From the Darlington & Stockton Times of March 4, 1922

THE tenth meeting of the newly-formed Brompton Agricultural Discussion Society enjoyed a lengthy lecture delivered by JW Greensit, of Holme-on-Swale, near Thirsk, about the history of the Wensleydale Sheep.

The D&S Times of exactly 100 years ago reported that Mr Greensit said that at the start of the 18th Century, in Upper Wensleydale there were black-faced horned sheep while in Lower Wensleydale, there were white-faced horned sheep. These, he said, were replaced at the start of the 19th Century when the Mugs Teeswater breed – an old breed from Teesdale – was introduced to the dale. The Robinson brothers of Leyburn and Anthony Trotter of Danby were the notable breeders of sheep then in the dale.

The big step forward, though, came in 1840 when Mr R Outhwaite introduced a Dishley Leicester Longwool ram called Blue Cap to some of the Wensleydale Teeswater ewes.

“Blue Cap was a fine ram, and weighed over 32 stones as a two-shear,” said Mr Greensit. “The present breed of Wensleydales is indebted in great measure to him for their dark faces.”

An average Wensleydale ram is today 135kg so Blue Cap, at more than 200kg, was certainly a big chap.

However, said Mr Greensit, in 1890 that was a division between Wensleydale breeders which caused two rival Wensleydale breeders’ societies to be formed which, he said, “did harm to the whole breed”.

After “considerable negotiations”, in 1920 the two societies amalgamated and now Wensleydale breeders presented a united face to the world. The Wensleydale, said Mr Greensit, was a “crossing sheep par excellence”, particularly if the female was a Masham. This cross produced a wool which was known in the Bradford markets as “Ripon wool” and plenty of lean meat so it was also an ideal “butcher’s sheep”.

“It was one of the best sheep for turniping for fat hoggs,” finished Mr Greensit with a rhetorical flourish and the farmers of the Brompton Agricultural Discussion Society nodded sagely at his wisdom.