Skipton’s Gavel Falls To Record Prices During Lockdown

Skipton Auction Mart pioneers the way with what may be one of the most prestigious sheepdog auctions in history. In July 2020, the eyes of the agricultural world rested on the town’s auction house, renowned for setting global records with its sales, for the mart’s first-ever working sheep dog sale with real-time viewing and one of the first to be staged in the UK.

By Liz Smailes, Marketing & Communications Officer, Skipton BID

Evolving with the times at Skipton Auction Mart

Skipton’s heritage is anchored in the livestock markets that have been held in the town for centuries, initially on the High Street, with cattle and sheep overflowing into adjoining ginnels. There was no auctioneer in the early days; bargaining was done on an individual basis – often after protracted argument – and the deal would be sealed by the shake of a hand.

Going hand-in-hand with the animal trade, agricultural jobs were also on the market. Would-be haytime workers, notably Irish men, would parade up and down The High Street while farmers cast a critical eye over the strength of their back and forearms. Employment contracts would include lodgings, food and an hourly or weekly rate.

Later, sales were moved to an open air market behind the town hall in Jerry Croft – now one of the town’s main car parks. The first official Skipton Auction Mart was held on Monday, July 5, 1886, a date that is celebrated today with the town’s annual Sheep Day carnival. John Throup and WH Davis organised the first official sale of 81 fat sheep, eight fat bullocks and heifers, one springing heifer, an in-calf cow, two bulls and a couple of carts.

The auction market has undergone several changes over the last 134 years, and the 2020 lockdown has enforced yet new challenges and changes. As in the past, Skipton Auction Mart has risen to the challenges proving once again why it pioneers the way for animals going under the gavel.

Skipton Auction Mart – a vital hub for both town and trade

by Robin Moule

The current location of Skipton Auction Mart on Gargrave Road.

Skipton Auction Mart continues to fulfil a keynote role in the town and trade of Skipton and in support both the local and regional economy.

General Manager and auctioneer Jeremy Eaton

While from an operational viewpoint Covid-19 has caused a difficult few months, the mart has carried on with live auctions every week, among them sales of prime cattle and lambs.

General manager and auctioneer Jeremy Eaton points out: “The live auction system remains vital if we are to continue to meet the needs of our customers – both regional farmer producers and our retail and wholesale butcher buyers.

“Together, we all play a key role in helping to keep shop and supermarket shelves fully stocked by maintaining food supply in a controlled and safe environment, and meeting the needs of the end user – the public at large.”

Indeed, many improvements have been put in place at the mart to help ensure the health and safety of all customers – both are now allowed on site under strictly regulated conditions – during Covid-19, notably in meeting Government safe distancing guidelines. These measures include:

  • Installation of special individual enclosed buyer bidding booths around all three main livestock sale rings.
  • Special seating and standing areas in all the sale rings reserved solely for vendors.
2020 modernisation to become covid-secure includes enclosed buyer bidding booths around all three main livestock sale rings.
Special seating and standing areas in all the sale rings reserved solely for vendors.

They are regarded as vital, as the mart forges ahead with plans for its forthcoming high profile autumn breeding and pedigree sheep and cattle sales season, which attracts vendors and buyers from the length of the country.

The world record price was set for a working sheep dog at an official sale held on Friday, February 21 at Skipton Auction Mart when Northumberland shepherdess, 34-year-old Emma Gray, hit 18,000gns (£18,900) with her two-and-a-half-year-old black and white bitch, Megan.
Ten-month-old Tynygraig Jet was sold by Dewi Jenkins, of Tal-y-bont in Ceredigion for £12,000, at Skipton Auction Mart. The previous record at the centre for a dog under 12 months was £7,035. The auction was the world’s first-ever virtual timed two-day working sheep dog sale with real-time viewing, along with a live pre-sale conference facility. (Wed & Thurs, July 15 & 16)

Skipton will be staging both live and online timed sales. The latter have proved really successful. For example, the recent first-ever virtual timed working sheep dog sale established not one, but two new world-record prices – £12,000 for a dog under one-year-old and £2,350 for an unbroken five-month-old pup.

These were on top of another new world record price of a staggering £18,900 for a fully broken dog of any age established at the last ‘live’ sale in February. Little wonder then that Skipton Auction Mart is the UK’s leading working sheep dog sale centre.

But, it’s far more than a livestock mart. The Gargrave Road site is an important hub for business and education – indeed, the entire community, being home to many agricultural-related bodies and businesses, Craven College and, under normal circumstances, The Mart Theatre.

Craven Cattle Marts,
Gargrave Road,
Skipton, BD23 1UD.

Contact info:

Phone: 01756 792 375
Fax: 01756 797 959