OS grid reference:- SE 268 788
The small and characterful village of West Tanfield lies on the north bank of River Ure which is spanned by a three arched bridge dating to 1734. The village is situated around six miles to the north of Ripon on the A6108 road, which runs from Ripon to Masham and Wensleydale.
West Tanfield derives its name from the Anglo-Saxon words tana feld, which mean "open land where young shoots grow". It is referred to in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Tanefeld. The manor was owned by Thorkil at the time of the Norman conquest, but was later granted to Count Alan of Brittany.
The village church of St. Nicholas stands on Main Street. It is a Grade II Listed building and dates back to the thirteenth century. The interior contains the alabaster effigies of Sir John Marmion (who died in 1387) and his wife Lady Elizabeth, they lie on an iron hearse, at his wife's head are two angels while at her feet is a dog.
Chantry Cottage near the church dates back to Elizabethan times. The village pub, the Bruce Arms is an eighteenth century Coaching Inn. The other pub in the village, the Bull Inn, is pleasantly situated by the river and was the runner up in the favourite pub in Yorkshire 2014 and 2015 competition.
Near to the village are the Thornborough Henges, known as the 'Stone Henge of the North', one of the most important ancient sites in Britain. It consists of an unusual prehistoric monument complex which features three aligned henges from which the site derives its name. Thornborough Henges have been described by English Heritage as "the most important prehistoric site between Stonehenge and the Orkneys".
The Marmion Tower
The Marmion Tower is a fifteenth century gatehouse which once belonged to the now vanished manor house at West Tanfield. This was the former home of the Marmion family, which was known as the Hermitage, but later become known as Tanfield Castle. Legend relates that the Marmion family were Champions of Normandy before arriving in England at the time of the Anarchy during the reign of King Stephen.
John Marmion, Baron Marmion of Winteringham, who was a great grandson of King John, was originally given license to crenellate the Hermitage at Tanfield on 24 Sep 1314. His son's widow Maud Marmion was again given license to crenellate it in 1348 but there are doubts as to whether it ever became anything larger than a fortified manor house.
The square stone tower, which is situated near the church of St Nicholas in the village, stands three storeys high and has a vaulted gate passage. It features a handsome carved oriel window at first floor level. The rooms in the gatehouse may also have been used as the private apartments to the manorial block.
The Marmion family owned the manor for much of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, however the gatehouse dates from the fifteenth century and was probably built by William Fitz Hugh, who died in 1452. Following the death of Fitz Hugh's grandson's wife, the manor passed to the Parr family.
Later alterations to the structure, carried out in the sixteenth century, were probably made by William Parr, Marquis of Northampton who was the brotherof Queen Katherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII. The manor was granted to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, by Queen Elizabeth I in 1571.
Following later changes of ownership, the Marmion Tower was placed in guardianship in 1976.
The tower is now in the care of English Heritage and is a Grade I listed building.