Middleham is very much part of Herriot Country having appeared in the original series of All Creatures Great and Small three times. The Manor House was the home of the Barraclough family in “Against the Odds”, Middleham Antiques, in North Road, became Geoff Hatfield’s confectionery shop in “Where Sheep May Safely Graze”, and Ferndale became the home of the Darnley sisters in “The Rough and the Smooth”.
Set between the River Ure and the River Cover in Wensleydale, Middleham was first established in Roman times and the first Middleham Castle was built in 1069 by William the Conqueror’s cousin Alan Rufus and who was also the 1st Lord of Richmond. A new Castle began in the 12th Century with largest keep in the north of England and by the 15th Century became Richard III’s favourite castle and has been dubbed the “Windsor of the North”. It is now managed by English Heritage.
Middleham is famed for its horse racing history which began as far back as 1733 when Isaac Cape as a jockey in 1733 became the first specialist racehorse trainer here. Racing was established on the High Moor as early as 1739 and meetings were held regularly during the 18th century. Middleham’s trainers and their thoroughbred race horses have won major horse racing championships such as the Scottish, Welsh and English Grand Nationals, the Ayr Gold Cup, York Ebor Handicap (three times) The Yorkshire Cup, the November Handicap (five times) the Cesarewitch, the Lincoln Handicap, the Magnet Cup and the Royal Hunt Cup, to name a few.
Discovery near the Castle of the Middleham Jewel, “one of the most exquisite pieces of English Gothic jewellery found this century”, in 1985 brought fame again for Middleham when local metal detectorist Ted Seaton found the gold pendant weighing 68 gm together with a 10 carat blue sapphire stone. A scene of the Trinity is engraved on one side of the diamond-shaped pendant and has a border of burnished gold surrounding a raised panel which gives a cameo effect and highlights the engraving. Sold at auction for an incredible £1.3 million this marvellous find is now at The Yorkshire Museum, in York which raised £2.5 million to acquire the now world-famous Jewel and keep it in this country.
Middleham is perfect for walking, cycling, sightseeing remote farms, beautiful little villages and heather covered grouse moors. It is a popular location for artists set amidst the breath-taking scenery of Wensleydale. Plus, its colourful history and thriving horse-racing community make it a real Herriot Country destination. The World of James Herriot in Thirsk is only 23 miles away (around 40-minute drive).