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Stackyard News Sep 2012

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Kirkby Stephen’s Mart Marches On

Exactly ten years to the week since acquiring Kirkby Stephen Auction Mart, Harrison & Hetherington have officially opened the mart’s new facilities, aimed at improving its efficiency and the catering provision.

Mark Richardson and Dawn Harrison

Mark Richardson and Dawn Harrison

This milestone in the history of the mart is just the latest chapter of a colourful past, which tells the story, not only of the mart, but also the farming community of Kirkby Stephen itself.

The investment of £150,000 to one of Cumbria’s foremost auction marts includes the provision of a new canteen and offices, and the upgrading of the entrance. The work also included the installation of new electrical, lighting and sound systems. This investment ensures Kirkby Stephen’s facilities are in line with the existing facilities at the network of other marts owned by Harrison & Hetherington.

The new facilities were officially opened by H&H Non Executive Director, Dawn Harrison, on September 4th, just in time for one the major sales of the year, the prize show and sale of NEMSA gimmer lambs, as well as forthcoming major autumn sales.

The area around Kirkby Stephen is the home of many loyal sheep farming customers whose families have often lived there for generations. Dawn Harrison is herself part of Cumbria’s farming heritage. Her father was a Managing Director and Chairman of Harrison and Hetherington, and she can proudly claim to be the great, great, great, granddaughter of one of its founders.

“Through this investment we are adding another chapter in the heritage of Kirkby Stephen Auction Mart,” said Dawn. “Although it has a proud history, as a Company we know that it also has an exciting future. There are a growing a number of farmers who are truly committed to Kirkby Stephen, and enjoy the tradition of coming to a local mart.”

The team at Kirkby Stephen consists of four full time members of staff, headed up by auctioneer Mark Richardson a local farmer’s son, this number of staff increases to 15 on large sale days. The highlights of the autumn sales are the Mule Gimmer Lamb sale on September 14th, where in the region of 11,000 lambs are sold in one day; The Swaledale ‘C’ District Ram Sales in October, Luke Fair a renowned store cattle sale, and Cowper Day for Horse Sales in September.

David Pritchard, Director of Operations for Harrison & Hetherington, gives some further background to this new development. “We have been upgrading the facilities since we acquired Kirkby Stephen ten years ago. During this time, sales have seen the mart grow from strength to strength and, as a result, the number of farmers and customers using the mart has increased. As we are attracting buyers from the length and breadth of the country - they are spending more time here, so it was very important that we invested in these key areas to meet their needs. “

Livestock Auctions are at the very centre of Kirkby Stephen’s history. There has been a mart building since 1875, but for many years before, the streets of the town would be filled with animals to be auctioned in temporary pens in the streets. It was the Kirkby Stephen Farmers’ Auction Mart Company that built the first mart, with a sale ring, 34 cattle pens and pens for 500 sheep. Shortly after the railway came, and helped transport the district’s livestock across the UK.

On that first day, fat cattle ranged in price from £17.5s.0d. to £26.15s.0d with one bull fetching £29.15.0d. A few yearlings and ewes came close to £3, while lambs were between £1.7s.0d. and £1.16s.6d.

Eventually, the first proved to be too small, and a new Auction Mart was built at the other side of Bloody Bones Lane, next to the current one, and the old site sold by auction in November 1900.

To conclude Dawn said: “The railway has gone, but the mart still flourishes, as today’s new upgrade shows. Today, Kirkby Stephen Auction Mart hosts in the region of 100 sales each year, selling up to 130,000 head of stock which values in the region of £16 million each year. What I find most interesting, however, is that the relative price difference between a prime lamb and a prime beast is exactly the same today as it was in 1875.”

For more information on Harrison and Hetherington’s Kirkby Stephen Mart including full catalogues for all the autumn sales please visit or contact David Pritchard, Operations Director, Harrison & Hetherington on Tel. 01228 406230.

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