Respected actor and living history expert Ross O’Hennessy, who was previously historical adviser for the living history medieval village at Cosmeston Lakes, has founded a new living history attraction at Fonmon Castle near Cardiff Airport in the Vale of Glamorgan.
The new business, named Step Through Time, includes a medieval farm manned by actors who will teach visitors about life in medieval times. It also includes a reconstruction of Norman ring works (a defensive structure common in Norman times) and a dinosaur park with dozens of life-sized dinosaurs to discover. When Covid-19 restrictions lift, Step Through Time will also offer tours and events in the castle, such as ghost hunts and Christmas festivities.
Ross is familiar to many from his numerous on-screen appearances. He was Lord of Bones in Game of Thrones, and other recent credits include In Absentia and Hanna on Amazon Prime and Loss Adjuster, a film starring Luke Goss and Joan Collins. Despite being busy with acting, Ross also trains actors, and has sourced staff for the medieval village from among his trainees.
“This has enabled me to create opportunities for actors during lockdown, when so many of them are without work,” he says. “I’m passionate about living history: with the help of these actors, visitors get to see, hear, touch, smell and breathe what life was like in medieval times. You really can step back into the past.”
Ross is also enthusiastic about the power of the medieval village and the estate’s other outdoor attractions to boost visitors’ health and wellbeing.
“It’s a chance to get them outside, get them walking and active and having fun,” says Ross, who first became interested in living history while working as an actor at the Royal Shakespeare Company.
“I enjoyed looking into the history of Shakespeare’s time, then I looked into the history of Wales and became fascinated,” he says. “I feel we don’t teach enough of Wales’ history in schools and getting involved with Cosmeston Lakes was a chance to boost that learning.”
The new attraction at Fonmon, which opened on July 11, is the next step in that journey. The medieval farm features live sheep, geese and ducks and displays that show – with the help of actors – how people lived, ate and passed their time in medieval times.
“My dream has been to have my own park where people could come and learn about Wales’ past, rural crafts and more,” he says. “Now that is becoming a reality at Fonmon, and I’m delighted.”
Step Through Time is one of three new businesses founded at the newly opened Fonmon estate. The others are a wedding village run by Zoe Binning and Wild Wales Seeds, Wales’ first large-scale seed business.
Fonmon Castle was bought by businessman Nigel Ford last year, and he has made it a priority to open it to the local community while creating opportunities for the next generation of entrepreneurs. Nigel’s own businesses include a successful wholesale seed business, All Things Rural, as well as a popular visitor attraction, All Things Wild, in the Midlands.