People sometimes ask where the inspiration for the Hall’s events comes from. The answer – more often than not – is out of the blue. The Literary Lectures in the Library for example, they idea for those came from a book I was reading at the time.
I had read Sally Beauman’s book Rebecca’s Tale (sadly before I actually read Rebecca, but never mind…) and enjoyed it so much I started to work my way through her other books. The Landscape of Love was the next book, and even before Chapter One began I was hooked – and not necessarily for the reasons you would expect…
Her description of “Wykenfield” and Abbey were truly uncanny… 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.
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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org