Kirkby Grange, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire
Acreage:120 acres of paddocks on 1,000 acre mixed farm
Type: Formerly public, now private
Previous Stallions: Stockwell, West Australian, Valiyar, Hard Fought, Efisio, Precocious, Nordico, Weldnass, Como, Maystreak, Cash and Courage, Meldrum, Tycoon II, Sit In The Corner, Haveroid, Immortal Knight, Laxton, Agamemnon.
Stockwell has been a stud since the middle of the 19th century and has also been used as a training stables during the 20th. It was originally known as Kirkby Farm, but was renamed to commemorate the great sire Stockwell (seven times champion sire, sire of 3 Derby winners, himself winner of the 2000 Guineas and St.Leger) who stood here alongside another great racehorse, Triple Crown winner West Australian. Stockwell joined West Australian here in 1856. However following the death of the owner, Lord Londesborough in 1861, West Australian was sent to France (eventually being owned by Napoleon II!), whilst Stockwell (having been sold for 4,500 gns to Mr.R.C.Naylor) went to the Rawcliffe Stud, near York for two seasons and then onto his new owner's Hooton Stud. However Stockwell's offspring conceived at Kirkby Farm include; St.Albans (St.Leger), Lady Ripon (2nd.Oaks), Caller Ou (St.Leger), The Marquis (2000 Gns, St.Leger, 2nd.Derby), Caterer (2nd.2000 Gns), Knowsley (3rd.2000 Gns), Bertha (2nd.1000 Gns), Lady Augusta (1000 Gns), Historian (3rd.2000 Gns), Tooi Tooi (3rd.1000 Gns) and the mighty Blair Athol (Derby and St.Leger). He headed the leading sires list for the first time in 1860, and was champion sire seven times in total, and got three Derby winners.
Current owner Henry Easterby's grandfather, also called Henry, bought the farm in 1933 and his son, Walter, began training there, having obtained his license in 1924. Walter retired from training in the early seventies (dying in 1987), by which time the stud side of the operation, run by his son Henry, had become a little run down, but this was soon put right. This is probably Yorkshire most prominent racing family: Henry is a cousin of trainers Peter and Mick Easterby. Peter was succeeded by his son Tim Easterby who's sister is married to trainer Richard Fahey. In addition Henry's sister, Davina (with her husband Philip Cockcroft) used to run the Goosemoor Stud although they are now also based at Stockwell, Peter Easterby also owns Easthorpe Hall Stud. That's five very successful trainers (past or present) and three studs farms within one family. Peter, Mick and Henry Easterby also all farm on a large scale, and one sometimes get's the impression you could walk from Wetherby racecourse to Malton gallops without ever leaving Easterby land!!
In the late eighties Stockwell stood consistent, but moderate stallions such as Valiyar and Hard Fought. However in early nineties it looked as though this well equipped stud (26 paddocks and over 80 boxes) was on the upturn. Efisio was moved to Stockwell in 1990, having previously stood at Hever Castle Stud in Kent. He was to be champion first season sire in 1991 and leading second season sire in 1992, and has been a consisent source of quality winners ever since. He was joined in 1992 by Precocious, who had spent the previous season at the Cockcroft's Goosemoor Stud. This former top class two year old was the sire of the speedy Elbio, as well as being a consistent winner- producer. However Efisio was whisked away to Highclere Stud for the 1994 season where he has continued to be a great success. Slightly less lamented, Precocious left Yorkshire the following year, standing one season in the south, before being exported to Sweden. These two stallions were replaced by Nordico and Weldnass, with Nordico having the higher profile, given that he already sired a number of minor black type performers. However the decision was taken to scale down the stud operation and there were no sires for the 1995 season.
The other side to the past success of Stockwell Stud was the boarding of mares and youngstock for private clients. Amongst the breeders who kept their stock at Stockwell were Jim Graham (Nominator), Chris Barber-Lomax (an owner with Chris Fairhurst, Linda Perret and James Hetherton) and Brian Nordan (a Camacho owner, most notably of Hi Nod).However the most successful ingredient to this side of the operation were Sir Neil and Lady Westbrook, who have had horses with the Easterby family for over 40 years. The colts run in Sir Neil's name, whilst the fillies run in those of Lady Westbrook, and most of the horses carry the 'Bollin' prefix after the river that runs through their Cheshire estate. The Westbrooks have two main families. The first is that of Bollin Charlotte who was bought for 360 guineas as a yearling in 1965 and trained by Walter Easterby. She sadly died in 1990, having produced eight individual winners, but now has a yard named after her at Stockwell. A number of her daughters have been retained including the speedy Bollin Emily, who is dam of the useful Bollin Frank who, trained by Tim Easterby (Peter Easterby having taken over the training following Walter's retirement) has, to date, won 4 races and over £40,000 in win and place prize money.
The Westbrook's most famous horse raised at Stockwell however is Bollin Joanne, who is a daughter of Bollin Zola (by Alzao), an entirely separate family from Bollin Charlotte. Bollin Zola was bought at Goffs by Tim Easterby for 6,500gns in 1987. Bollin Joanne (by Damister) was born and raised at Stockwell, before being sent into training at Habton Grange. Although placed numerous times as a two year old her first win wasn't until July 1996 as a three year old when she finally obliged at Catterick, which she followed up with valuable handicap wins at Ripon and York. In 1997 she again won a valuable handicap at York, before coming third in the Wokingham Handicap at Royal Ascot, that was to be her last run in handicap company. With seconds in the Singapore Summer S L and the Hopeful S L, she then won the Scarborough S L and was placed third in the Dubai Airport World Trophy L and second in the Bentinck S L. Bollin Joanne started 1997 with a bang, winning the Duke of York S G3, to give both owner and trainer their first wins in group company. However she was unable to recreate this form and following disappointing runs in the King's Stand S, July Cup and Nunthorpe she could only manage fourth in her final race the Scarborough Stakes and was retired, the winner of over £100,000.
However it was to Peter Easterby's Easthorpe Hall Stud that Bollin Joanne retired (and where her half brother St.Leger winner Bollin Eric was foaled), as the decision had been made to all but close down Stockwell Stud, with only a small number of mares belonging to Henry Easterby and the Cockcroft's remaining. The stud is now used as an (non racing) livery yard and many of the paddocks have been split up into smaller enclosures. Having very few horses sent up to the sales (the odd yearling was sent to Doncaster) in a rising market and relying on owner-breeders (themselves a dying breed) the eventual closure was perhaps inevitable, although if they had managed to hang onto Efisio the outcome could have been very different. Unfortunately (rather like Nidd Park) Stockwell's greatest success of recent times was actually after the decision had been made to close it down. It is to be hoped that one day this historic stud will again be returned to a prominent position on the racing and breeding scene of Yorkshire.
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Copyright 2002 Stephen George-Powell
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