John Kelly, who runs the happyhiker.co.uk website, was kind enough to send us a synopsis of Markenfield’s history, which excellently summarises the hall’s dramatic and often chaotic history:
“Markenfield Hall is a rare and little-known moated, fortified, medieval farmhouse, which has survived largely unspoiled as a private house and working farm since the 14th century. It has been inhabited for most of that time. Although it fell into disrepair at one time, the first Lord Grantley bought the estate in 1761 and saved the house, in one of the first cases of historic building conservation.
“Its origins go back for a thousand years and Markenfield appears in the Domesday Book. In 1310, Canon John de Markenfield became Chancellor of the Exchequer by Edward II and was awarded a licence to fortify the house to protect it from Scots raiders. The house already had a moat but the additional fortifications resulted in the present appearance. The house remained in the Markenfield family until the 16th Century when it was confiscated by the Crown during the oppression of Catholics by Queen Elizabeth I.
“The estate passed by royal patronage to one Sir Thomas Egerton who became Queen Elizabeth’s Lord Chancellor. The family became the Dukes of Bridgewater but never lived at Markenfield. It lost some of its prestige and became a working farm, let to various tenant farmers.
“The estate was bought for £9,400 in 1761 by Fletcher Norton who became Attorney General and later a peer, choosing the title Baron Grantley of Markenfield, although he actually continued to live at Grantley Hall, some ten miles away. In fact, none of the Grantley family lived at Markenfield Hall until the 1980s.
“Markenfield Hall is quite isolated and this fact may have protected it from damage and robbing of materials as, in 1777, the Turnpike Act diverted the main road away from it and its existence was largely forgotten.
“After the Grantleys resumed residence in the 1980s, they began serious restoration work, resulting in them receiving the Sotheby’s/Historic Houses Association Restoration Award in 2008.”
What you can see at Markenfield today