Hidden from view, at the end of a long winding drive in the beautiful North Yorkshire countryside, is Markenfield Hall, a rare, fortified, medieval manor house. Relatively untouched by the modern world, it retains many original features including a stunning moat. Turning into the courtyard, visitors are greeted by the most impressive, crenellated façade with a great hall and chapel built from stone quarried on the estate, forming an L-shape around an inner courtyard. The moat is crossed by a bridge, guarded by a perfectly preserved 16th century Tudor gatehouse 

Steeped in history, the house, affectionately known as ‘the loveliest place you have never heard of,’ was built centuries ago, with the site mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. The first stones of a smaller dwelling were laid in 1230. This was enlarged and the main hall was completed in 1310 for Canon John de Markenfield, Chancellor to Edward II, with a licence to crenellate from the King no less.  

The Markenfield line continued down the centuries, during which time the hall had a starring role in the Rising of the North in 1569, a Catholic rebellion to depose the Protestant Queen Elizabeth with her cousin Mary Queen of Scots. Punished for treason, Thomas de Markenfield and his family fled abroad, and his home and lands were confiscated by the Crown and leased as a farm. 

Subsequent owners and tenant farmers didn’t do much to change the fabric of the house and many historic features were preserved. In 1761, the house and estate were purchased by MP and lawyer, Fletcher Norton, a direct descendent of the de Markenfields, who was later knighted as the first Lord Grantley and Baron of Markenfield, titles that still stand today. Sir Fletcher leased Markenfield when he became preoccupied building the statelier Grantly Hall just down the road. Read more about our work at Grantley Hall here. 

Another Fletcher Norton, the 3rd Baron Grantley of Markenfield, invested a great deal of time and money into the estate. He commissioned local architect JR Walbran, to make several alterations to the hall, but his most striking addition was constructing Victorian farm buildings next to the existing Tudor barns, creating two courtyards modelled on the main courtyard complex. These beautiful golden buildings greet visitors as they arrive at the hall. 

Time rolled on until Johnny Grantley, the 7th Baron and his wife Lady Deirdre took a great interest in Markenfield, taking early retirement in the 1980s to devote their time to renovations with a view to moving back into the family home. After Lord Grantley passed away in 1995, Lady Deirdre, continued work on the house, along with her second husband, the late Ian Curteis. A major restoration project took place, with the hall winning an award from the Historic Houses Association. 

A house of this age is constantly needing repairs. Funds are raised from events and functions held at the hall and the small group tours that run from April to October, by appointment only. Not surprisingly the hall is Grade 1 listed, the farm buildings Grade II, so all renovations must be in keeping, with restrictions on what changes can be made and the materials used. 

 “When working with planning officers, English Heritage (EH), local government conservation officers, SPAB (the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) and the like, we always try to take them on board from the very start; regard them as helpful friends, not nuisances; and draw them into the project so they feel a sense of being part of it,” said Ian Curteis during the renovation work. 

In 2013, the rainwater pipes and guttering on the barns needed attention. Reflecting the historic importance of the buildings, the owners opted for cast iron rainwater goods and J & JW Longbottom were delighted to supply half round gutters with rise and fall brackets, 3” rainwater pipes with cast iron ears and a No. 107 corner head. 

In 2021, Markenfield was transported back to Tudor times, with the farm buildings featuring as a set in Channel 5’s production of Anne Boleyn. Despite its troubled history, Markenfield is a peaceful and idyllic spot with a warm and welcoming atmosphere and remains a much-loved family home.