Chitterne Racing Stables

During World War 2 the War Department compulsorily purchased Chitterne Lodge, the Stables and 3000 acres stretching from Chitterne to Shrewton. The Stables were closed for the duration of the war and troops were billeted in the Lodge.

Jim and Mary Ford bought Chitterne Lodge and the Stables from the War Department in 1957. Jim ran the Racing Stables, and his wife Mary ran the Lodge as a Guest House.

Jim's most successful horse was Gay Donald, the winner of the Cheltenham Gold cup in 1955 when Jim was his trainer at Park house Stables, Cholderton. Gay Donald accompanied Jim to Chitterne two years later. Gay Donald was ridden by jockey Tony Grantham and owned by the Burts, a farming family from Sutton Veny. He was a very friendly and idiosyncratic horse who loved Liquorice Allsorts and tucking into Jim's sardine sandwiches for lunch on an awayday. For many years one of the horseshoes from his huge feet hung on display on a beam at the village pub, The King's Head.

Jim had many other wins and was a popular trainer in racing circles. He is remembered through the Jim Ford Chase held at Wincanton every year, and the Jim Ford Cup, the winner's cup that he and Mary donated.

Sadly, Jim died in 1970, and the Racing Stables were sold to Ian Dudgeon, who lived at first in Lodge Cottage, where Jim had housed his stable lads, and eventually in Paddock House, built on a patch of land next door to the Lodge that Ian bought from Mary Ford.

Ian carried on training horses at the stables for many years and had an all-weather track constructed behind Paddock House. He put the house and stables up for sale in 1987. The stables were sold to developers and converted into eight cottages.

Thanks to Bernard Pike for pointing out that Gay Donald won the Cheltenham Gold Cup before he came to Chitterne.

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