A fellow Ricardian shared an interesting article recently, about what Richard III would recognise in today’s England. The writer of the article maintained that there were few vestiges of our landscape that he would recognise – and even rarer would be buildings that stood in his kingdom. Included were 12 pictures of buildings in use today that were in existence when he was on the throne (see: www.abroadintheyard.com/author/tom). The images brought to mind Markenfield Hall – a historic gem that I got to know very well when I was researching my novel about Richard ‘Renaissance – The Fall and Rise of a King.’.
Only a ten minute drive from my home – this relatively unknown moated manor house dates back to the mid 13th century – what makes it special is that it has remained largely unaltered through the centuries.The Hall is three miles south of Ripon, tucked away along a mile-long winding drive. The house is L-shaped and castellated, with a great hall that stands above an undercroft and is defended by a moat. It would have been a day’s ride from Middleham Castle. Richard would most certainly recognise it. It has a sad and romantic history: John de Markenfield was Chancellor of the Exchequer to Edward II and an associate of Piers Gaveston. Sir Thomas Markenfield – High Sheriff of Yorkshire fought on Richard’s side at Bosworth – Prof. A.J Pollard whose lecture I attended at the Hall a couple of summers ago – has a fascinating theory that Richard was in all likelihood godfather to Sir Thomas’s son, Ninian – they were both followers of the cult of St Ninian and the name is a most unusual boy’s name for the period. From here The Northern Lords set out on their Pilgrimage of Grace to try to halt Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries – many of these rebels were executed just outside Ripon, on what even today is known as ‘Gallows Hill. Markenfield Hall’s final downfall happened when another Sir Thomas Markenfield became one of the instigators of the Catholic Rising of the North – to put Mary Queen of Scots on the throne of England – when it failed he and his family fled – to the Continent and he died in abject poverty.
Today the Hall has been beautifully restored – is still in the ownership of distant descendants of the Markenfields who open it to the public for a few weeks each year in the early summer. A large part of my book was thought through sitting on the lawn in front of the splendid Tudor Gatehouse. It was very easy to see king Richard here and also Francis Viscount Lovell – who lived with his in-laws the Fitzhughs – they owned a large manor house at Tanfield 7 miles away – its tower (the Marmion Tower) still exists and can be seen from the road that passes through the village.