When Markenfield Hall opens its doors to the public for the second and last time this year on 17 June, visitors will be able to see a captivating exhibition of photographs and findings by the Ridings Dowsers.
Work initially began back in 2010 when a small, but dedicated, band of Dowsers set to in the Courtyard of the Hall searching for long-lost Mediaeval structures and other buildings that may have vanished over the years.
Owner of the Hall Ian Curteis picks up the story: “My wife and I were highly sceptical when we were first introduced to the Ridings Dowsers. They came to the Hall one Sunday lunchtime and we all stood in the Courtyard with dowsing rods in hand, not knowing what to expect. We could not have been more surprised or amazed when the rods began to move of their own accord as we walked over a known water source!
“What was even more astonishing was the moment that the Dowsers handed the rods over to me – they asked me to focus on a specific period in time, and as I walked across the Courtyard the rods started to move – I was dowsing for history!!!
“The Ridings Dowsers are members of the British Society of Dowsers (Archaeology) and are all highly professional. What they have found at Markenfield is truly fascinating and we hope one day to be able to prove their findings true.”
The Dowsers findings indicate that the Courtyard setting dates back as far as the year 1050. They found evidence of a building dating back to that time that was used to house animals as well as a weapons store and a tower.
Possibly even more fascinating than that, were the findings relating to the original Mediaeval village sited to the south of the Hall; where tracks, pathways and clusters of dwellings were discovered. On a more gruesome note they also found evidence of plague burials.
Ian Curteis continues: “the Dowsers marked the outline of the vanished buildings will coloured flags. From the ground it seemed to be a jumble of colours – but when viewed from above… all of a sudden the outlines became clear and it was almost possible to imagine the Courtyard as it would have been in Mediaeval times – a bustling hive of activity and alive with the comings and goings of an important family household.”
A copy of the Dowsers’ report and photographs illustrating their findings will be on display to the public when the Hall is open.
When Markenfield Hall opens its doors to the public for the 11th year on Sunday 6 May, visitors will – for the first time – be able to see the very oldest part of the house.
There are two small at the Hall that escaped the “modernisation” of the ground floor in 1569 and retain the original Mediaeval vaulting. Excitingly, it is believed that the two rooms that survived form the oldest part of the Hall and that they date from 1230.
Owner Ian Curteis explains “a few years ago we were lucky to have a survey undertaken by architectural historian Professor Andor Gomme. He believed that the Hall’s Utility Room and the Vaulted Study next door date back to the days before the Hall was extended to form the Courtyard you see today and that they were part of a small Undercroft and had a small Great Hall above. The existing Undercroft and Great Hall are much more modern – being completed in 1310!”
He goes on to say “it is clear to visitors that Markenfield is very much a family home – we have dogs, grandchildren and family clutter around on a daily basis. The problem with living in a historic house is that you do run out of rooms suitable to live in and that is how a very modern Utility Room comes to be in a room that is approximately 782 years old – we simply don’t have the room to put it anywhere else!”
Visitors to Markenfield’s first tour of the year were treated to the sight of five small, grey bundles of fluff bobbing around on the moat – five healthy cygnets hatched the week before and greeted the visitors with their first foray on to the water that morning.
The Black Swans at Markenfield have traditionally been named by the family, and with names beginning with the letter S (or with a C if sounds like an S) – hence the current pair are Sam and Cinders. But with five new arrivals to name, inspiration is running short!
This year, and for the first time ever, the naming is to be thrown open to the public with owners Lady Deirdre and Ian Curteis asking for suggestions as to what the Cygnets could be called.
You can suggest one name, or try to name all five! Simply send your suggestion, along with your name and address to The Administrator, Markenfield Hall, Ripon, North Yorkshire HG4 3AD or to email@example.com. Or search for Markenfield Hall on Facebook or Twitter and post your suggestions there.
The winner – or winners – will be chosen by Lady Deirdre Curteis and they will receive a family ticket (two adults and three children) for entrance to the Hall during the annual open days, which this year will be from 6 to 19 May and 17 to 30 June.