The sheep are depicted in a landscape and the picture is inscribed ‘A sweepstake of one sovereign each, 3 subscribers and three sovereigns added by the society for the best pen of 3 yearling weathers bred by Mr T. Lloyd Upper Priddleton. The Stakes were open to all England Oct 4th 1839. Painted by J. Miles of Northleach.’ Upper Priddleton is between Leominster and Bromyard, Herefordshire.
H. 28.25" (72cm) W. 35.5" (90cm)
Stock No. 8792M
Purchased from a descendent of Thomas Lloyd’s family who farmed, until recent retirement, in Lyonshall - between Hereford and Kington – just 16 miles from Priddleton, and who subsequently moved to live near Ross on Wye.
John Miles (1781 – c1850) was a journeyman artist living and working in Northleach in Gloucestershire, who became renowned for his painting of animals, country life and, most especially, farm livestock. With the advent of livestock and agricultural shows around England in which the competition to win became very intense, it became traditional for the winners to have their prize-winning animals painted as a record of their success. These prize creatures, from their breeding and selling, also had the potential to produce significant revenue for farmers and landowners and many fortunes were made. Agricultural shows began to multiply at the beginning of the 19th century and beast and owner would travel considerable distances to compete. Evidence from extensive research tells us that a large, annual, sheep fair, supported by the Wiltshire Agricultural Society, was held in Wiley, Wiltshire, on 4th October of 1839 and most probably was the particular show to which this painting refers. These agricultural shows and fairs grew in strength and number throughout the 19th century and many have survived to the present day, the Leominster show, in fact, becoming the Three Counties Show. In 1838, the English Agricultural Society was formed and was given its royal charter by Queen Victoria in 1840 and, in turn, held its Royal Show once a year in various venues throughout the country until it became established at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, in 1963.
This particular painting refers to the prize-winning yearling wethers of a T. Lloyd of Upper Priddleton. A wether is a castrated male sheep and a yearling is any sheep between the age of 1 and 2 years. It is believed that the sheep in the picture are the ancient breed of Ryeland sheep, historically renowned for their superior wool. Thomas Lloyd was a farmer of 230 acres in Upper Priddleton, nr Leominster, Herefordshire, from the 1830s to the 1850s. He is noted in the census of 1861 that he had become a cattle dealer. There is little doubt he would have actively shown his animals at both the Herefordshire and Leominster Agricultural Society Shows that were held annually as well as travel to other counties’ and towns’ shows. In fact, farmers regularly took their prize animals to major shows and fairs throughout the country, travelling by both road and rail.