Village passion secures special protection for Sessay

A swell of local passion looks set to protect the character of a North Yorkshire village for generations to come.

In an initiative led by the residents of Sessay, and others who are proud of the distinctiveness and history of this architecturally-rich spot near Thirsk, the village’s southern part is expected to be formally designated as a Conservation Area by Hambleton District Council in December.

Once confirmed, it will become the Hambleton region’s 54th such designation and will neatly coincide with the 50th anniversary of England’s first ever Conservation Area being established, in Stamford, Lincolnshire.

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The centrepiece for the proposed Sessay Conservation Area is the Grade II listed St Cuthbert’s Church, designed by the eminent Victorian architect, William Butterfield, whose eye for detail was also applied in the design of the neighbouring school and several estate cottages.

Close by lies a lost medieval manor and village, and Butterfield’s composition of church and school is set within a surviving medieval landscape of ridge and furrow fields which today consists of three farmsteads.

The district council summed up the village’s merits for being awarded conservation status, saying: “Sessay’s historic buildings, landscape, woodland fringes, ponds and associated wildlife all combine to create a unique and well rooted place of special character.”

Darren Ratcliffe, a Sessay parish councillor, told of how the character of the village has changed over the centuries.

“Sessay evolved from ancient farming ancestry, a medieval ridge and furrow field system remains evident in the landscape, the land in and around Sessay continues to be agricultural.

“Achieving Conservation Area Status provides a level of protection for what our community values and will help to preserve this for future generations.”

Coun Ratcliffe said the parish council’s next objective will be to work with the community and Hambleton District Council to devise a management plan for the area - “to prioritise the actions needed for Sessay to continue to change and grow into the future”.

Deborah Wall, historic places principal for Yorkshire at Historic England, congratulated Sessay’s residents on their achievements, saying: “The community at Sessay have invested great time and energy into understanding their very special place.

“It is fabulous news that 50 years on from the first Conservation Area being designated, Sessay will become a Conservation Area and that future generations will also be able to appreciates its unique character.”