Saturday, 26 May 2012

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Ok, so the drive to Markenfield is not made of yellow brick - nor is it paved in gold - or any other colourful quotation... in fact it is quite often paved in good old mud, but the fields either side are simply stunning at the moment. Ah ha - Fields of Gold!

It is a joy to be able to drive past views like this every day in the beautiful sunshine that we have been having this week.

There are some Markenfield residents who are none too happy about the heat though...

The cows have taken to the shade of the avenue of trees on the drive.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Other 337 Days...

Whilst the Hall may only be open to the public for 28 days each year, the Estate is still a busy place during the other 337 days of the year. The latest Project is the restoration of the Park Pale - a rare Mediaeval survival and gem of the Estate.

The first Deer Parks were created in the C12th. These tended to be on the forest margins and differed in that they were enclosed, sometimes by a wall alone but more usually by a massive earthwork, the park pale. As deer can jump up to six metres horizontally and three metres vertically this had to be a formidable barrier. The usual form was of a large bank, three to four metres high topped by a strong wooden fence or wall. On the inside, to deny the deer the footing to take off, would be a steep sided ditch of similar dimensions to the bank. Although many of these earthworks have been lost to the plough enough survive around the country, albeit in a degraded state, to reveal how widespread a feature deer parks became. Indeed by the start of the fourteenth century there were something like 3,200 deer parks in England occupying around 260,000 hectares (650,000 acres) which represented something like 2% of the countryside.

The Park Pale at the Hall originally extended for 1¾ miles around the Hall and an amazing 1½ miles still survives in one continuous length. It was the boundary wall of the original deer park, enclosing 128 acres with Markenfield Hall at its centre. It takes the form of a stone wall, and some of the original banking can still be seen either side – high outside and low inside so that the deer could leap in but not jump out. Despite being in a semi-ruinous condition over much of its length it is Scheduled as an Ancient Monument and as such any re-building works are subject to restrictions under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act of 1979.

 In early spring 2011 the weeds and self-sown saplings were cleared from around the wall by Junior Soldiers from the Army Foundation College in Harrogate. The wall in its existing state was then thoroughly surveyed by Dr Keith Jones using ranging poles and photographs to record precise details of the position of the stones and key features to be retained.  All of this was done in accordance with strict English Heritage regulations and the work carried their blessing.

Then in the autumn of 2011 the Volunteers from the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Walling Team arrived to begin work. Under the supervision of Chris Grundy and Emma Walker-Palin the slow and methodical task of restoration and repair of the first section began.
 It is only the bottom two courses of stone that are subject to the Scheduling and anything above that level was removed and rebuilt to produce the stunning piece of craftsmanship that can be seen today.
 The cap stones were transported from elsewhere on the Estate initially with the help of Bryon Jehu (the Hall’s Handyman) and Hugh Farren (Farm Manager), but we did later discover that the Wallers have the most dedicated team of Volunteers ever, when it was discovered that they were actually carrying the cobbles by hand the full length of the Old Mediaeval Road!

Monday, 14 May 2012

The most interesting Utility Room in North Yorkshire...?

*drum roll please*

We are proud to announce - new for 2012 - the Markenfield Hall Utility Room... open to the public for the first time this year!

But it's not just any old Utility Room. There are two small at the Hall that escaped the “modernisation” of the ground floor in 1569 and retain the original Mediaeval vaulting. Excitingly, it is believed that the two rooms that survived form the oldest part of the Hall and that they date from 1230.

Owner Ian Curteis explains “a few years ago we were lucky to have a survey undertaken by architectural historian Professor Andor Gomme. He believed that the Hall’s Utility Room and the Vaulted Study next door date back to the days before the Hall was extended to form the Courtyard you see today and that they were part of a small Undercroft and had a small Great Hall above. The existing Undercroft and Great Hall are much more modern - being completed in 1310!”

He goes on to say “it is clear to visitors that Markenfield is very much a family home - we have dogs, grandchildren and family clutter around on a daily basis. The problem with living in a historic house is that you do run out of rooms suitable to live in and that is how a very modern Utility Room comes to be in a room that is approximately 782 years old - we simply don’t have the room to put it anywhere else!”

A section of the report by the late Professor Andor Gomme can be read by visitors on the room sheet for the Utility Room - it makes for truly fascinating reading.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

It's oh so quiet...

You may have noticed that The Blog - and Twitter and Facebook for that matter - has been rather quiet of late. It's not that we don't want to update you with all the wonderful things that are happening here - we're currently open to the public until 19 May, we have concerts and lectures coming up - it's just that there are times when we can't.

You see back in the 1960s when telephones first came to Markenfield, a trench was dug (presumably by hand) from Whitcliffe Lane to the Hall in which the telephone cable was then laid. That trench and that line are still in use to this day. Thinking aloud... perhaps that could be a new claim to fame - the oldest telephone line in Yorkshire... it has a ring to it (ahem!).

Well, as you can no doubt imagine, a trench just a few inches under the surface of the ground, carrying a rather decrepit cable several miles under fields (see photo above) is not the most reliable of communication  methods - hence when the telephone line went down last Monday we were not overly worried - these things happen. By Tuesday - just four days away from our first open day - we were starting to get nervous, and by Wednesday abject panic had set in!!!

Thankfully the line came back on of its own accord - 30 minutes before the BT Engineer turned up!

The trials and tribulations of working somewhere so stunningly beautiful and "remote" from Ripon. We do at least have telephones now... emails are another matter entirely.