Tuesday, 7 March 2017


At the beginning of last year it was decided that the large Sycamore trees that lined the side of the moat were beginning to look rather worse for wear. A closer inspection revealed that they were suffering from various stages of Honey Fungus. The trees at the north end were in a worse state than the trees to the north as can be seen in this quite fascinating picture:

The trees to the north have spent the last couple of winters with their roots in substantial amounts of water after some of the wettest winters in memory. This had weakened them considerably and made them more susceptible to the disease.

After a lot of planning, the day dawned and the trees were brought down...

Last one standing... this one wanted to stay!

The last one was a bit of a struggle! It was the healthiest, but was by no means a healthy tree and would have started to die off like the others if left.

Once they were down we were able to get a better look at them - you can see the dark inner colour, which is where the fungus is attacking the inside of the tree. A quick count of the rings put the trees at around 200 years old, which puts them feasibly within the period of the Victorian restoration of the Hall carried out by 3rd Lord Grantley when he worked with local architect JR Walbran. 

During this time a few internal changes were made, but more striking was the exterior works - which we now know to include the park land. The 3rd Lord Grantley extended the Tudor long low farm buildings (extreme east and west buildings and still in use today) were extended to create two small courtyards either side of the central aisle that visitors see today.

The Friends of Markenfield have been busy fundraising and the new trees will be planted alongside the moat this spring.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Those who measure wealth in money alone...

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.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Seek and ye shall find...

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 glad 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, living just across the Courtyard in the Farmhouse Wing.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Shhhh... it's Quiet Week!

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....

Friday, 16 October 2015

The day the Beetles sang...

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! 

Very revealing!

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!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

As one door opens...

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."

Monday, 3 March 2014

79 Boxes...

"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"
circa. 1601

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.