The story of Markenfield Hall is one of the saddest and most romantic in English history. Deeply intertwined with the fortunes of nearby Fountains Abbey, this great house was one of the most important centres of the Rising of the North in 1569, which was the cause of its tragic downfall.
A recent archaeological survey has established that the Great Hall is older than the other buildings around the Courtyard. It was probably built about 1280 and was free standing. Thirty years later Canon John de Markenfield completed the building, when a licence to crenellate (fortify) it was granted to him by King Edward II in 1310.
John de Markenfield held high office under the King, and his family inter-married with the greatest ruling houses of the North. They fought for the King at Agincourt, Bosworth and Flodden while increasing their wealth and national standing, but this powerful family was brought to its tragic end by their leadership of the Rising in 1569.
This was the rebellion which, following the Dissolution of the Monasteries 30 years before in the reign of King Henry VIII, was launched by many nobles and ordinary working people of Yorkshire, Durham, Northumberland and Westmoreland. Its object was the replacement of Queen Elizabeth I by Catholic Mary Queen of Scots and thus, in the north at least, to maintain freedom to practice their Catholic faith and defy the attempt of the state to suppress it in favour of Protestantism.The Rising was put down with great savagery. Over 200 who took part were hanged, drawn and quartered. The Markenfield family was forced to flee abroad and the house was confiscated for high treason. The Hall became a tenanted farmhouse; its 250 years as the home of a great Yorkshire family were over.
For two centuries Markenfield was largely neglected and forgotten by its absentee landlords. Then in 1761 it was bought by Sir Fletcher Norton, the First Lord Grantley, a direct descendent of the Sir Thomas Markenfield who had led the 1569 Rising.
The Hall’s fortunes started to improve. The Grantley family still owns it and in the 1980s embarked on a programme of restoration, which is almost complete.
The house built by John de Markenfield seven centuries ago is now a much loved family home once again, and still remains one of the only completely moated manor houses left in England.
In the C18th Markenfield was passed to the Grantleys of nearby Grantley Hall, direct descendants of the Markenfields, who occupy it to this day in the name of Curteis.