Middleham racing yard investment ‘will boost sport in the North’

Manor House Farm.

The architect behind a major overhaul of the last northern racing yard to win the Derby says the “considerable investment” will realise a huge boost for the sport in the region.

Bedale-based architect Malcolm Tempest was speaking after the initiative at the 289-acre Manor House Stud near Middleham by racehorse owner and stockbroker’s firm boss John Dance and his wife Jess was enthusiastically approved by Richmondshire District Council’s planning committee.

The large-scale scheme, which will see the farmhouse, agricultural buildings and stables demolished and replaced with buildings for racehorse training, hospitality and housing for some of the yard’s 35 new employees, has received consent less than a year after it was announced Sir Michael Stoute’s assistant James Horton would become the yard’s private trainer.

While the scheme has progressed at pace, the yard has a long history with the sport, with Lenore ‘Lennie’ Peacock, who died in 2019 aged 97, having bred and raised the last northern-trained Derby winner, Dante, there.

Modern facilities at the yard are set to feature an extensive indoor riding school, stables for more than 70 horses and a new gallops away from ones used by other yards in the town.

Councillors praised the efforts of the developers for producing high-quality Yorkshire Dales-style buildings and plans to sensitively landscape the farm, which features William’s Hill, an 11th century motte and bailey castle, on the holding.

Councillors were told the scheme had been carefully designed to avoid harming the setting of the scheduled monument, which is the predecessor to Middleham Castle, the childhood home of Richard III.

Lower Wensleydale councillor Richard Ormston said when the building works were complete the yard could look at increasing the amount of accommodation for staff, for which there is a shortage in Middleham. He added: “I think it’s brilliant. There’s nothing to dislike in it.”

After the meeting, Mr Tempest said the rural jobs the scheme would create would bring a host of benefits to the racing-dominated town.

He said: “People don’t invest that much into racing in the North. Racing’s having a tough time and it’s fantastic for the North of England.

“A lot of times people from the North go south and buy a yard at Newmarket or Epsom. John and Jess Dance are Newcastle-based and they are very involved and want to see the horses, it is a long-term project for them.”

He said the “considerable investment” creating state of the art racing facilities must not be rushed and could take two years to complete.

Mr Tempest said: “We want to do it really well – it’s easy to rush these things and then you kick yourself. If you are going to invest this much it must be done in a considered, measured way.

“It’s a beautiful scheme, it looks fantastic, it’s not impinging on anyone. We’re hoping that we can do enough development that within a year a trainer can go in with a select group horses there, but its probably going to be a two-year build to complete.”