LAST weekend marked the 70th anniversary of the Bedale Point to Point settling at Hornby Castle, having taken place at various locations in North Yorkshire in the previous decades.
One of the competitors in 1947 was Arthur Stephenson, a 27-year-old from Leasingthorne, near Bishop Auckland. He didn’t win, but he went on to become one of the most well known of National Hunt trainers, most famously winning the snow-delayed 1987 Cheltenham Gold Cup with The Thinker.
The official veterinarian watching over him at Hornby Castle in 1947 was Donald Sinclair of Thirsk who, of course, found fame as the inspiration for Siegfried Farnon in James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small.
Loading article content
The event was invited to the castle by its owner, Major-General Walter Clutterbuck, who had fought throughout the First World War, winning the Military Cross and being wounded twice and mentioned in despatches. In the Second World War, he was the General Officer Commanding of the 1st Infantry Division, fighting mostly in North Africa.
He’d bought Hornby Castle in 1936 when it was sold by the 11th Duke of Leeds to cover his late father’s gambling debts.
The castle traced its origins back to a moated hunting lodge and deer park created in the early 12th Century by the Duke of Brittany. The castle itself, a fortified manor house, was built in the 14th Century by the St Quinton family, through whom it passed into the Conyers and then Darcy families, each having a go at rebuilding it.
In the 1760s, the celebrated architect John Carr worked on the castle – he was famed for building most of the bridges in Swaledale and everything from Northallerton prison to Harewood House – and possibly Lancelot “Capability” Brown worked on the grounds.
It passed by marriage to the Osbornes, who were Dukes of Leeds, and by the early 19th Century it was their principal seat, equipped with everything from an ice house to an eagle house.
This wasn’t enough, and they brought in Augustus Pugin – the man behind the Houses of Parliament – to draw up a new plan. However, he is believed to have had the first of his mental breakdowns while staying at Hornby, and so the plans never came to fruition.
The 10th Duke of Leeds, a Conservative politician, was more concerned with greyhound racing than estate building. After he died in 1927, the castle’s east wing had to be demolished, although the 16th Century arched main entrance was acquired by Sir William Burrell, a shipping magnate and antiquities collector. It is 26ft high, weighs 26 tons and is now a centrepiece in the Burrell Museum in Glasgow.
The gutted south wing was bought by Maj-Gen Clutterbuck. Surrounded by its deerpark, it now strikes a romantic and imposing silhouette on its hillside, even though it is just a pale shadow of what it once was.