Welcome to CAGEDALE RYELANDS est. 1962
The Sheep from the 14th Century still graze in the beautiful Golden Valley of Herefordshire, England.
Ryeland Sheep in my lifetime by Graham Morgan
The Ryeland Society celebrates its Centenary this year having continued to uphold the principles and resolutions of those early breeders who had met at The Green Dragon Hotel in Broad Street, Hereford on 2nd December 1903 to promote a Breed Society which would encourage the breeding of Ryeland Sheep at home and overseas and to ensure the maintenance of the purity of the breed.
Large flocks of Ryeland sheep had already been established throughout the British Isles long before that early meeting at the Green Dragon Hotel in Hereford.The keeping of true records being left to the integrity of each individual shepherd or flockmaster.
The Ryeland was originally best known for its production of fine wool. The nearby market town of Leominster became an important centre for the trade in this much sought after product. Its reputation as a sire in lamb production for the meat trade was soon to follow.
Although the origins of the breed are lost in the mists of time, it has been speculated that Ryelands would have been known as early as 1343 and may have come to this country from Spain.
Past records show that their ability to thrive in all climates and conditions prompted the export of the breed to Australia, New Zealand, South America, South Africa, Ireland, Russia, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, North America and Canada. In 1936 alone 50 rams went to South Africa, 9 to Australia, 7 to South America and 10 to Canada.
In 1939 another consignment of 25 rams went to South Africa.
Although I did not become a flockowner until 1962 I have been associated with the breed throughout my life, My grandfather who farmed at Gilwern, near Abergavenny was also a meat trader and always used a Ryeland ram on his Welsh ewes. My wife's parents who farmed in Cardiganshire used Ryeland sires for several decades before retirement.
A great deal of interest was shown in the field trials carried out by the pupils of Kingstone High School several decades ago for the Ryeland Society. The aim of the trials was to authenticate or otherwise the claims made by the Society with regard to the Ryeland as a terminal sire to meet the requirements of the meat trade. Ten rams were loaned to the school by Society Members and placed on farms where volunteer pupils lived. Detailed records were kept throughout with weekly weighing of lambs from birth onwards.
A stock show was held at the School when the lambs were fit and ready. A top grader was invited to inspect the lambs and to place them in order of merit. The late Viscount Portman accompanied by his wife presented the Rosettes to the proud Exhibitors.
The winning pens of lambs were then sent on to the Three Counties Show the following week to compete against flockmasters from all over the British Isles in the prestigious lamb carcase event. As many pupils, parents and staff will recall the entries from the School swept the board, winning both the heavy and lightweight Classes, with the lightweight lambs taking the Championship Trophy awarded by Barclays Bank. I would like to have named the two winning competitors but they were part of a team and the result was due to combined efforts. All I will say is that the winning lightweights were Ryeland x Sennybridge Welsh (Cheviot x Welsh) and were bred in Blakemere. The winning heavyweight lambs were Ryeland x Clun and were bred in Clehonger by another pupil. That year the Ryeland Society Members had many demands for rams.
During the School Year in question, apart from the breeding programme taking place in the trials, other skills began to materialise with the welcome help from other Departments. Graphs depicting numbers of lambs produced from different ewe Breeds and the weekly weight gains of the individual lambs.
Cookery skills took on a new dimension with Crown of lamb being a new feature. Butchers came to demonstrate their skills in jointing and preparing the meat in so many different ways. The Housecraft Department also became involved in the curing of sheepskins, and the preparation of wool for spinning and weaving.Experiments were carried out with dyes made from natural sources and garments were produced. Because a spinning wheel was not available, the Metalwork teacher adapted an old sewing machine to do the work. This enterprise created a great deal of interest when on public display.
Sheep hurdles were produced in the old fashioned way, and a foot-rot bath was made from fibreglass, and vigorously tested. The Art Department was also involved in numerous ways and Photography was used extensively to record the activities both in and out of School. I still have a picture of my present day Milkman, as a boy, testing out the
coracle he had helped to build having launched it on the learners swimming pool.
In Scripture the 23rd Psalm became more meaningful than before. The Biology Department was also involved, investigating the internal and external parasites, which affected the sheep generally. The Department also did an in depth study into the genetic formula involved when a coloured lamb was produced from white parents, and looking into the mysteries of the recessive gene. A booklet was produced which is still available to Society
A collection of slides dealing with the many aspects of the project was assembled in carousel form with a synchronized voiceover. This went on public display at the Three Counties Show one year and was received with acclaim. It was borrowed on many occasions by Educational Establishments, Training Colleges and the like. Overseas visitors to the County looking for new ideas in Education were frequent visitors to the School.
They were not so much interested in the Sheep Project, but the diversity of interests which had arisen as a result. They were able to see for themselves, and we had the proof to show how an otherwise reluctant pupil, given the right stimulus, would pick up pen and paper and unwittingly delve into subjects, which he would normally have cast aside.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the time I have been with the Ryeland Society. The Members come from all walks of life. Over the years we have had peers of the Realm like the Duke of Westminster (flock 230), Lord Cawley of Berrington, Lord Brocket and Viscount Portman.
Another well-known Member was the Hon.R.S. Cripps who joined in 1925. He presented the Society with a solid silver statuette known as the Grist Statuette. The Hon.R.S.Cripps was later to become Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1945-1950 Labour Government…….and then there's the rest of us.
As we look back at some of the old Flock Books we read the names of those who have gone before us and who had gained the respect of fellow Members for their skills in producing sheep of outstanding quality. Thomas, Perkins, Driscoll, Herbert, Webb, Dent, Homes and Langford are but a few of those early pioneers.
In these later years we have sadly missed those breeders we had the privilege of knowing so well. They were the perfectionists against whom we endeavoured to compete with in our breeding and in the show ring. The names that come to mind are Percy Webb, Cyril Kenning, Ernest Stevens, Abraham Jones, George Richardson, Gordon Roberts, Derek Goodwin, Gordon Morgan, Gerald Tibbey and Bob Jordan to name but a few.
Bob Jordan had been in charge of the famous Berrington flock before moving to Aldersend,Tarrington to supervise Lord Brocketts flock of Ryeland sheep. When I purchased my first sheep it was through his help and guidance that I was able to achieve my early successes. To this day I try to follow the advice he gave me so many years ago. He was the accepted craftsman with a pair of shears, to me he was the Master Shepherd of his era.
We look back with respect and admiration for those who went before us.
Graham Morgan (1926-2006)
Founder of the Cagedale flock of Ryeland Sheep.
This article was written in 2003
More about the Cagedale Ryeland Flock
The Cagedale flock of Ryeland sheep was established in 1962 with stock purchased from Lord Brocket who had the blood lines of the famous Berrington Flock and other leading breeders of the day.
The Cagedale flock has maintained the true characteristics of the breed throughout and this has proven to be one of the hallmarks of the success achieved over the years.
The Cagedale Flock have been members of The Ryeland Flock Book Society since the flock's conception in 1962.