West Tanfield is an ancient and historic village mentioned in the Domesday Book as Tanefeld.
The manor was owned by Thorkil at the time of the Norman invasion, but afterwards,, the manor granted to Count Alan of Britanny and his heirs until at least 1243. One of these heirs, a Avis married Robert Marmion, 1st Baron Marmion of Winteringham and held the manor until 1387.
The Marmions were a family whose heroic deeds were recorded in undying song. William Marmion was one of the confederated barons who opposed Henry III, and others of the name figure prominently in the wars of the first three Edwards. One of the. family particularly distinguished himself at the siege of Norham in the reign of Edward II, where he performed that chivalrous feat recorded by Bishop Percy in his beautiful ballad, “The Hermit of Warkworth,” and which also probably guided Sir Walter Scott in selecting Marmion as the hero of the poem of that name.
The last Marmion became the wife of Sir Henry Fitz Hugh and this family held the manor until 1513 when it passed to another branch family, the Parr’s. William was also the brother of Catherine Parr, Queen consort to Henry VIII.
The Parr’s held the manor until the death of William Parr, Marquess of Northampton in 1571. The manor was passed back to the Crown but was granted in 1572 to William Cecil, Lord Burghley. The manor was inherited by his family. Having no surviving sons, the manor of Tanfield passed to his second daughter whose second marriage was to Robert Bruce, 2nd Earl of Elgin and 1st Earl of Ailesburyand who held the manor in 1676 and was passed down the line of descent until 1738. It became the possession of Thomas Bruce Brudenell, who succeeded to the title as well. It remained with the family until 1886.
The village has a monument called the Marmion Tower, a 15th-century gatehouse which belonged to the now vanished manor house and former home of the Marmion family known as the “Hermitage“.. The tower is a Grade I listed building.
The church is dedicated to St. Nicholas (Grade II Listed) was erected in the 13th century and has undergone renovation in the 15th century and in 1860. On the north side of the nave are seven recumbent stone effigies of the ancient lords of Tanfield, all much worn and mutilated except those of the Lord and Lady which rest on the same monument
The Methodist Chapel, built in 1798, was located next to the old railway station and buildings on Mowbray Terrace and is a Grade II Listed building.
The village probably started around a ford across the river Ure. A bridge was built but was destroyed by flooding in 1734 when the current picturesque bridge was built. Passing over was from West Riding to North Riding
Close to the village are the prehistoric Thornborough Henges, known as the “Stonehenge of the North”‘ and well worth a visit.