The medieval Yorkshire manor house with a moat that's been in the same family since 1310

Markenfield Hall
Markenfield Hall
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Markenfield Hall is the house that time forgot.

The 14th-century manor near Ripon has been left unchanged for hundreds of years thanks to several quirks of history.

The approach to Markenfield Hall

The approach to Markenfield Hall

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It's still owned by the same family who built it in 1310 - despite a 200-year period when it was rented out after being confiscated when they had betrayed the monarchy.

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Markenfield is stunningly well-preserved - it's still got a spring-fed moat, courtyard, Great Hall, Tudor gatehouse and a chapel. Its owners, the Nortons, believe it is the most unspoiled fortified house from the period in the whole country.

Black swans Sebastian and Sylvia are descended from birds donated to the family by London Zoo in the 1980s

Black swans Sebastian and Sylvia are descended from birds donated to the family by London Zoo in the 1980s

The Norton family are the lords of Grantley - the current occupant is Lady Deirdre Norton, widow of the seventh lord. She lives there with her second husband.

The Norton ancestors the de Markenfields built the hall - it stands on the site of an even earlier house. The family enjoyed close connections to royalty that were eventually to prove their downfall.

They lived there continuously until 1570, when political turmoil saw the manor removed from their ownership. Sir Thomas Markenfield was a Catholic - yet England had returned to being a Protestant monarchy under Queen Elizabeth I. Thomas and his uncle Sir Richard Norton orchestrated a rebellion, taking Mass in the Markenfield chapel before setting out on the Rising of the North. It failed, and 200 men were executed on Gallows Hill in Ripon. Sir Thomas and Sir Richard managed to flee to Europe, where both later died. The Crown confiscated Markenfield as punishment, but the Nortons managed to purchase it again it two centuries later.

In the meantime, it had been leased to relatively poor tenant farmers, who couldn't afford to make any changes or renovations - meaning it escaped the alterations and evolutions of contemporary great houses.

Inside the library

Inside the library

The downside, of course, was that they were unable to adequately maintain the hall, and it fell into disrepair. It wasn't until the seventh lord, Deirdre's husband, took on the house that restoration work began in 1980. He died in 1995.

Lady Deirdre even married her second husband Ian Curteis in the hall's private chapel, which can also be hired as a wedding venue. She is a Catholic and Ian a Protestant - a union that was given an added poignancy given the context of the family's past religious strife. It was also the first marriage to have taken place in the chapel for 400 years.

The reason Markenfield exists in splendid, timeless isolation is due to the Turnpike Act - a piece of 18th-century roads legislation. A main highway - later to become the A61 - passed close to the manor, but was re-routed away from it in 1771.

Markenfield opens to the public for several weeks in May and June every year.

The private chapel

The private chapel

The house is full of medieval features

The house is full of medieval features

The moat is fed by a spring

The moat is fed by a spring