A Change of Ownership
The erroneous assumption that the Markenfield estates were given to Elizabeth’s Chancellor, Thomas Egerton, has now been conclusively disproven by the unexpected discovery of the Letter Patent sealed by Elizabeth I found in the library of the School of Law at The University of California , Berkeley, U.S.A., the first of three sections (rotulets) of parchment is shown right.
All property which had been forfeited to the Sovereign during the Rising of the North was disposed of to various loyal and trusted advisers to the Queen. In the case of Markenfield Hall, the Letter Patent shows that the estate was one of several properties gifted first for a fixed term to Laurence Meres and then, in perpetuity, to Sir Henry Gates. Both these gentlemen were prominent members of the Council in the North (the body responsible for enforcement of the laws and for advising the Monarch on actions to take in the rebellious Northern counties), with Henry Gates also serving at various times as MP for Scarborough, High Sheriff of Yorkshire and Constable of Scarborough Castle.
Gates was held in such high regard by Queen Elizabeth and her closest advisers that he was entrusted with £3,000 in gold which was to be taken to the Scottish Regent in exchange for the Regent handing over rebel leaders who had fled North in 1569.
Henry Gates had eight children and one of his two daughters, Katherine, received Markenfield as part of her marriage settlement to Charles Egerton – an army commander who had served in Ireland, ending his military career as Constable of Carrickfergus Castle. Charles Egerton was knighted; becoming Sir Charles Egerton of Knockfergus and in addition to his wife’s dowry of Markenfield, he had purchased estates in Newborough, Staffordshire to provide for his life after retirement from the army.
Sir Charles and Lady Katherine had a son in 1585, also Charles, who subsequently married Griselda Bawtree and Charles and Griselda became the new owners of Markenfield. In 1622, Sir Charles, the elder, formally transferred ownership of his Newborough (and other) properties to his son, Sir Charles, the younger, who at that time was living at ‘Markenfield Hall in the County of Yorkshire’.
Charles, the younger, who had served as MP for Ripon in 1645, died without issue in 1662 and directed in his will that his widow – Griselda Egerton – should enjoy the use and fruits of his properties in Yorkshire and Staffordshire until her death; and that following various financial and other settlements the estates were to pass on the death of Griselda to his distant cousin, John Egerton, 2nd Earl of Bridgewater.
(Also in his Will, Charles Egerton, the younger, directed that the sum of £5 be paid to “the keeper of my park at Markenfield in Yorkshire”)
The Bridgewater line of Egertons were raised further in the peerage with John’s grandson, Scroop Egerton being created 1st Duke of Bridgewater in 1720 and during his ownership of Markenfield John Raggett became a tenant farmer on the estate. Scroop’s sons were however less than healthy with John, the 2nd Duke, dying in 1748 of tuberculosis aged 20 – and with three of his elder brothers having already pre-deceased him.
Markenfield then passed in 1748 to the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, Francis Egerton, when he was 12, as one of many country estates built up by the Dukes of Bridgewater. Francis eventually died unmarried having endured a failed engagement to Elizabeth Gunning (the Dowager Duchess of Hamilton) in 1758/9. Following his unsuccessful affair, the 3rd Duke embarked on a remarkable change of direction, resulting in the sale of many of the Bridgewater estates – including in 1761 Markenfield Hall. The proceeds of these sales he reinvested in his impressive canal building and engineering projects (e.g. The Bridgewater Canal), which he continued up to his death in 1803.
Markenfield was about to enter a further major change in its fortunes in the hands of its 1761 purchaser, Fletcher Norton, who paid £9,400 for the Markenfield estate.