Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Further Festive Forays...

Next on our Christmas list was our very first (and hopefully the first of many) Luxury Door Wreath Workshop.

Hosted by the delightfully brilliant Joanna McCrea from Ripon's Twisted Willow floristry, five willing - and as it turns out, highly talented - participants arrived for coffee and mince pies at 10:00am.

By 1:00pm there were five perfectly crafted door wreaths on display!

The greenery came from the Estate and the lovely bits and pieces were supplied by Joanna with "extras" - including battery powered fairy lights - were also available.

Lunch was served in the Great Hall and the day was rounded off with a tour of the Hall by one of our knowledgeable guides.

Flowers By... is a series of workshops that we are very much looking forward to expanding on in the new year.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

All things Festive & Lovely!

Markenfield has always been a little "out of bounds" in winter, due to the copious amounts of mud that begin to form towards the end of October and then increase in size and volume until it's wellies-all-round by December! 

This year however all is calm, all is bright (and shiny!) with the arrival of the new car park. It's very nearly there, and the mud is certainly diminishing daily!

And so to celebrate, we decided that this was the year Markenfield was going to join in with Christmas (think "John Lewis advert"!).

Firstly we decided to resurrect A Tour & A Tea - the success story of summer. Exactly what it says - a tour of the Hall followed by an afternoon tea.

The idea began in summer when we suddenly realised that each Friday in August was curiously free. The Mop-Up Mondays had been a great success and so we decided to do a Mop-Up... with scones!

We were amazed!!!! Each Friday in August we had a happy band of incredibly interested people who came and listened to a talk on the Hall and then sat out in the Orchard and enjoyed a beautiful Afternoon Tea Moat-side. It was so popular that on one afternoon we had over 30 people and were having to turn down bookings! 

So... "A Tour & A Tea - the Right House for Christmas" was born.

The idea actually came about back in August when one of our Guides was talking about the various houses owned by the Grantley family over the year and this passage from THE SILVER SPOON: Memoirs of the 6th Lord Grantley, sprung to mind:

“… Perhaps my father’s most outstanding characteristic, was his capacity for absent-minded lapses of memory. My memories of school holidays are somewhat jumbled, owing to the fact that my father developed a habit of taking a new country house every year.
The only place he never parted with was Markenfield Hall.
My Aunt Carlotta, who only visited us at Christmas or family occasions, was always much puzzled and once violently embarrassed, by my father’s peripatetic land ownership. The unfortunate old lady went to the wrong country house to stay with us one Christmas: no one, least of all my father having remembered to tell her that he had changed his abode."

Hence - the right house for Christmas! The story does continue...

“My Father… inherited five houses when my Grandfather died, of which Grantley was the largest. On one occasion, going up there by train, he was looking out of the window when he saw an uncommonly attractive house standing on a little hillside. He was so taken by it that he got out at the next station, and went to the largest Estate Agent in the town. He described the house in detail and said “I want to buy it”.

“But” protested the Agent “we have no house of that description on our books. Why should you think the owners wants to sell?”

“Find out the name of the house, the owner, and what he wants for it. And be quick about it”. Without another word, and without even bothering to say who he was, my father sat down and waited till the information was available.So great was his power of command that the whole office immediately went in to action. After a while the agent came up deferentially: “We are making some progress Sir, he said. “The house is called Elton Manor*. The owner is a  Lord Grantley…” 

*Elton Manor was subsequently sold and later demolished in 1933.

And it would seem that the love of Afternoon Tea has struck again - we are once again having to turn down bookings as this coming Friday's Tour & Toast as one Guide calls it, is now fully booked. Turkey sandwiches, Stollen, fruit cake & cheese (among other lovely nibbly bits) what's not to love?!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Fa la la la la!

 On the first Monday in December each year, Markenfield hosts what Celebrant Canon Punshon once described as "the start of Christmas" - a Service of Lessons and Carols, held in the Great Hall in aid of a Charity.

This year's Charity was the fabulous Hope & Homes for Children - a charity set up specifically to remove children from institutionalised settings and either return them to their families, or find a family that will provide them with the warm and loving home that their parents' could not.

Further information about the work of Hope & Homes for Children can be found here:

The Charity works hard in the run up to the event to organise mulled wine, mince pies and the all important job of Decking the Great Hall with Boughs of Holly... (fa la la la la...).

Valerie and the Hope & Homes team did the Hall proud - the greenery, much of it collected from the Estate looked wonderful, and as ever the Hall came in to its own after dark - lit by the light of the altar candles and the scent of mince pies wafting up from below - it truly did feel like the start of Christmas.

A big thank you needs to go to Pam Dyson of Cascade Garden Centre, who allowed the Congregation to park in her car park. They were then brought to the Hall by the ever-cheerful drivers of Aquarius Mini-Coaches of nearby Kirky Malzeard. The works to the car park meant that parking the 80-strong guests would have been nigh on impossible. Several sing-alongs were reported and as a real treat the coaches dropped their passengers at the door! 

It was however noted that - despite the efforts of Hope & Homes to arrange alternative parking, pay for the coach transfers and send out all instructions at the beginning of November - what is currently left of the car park was full! 

That, and the fact that 22 people were still being awaited at the Garden Centre once the Service had started meant that some of our Congregation had not read their paperwork...

You know who you are!

Next year's Service will be organised by, and held in aid of, 
Bishop Thornton School.
Tickets go on sale at the beginning of November - watch this space!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Operation Car Park: Week One

The Car Park at Markenfield has never been quite the same since it was dug up twice in quick succession - once by BT looking for a junction box, and once by the water people looking for a leak!

The surface became lumpy and began to hold water. The grass disappeared and the whole area began to resemble the surrounding farm land rather than somewhere for visitors to park their once-clean cars.

A brand new car park has been on the cards for many years now - but how to fund it? What to do with it to keep it in keeping? A concrete monstrosity just wouldn't do. Tarmac? Sacrilege! 

As it turned out, inspiration wasn't too far away!

It was decided that the new Car Park should be surfaced in a pale hardcore to match the central aisle of the Courtyard and then edged in cobbles. 

The cobbles in the Courtyard were unearthed when the grass was edged one day by the Hall's gardener and the decision was taken to preserve and maintain them rather than to grass over them again.

They are a handsome feature of the Courtyard and actually run along the side of the Gatehouse too. So it was only natural that the thought of introducing them in to the Car Park too was greeted with enthusiasm by English Heritage.

Because the Car Park is on land Scheduled as an Ancient Monument, English Heritage have been involved from the very beginning. Most car parks do not require Consent from the Secretary of State and an Archaeologist on stand by!

So, work began this week on scraping off what remained of the old grass surface. What was underneath was then leveled by hand proving a hard standing surface for the Hall's staff still to park on.

Luckily the existing drainage from the farm buildings still worked... we knew that following a morning of frothy pouring water down various holes and then running round to see if the moat was frothy too... a bit like Pooh Sticks - but with bubbles! So the surrounds to the run off drains will be made this week by the Hall's Stone Mason and then it's cobble time...

Funnily enough... it would appear that someone (several hundred years ago) had the same idea! Look what was uncovered against the farm buildings - just under the grass.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The Bats & The Bees...

Wildlife seems to be high on the agenda at the Hall this week, with a wide variety of creatures - great and small - making their presence known.

This little fellow made an appearance in The Gatehouse last week - he was incredibly tiny and tangled in the cobwebs on the wall by the window. A quick check on The Bat Conservation Trust website confirmed that he really shouldn't be there and he was popped in a box awaiting collection by one of their Volunteers.

At 9:00pm that night, a slightly odd assortment of people gathered around a cardboard box to see what it was that we had... a baby bat - less than a week old.

It was imperative that he was reunited with his mother and we spent over an hour scouring The Gatehouse for possible bat entrances, but unfortunately none could be found. It was decided that perhaps mother had been carrying him whilst searching for food and either abandoned him - or he had simply fallen off.

Back out in the Courtyard Nick (otherwise known as The Bat Man) set up his bat detector and we spent a further hour watching in awe as bats swooped and soared around us. He identified at least three species, including the solitary Long Eared Brown Bat. Nick is planning to return in order to identify the possible roosting sites within the Courtyard.

Another new arrival at the Hall - Hadrian's Bees. If you read the Blog on a regular basis you will already have come across Hadrian, the Hall's Dry Stone Waller. Not only is he a superbly talented waller, he is also a keen Apiarist. 

He has installed two hives of bees to the west of the Hall, positioned so that they will (hopefully) take full advantage of Spring Wood and the abundance of wildflowers that flourish there.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Lumps, Bumps, Bodies and... Bunnies!

South of the Hall, and sitting along-side the main drive, is a peculiarity of the Hall - known affectionately as The Lumps and Bumps Field. It is Scheduled as an Ancient Monument, along with the land that the Hall sits upon and all the land within the Park Pale.

The area is described as follows in the Scheduling document originally drawn up in 1977:

To the south of the current farm buildings, which lie to the immediate south of the moat, are the substantial earthwork remains of the service buildings for the medieval complex. These buildings lay within an outer court and include well defined remains of at least four buildings laying either side of a later field wall. The remains survive up to 0.5m high and include a building platform 10m by 5m surrounded by a shallow gulley some 1.5m wide. To the east of these remains are two substantial earthen banks 5m apart and up to 0.5m high which extend east for 70m then turn to extend south for 100m, and which are interpreted as the sides of a track way. The curtain wall which surrounded the outer court survives as a prominent bank along the western side of a track extending south west from the farm buildings. To the west of this wall, outside the outer court, are remains of ridge and furrow cultivation. The southern and eastern sides of the outer court are defined by the park pale but the location of the boundary on the north side is currently unknown.

Various people, at various times over the years have hazarded various guesses about the origins of these Lumps and Bumps. The general consensus - and the version told during guided tours of the Hall - is that they are the remains of the original mediaeval village that would have sprung up to support the Hall and its associated activities - such as labourers, craftsmen, farmers and the like. This possibility is also hinted at in the English Heritage Scheduling:

A park pale was the boundary around an area of land often set aside and equiped for the management and hunting of deer and other animals although farming also took place. They were generally located around or adjacent to a manor house, castle or palace. Parks could contain a number of features, including hunting lodges, a park keepers house, rabbit warrens, and enclosures for game. They were usually surrounded by a park pale, a fenced, hedged or walled boundary often on a massive bank with an internal ditch. The peak period for the laying out of parks, between AD 1200 and 1350, coincided with a time of considerable prosperity amongst the nobility. Parks were established in virtually every county in England and were a long lived and widespread monument type. Today they serve to illustrate an important aspect of the activities of medieval nobility and still exert a powerful influence on the pattern of the modern landscape. Where a park pale survives well, and is well documented or associated with other significant remains they are normally identified as nationally important. The medieval fortified house complex at Markenfield Hall survives well. The full extent of the outer court is known and earthwork remains of its enclosing wall and buildings are preserved. The associated park pale also survives well and is unusually complete. Taken together the remains demonstrate a rare survival, offering important scope for understanding the nature and functions of a medieval complex and its impact on the wider economy and landscape.

This belief was changed briefly back in 2011 when Historical Dowsers worked their way across the Courtyard, the Car Park, the One Acre Paddock and the Lumps and Bumps Field to try and identify what historical archaeological secrets could be hidden under the surface. They identified the outlines of numerous buildings within the Courtyard, and it was truly fascinating to see the outlines of buildings from days gone by begin to take shape in front of your eyes.

When the Dowsers got to the Lumps and Bumps Field however they did not find the anticipated mediaeval village - instead they identified three plague burial pits. Not exactly the "View from the Gatehouse" that a girl wants each day!!!

Then, not a year later, we were privileged to welcome historical writer Richard Almond to the Hall. He was speaking for The Friends on the subject of the Park Pale and mediaeval hunting in general. He identified the Lumps and Bumps as rabbit warrens. 

His explanation being that when rabbits were first imported to this country, they were above-ground animals used to a hot climate and that in order to survive they had to be "taught" to live underground away from snow, wind and rain. Thus it was that artificial rabbit warrens were built consisting of stone tunnels and chambers; and this is what we have here at the Hall.

I was lucky enough to meet The Muddy Archaeologist (otherwise known as Gillian Hovell) at the Ripon Local and Familiy History Fair last week and plans are under way for her to come and look at our Lumps and Bumps with a view, not only to providing a definitive answer, but to put on a lecture (or two..) about the Hall and its archaeology based on her extensive knowledge of landscape archaeology. Muddy Markenfield... it has a ring to it!

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Spring Wood and beyond

Besides the Hall, and its surrounding 600 acres of farmland, the Hall also has a small woodland - situated alongside the north-west boundary of the Estate. It is not accessible to the public, as it is home to a number of rare plants and a haven for deer and other wildlife.

A recent survey of the site, carried out by the North Yorkshire County Council Department for Ecology identified 125 different species of flora and fauna within the wood.

Work to maintain, and also regenerate, the woods has been ongoing for the past three years with gulleys cleared, walls re-built and insect habitats created.

Work begins in 2011 on clearing the gulleys
One of the broken-down walls blocking the gulley

The re-built wall, courtesy of "Hadrian" the Estate's dry stone waller
 The work is ongoing, as is much of the restoration of the landscape around the Hall, and it is hoped that more species will be counted at the next survey in three years time.