A recent archaeological survey has shown that the central Great Hall section of the house is older than the other buildings around the Courtyard, probably dating from 1280, and would originally have been freestanding. Thirty years later Canon John de Markenfield had incorporated it in to the larger complex of buildings around the central Courtyard, and was granted the Licence to Crenellate by King Edward II on 28th February 1310, when the present house began to take shape.
John de Markenfield held high office under Edward II, and his family intermarried with the greatest ruling families of the north. They fought for the King at Agincourt, Bosworth and Flodden; but this rich and powerful family was brought to its knees by their leadership of the Rising of the North.
Following a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, young, passionate Sir Thomas Markenfield became a central figure in the Rising – the Catholic rising against Queen Elizabeth I and Protestantism in an attempt to restore freedom of worship for Catholics. A large contingent of the Rising gathered in the Courtyard at the Hall on 20 November 1569, under the banner of the five wounds of Christ. After the leaders had heard mass for the last time in the Chapel, they rode out towards Ripon before heading towards London.
The Rising was routed – the lucky ones got away, but over 200 were caught and hideously executed. After some months in Scotland, and with the net closing around them, Sir Thomas and his Uncle Sir Richard Norton fled to the Low Countries where they somehow survived – in ever increasing poverty. Eventually, in 1592, a papal correspondent wrote: “Sir Thomas Markenfield has been found dead, lying on the bare floor of his chamber, no creature being present at his death… [he was] in very extreme want and in a most miserable cottage.”
Shortly after the Rising, two Commissioners visited Markenfield to carry out a survey on behalf of Sir Robert Cecil, Secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth, for the house and land had been confiscated for High Treason.
The Hall then began a new phase in its history – that of a tenanted farmhouse with an absentee landlord.