On 19th January 2019, Nigel and Rebecca Ford purchased Fonmon Castle in the Vale of Glamorgan. The Castle is a grade I listed Norman Castle, founded in c.1180 by the St. John family and still one of only a few castles in Wales still to be used as a residential home as well as a venue for weddings and events.
On a visit to Wales and to one of the tourist hotspots Nigel and Rebecca visited Cosmeston Medieval Village and were taken on a tour by the village supervisor Ross O’Hennessy. From the moment they met they had a rapport and found they shared the same passion for history and teaching it in a fun way.
Ross O’Hennessy never set out to be a historian but trained as an actor but found he was constantly drawn to historical films and medieval epics. His acting career has been very successful and a great way for him to relax was to get involved with historical projects so when he was approached by the new owners to create a medieval farm at Fonmon, Ross decided it was for him and got involved bringing his expertise to the new family attraction.
With Fonmon Castle’s prime location in the middle of the Vale of Glamorgan and steeped in history in the very fact that it is one of the rare ‘still lived in’ castles created by the Norman conquest, the new owners and Ross found it most fitting that they should endeavor to bring it alive again. Fonmon castle is one of the 600 castles which were an integral part of the great Norman conquest of Wales that took nearly 200 years to complete. A big Part of the Norman conquest of our land was the church and its influence over the people of Wales, so it seemed most fitting they re-create a working medieval farm and try to bring to life what life was like during this era.
The creation of the medieval farm started in January 2019 and has been built by hand taking just over a year to construct as care was taken to work in harmony with residents and the community.
The team wanted to open with a spectacular event to grab people’s imagination, so the Medieval Farm and Grange opens Easter Weekend with a medieval Joust and day of combat. Sunday 12th and Monday 13th April will see the medieval farm come to life with knights and ladies wandering through the rows of medieval encampments as they watch as knights fight and joust to gain honour before the new Norman lord.
Families are encouraged to come and explore the walled gardens and lost woodlands before travelling through the castle’s very own dinosaur experience. There will be mead vendors and living history encampments and children can play in the new play park and enjoy learning about dinosaur poo.
In addition to the medieval farm the venue is also opening a Dinosaur Experience. This came about because they asked children what they would like to see and do. It was quickly realised that children of all ages loved the prehistoric past. Dinosaurs excite and inspire children and as dinosaurs are now an important part of the key stage learning within schools, Ross and his team decided to combine the power of dinosaurs with the beauty of the natural land around the castle. They created the idea of STEP THROUGH TIME. A place where you can literally step or walk through time, families can walk between the Jurassic era and then enjoy the medieval era before travelling into the castle to witness the Georgian era. The dinosaur experience will have hands-on dinosaur staff to help children to learn and understand their existence in an educational but fun way with species from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
Within the castle the highly experienced historian, Jennie Doolan, works tirelessly to bring to life the full history of this rare building. Recently she has been training the castle staff to deliver tours so that a true and deep understanding of what it was like to be born and raised in a castle in Wales can be experienced by our visitors. On the tour you can enjoy a cup of tea in the castle’s tearoom and then get to wander and explore the castle areas that have been closed to the general public for centuries.
There is a full programme of events on their website that is constantly developing and those interested are encouraged to follow Fonmon’ s social media pages for real time updates.
In addition to the events, the medieval farm and dinosaur experience is open daily from 10am – 5pm. Schools groups and day visitors are welcome, and they also offer a seasonal pass for those who wish to return again and again. Great news for busy parents looking to keep their young ones entertained. The season tickets provide great value with access to the park and all events between April – Nov 2020.
In asking ‘What’s next for the future of Fonmon and its family attraction?’ Ross O’Hennessy said: “The future is all about you, not us. We want to work with you all to create a fun family attraction that you enjoy, I want you to keep coming back. To me, the most important part of Fonmon castle and the family attraction is you, the visitor.”
Tickets for their Grand Opening and Joust event are on sale now: fonmoncastle.com