West Tanfield lies on the banks of the River Ure, where the main route from Ripon once crossed, initially by ferry and then later over a bridge.
The 15th Century gatehouse, known as Marmion Tower and now under the care of English Heritage, was the entrance to the now-disappeared Tanfield Castle, the defended riverside manor house of the knight John Marmion.
As English Heritage explain: “The three-storey gatehouse is itself a mini-castle, with a guardroom on the ground floor and grander chambers on the first and second floors. Yet some elegant features suggest that it was as much about display as defence.
“Domesday Book records that the manor at West Tanfield was held in 1086 by Count Alan, the founder of Richmond Castle. The Marmion family owned the manor for much of the 13th and 14th centuries, and John Marmion, who died in 1322, received a royal licence to crenellate, or fortify, his house in 1314.”
The Marmion family are also remembered in the neighbouring St Nicholas Church. The National Churches Trust website explains: “In the centre of the north aisle is the tomb of Sir John Marmion who died in 1387, fighting in Spain with John of Gaunt. He is with his wife Elizabeth who died in 1400. He is wearing armour and his feet rest on a lion. Her feet rest on a hound.
“The tomb is surrounded by a wrought iron ‘canopy’ with candles which would have been lit on certain occasions. It is believed to be the only one of its kind in England.”
Tanfield Castle and the Marmion Tower eventually passed into the hands of the FitzHugh family and then went to William Parr, the brother of Catherine Parr who was the sixth wife of Henry VIII. In 1571 the manor was granted to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, Elizabeth I’s chief adviser.
Technical information: Nikon D5 camera, 24-70mm lens, ISO 100, 1/640s @ f7.1.
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