A History of Hessay

The quiet rural village of Hessay enjoys a peaceful open setting within the vale of York, a glacial plane created in the last ice age. As a result of this openness a number of recognisable landmarks can be seen. To the East, York Minster is visible from New Road. To the West, RAF Menwith Hill is visible. And to the North, both the Kilburn White Horse, and Bilsdale Televison mast may be seen during darkness, some 40km away.

According to Wikipedia Hessay was given to the St Mary's Abbey, York by Osbern de Archis and continued in their possession until The Dissolution.

The first known documenting of Hessay is in the Domesday Book of 1086 where Hessay is described as Hesdesai; the lake where the hazels grew.

It is believed that the defeated Royalist Army travelled through Hessay when retreating to York after suffering defeat at the battle of Marston Moor in 1644.

Remains of jousting butts can still be identified near Shirbutt Lane, where jousting tournaments once took place. The name Shirbutt Lane is derived from shire butts.

Hessay railway station was opened in 1849 by the East and West Yorkshire Junction Railway and served the local community through to its final closure in 1958. The station building is now a private house. The line remains open and presently there are 36 trains a day between York, Harrogate and Leeds, with additional summer rail tours and steam train workings.

The Ministry of Defence maintained a transport storage depot adjacent to the railway, which was serviced by the railway and a private siding, employing a mixture of military and civilian personnel. Military vehicles of all types could be seen on site, but the important ones were probably kept out of site. The depot was operational until 1991 with closure of the unit effected by March 1996. It has since become an industrial estate which is home to light industry and offices.

Today Hessay is a diverse mixture of old and new, with a population of over 300 living in around 100 residences. Whilst home to traditional and modern farming enterprises, many of the small family farms that were once the hub of daily life in this rural idle have been developed in to housing, with many residents now commuting to local towns and cities for their employment.

The village is served by two churches: St John The Baptist (Anglican) Church, on New Road, and a Methodist Chapel, on Main Street. St John the Baptist's churchyard boasts a diverse wildlife habitat, with valuable flora and fauna. Jackdaws nest in the tower and Barn Owl pelts can be found under a perching spot. Swallows & Housemartins nest under the eaves. The grasses and wildflower in the churchyard are of such rarity that an annual cut is organised.

Hessay boasts an abundance of wildlife. Notable bird species include Barn Owls, Tawny Owls, Little Owls, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylarks, Green Plover (Lapwing,) Oyster Catchers, Jays, Rooks, Magpies, and Carrion Crow. The population of small mammals which includes field, wood and harvest mice, voles and shrews, supports the upper end of the food chain of Merlins, Kestrels, Red Kites, Buzzards, Hobby, Sparrow Hawks, and Goshawks. A Peregrine Falcon has even been seen to take prey from the surrounding farmland. There is a small but increasing mumuration of Starlings that are believed to roost at the west end of Hessay Industrial Estate. Curlew Fields farm takes it name from the Curlews which nest in the vicinity. Kingfishers and Grey Herons visit the many small ponds in the parish, which are home to newts and salamanders. There are many garden birds: blue tits, long tailed tits, great tits, gold finches, blackbirds, song and mistle thrush, robins, wrens, tree and house sparrows. A cuckoo can be heard calling in April and May. Insect life is varied with numerous species of butterflies and moths, dragonflies, and hoverflies.

Bats roost in a number of buildings and trees in the village. A number of bat and owl boxes have been erected by Hessay Parish Council to encourage these populations.

In February 2012 the Ordnance Survey deduced Hessay the village closest to the geographical centre of Yorkshire. (Previously, Cattal, a little further west, was believed to hold the claim.

Just To the north of the village is a roman road. Many people believed that the A59 highway had been built on top of a roman road, although York Archaeological society located the roman road about 50m south of the current route of the A59 in a recent archaeological dig.

The 2014 Tour de France passed through the Parish along the A59 from its start in York city centre. Residents marked the occasion with a village party.


Mark Barratt

2017