Ferngill House
If you can provide any photos associated with this stable, or additional information to fill any gaps then contact johnwslusar@gmail.com
1880s-1892 Robert Osborne
On the death of John Osborne senior on Monday 31st July 1865, Ashgill stables were taken over by the brothers John Howe Osborne, then aged 32, who was continuing to make a name for himself as one of the foremost jockeys of his generation, William, born Brompton on Swale, Catterick, then aged 35, and Robert, then aged 26, who later used Ferngill as his residence. Their sister Ellen, then aged 19, later became Ellen Chaloner, matriarch of the famous Chaloner family based at Osborne House, Newmarket. She was one of the first women to train, although she initially had to do so by using her sons name to register for a licence, as the Jockey Club had not modernised by that stage. In the 1871 Census William Howe Osborne was the registered trainer at Ashgill, ably supported by brother Robert, assistant trainer, William Platt, 19, a stable jockey, Walter Wood, 21, stable jockey, George Platt, 20, Head Groom, and 24 stable boys. Ten years later the 1881 Census showed William, aged 52, as the Ashgill trainer, employing no less than 35 stable grooms. A decade further on William remained the trainer, with his nephew William Platt as his jockey, Joseph Garratt, 32, his Head Groom, and 19 stable boys. By that stage brother Robert was training at Thorngill between 1891 and 1892, and continued to live at Ferngill.

1924-1941 Gerald Armstrong
Gerald Armstrong, oldest son of trainer Robert Ward Armstrong, was always likely to carve out a career in horse racing and was a very promising amateur jockey. When the family moved from Clifton Hill stables, Penrith to Tupgill in 1923, father Robert trained at Tupgill, which he had owned since 1906, but had leased it to Captain N Scott, and bought Ashgill for son Fred and Thorngill for Gerald, although Gerald did not train there until later. Their sister Doris later owned Tupgill when their father died. Gerald trained under both codes in his early training career, starting with a string of 14 at Tupgill, winning the 1924 Topcliffe Handicap at Thirsk with Sir Emanuel Hoyle's IOS. He continued to train at Tupgill, with numbers fluctuating for the next decade between a low of 17 in 1927 and a high of 26 in 1929. He won the Hardwick Plate at Pontefract in 1934 with Joan of Arc 20/1, owned by Mrs P Cantrell-Hubbersty, and a year later, when his string had expanded to 39, he won the 1935 Grove Hurdle at Sedgefield with Chalo owned by Major C Whowell. Arguably, his best win came in 1936 when he maintained a string of 36, notching up a Royal Ascot success in the Jersey Stakes with Thankerton ridden by head waiter Harry Wragg. In 1940 and 1941 he was recorded, in Horses in Training, to be based at Ferngill, although this is most likely to have been his residence for some time, as Ferngill did not have any stables, so it is most likely that he continued to stable his horses at Tupgill.

However, in 1942 he transferred to Thorngill where he trained just 21 horses in his first year.
1924 Topcliffe Handicap at Thirsk IOS 10/1 owned by Sir Emanuel Hoyle, trained by Gerald Armstrong and ridden by G Walsh
1934 Hardwick Plate at Pontefract JOAN OF ARC 20/1 owned by Mrs P Cantrell-Hubbersty, trained by Gerald Armstrong and ridden by R Crisp
1935 Grove Hurdle at Sedgefield CHALO 11/8 fav owned by Major C Whowell, trained by Gerald Armstrong and ridden by A Waudby
1936 Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot THANKERTON 1/2 fav owned by Mrs J Shand, trained by Gerald Armstrong and ridden by Harry Wragg

I am grateful to Ordnance Survey (© Crown Copyright) for permission to use the 1882 map shown above.
Thirsk Subscription Token Ripon Stand Token Catterick Token 1848 Thirsk Gents 1932 Ripon Gents 1930

October 1952-1955 Melton Avril Vasey
Melton Avril Vasey, born on 4th April 1906 in Doncaster, was the son of Fred Melton Vasey and came from a racing family steeped in history, his grandfather also trained, as did his uncle Peter. Avril was a professional jumps jockey from 1923 until 1934, partnering his first winner, Son O'Lomond, at Leicester on 19th February 1924. A remarkable incident happened in the 1929 Scottish Grand National at Bogside when he rode Donzelon, which fell at the water jump, and Avril was knocked out; he would surely have drowned had Bilbie Rees not fallen at the same water jump and rescued him. After hanging up his riding boots in 1934 he assisted his father Melton who was training at Belle Vue, Doncaster, and when his father died in early 1952 Avril took over the licence. However, in July 1952 he received a letter from F Weatherby, Secretary of the Jockey Club, instructing him, and 4 other trainers, that their licence would not be renewed in 1953 unless they vacated the stables. The Jockey Club decreed that no trainer could train from racecourse stables on a permanent basis, and that Town Moor stables would have to be vacated. During his time in Doncaster Avril, a keen golfer, was Captain of the Town Moor Golf Club for 3 seasons. Avril had to search around for new stables, and transferred his string from Woodborough House, Belle Vue to live in Ferrngill House, Middleham in October 1952 and train in stables nearby. He hit the ground running, landing his first winner from his new stables in November 1952 when British Paragon won the Consolation Plate at Manchester. In October 1953 Avril celebrated the engagement of his 3rd daughter, Patricia, to jump jockey Peter Chisman, the happy couple marrying early in 1954. Also, in 1953 Mr G Munro's Tangram notched up a sequence of 4 wins, 4 of the 26 wins Avril enjoyed that season, and ran credibly in the 1954 Lincoln Handicap partnered by stable jockey Stan Clayton. In 1954 Mr Arthur Hughes' Whitebrigg ran up a sequence of 4 consecutive handicap wins, culminating in the Great St Wilfrid Handicap at Ripon. In his 3 full seasons whilst living in Ferngill House he trained 32, 28 and 23 horses, but always thought that there was the potential to train more, so in 1956 he moved to Kingsley House Stables where he enjoyed success in some high profile races.
1952 Consolation Plate at Manchester BRITISH PARAGON 4/7 fav trained by M Avril Vasey and ridden by Willie Snaith
1953 Frying Dale Plate at Redcar FAVILLA 7/2 fav trained by M Avril Vasey and ridden by P Maher
1954 Ferngill Handicap at Catterick Bridge WHITEBRIGG 5/1 owned by Arthur Hughes, trained by M Avril Vasey and ridden by Stan Clayton
1954 Martha Lynn Handicap at Stockton WHITEBRIGG 3/1 owned by Arthur Hughes, trained by M Avril Vasey and ridden by Stan Clayton
1954 Durham County Handicap Plate at Stockton WHITEBRIGG 5/1 owned by Arthur Hughes, trained by M Avril Vasey and ridden by Stan Clayton
1954 Great St Wilfrid Handicap at Ripon WHITEBRIGG 5/2 owned by Arthur Hughes, trained by M Avril Vasey and ridden by Stan Clayton

April 1960-1962 Joseph Hartigan
Joseph Henry Hartigan, born in 1919, trained at Tarporley until March 1960 before relocating to the Tupgill Estate near Middleham. He took up lodgings at Ferngill in April 1960, although there were no stables at Ferngill, so he stabled his horses at nearby Tupgill. He began with a string of 22 in 1961, which decreased to 17 the next year. By 1963 Joseph had transferred his string of 22 to Thorngill stables which were close by.

© John Slusar 2023

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