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Tanfield, Magdalen Field

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of West Tanfield.
In the historic county of Yorkshire.
Modern Authority of North Yorkshire.
1974 county of North Yorkshire.
Medieval County of Yorkshire North Riding.

OS Map Grid Reference: SE23807742
Latitude 54.19192° Longitude -1.63732°

Tanfield, Magdalen Field has been described as a Timber Castle although is doubtful that it was such, and also as a probable Fortified Manor House.

There are masonry footings remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Magdalen Field "The Rev. W.C.Lukis, a few years ago, excavated the foundations of a large house supposed to have been a private chapel, probably dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen" ONB Yorks 101 NE 1928 p. 16). The main earthwork at Magdalen Field, though suggestive of a Roman Camp is without question mediaeval. North of the smaller enclosure are the ruined foundation walls of an old chapel, and the ground-plan of walls and a round tower can at times be traced (Allcroft, 1908). Magdalen Field is situated on the western extremity of a high open spur overlooking the River Ure, and is inaccessible from all sides but the east. On this side is a well defined bank and ditch which divides the spur and has a probable entrance at the N. The separated area contains one major enclosure and fragmentary traces of a second. The main earthwork comprises a well defined bank with outer ditch and is divided into two courts by an internal bank, with remains of building foundations in the north. The west bank has massive internal slopes of varying length and suggests that buildings abbutted on this side. The build up of the SW corner to a height of approx. 4 m. also suggests a possible corner tower as any structure just a few feet higher at this point would have commanding views. The remains of the supposed tower mentioned by Allcroft exists at SE 2380 7739 and consists of a ruined circular stone wall built into a bank and now partly covered by earth. It appears badly sited for use as a tower, and seems more likely to have been a well. This 'tower' or well is built into the scarp forming the N. side of the second 'enclosure'. There is, however, no justification for supposing that this second enclosure ever existed as such, and the two minor banks on its E. & W. sides could have originated by husbandry. The inclusion of these banks by Allcroft was probably due to the reference of an early motte and bailey, as S. of the enclosure the ground rises steeply to its highest point on the edge of the spur. The hill is of natural formation however, and there are no remains of a motte and bailey within Magdalen field. The site as a whole probably represents a variation of the conventional manor house with outer fold. The building foundations indicate a structure of larger proportions than a single chapel, and probably incorporates the remains of a Md. manor house as well (Field Investigators Comments–F1 ECW 29-MAY-62). (PastScape)

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1314 Sept 24 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).


Large enclosure formed by bank and ditch cutting off natural spur containing smaller semi-circular enclosure with foundations of probable medieval manor house and private chapel. Jackson suggests was also the site of a motte and bailey, Probably abandoned in favour of Tanfield Castle. A licence to crenellate granted to Sir John Marmion in 1314, for his house called L'Ermitage' and another licence was granted in 1348 to his widow Matilda for her manor of Westtanfield. Since the 1314 licence referred to his house in his wood this almost certainly refers to the isolated Magdelan Field site, rather than the old manorial center in the village by the church. Depending on the date of the abandonment of the site at Magdelan Field the 1348 may refer to either site but it seems likely, since the surviving Marmion Tower dates from the mid C14 that this second licence was for a rebuilding of the old manorial centre. The reason for the abandonment of the relatively new Magdelan Field house is unknown but it is possible that Maud, then in her late 50's and with the Black Death approaching Yorkshire, felt a need to be nearer the parish church.
Jackson's suggestion as the site of a motte and bailey is clearly wrong. It has the form of a an Iron Age promontory fort but with the clear foundations of medieval mansion within it, there is no evidence of any form of motte. It may have had Norman use but the original manorial centre is, more likely, the Tanfield Castle site by the parish church. Possibly Sir John built a new house here about 1314, when a fashion for isolated high status house was beginning, but then his widow Maud moved back to the old house after his death and rebuilt that.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:09

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