After more than a year of planning and organization, a new information panel in Green Park, Ossett is in place and invites a glimpse of what the area was like more than 300 years ago.
Journey into the Past
Just 186 miles from London, between Dewsbury, Horbury and Wakefield, with an estimated population of 21,231 in 2011, lies Ossett. This market town, which was historically part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, has had its large public park since 1962, which was important to the growth of the town. There, on the southeast side is Green Park, which has recently installed a new information board with a QR code giving the detailed history of the site and of Hassell Hall (built in 1699 by the Foster family and later renamed Green House), which once stood there over three centuries ago.
The information panel does not attract attention or disturb the landscape, but it does keep a secret for everyone to see: if you scan it, from the same position in which you are standing, it takes you to know even more about what the place was like more than 300 years ago. It's not magic, but the hard work of Ossett Through The Ages (OTTA), Friends Of Green Park and Ezequiel Foster, who together with many local historians formed a great team and managed to carry out, for more than a year, a public history project which combines some photographs of the area, maps and a lot of information about the region over time. As if it were a kind of Wikipedia, but putting everything together in the same space. The result is a trip to another era, a time tunnel to return to the past and learn even more about the early history and the events that occurred in that place.
The promoters of the project have a lot of passion and dedication in everything they do, a great desire to preserve the history of each place. Anne-Marie Fawcett are the creators and administrators of Ossett Through The Ages (OTTA), a group of over 10,000 members that disseminates and shares old photos with historical facts about Ossett, responsible for reuniting many people with family and friends.
"In 2016 we became the only Facebook group to be added to the archives of the British Library and last year we won a Wakefield District award for the way we use a digital platform to reach our community. We have worked with both Ossett Civic Society and Wakefield Civic Society and are supporters of our local community groups as well as those that are National and International i.e. Rotary and the Royal British Legion," said Anne-Marie Fawcett. For his part, Ezequiel Foster manages a history project dedicated to tracing the path of our ancestors through genealogy and architecture. It also aims to help people discover their family history and remember the work done by those who came before us, who with great perseverance and courage planted for future generations.
Neville Ashby, a researcher on the history of Ossett and the people who served in World War I, was very pleased to see this completed project. "Great to see this plan come to fruition on a bright frosty morning. The park is a very historic site and deserves recognition as such. Well done to Friends Of Green Park for organising and implementing this."
Subsequently throughout 2022, many people have contributed to putting the Green Park information panel in it's rightful place, collecting information from many decades ago. The project was slow to complete as the exact location of Hassell Hall was unknown.
Same with Alan Howe, local Ossett historian and active member of Yorkshire Historic and The Ossett Fallen WWI & WII, who provided a lot of information to find Hassell Hal's location and move the investigation forward. Howe has worked for Leeds City Council for 34 years and also contributed to the biographies of those who lost their lives in World War I and World War II on ossett.net, primarily providing family history information for each biography. With the financial support of Wakefield MDC and the work of a whole team, including Steve Wilson (Ossett Historian) the engraving of these names was finally started and implemented on the War Memorial in Ossett Market Place.
"It's appropriate to thank the Group for hosting a truly historic discovery. Had it not been for our connection to Ezequiel Foster, Ossett would not have discovered Hassell Hall," said Alan Howe.
In fact, The Ossett Observer, a local newspaper, published in 1961 the image on it's front page of the soon to be demolished old Green House (Hassell Hall in the late 17th century) door, wondering who the acronym 'FRH and 1699' written on the lintel referred to.
Today, more than 60 years after that publication, thanks to an investigation promoted by Ezequiel, it was finally learned that these initials on the old door referred to the names of those who lived on the property in 1699: F for Foster, R for Richard and H for Hannah, his wife's name. This family lived for a long time in Ossett Lights, in the Haggs Hill area, where they owned land and property.
"It's great to see this project completed," said Neville Ashby, after viewing the information panel in Green Park. But that wasn't the only thing, "It looks great. It would be great to see a few more of these spread around town."
A post on 15th September 2020 was enough to prompt further investigation of an early 18th century deed (courtesy of The Yorkshire Archaeological Society) and the 1843 Ossett Tithe Award. The comparison of these two records was sufficient to identify the location in Ossett of the 17th century Hassell Hall which to local historians had only ever been known as "Green House", demolished in the early 1960's.
"Hassell Hall has been a bit of a discovery for us here at Ossett," said Anne-Marie Fawcett. "It's a great team effort," he concluded.
The path was difficult. They had to analyze, investigate and extract information from many documents. Much of the work has been published on the Ossett.net website.
"Great job, the new display looks fabulous. Well done to everyone who made this possible," said Steve Wilson, Ossett historian.
"If you have some free time and want to travel back in time, you can go to Green Park, scan the QR code and meanwhile enjoy the green space," explains Ezequiel. Although this is the first information panel to be installed in the park, the possibility of expanding the initiative to other regions is not ruled out, and to do so in larger and more touristy places, in places that are part of the history, part of the conformation of the city in the past and present.
"This generation is tasked with remembering the good things our ancestors have done. We have the responsibility to make content that clearly reaches the new generations. In each place there is a story to tell that should not be forgotten", Ezequiel concluded about the project that connects the inhabitants of the town with the past.
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