Sheriff Hutton – a perfect hideaway in East Yorkshire

A North Yorkshire village is home to one of Britain's most famous racehorse trainers as well as quite a few contented villagers, says Bill Hearld

Everyone I spoke to agreed that Sheriff Hutton was a peaceful, quiet place to live. That’s when the air attack began. For almost an hour, as I strolled round the village with long-time resident Richard Haste, conversation was almost impossible as jets carried out low-level manoeuvres overhead.

The terrain of Ryedale has long been favoured by the RAF for practice flights. It’s not frequent, but no-one knows when the ‘strikes’ are coming. It all served as a reminder that we are in the 21st century, because Sheriff Hutton has much rich history.

As you drive into the village, you are suddenly confronted by the huge, towering ruins of an ancient castle dominating the houses around it. The castle was built in the late 14th century and after changing hands several times was given to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later to become Richard III. Richard, who is thought to have visited the castle many times, established a royal household there and set up the Council of the North, which held its meetings at Sheriff Hutton and York.

Richard sent members of his family and a handful of nobles to the castle when he expected an invasion by Henry Tudor in the late 15th century. It later became the property of Henry VII and Henry VIII eventually gave it to his son, Henry.

Richard III’s only son Edward is believed to have been buried in Sheriff Hutton’s 900-year-old Church of St Helen and the Holy Cross after he died aged 11. An alabaster effigy of a child marks the tomb.

Once a magnificent dwelling, of princely proportions and home to generations of royalty, the castle is now just a ruin in private ownership. A public footpath allows a circular walk around it.

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Today Sheriff Hutton is a sprawling but attractive village of 1,000 people set in rolling farmland. It has lots of green areas and a village ‘square’ that is actually a triangle on a crossroads. The village vista includes the Yorkshire Wolds at one side, the Howardian Hills on another.

It has held onto its post office, which includes a shop, and some say it is the heart of the village where residents call for a chat and catch up on the gossip. It also acts as a pharmacy because people can order a prescription from local surgeries and the medication is delivered to the post office for collection by the patient.

Alan and Gillian Pitman have run the post office and store for eight years. They arrived as ‘foreigners’ from Ludlow and fell in love with the place. They are proud of the role the shop plays in village life and that residents are fiercely supportive of the post office.

‘We try to stock as much local produce as possible. Our meats, bread, jams and preserves are all locally sourced,’ said Alan, a talented photographer who turns his pictures of local scenes into postcards and calendars.

The shop displays local advertisements and all the proceeds go to charities, including the Yorkshire Air Ambulance. ‘When you live in a small village, you have to do your bit for the community,’ said Alan.

Sheriff Hutton has two pubs, garages (no petrol, though) and– incongruously for such a rural area – a busy industrial park on the outskirts of the village. It also has two thriving businesses which you would have thought might have difficulty surviving in a small village.

Alison Massingham’s flower shop overlooks the village square and although she says Sheriff Hutton is not short of romantic people who like to say it with flowers, her business is boosted by contracts for hotels, weddings and special corporate occasions.

Across the road is York Wines, a specialist wine shop which again thrives on internet business, importing wines from around the world and supplying them to discerning drinkers around the country. The shop, appropriately, was once a pub, the Duke of Wellington and, later, the Lord Nelson. Proprietor Stuart Vass says they taste all the wines before they supply them. Sounds a rotten job but somebody has to do it.Sheriff Hutton Village Hall was built in 1984 and now bustles with activities including playgroups, indoor sports, drama, music, fitness classes and dancing. ‘We might be in the middle of nowhere but there’s plenty going on,’ said Alison Massingham.

Oh, and did I mention that tucked away on the edge of the village are the stables of one of Britain’s most famous racehorse trainers? For half a century, Mick Easterby has trained champion racehorses from his yard at Sheriff Hutton. His famous winners include Mrs McArdy (1,000 Guineas), Wiganthorpe (Gimcrack Stakes) and Gentleman’s Deal (Winter Derby).

Mick Easterby moved to Sheriff Hutton from Huddersfield in 1955 and established one of the country’s most successful racing stables along with a large arable farm.

He says he never takes a holiday because being at home is a holiday. ‘My life’s one long holiday. Sheriff Hutton is the most beautiful place on earth – but don’t tell anyone.’

‘It is a beautiful village tucked away in lovely countryside but with easy access to York and from there, anywhere in the country,’ says Richard Haste, a rail consultant who moved to Sheriff Hutton in 1974. ‘It is quiet and peaceful, we have no vandalism or anti-social behaviour and the only litter we have is dropped by visitors,’ he adds.

Richard is a former parish councillor and is secretary of the village hall trust. He and his wife Wendy are joint editors of the village newsletter.‘It’s the sort of place where you can get involved if you want to and there’s plenty to get involved in. If you are in trouble, people will help.

The post office is a great place. Anyone with mobility problems can get to it, especially to use the prescription service. And for those people who cannot get to the doctors in neighbouring villages, there’s always someone to give them a lift. We have a very friendly, supportive community.’

Richard describes Sheriff Hutton as a commuter village that has an ideal mix of older people and young families. ‘We have a great village school, a good selection of local businesses, it’s a wonderful location. What more could we ask for?’

Getting there: Sheriff Hutton in Ryedale is 10 miles north of York and10 miles from Malton. It is a few miles off the A64 York-Scarborough road. There are four buses each day to and from York and Malton.

Where to park: There is plenty of on-street parking.

What to do: Sherriff Hutton is set in beautiful countryside with lots of walking routes, especially the circular around the castle ruins. There are two pubs offering food and drink and there are guest houses for accommodation. Castle Howard is only three miles away.