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!

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