Meet the Emley Show secretary from the A W Hainsworth wool manufacturing dynasty
Sally Hampshire says that being sheep secretary for the West Riding show that attracts over 12,000 came about in 2010 following her own early love of sheep, keeping her own flock and memories of wool from her days as a young girl.
“My family are wool manufacturers. I’m a Hainsworth by birth and AW Hainsworth is still producing wool manufacture at the mill in Stanningley. It was founded in 1780 and has been known most recently for producing all the uniform cloth for the Queen’s funeral and the Coronation of King Charles III.
“My love of sheep started from being taken to the mill with my father on a Saturday when he was working. The smell of lanolin and sheep wool are very fond memories, and I also had a great aunt who kept sheep and had a farm in the Lake District where we were taken up to twice a year. She was very fond of Jacobs. Quite often we had lambs to feed and goats to milk.
Sally’s interest in keeping sheep herself came about while living in Hepworth near Holmfirth.
“We had some fields and I decided to have a dabble. I bought my first two ewes, Dolly, a Texel-cross and Polly, a Suffolk, from Donald Hampshire, showfield manager Richard Hampshire’s uncle. I’m not related to either so far as I’m aware. The ewes came with two lambs apiece.
Sally next ventured to Hade Edge Sheep Sale where she bought more sheep only to find the next morning that they had taken themselves back up to the field where she’d bought them.
“That was my first experience of ‘wooly jumpers,” says Sally, who remained undeterred by her flock’s great escape.
“I ended up keeping sheep for 15 years and had a small flock of anything between 20-30 principally commercial Texel-crosses. But during the course of that I had another Hainsworth aunt in Somerset who gave up with her Wensleydales that she was very passionate about. She used to send her fleeces up to the mill. When she retired I inherited half a dozen of them and I started to show them.
“My showing was very limited. I wasn’t very good at it, but I loved it because everybody was so helpful and showing sheep is such a wonderful day out. Even though my sheep weren’t very good it didn’t matter. I now encourage everyone who wants to have a go at showing to do just that.
Sally says that although she never showed at Emley her daughter Richi had taken on work experience on her route to becoming a vet with the show’s sponsors, Donaldson veterinary practice and that, plus Sally’s involvement with sheep, led to her role today.
“The show were asking around for a new sheep secretary and that’s when I took it on with Richi as assistant sheep secretary. She still helps me a lot.
“At Emley Show the public literally walk in and the sheep are the first thing they see. I wanted everybody else to have the same inspiration as I had, to love the smell of and sight of them and see that they are all real characters, as I did.
“Because I’d had Wensleydales and my aunt in Cumbria had been very keen on Jacobs I was also very keen to promote rare breeds and I really wanted to attract the smallholders, the hobby farmers. I didn’t just want it to be people that knew what they were doing on the commercial side.
Sally tells of how Emley Show’s sheep section has grown.
“When Richi and I first took it on, it had about 60 sheep, last year we had nearly 150. We were really happy with that on our first year back after the Covid restrictions.
“I’ve always listened to what the exhibitors say. We were one of the first shows to give the Coloured Ryelands their own class as well as having a Ryeland class. I gave the Jacobs their own class which has worked very well and this year we have split the Rare Breeds class into Native and Primitive classes. We have also created a Whitefaced Woodland class which I’m hoping will be well supported.
“We also have classes for Texels, run under the auspices of the Northern Texel Sheep Society, as well as Suffolks, Lowland and Continental.
Sally has also incorporated spinning and weaving into Emley Show which takes place alongside her growing number of sheep classes, and she is looking to grow the section even further.
“I was lucky enough to come across some of our sheep exhibitors who knew some spinners. That’s how we ended up with a lady who did hand spinning and shared the sheep section secretary’s marquee. And that has now evolved further. We now have strong links with the Spinners & Weavers Guild and have five people that come and demonstrate weaving and spinning.
“I don’t let the grass grow. I can’t sit still for long. What I would like to do, in conjunction with Richard Hampshire, would be to develop the sheep section further and have a shearing demonstration sited next door to the spinners and the sheep.
“I always respond to our sheep showmen and women. Another idea would be to have a fleece competition or maybe a Wool on the Hoof class. It’s important to keep changing and keep giving those who come something new.
Sally is really keen on on maintaining the atmosphere of warmth and camaraderie amongst everyone.
“It is such an incredibly friendly sheep section and I would welcome anybody who would like to come and show. If you haven’t got a clue what to do, I will lead you through it. It is lovely to see people so proud of their animals. You can’t do anything really very wrong and the judges are very supportive and will come up and give advice. In order to go to the Great Yorkshire Show you really need to try out at smaller shows and cut your teeth. Many have gone on to do really well.
Sally tells of one experience that could have turned out somewhat bizarre.
“AW Hainsworth went into making woolly coffins so I decided it might be nice to show another use of wool. They were made from fleece from Dorset sheep. When I had to collect an adult sized coffin I hadn’t quite thought it through. I had a little Mini. I’m just glad I wasn’t stopped and had to explain.
Sally is happy to take any new entries for this year’s Emley Show up until Monday if you have been inspired by her story and would like to take part.