Celebrating Ancient Traditions

Goathland Plough Stots held their annual Day of Dance on 18th January 2020, upholding the ancient tradition of sword-dancing in the farming villages of North Yorkshire. One of the few remaining teams in the UK, the Plough Stots have not only survived but thrived in recent years, adding a women’s and a junior team to their male troops of dancers.

The dance itself is a circular march performed by six or eight dancers carrying semi-rigid, blunt longswords which concludes with the formation of a star shaped lock, often referred to as a ‘rose’. It has evolved from a much older tradition of ‘blessing the plough’ when the young farming lads of the village dragged a replica plough through the streets to the local church each January so that it could be blessed for the coming year.

Commenting on the success of this year’s event Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow said: “The Plough Stots Committee has worked extremely hard over the years to encourage people to participate in longsword dancing, including giving lessons in local schools. As a result a junior Plough Stots troop took part this month for the first time in 30 years. I congratulate everyone involved in supporting the Plough Stots on keeping the tradition alive and extending the appeal of this event to a new generation.”

Originally based at the Reading Room on Goathland Common, the Plough Stots are now headquartered at the Village Community Hub where they rehearse, store equipment and memorabilia and put on occasional public displays. Run entirely by volunteers the Plough Stots are hugely actively in the community and regularly raise funds for charitable causes. Last year, they took on the Three Peaks Challenge, performing a longsword dance at the top of each Peak and raising £8,014.88 for the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group in the process.

The Duchy of Lancaster’s Goathland Estate covers approximately 4,324 hectares and includes a large area of internationally important heather moorland, the majority of which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The moors are also featured in several films and television productions including Harry Potter and Heartbeat.

For more information on the Plough Stots and their schedule of performances, please visit www.gothlandploughstots.co.uk.

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New Financial Controller Joins The Team

Nicola Swindells joins the Duchy team as Financial Controller on 6th January, taking over the role from Steve Davies who is retiring after 35 years of invaluable service.

Nicola is ACCA qualified with a degree in Accounting and Finance and has 8 years’ property experience with Hammerson Plc and 4 years with Capital and Counties Properties Plc. Over the next 6 weeks she will work closely with Steve to ensure a smooth handover of duties and responsibilities.

Commenting on the new appointment, Duchy CFO Chris Adcock said: “Steve has helped to steer the Duchy through a period of continuous change and growth during his tenure and will be sorely missed by everyone who has worked with him. We have been at pains to ensure that we find the right person with the appropriate skills and experience and we look forward to welcoming Nicola to the team while of course wishing Steve a long and happy retirement.”

Based at the Duchy’s London HQ on Lancaster Place, Nicola will be working closely with the Rural Financial Controller to continually enhance the processes, controls, management information and efficiencies within the team and the wider Duchy.

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Duchy Expands In Whitewell

As part of its strategic acquisition programme the Duchy of Lancaster has purchased a further 226 acres in the Forest of Bowland. Higher Lickhurst Farm marches with the Duchy’s Whitewell estate and the steading includes a range of modern agricultural buildings as well as an agricultural dwelling in need of refurbishment. In addition to the farm’s 226 acres of pastureland the acquisition also includes ownership of two-thirds of the adjoining Stanley Common which covers a further 96 acres.

Higher Lickhurst has now been let to John West, the owner of a neighbouring 120-acre farm where he runs a herd of pedigree Brown Swiss cattle.  Higher Lickhurst Farm will provide accommodation for his youngstock which are currently split between a number of short- term FBTs and grazing agreements.

Commenting on the acquisition, Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow said: “We are delighted to be able to extend the south western corner of the historic Whitewell Estate. This acquisition adds a significant quantum of pasture land to help us to redress the balance of upland grazing prevalent on the Estate and we look forward to working with John in the months ahead to integrate both steadings effectively and efficiently.”

The Whitewell Estate now extends for some 6,369 acres within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that is the Forest of Bowland. It is part of the Duchy’s Lancashire Survey which also includes Estates at Myerscough, Salwick and Wyreside.

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Grade II Listed Cottage Restored and Re-Let

Working closely with the Conservation Officer of Scarborough Borough Council, the Duchy of Lancaster has completed its latest refurbishment on the Cloughton Estate in Yorkshire. The double-fronted period cottage at 25 High Street has been fully renovated to the Duchy’s own design guide and quality specification, creating a spacious and comfortable family home in the heart of the village.

The property was previously let to long-standing tenant Mrs Elsie Barlow who sadly passed away last autumn after having lived in the property for over 50 years. Neighbours at 45 High Street were regular visitors during recent years, providing lifts and helping out with shopping.

In the early stages of the refurbishment, they applied for and secured the tenancy. “We have always liked the house and we were eager to take it on ourselves” one said . “It has been beautifully refurbished and updated so I can only hope that we will be as happy in this lovely cottage as Elsie was.”

The Duchy of Lancaster developed its own Design Guide and Quality Specification in 2016 to ensure a consistent quality standard across its rural residential portfolio. In the past 3 years it has refurbished approximately 50 properties in line with the design guide.

Commenting on the project, Duchy Head of Rural Christopher Sparrow said: “Restoring a Grade II listed building always present challenges so we are very careful to retain as much of the building fabric and character as possible. At the same time, we appreciate that all of our properties need to offer a standard of comfort and quality that today’s tenants have the right to expect. We are delighted to be able to welcome a new generation of tenants to this lovely cottage.”

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Lancaster University Moves Into Lancaster Castle

Lancaster University is to open a new academic space in the former Link Block of Lancaster Castle.

The University has signed a two-year lease to operate the new purpose-built teaching suite completed last month as part of the Duchy’s latest phase of renovation and conservation.

A seminar room with a capacity for around 60 people will be used for academic events, teaching and training purposes. It will offer history and conservation students the chance to learn in a venue at the heart of their academic studies. Teaching for subjects with a particular relevance to the medieval Castle will take place during the current academic year. A small number of public events, building on the University’s links with the city, as well as staff and business meetings, will also take place in the venue.

Professor Dame Sue Black, Lancaster University Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Engagement, said: “Having a city-centre campus extension in Lancaster’s historic castle allows us to develop a major presence in the vibrant heart of the city with which we at the university have always had such strong connections. The new venue also provides the opportunity to foster successful partnerships, with businesses, community organisations and with the City Council. Working together with the Duchy of Lancaster, we are positive that we can both benefit and ensure that heritage is at the heart of the vision for the city.”

Andrew Burgess, Lancaster University Director of Estates, Facilities and Commercial Services, said: “Students will be able to enhance their academic experience through teaching as part of history-based lectures. Our links with leading business and public sector organisations will also give them the opportunity to meet with our local partners in this historic space.”

Duchy Chief Executive Nathan Thompson added: “We are delighted to welcome Lancaster University to the Castle. This partnership aligns perfectly with the Duchy’s ambitions for these historic buildings and supports the development of a heritage asset which serves as a cultural hub and centre of learning for the local community as well as for visitors to the city.”

The refurbished Castle was re-opened to the public last month after a two-year restoration and conservation project focused on the lower courtyards and buildings. As a result of the works, the Castle now offers visitors the chance to enjoy a remodelled piazza, covered cloister walk, gallery space and a new purpose-built visitor café operated by Atkinsons.


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