August 31, 2009

The Last Sheep Sale at Bellingham Mart

New Video and Book Launched at 2009 Bellingham Show

The Bellingham Heritage Centre launched their first DVD The Last Sheep Sale, about the former Bellingham Mart, at the 2009 Bellingham Show.

Bellingham Mart closed in 2004.

The DVD has been produced through the co-operation and sponsorship of the Northumberland National Park Authority, and a donation from Hexham and Northern Marts.

The DVD will be on sale at £12.99. Postage and packing extra.

DVD review by Clive Dalton
For a former 'village laddie' who couldn't wait for mart day to be part of the action, the DVD is a magic journey back into Northumbrian farming and social history.

To anyone interested in the traditions and history of Northumberland, and to relive the great gatherings of sheep and country folk from both sides of the Border and beyond, this DVD is essential viewing. To many it's guaranteed to bring a tear to the eye.

Collier's old historical photos of farming and local folk set the scene so well, and veteran auctioneer Maurice Reed gives a great account of how marketing the thousands of sheep sold at Bellingham for over a century, developed through the ups and downs of farming. Bellingham was clearly the hub of a massive agricultural business.

Northumberland has always farmed record sheep numbers and the DVD highlights so well, the pride farmers and shepherds took in their presentation for sale.

It was wonderful to see the DVD dedication to the late Matthew (Potter) Wood, and to hear him talking about what he liked in a sheep. Potter was an icon of Northumbrian sheep farming and a master of their preparation for show or sale. His comments are priceless.

The last mart at Bellingham may have gone, but you can still be there, and even maybe get a last bid in on the Brieredge gimmers by watching this great video. The music by another great Northumbrian Harry Pearson, goes well with the wonderful atmosphere created by the auctioneers' patter, folk having a crack leaning on the pens, or struggling to carry their pies and peas to an empty space at the cafe table.

You'll also hear the wonderful sound of the real Northumbrian dialect, and you can admire the shepherds' beautifully-crafted 'mart sticks'. Everyone involved in the DVD production needs to be congratulated on 'a grrand job weel dun'. The DVD should be on the shelf of everyone who has had any association with Northumberland.

Helen Brown, shepherd and photographer from Tarset, has also launched her new book of photographs The Last Mart. It is over 80 pages with 200+ photographs and a must-have reference book for future generations.

You can buy it from the innovative online publishing company here: for only 17GBP in softcover or a special presentation hardcover at only 25GBP.

Book review by Clive Dalton
The book is brilliant - and it's a 'must buy' for anyone with connections or an interest in Northumberland, marts, sheep, shepherds, country folk, and a wonderful but sadly long-gone way of life. It's photo journalism at its best.

Helen Brown has gone to great effort to name the folk in most of the shots, and that alone is important agricultural history for those who follow. The fact that she got lifted up in a bucket to get the panorama views among the 190 pictures in the book, shows her dedication to the mighty task of documenting the event.

Every picture is a gem - you can almost smell the sheep and hear the crack going on in the photos! As a shepherd and a skilled photographer, Helen was the person for the job, as she has added so much extra information such as the prices various lots made and which farm they were from.

After over 100 years, Bellingham mart has maybe gone for ever but Helen Brown's book has 'given hor a grrand sendoff'!

Daft Laddies book (Clive Dalton and Don Clegg)
Our own Daft Laddies tale of the Bellingham mart (on this blog) can be found here.


  1. From Dr Tom Batey, Aberdeen
    Many thanks Clive for sending details of the Last Sheep Sale; I have ordered a copy. To see Jack Walton in full flow was a sight to see. I remember at one sale, I think it was Tucker Jamieson's lorry that tipped over on the sharp bank a few miles south - most of the lambs survived; a friend of ours hadn't heard and wondered why that lot were selling so cheaply! Not a good buy. I was at one sale when over 21 000 went through - quite a day for wagons, drovers and auctioneers.

  2. More crack from Dr Tom Batey

    Talking about lamb sales, reminds me that during the war, getting transport was difficult (petrol coupons and all that). So we used to take the back seat out of the Ford 8 (not a big car) and push in 4 maybe 5 lambs. Packed in tight - they got hot of course and the steamy smell was overpowering. There was a bit more air when one the sheep pushed its head through the back window. Then we bought a trailer to be pulled behind the car. No proper fitting just a bit of metal added on to the bumper. Coming back with lambs in the back and another 10 in the trailer, we got a puncture in the trailer near Knowesgate Station. So Father had to jack it up, take off the wheel, pull out the tube and take it down to the stream to search for the hole. Oh the joys of farming on a shoestring!!

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