THE great hall at a fortified North Yorkshire manor house has been transformed from a grain store into a magnificently-crafted library holding 5,000 books.

Work on the hall, built in 1280 at Markenfield Hall, near Ripon, started three years ago - and library founder Ian Curteis says its completion is "simply a dream come true" for him and his wife, Lady Deirdre Curteis.

The library reflects the worldwide interest in history of Mr Curteis. Among its books, it will also house the official Markenfield Hall archives.

Stonemasons, joiners and French polishers said they were inspired by the challenge of the 12ft 6in-high oak bookstacks designed by Erik Karlson.

One of the craftsmen commented: "This is a one-off. We'll never get the chance to do anything like this again."

Before the project started, the huge room was empty and forlorn. It had been used as a grain store for more than 200 years.

Markenfield Hall, tucked out of sight south of Ripon off the A61, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited houses in England.

More than 900 years ago it was listed in William the Conqueror's Domesday Book.

In 1310, Canon John de Markenfield, treasurer to Edward II, built it as it is today. It was originally moated and fortified against marauding Scots.

Markenfield, guarded by two black swans on its moat, was rarely open to the public until four years ago.

Only recently its owners secured permission to reveal a medieval fireplace, hidden for more than 400 years.

The hall will open to the public for the second time this year (Sunday until July 1, 2-5pm). Details are available on 01765 692303 or 01765 603411.