Life Membership Honours for two great supporters of the breed

The Association this year has awarded Life Membership to Henry Derryman (Yarcombe Flock) and Jean Ritchie (Parkstock Flock) who have worked tirelessly to promote and develop the breed over many year’s. Here’s a brief insight into their time with Hampshire Downs.

Henry Derryman:

2020 sees the 50th Anniversary of the Yarcombe Flock and the name is synonymous with the Hampshire breed and most sheep have some Yarcombe breeding in the pedigree somewhere. Owner Henry Derryman has just been given Honorary Life Membership for all he has done for the breed over many years and here’s just a snapshot of the enjoyment he has had out of the breed.


How it all started

Hampshire Down’s have always been a part of Henry’s life, as he says ‘everyone used to use a Down ram in those days’ Brought up with a dairy and sheep background he has always worked at home and it was in 1968 when Henry saw an advert for Maurice Flower’s Chilmark flock dispersal, one of the top breeders of the day, in the Farmers Weekly that his Hampshire journey began. Mr Flower had sold a large proportion of his sheep to France and Henry and Family bought six of the remaining   ewes and this was where the Yarcombe Flock started. They liked the ewes so much that a week later they returned to Mr Flower to buy 10 ewe lambs. The following year it was decided to visit the Thornfalcon Flock of Horrace Heywood and more ewes and a ram were purchased and a lifelong friendship made.

The Yarcombe Flock

The flock is now one of the larger ones in the association and the focus has always had it’s feet set firmly in the commercial world and producing sheep that have great length, less fat and a good back end. With this in mind, genetics from New Zealand were introduced, brought back by Mike Adams after a trip there, which not only gave the great carcase but also plenty of style to the progeny. Henry is a great fan of recording with the Yarcombe flock having been recorded since the start of the scheme and he thinks that recording has helped the breed to achieve its commercial goals especially the leaner carcases. The flock sells most rams from home and many repeat customers specifically look at figures. The Derryman Family have a couple of different pedigree breeds on the farm and Henry stands by what the Hampshire breed are promoting with fast finishing lambs that grade well. The early lambs are sometimes sold live weight in market and Henry says ‘ when the trade is good there is no objection to the slightly woollier headed lambs but sometimes if trade is more difficult buyers can be picky going for continentals first’  The rest of lambs are sold deadweight through ABP and are on a par with other lambs grading well.


Showing has always been a passion and Henry was keen to get started showing a pair of ram lambs for the first time at Devon County in 1971. Henry tells us ‘it was a steep learning curve, we were very green and inexperienced and fell into every hole imaginable! It was all very different in those days, most flocks had shepherds who looked after and turned out the sheep with flock owners only coming for a few hours for judging. We observed what the shepherds did and learned over the years’

Henry thinks that showing is essential to get your name out and gain a good reputation. The flock has shown locally and nationally, taking lambs to Smithfield for the prime stock shows as well as the famous Royal Show, this was where the flock had one of it’s greatest achievements winning Champion Signet Interbreed recorded ram in 1987. This lamb was then sold at what was the Breeds Premier Sale in those days at the Royal Show for 800gns.

Whilst chatting about showing Henry feels a little disenchanted with the show circuit with the tendency for every breed to show over fat sheep and he thinks there is a need to be sensible about trimming. He would like to see sheep shown with less wool to show off the real carcase length and back end without trimming it into that shape.

Showing has also led to judging sheep all over the UK, Ireland as well as Belgian and the Netherlands and has had many enjoyable experiences meeting the friendly Members. Showing has such a great social side which the Derrymans enjoy as much as the showing.


Henry says he just sort of fell into being a Council Member!

‘Horrace Heywood didn’t like driving so asked me to drive him to Salisbury’ Henry explains, ‘when we got to 38 Endless Street we went into a tiny room full of all the important, big name breeders and I felt completely out of my depth but they were all very friendly and I ended up being voted onto Council that day at the end of the 1970’s and I had the honour of being President in 1980 and 1991’

He has seen many changes in the Association over the years with several secretaries notable ones including Anna Thatcher and Richard Davies and Janet Hill and changes in the industry but feels the breed is standing it’s ground well but we must not get bogged down with small issues and concentrate on the great commercial aspects the breed has to offer the industry. He feels that encouraging new entrants to the breed and getting young people passionate about Hampshires is very important and something he tries to do at every opportunity.

Henry sums it up well when saying ‘Hampshire’s really are a great breed and deserve to do well’

Jean Ritchie

After finishing Agricultural College in the late 1950’s, I went back home to work on the family farm in Northamptonshire. Commercially, we ran Kerry Hill and Clun Forest ewes for fat lamb production. The Cluns were crossed with Hampshire Down Rams, lambing outside from the last week of March onwards. We lambed close to 200% and could start drawing lambs for the local market from 10 weeks of age, weighing what is now 40-42kgs. Those lambs topped the market for weeks, selling to the many small local butchers.

During those years, my sister Ann and I started a pedigree Clun Forest Flock; Parkstock. At first we started Showing at local Shows, progressing on to the bigger County Shows. I think we started Showing at the RASE Royal Show in its first year at Stoneleigh in 1965. By then, people had heard about our Hampshire Down X lambs. For many years we were asked to take the crossbred lambs to the Show to advertise the Hampshire Down. We also started Showing at the Royal Smithfield Show at Earls Court. In 1968 we won the Butcher’s Weight Championship with some Clun Forest X Hampshire Down lambs. We would also cross the Clun Forest ewe with a Suffolk and keep some of the ewe lambs to then put the Hampshire Down ram on them to give us some tremendous butchers lambs.
Derek and I married in 1971. By 1977 we decided we would like to start a pedigree flock of Hampshire Down Sheep ourselves. Derek went back to the 250 ewe, Caversfield Flock, that he and his father had been
shepherds to since it started in the 1950’s. We were able to choose 10 in lamb ewes from the entire flock.

From this start we went on to win the Championship at the RASE Royal Show 4 times and continued to Show at the Royal Smithfield with Hampshire Down lambs, winning Breed Champion at least 12 times, Shortwool Champion 3 times, and the Reserve Supreme Champion once. The Royal Smithfield Show was Derek’s pride and joy; the lambs being bred specially for it, lambing in June, by using the odd ewe that hadn’t reared a lamb in December. We always aimed to get the pair together weighing 85kgs; made even more difficult when we only had 1 ewe left to breed, who then luckily had twins!

Following Derek’s death in 2010 I was co-opted on to the HDSBA Council and served on different committees until 2019. I always tried to do my best for the Breed; maybe upsetting a few along the way.
I have now handed over to daughter Alison & Ed to run the flock, but I still like to keep an interest in the breed.

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