Val Walker-Wilton organised a guided visit to Markenfield Hall near Ripon, a place once described as Yorkshire’s best kept secret (but hardly a secret these days!) It is the most complete surviving medium-sized 14th century country house in England. Our guide initially led us around the external area, following the moat which surrounds the house, pointing out the crenellated tower, the
medieval garderobe, the massive Great Hall chimney, and the rear of the unaltered medieval farmworkers’ accommodation.

The house was first mentioned in the Domesday Book. By 1150 the estate had come into the possession of the LeBret family who adopted the name de Markenfield. John de Markenfield added the present house in 1310. We crossed the bridge over the moat and through the Tudor gatehouse and courtyard to begin the internal tour, which included the early 13th century undercroft with its vaulted ceiling, the Great Hall and the Chapel, both now restored, and finally into what had been the solar. The family fortunes continued to flourish until their Roman Catholic faith necessitated involvement in the Rising of the North, and consequently in 1569 their estate was confiscated.

The unoccupied house was down-graded to a working farmhouse with absentee landlord, remaining so until the 20th century when the Grantley family took possession.

Val Walker-Wilton