Welcome to Markenfield Hall’s Blog

This Blog will bring together all the findings of the Hall’s Archive & Research Group, newsletters past and present, and various random musings into one place – a place where we look forward to sharing all the goings on at Markenfield with you.

If you have any suggestions of topics you would like to see covered, do get in touch.

The Grantleys of… Brimham Rocks?

A Blog post by our Volunteer Archivist Janet Senior

Cataloguing documents at Markenfield Hall brings me into contact with many fascinating items. A few weeks ago I discovered papers relating to the sale by the 5th Lord Grantley of the Brimham Rocks Estate. This was an astonishing find for me as I had no idea that this historic area had once been owned by the Grantley family.

A little while ago a battered tin trunk arrived at Markenfield Hall from Hutchinson & Buchanan, a firm of solicitors in Ripon. It was packed to the brim with papers relating to the Markenfield Hall Estate and the Grantley family stretching back to the late 19th century. Since then I have been slowly working my way through them. What a fascinating collection they are and they have added greatly to our knowledge of that period.

Though not many in number, the papers relating to Brimham Rocks are a case in point. Up until 1530 the Brimham Rocks area was in the possession of Fountains Abbey and the land was used for grazing. After the Reformation the lands reverted to the Crown and were eventually sold to Sir Richard Gresham, who also bought Fountains Abbey. In 1780 the Brimham Estate was purchased by Fletcher Norton specifically for the hunting rights. He built Rocks House in 1792 to be used as a hunting lodge. Later a tea room was added. From then until 1900 Rocks House was the home of the person who acted as “caretaker” for the rocks.

Postcard depicting Rocks House

One of these so called caretakers was William Brown. William was born in Ripley in 1852 – the Ripley registers record some members of the Markenfield family marrying Brown family members! He was a farmer at Maud Farm but lived at Rocks House. His farm, according to a summary of farms dated 1898 and found amongst the H & B papers, was one of the largest on the Estate. The entry for William says:

“Included in Wm Browns Rent viz £90 is the priviledge of shewing the Rocks at a charge of 6d per head to Visitors”

Postcard depicting charabancs at the rocks

When Lord Furness bought Gantley Hall and the Grantley Estate in 1900 he believed he was also purchasing the Brimham Estate. On realising this was not the case Lord Furness was not happy. The papers dealing with his purchase of the Brimham Estate are among those I have been cataloguing. The first asking price was £17,000. So in early 1910 Lord Furness sent his son to inspect the estate and form an opinion on what it was really worth.

Lord Furness

After hearing his son’s report Lord Furness offered £14,000. Along with his offer he lets slip the information that he thought Brimham was included in the 1900 sale and was not happy he had been misled. After a few weeks negotiation the price was settled at £15,000 – which would be approximately £2,054,079 today. Within weeks of his purchase Lord Furness was transporting rocks from the area to Grantley Hall for his Japanese Garden.

The Japanese Garden at Grantley Hall

A summary of the farms owned by 5th Lord Grantley, that comprised the Brimham Estate in 1898 can be found below.

From the Grantley Archives at Markenfield Hall

Janet Senior. July 2021

Once more unto the cutting room floor…

You may, or may not, have watched the recent Channel 5 drama about Anne Boleyn. Whatever your opinion on the casting – and trust me when I say we have heard it all, and indeed removed a small number of people from the Hall’s social media pages – you cannot deny that, for a production made at the height of the Pandemic, it was excellently acted and produced.

Our own small role (rendered somewhat smaller than expected, thanks to some surprising editing decisions… and indeed some re-writing of history) came on the Wednesday before Christmas. The day before a number of lorries arrived at the Hall and wonder and wonder was unloaded. By the end of the day, Markenfield’s small car park had been turned into a Tudor street market.

The day of filming dawned bright – and early. It was a 6:00am start for us, but the 50 cast and numerous crew members had an even earlier start when they were COVID tested at Ripon Race Course prior to filming. Their telephones were already pinging with the negative results as they arrived.

The organisation that they demonstrated was superb! They successfully parked 50 cars, numerous trucks and a Winnebago with minimal fuss. The cast and crew were fed and watered. The stars of the show huddled around the Undercroft fire all masked-up. It was simply the best day in… oh, maybe 700 years!

Here are a handful of our favourite photos…

The scene at the beginning of episode two, where Anne Boleyn is washing peasants’ feet in a Chapel was shot inside one of the farm buildings; as was the scene where someone was forcibly removed after spitting at her. This scene was shot a dozen times, and always resulted in profuse apologies and “are you alright? are you sure?” after each take.

It was incredible to see the cast dressed in authentic Tudor clothing (okay – ignore the glasses!) as would have been seen at the Hall all those years ago. If there are any Markenfields still roaming the place they must have been rather surprised to see flesh and blood contemporaries.

So, what of the controversy? Well… at the end of the day, whose stories do the history books tell? Those of the victors. And let’s face it, they could write precisely what they wanted. And Channel 5 subverted that – they looked at Anne Boleyn’s story from her point of view – not with Henry VIII’s slant on it, not with his Spin Doctor’s slant on it. They cast a strong actress as a strong female historical figure… and they gave Markenfield its 15 seconds of fame. and for that we thank them.

And the bit that was edited out?

That was towards the end of episode three. Anne Boleyn was supposed to be waiting in The Tower for the verdict. A small boy was supposed to run along the side of the moat, under the Gatehouse archway, across the Courtyard and up to the front door to deliver the message. Imagine our surprise (and distraught sadness) when we watched the final episode and saw the guilty verdict delivered in the court room. Ahem – really?

Let’s Get Real! No, really.

Earlier this year, Markenfield signed up to be a part of Culture 24’s Let’s Get Real 2021: how to evaluate online success.

This collaborative project will bring together 60 cultural organisations to not only help them to measure their “digital success”, but to establish what digital success means to them.

Since January 2020, the cultural sector has been thrown in at the digital deep end. Described as a Digital Renaissance, organisations reacted, jumped or were forced to shift to digital working at a speed of change that would have been unthinkable before – and Markenfield is a case in point. Never before have we created videos, let alone thought of having our own YouTube channel.

But who is watching? Is anybody watching?! And is there any benefit to the Hall? We’re about to find out. Markenfield will be the smallest organisation involved, alongside notable venues including the V&A, The National Portrait Gallery and the Francis Crick Institute.

There’s a lot of work involved, but they sent life-sustaining goodies….

The first stage is in the project is to devise an experiment. This is basically what you want to measure, how you want to measure it and what you think “digital success” might look like as a result. Our experiment will examine:

whether we can increase engagement with our existing social media audience, and attract new audiences, through the foregrounding of narratives presented by a multitude of voices?

or in more simple terms…

do our audiences like videos more than photographs?

and if the do…

do they react more to videos that contain different people?

Simples, right? Well, sort of. Now we have to coerce people into being videoed, telling the stories of Markenfield Hall. You have been warned!

Recipe of the month with The Dusty Miller: vegetable tagine

“The month of March announces the first glimpse of true Spring.  The frail watery sunlight offers optimism in the air and speaks of things to come.  So our diet beckons lightness and a change.

“Let’s go where the sun always shines – Morocco.”



400g/14oz shallots, peeled and rough chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large butternut squash peeled and evenly chopped
Half a tsp ground ginger
Half a tsp ground cinnamon
450ml/15fluid oz vegetable stock
12 small pitted prunes (dried rather than tinned)
2tbsp clear honey
2 red peppers, deseeded and cut in same size chunks
3 tbsp chopped coriander leaf
2 tbsp chopped mint plus extra for sprinkling
1tbsp harissa paste
400g/14oz tin of chick peas, rinsed and drained
Handful toasted flaked almonds


In a heavy based pan, sweat the onions in olive oil until soft and brown. Add the squash, stir for about one minute then add the peppers and stir again. Cover with the vegetable stock, add the spices, the honey and the prunes and simmer for 8 minutes. Transfer to a tagine if you have one and place in pre-heated oven 180c/350f, gas mark 5 for an hour. A Le Creuset-type pan with a lid is suitable if you do not have a tagine.

Add the chick peas and harissa 5 minutes before serving, to warm through. Throw in the toasted almonds and mint just before serving and then garnish with the additional mint.

Whilst the tagine can be served as a vegetarian dish, it pairs perfectly with lamb. Below is Brian’s recommended method for the perfect Moroccan Roast Leg of Lamb…


1 leg of lamb, 1350g/3lbs
3tbs of butter
Two garlic cloves, crushed
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper and salt


Trim the lamb of excess fat and make several diagonal cuts in the meat.

Combine the butter, garlic, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper and salt and it spread over the surface of the lamb, pressing the mixture into the cuts. Set aside for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 220c/425f/ gas mark 7, place the meat in a roasting tin and cook for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 180c/350f/gas mark 4 and cook for a further 2 hours until the meat is well cooked and very tender. The butter will burn but the resulting flavour is delicious.

“Choose a earthy spicy Chilean red. Enjoy.”

Medieval Monday: The Gatehouse Arch

Markenfield is proud to be a member of Historic Houses – an organisation that supports and represents privately owned historic houses across the UK. Each Monday they set a medieval theme for their members to discuss, and this week the theme is arches.

The view through Markenfield’s arch

There is perhaps no more-iconic view of Markenfield than the one through its Gatehouse archway. It is the only entrance into the Hall, and therefore every single visitor to Markenfield Hall has passed through in the last several hundred years.

The view isn’t always as pretty as that…

Through the Gatehouse arch in the mist

This was the view in the post-snow melt mists last week. Different day, different direction, same mist…

The Farm Building through the arch

And yes – we have got things stuck under it before now. Most famously the dustbin lorry became firmly wedged underneath it one day, necessitating a rescue mission. The answer seemingly was to deflate all four tyres, reverse it very gingerly and blow said tyres back up. This unfortunate incident left the centre arch stone dangling like a very large wobbly tooth, resulting in an emergency visit from English Heritage and yet another project for the late John Maloney (Stonemason.

The arch in slightly prettier weather

Now to confess… those of you who know Markenfield well, or the historians, architects and all-round knowledgeable folk out there might be looking at this and going “but that’s not medieval” – and you’d be right. It’s a Tudor Gatehouse, built following the Turnpike Act that moved the old medieval road from where it ran, just under the battlements to the east of the Hall, to the route of the modern A61. But in our defence, it is an archway – and it does lead in to a rather magnificent medieval house and home – even if we do say so ourselves.

Recipe of the Month with The Dusty Miller: old fashioned beef stew & thyme-scented dumplings

Each month the fabulously talented Brian Dennison, of The Dusty Miller near Low Laithe, will be sharing one of his fantastic seasonal recipes with us. But what does cooking have to do with Markenfield you may ask. The Dusty Miller are our in-house caterers, and together Brian and his wife Elizabeth look after the gastronomic needs of our wedding couples.

Elizabeth Dennison. Image: Olivia Brabbs

And so, for the first of these monthly recipes Brian will talk you through how to make his one-pot beef with thyme dumplings – the perfect winter warmer for those cold snowy days…

“Beef beef glorious beef – what better way to celebrate this wonderful meat.  Rare breeds thankfully saved by the efforts of some of our farmers doing their bit to keep them.  Dexter, Belted Galloway, Aberdeen Angus, Highland, Red Poll, Longhorn, Shorthorn.  High in Omega 3 oils and hung on the bone for 28 days keep these doggies rolling.  

“The following recipe is a classic British dish, which is a total meal in itself.  You’ve got the meat, the vegetables and the dumplings in one.”


900g/2lbs braising steak cut into dice
Rapeseed oil for frying
Salt and pepper
4 large onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, optional
Sprig of thyme
6 carrots
6 celery sticks
4 large potatoes
350g/12oz button mushrooms
2 litres of good beef stock

225g/8oz SR flour
100g/4oz unsalted butter
1 onion finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Large tsp rubbed dried thyme
150mls/1/4 pint water


1 Fry off the beef in a thick bottomed casserole using a little of the oil until brown in colour. Season well with salt and ground black pepper.

2 Add the chopped onion, garlic, and thyme cook until softened. Cover with the stock and simmer on the stove or in pre-heated oven 180c/350f/gas mark 4, for 1 and 1/2 hours to 2 hours with foil or a lid on the casserole.

3 Remove from oven and cut the vegetables into even sized pieces and add to the stew. At this point check the amount of liquid and add more stock or for a more extravagant stew a glass or two of good red wine. Replace lid and return to the stove top or oven and cook for a further 20-30 minutes.

4 Whilst the stew is cooking, begin to make the dumplings. Place the flour and seasoning in a mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flour to a sandy texture. Add the onion, thyme and water.

5 Remove stew from stove top or oven and remove the lid. Divide the dumpling
dough into 6 even sized pieces, place on top of the stew and place in hot oven 200c/400f gas mark 6 for 20-30 minutes until evenly browned.

Serve in large soup bowls with dumplings on top.

Choose a quaffing type light red to accompany this dish such as a young Rioja-Crianza or Jumilla


It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

An article by Janet Senior. Archivist and author of The Markenfields of Markenfield Hall.

There were at least seven children [four sons and three daughters] from the marriage between the second Thomas Markenfield and Beatrice Soothill in the 14th century. One of their daughters was Elizabeth Markenfield born around 1403. In 1415 a contract was drawn up between the Calverley family of Calverley near Leeds and the Markenfield family.

Calverley Old Hall. Image: The Landmark Trust

It was for the marriage of Elizabeth Markenfield to Walter Calverley. So Elizabeth went to live at Calverley Hall. There were at least 13 children from this marriage. A daughter was born around 1434 and named Beatrice after her grandmother. In 1446 a contract was drawn up between the Calverley family and the Bolling family of Bolling Hall Bradford.

Bolling Hall. Image: Yorkshire Tours

The marriage was between Beatrice Calverley and Tristram Bolling. Tristram was the son and heir of Robert Bolling. He fought, with his father under the flag of Lord Clifford of Skipton Castle, on the Lancastrian side at the Battle of Towton in 1461. The family was attainted by Edward IV and, though they were pardoned in 1463, their lands were forfeited. However in 1472 the lands were returned. The Duke of Gloucester, future Richard III, personally delivered the document.

The couple had only one child, a daughter Rosamund, born around 1470. In 1497 she married Richard Tempest nephew of Sir John Tempest of Bracewell. As heiress to her father, Rosamund and her new husband took up residence at Bolling Hall. After the death of her mother her father remarried and settled at Chellow Grange. When Tristram Bolling died all the Bolling possessions except for Chellow Grange became the property of the new Tempest family.

The Tempest coat of arms from the main body of the window

Richard Tempest fought at the Battle of Flodden in Sept 1513 and was knighted at Tournay Cathedral in Oct 1513. He took part in the Pilgrimage of Grace, was captured and died in prison in 1537 leaving Rosamund a wealthy widow.
The Bolling possessions stayed in the Tempest family for generations. In 1643 another Richard Tempest, a Royalist, allowed the Earl of Newcastle to stay at Bolling Hall after the Battle of Adwalton Moor and during one of the sieges of Bradford. He had to sell the manor and Hall in 1649 to Henry Saville of Thornhill as he needed £1,746 to pay the fine imposed by Parilament on Royalist supporters. This Richard died in a debt in the Fleet Prison in 1653.

He was the last descendent of the Markenfields to live at Bolling Hall.

The main body of the stained glass window at Bolling Hall

In 1645 the historian Roger Dodsworth visited Bolling Hall and noted there were 31 shields. Unfortunately he did not list them. The Hall has passed through many private hands since then until becoming a museum in 1915. Colonel Plumbe, the owner in 1823, moved to Copt Hawick Hall as he could not cope with the creeping industrialisation of the area. Some of the shields disappeared with him and there is no further record of them.

I wonder if a representation of the Markenfield coat of arms was amongst them.

If we remove the ceiling…

The Dogs’ Entrance doors

We all know that Markenfield has its quirks – and its challenges – but who could have guessed that they might actually have built the house around a door!

Known as The Dogs’ Entrance (or Dog’s Entrance depending on how many are in residence at the time) the wooden double doors leading out on to the moat are without doubt one of the Hall’s gems.

Over an inch thick, with ornate hinges and enough security built in to the back to stop a small army (don’t even think about it okay…?) the doors have featured in many a wedding photograph.

Because they face north they “get a lot of weather” – and boy have we “had a lot of weather” recently! And so it transpired that the doors were stronger than the house itself…

Now for the science part…

It is believed that the doors were hung there as part of the 1850s restoration, undertaken by JR Walbran on behalf of 3rd Lord Grantley. At this time numerous features were moved around – in part to protect some things from the elements*. It is not clear whether the doors were a part of the house’s fabric before this – but that is where they ended up.

Hung on metal “pintles” inserted in to the stone archway that surrounds it, over time the pintles rusted and finally last year a large section of stone facing was forced away from the wall exposing the hinges and meaning that the bottom stone of the doorway needed to be replaced.

And so the Stone Mason was called. He measured up and went away. The Black Smith was called. He measured up and went away. Finally, the stone was ready and new bronze (none-rusting) pintles had been forged…

Then we discovered that we couldn’t get the door off!

The pintles are essentially large hooks – the door needs to be lifted off them – but at every attempt to lift the door it hit the arched entrance above it.

After a lot of head-scratching, several cups of tea and a fair amount of hysterical laughter… it was decided to leave them where they are. Just for a while.

Answers on a postcard to…!

79 boxes

The document granting the gift of Markenfield by Elizabeth I

“A Mr Johnson of Ripon removed from Markenfield 79 boxes of evidence, 1 little coffer and 2 littell bagges by commission (and to deliver) the same into the Exchequer” circa. 1601

Markenfield is a house of may mysteries, but perhaps the most prevailing – and most vital in its history – is the mystery of the 79 boxes.

Much of the history of the Hall pre-Norton & Grantley is unknown – and that is largely due to the lack of archival evidence. A lot of the history has been pieced together using the history books and references made to the Markenfield family that can be found in other archives and historical sources. What the Hall lacks however is its own primary evidence – the day to day papers, logs, maps and books that would have related to the daily business of the house and family.

It is believed that all the paperwork pertaining to the Hall was confiscated – along with the Hall – in 1569; after The Rising of the North and the failed attempt to put Mary Queen of Scots on the throne.

It has long been known that the mediaeval archive was missing – and it has long been believed that the papers had been mixed up with the Bridgewater archive and gone unnoticed and uncatalogued within a much larger collection.

That belief has now changed.

The Friends of Markenfield Archive and Study Groups have been undertaking independent research in to “the missing years” – the years between the confiscation by the Crown for treason and the purchase of the Hall by Fletcher Norton (1st Baron Grantley).

Contrary to popular belief, the Earls of Bridgewater never owned Markenfield Hall. Further details in to this ownership will be revealed at The Friends’ AGM in April – let’s just say that the history books have been well and truly re-written!

Back to the boxes… it is now thought that the boxes may be held in the National Archive at Kew. Judith Smeaton, head of the Archive group, is hoping that they will be found there and that finally the true history of the Hall can be revealed.

As one door opens…

Gosh – who would have thought it was February when I last wrote about the Dogs’ Entrance Doors and the on-going saga of problematic pintle? A lot has happened in the intervening five months… 

The question on everyone’s lips must surely be – did it come off?

If we remove the hinges…

Well, after a fashion it did – just not in the way you would expect.

Common sense prevailed in the end at the decision was made to remove the door from its ornate hinges – that way it could be removed forwards rather than upwards – and it worked!

…with a rope or two

This meant that the bottom hinge could be removed, exposing the problematic-pintle, and allowing it to be drilled out and replaced; and once it had been removed, the new stone could be put into place.

The new pintle was the inserted into new lime mortar and a synthetic compound to hold it firmly in place. The doors were closed for 48 hours until the compound solidified and a fortnight ago the work to the doors was completed.

As one door opens… another one closes.

This Blog post is dedicated to the memory of John Maloney – Stone Mason and friend. John passed away suddenly at home shortly after completing the work.

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