Markenfield Hall viewed through the Gatehouse. A 14th century moated manor house and one time home to the Markenfields. Photo National Garden Scheme.
Markenfield Hall, near Ripon, Yorkshire is surely the epitome of a survivor of medieval manor houses. The building of the Hall begun in 1230 and was rebuilt and enlarged by John de Markenfield c.1310. This Markenfield, d. by 1323, was an unpleasant man, one of Edward II’s leading officials , and was given permission to crenellate in 1310 when he became Chancellor of the Exchequer.
“Licence to John de Merkyngfeld, king’s clerk, to crenellate his dwelling house at Merkyngfeld co. York. 2 Feb. 1310“
Merkyngfeld rose high but would appear to have been an objectionable brute who stooped to commit rape for which he was pardoned but not declared innocent.
‘Pardon to John de Merkynfeld, canon of the church of St Peter York, for the rape of Sybyl, late the wife of John de Metham, knight, whereof he was indicted’ (1).
Eventually John Merkynfeld/Markenfield would, unsurprisingly, be excommunicated.
The Hall was steadily improved by the Markenfields who came after, until disaster struck in 1569 when it was confiscated from them and metamorphosed into a farm. However the house, which has been continuously inhabited in one way or another since it was built has now been fully and lovingly restored. It’s an irony that such a violent and aggressive bully left behind him such a glorious legacy that is Markenfield Hall. However tempist frugit and the house remained in the Markenfields hands for many generations passed down through a succession of heirs, most confusingly named Thomas.
One debt of gratitude owed to the odious John is the completion in 1310 of the Chapel of St Michael the Archangel built in the heart of the Hall. It was in this chapel on the 20 November 1569 that one of the Markenfields, another Thomas, and the leaders of The Rising of the North gathered to hear a Catholic Mass before their departure on their doomed enterprise. During the time of the Hall’s life as a farm the chapel was used by the farmers as a storage area for their grain and it is only by sheer good luck that the glorious 14th century piscina and traceried east window have survived unscathed.
14th century double piscina in the Chapel with the Markenfield family arms. Piscinas were situated near altars and used by priests for washing their hands and chalices.
Although the Hall had its own chapel, most family members were buried in their chantry chapel at Ripon Cathedral founded in 1345 by Andrew de Merkyngfeld c.1311 d.1365.
Sir Thomas Markenfield born c.1340 d.1398. Effigy in the Markenfield chantry chapel, dedicated to St Andrew, east side of the north transept Ripon Cathedral. Fought in the Hundred Years War in France.
Sir Thomas’ interesting collar depicting a stag in a little field within a fence. This is thought to have marked his adherence to Richard II whose emblem was a white hart. However it is also thought it was a rebus/pun on the family name ‘Mark in Field’ – a mark being the quarry in a hunt. Perhaps it was both….
Among the later owners of the Hall in the 15th century and those turbulent times known as the Wars of the Roses was yet another Thomas:
Sir Thomas Markenfield born c.1447 d.June 20 1497. Sir Thomas married Elinor Conyers daughter of Sir John Conyers who had connections to Middleham. Their second son, Ninian, born c.1476 was named after one of Richard III’s favourite saints. Sir Thomas was one of the loyal followers of the king as well as to be counted among Richard’s personal friends and who may have been a God father to Ninian. Joining the service of the then 19 year old Richard Duke of Gloucester, and Thomas being around 24 years of age, it’s easy to imagine that they could have gravitated to each other. Well awarded Thomas also went on to become Knight of the Body by December 1484, Justice of the Peace for Somerset in 1484 as well as Commissioner of Array for both Somerset and in all Ridings of Yorkshire that same year. Richard also made him Sheriff of Yorkshire. Thomas would support Richard in suppressing the Buckingham rebellion for which he was generously rewarded with a grant of confiscated estates in Somerset to the value of £100 p.a. doubling his landed income and was named in the Harleian Manuscript 542 as being among those who came to Richard on the eve of Bosworth to fight for their king (2). Certainly as A J Pollard succinctly puts it ‘he did what he agreed to do; he served his lord loyally and faithfully for life, that is for the rest of Richard III’s life’ (3 ). Sir Thomas was to survive Bosworth and pardoned by Henry Tudor lived the latter years of his life in quiet retirement at Markenfield Hall dying there aged about 50. He was buried in Ripon Cathedral where his tomb survives today in the Markenfield chantry chapel, after requesting in his will to be buried before the altar ’emonge the beriall of myn ancestors’.
The tomb and effigies of Sir Thomas and his wife Elinor Conyers, sadly in poor condition. Ripon Cathedral. Photo Rex Harris @Flickr
Thomas’ brother Robert now makes an appearance in the story. On the 3 March 1484 just a few short days after Elizabeth Wydeville and her daughters had left Westminster Abbey sanctuary on the Ist March, Richard III sent Robert Markenfield southwards to a small place in Devon called Coldridge or Holrig as it was called in the Harleian Manuscript 433 :
‘Robert Markyngfeld/the keping of the park of Holrig in Devoneshire during the kinges pleasure..’ (4 )
Coldridge Manor and Park had belonged to Elizabeth Wydeville’s son, Thomas Grey, Marquess of Dorset who owned it through his Bonville wife. However that is another story and covered in another post. It seems perhaps rather odd that after Thomas had been so amply rewarded by Richard, his brother was merely sent South to a backwater in Devon. There is a plausible theory that no other than Edward V had been living in Coldridge incognito under the watchful eye of his Grey half brother. Could it be that Robert, who prima facie appears not to have been held in such high regard as Thomas by Richard III was in actual fact the opposite and was sent on a mission of the most utmost importance and confidentiality. That is to safeguard the man known as John Evans who may have been the king’s nephew. Certainly around the time of Bosworth Robert, who like his brother was pardoned by Henry Tudor, left Coldridge, which was eventually returned to Grey and moved to nearby Wembworthy where he become an associate of Sir John Speke who is believed to have supported Perkin Warbeck. As far as is known Robert Markenfield, lived out the rest of his life in Devon.
Tragedy was to overtake the family when one of the latter Markenfields, Ninian’s grandson, Thomas, was to lose the Hall after falling foul of the Tudors by involvement in the disastrous Rising of the North in 1569. This Thomas, described by a contemporary as “rash, daring and too wildely yonge” fled England with other family members and is said to have eventually died of starvation in Brussels in August 1592. After the Hall was confiscated from the Markenfields it became sadly neglected by a succession of absentee landlords who let it out to various tenant farmers and their families.
An old photo of Markenfield Hall showing the Courtyard and Gatehouse in its life as a farm…
The Tudor Gatehouse in a dilapidated condition. Old sepia postcard.
The Gatehouse today. Photo Lenora Genovese @ Flickr
However this was to prove to be something of a blessing in disguise because for the next 200 hundred years none of the tenant farmers had neither the money nor the inclination to ‘do‘ the Hall up. Thus its glories were merely plastered or wallpapered over but not destroyed. Finally in the 20th century the Hall has now been lovingly restored to its former glory by the Grantley family who are descendants of the Markenfield family. In the words of Anthony Emery, an expert on English medieval houses : ‘The berm is beflowered and the moat beautifully kept….’ and thus may it continue so for another 700 years.
- Markenfield Hall I have found much information in the many short articles to be found on this link and I would recommend it to those who would like to delve more deeply into the Hall.
- Sir Thomas Markenfield and Richard III p8 A J Pollard.
- Ibid p.10
- Harleian Manuscript 433 p.140 Vol One.
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