The Derbyshire Gritstone sheep originated on the hills of the Dale of Goyt (now better known as the Goyt Valley) on the edge of the Peak District around the year 1770 and was known in its early years as the Dale O’Goyt sheep. The Derbyshire Gritstone sheep which has been evolved from the Dale O’Goyt sheep is consequently one of the oldest of British Hill breeds.
By about 1850 the farmers in the locality were establishing uniformity in the breed, aiming at a hardy, disease resistant animals that could withstand the harsh winters on poor ground, produce a lively lamb, which grew well to produce a good carcass and a saleable wool crop.
As a result of careful selection and wise breeding, interest in the sheep grew and on 15th October 1906, twenty-seven farmers came together to form the Derbyshire Gritstone Sheepbreeders Society (DGSS) under the presidency of the 8th Duke of Devonshire. The Stud Flock Book was established shortly afterwards listing twenty flocks of acceptable and recognised Derbyshire Gritstone sheep in an area of about eighty square miles in the Peak District Area. Of the twenty original flocks, only the ‘Torgate’ prefix of John Bowler at Macclesfield Forest remains. But from these twenty individual flocks the Derbyshire Gritstone Sheep has expanded its territory and influence to Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cheshire, Wales and Scotland, even to the Outer Islands.
Time and continued careful breeding has produced a hardy sheep with good mothering qualities and milk flow capable of producing 1.45 lambs per ewe from poor hill land. The wool is of a superior quality, and wool from the Derbyshire Gritstone has won prizes for wool exhibits at the highest level. The lambs mature quickly and produce a good lean carcass, which is required in today’s market. Because the Derbyshire Gritstone is polled in both sexes, it is used with success to sire polled lambs on other breeds of horned hill sheep.
The Derbyshire Gritstone sheep is now well known in the upland areas of the UK and is an excellent cross with the recognised fat lamb sires for early finishing with good financial returns.
Top Left - Derbyshire Gritstone Ewes owned by James Harrison Porter of Wildboardclough. They were winners of first prizes at Derby county show in 1908 and Bakewell Farmers' club show in both 1907 and 1908
Top Centre - Haslingden Show and Sale 1978.
Left - Lamb Cadshaw 41 from Jack Mares, sold for 180gns
Centre - Aged Holme Tom 17 (2 shear) from Bob Holt. Sold for 130gns
Right - Shearling and overall champion Cadshaw 35 from Jack Mares. Sold for 660gns
Top right - Haslingden Show and Sale 1979
Left- Reserve Champion Cadshaw 53 with Clive Mitchell, sold for 520gns
Right - Champion Cadshaw 41 with Albert Heathcote, sold for 400gns