridgewater never owned Markenfield Hall. Further details in to this ownership will be revealed at The Friends’ AGM in April – let’s just say that the history books have been well and truly re-written!
Back to the boxes… it is now thought that the boxes may be held in the National Archive at Kew. Judith Smeaton, head of the Archive group, is hoping that they will be found there and that finally the true history of the Hall can be revealed.
Black Swans have a long history at Markenfield… When Lord and Lady Grantley came to begin the lengthy restoration of Markenfield Hall in the early 1980s, they were given a pair of Black Swans as a house-warming present. The donor was their friend Peter Olney, who at that time was Curator of Birds at the London Zoo. Since then there have been Black Swans on the moat for 30 years – uninterrupted, until now.
Last autumn, Scilla the small female, was found having been attacked by a fox and the decision was taken to remove the remaining male from the Hall for safe keeping over winter. So off he went for a winter break, near to Sutton Bank, with “swan man” Mr Todd.
Now, Simon has returned – and he’s brought a friend with him. Lady Deirdre and Mr Curteis are delighted by the arrival of… Sylvia. A small, juvenile, female black swan. “She is very striking” says husband of the Hall’s Owner, Ian Curteis, “she has a delightful dusky brown tinge – as if she has been dusted in cocoa powder”. Black swans begin life as fluffy grey cygnets and then their adult feathers form – whilst males go straight from grey to black, females go through a faintly-brown stage before turning completely black.
Ian Curteis explains the presence of the swans at the Hall: “Many people think that there have been swans on the moat at Markenfield for centuries, but this is not true. My winter morning ritual is to come downstairs early in the darkness and turn on the light in the small kitchen at the back, which spills out over the water. The two swans, who would have been patrolling the moat all night, hoot at me gently from the darkness. I consider them the Wakemen of the Hall, telling me “all’s well! – now you take over” as dawn breaks.
Visitors to the Hall can see Simon – and Sylvia in all her chocolaty glory – when the Hall opens its doors to the public from 3 to 18 May and again from 14 to 29 June (2:00pm to 5:00pm each day) Further information can be obtained from the Hall’s website www.markenfield.com or from the Hall’s Administrator on 01765 692303.
We all know that Markenfield has its quirks – and its challenges – but who could have guessed that they might actually have built the house around a door!
Known as The Dogs’ Entrance (or Dog’s Entrance depending on how many are in residence at the time) the wooden double doors leading out on to the moat are without doubt one of the Hall’s gems.
Over an inch thick, with ornate hinges and enough security built in to the back to stop a small army (don’t even think about it okay…?) the doors have featured in many a wedding photograph.
Because they face north they “get a lot of weather” – and boy have we “had a lot of weather” recently! And so it transpired that the doors were stronger than the house itself…
Now for the science part…
It is believed that the doors were hung there as part of the 1850s restoration, undertaken by JR Walbran on behalf of 3rd Lord Grantley. At this time numerous features were moved around – in part to protect some things from the elements*. It is not clear whether the doors were a part of the house’s fabric before this – but that is where they ended up.
Hung on metal “pintles” inserted in to the stone archway that surrounds it, over time the pintles rusted and finally last year a large section of stone facing was forced away from the wall exposing the hinges and meaning that the bottom stone of the doorway needed to be replaced.
And so the Stone Mason was called. He measured up and went away. The Black Smith was called. He measured up and went away. Finally, the stone was ready and new bronze (none-rusting) pintles had been forged…
Then we discovered that we couldn’t get the door off!
The pintles are essentially large hooks – the door needs to be lifted off them – but at every attempt to lift the door it hit the arched entrance above it.
After a lot of head-scratching, several cups of tea and a fair amount of hysterical laughter… it was decided to leave them where they are. Just for a while.
Answers on a postcard to…!