Stanley Clarke (businessman)

Last updated


Stanley Clarke

Stanley William Clarke

(1933-06-07)7 June 1933
Woods Lane, Stapenhill, Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, England
Died19 September 2004(2004-09-19) (aged 71)
Barton-under-Needwood, Staffordshire
Education Burton Technical High School
Occupation Plumber
Property developer
Horse trainer
Known for St. Modwen Properties
Northern Racing
Owner Lord Gyllene (Winner, 1997 Grand National)
Spouse(s)Hilda Leavesley (1957–2004) (His death)
Children3 daughters, 1 son
Awards CBE (1990)
Knight Bachelor (2001)

Sir Stanley William Clarke, CBE, DL (7 June 1933 – 19 September 2004) was an English businessman, property developer, horse racing enthusiast, and philanthropist. [1] [2] [3]


Early life

Stanley William Clarke was born in Woods Lane, Stapenhill, Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, [4] on 7 June 1933. His father Victor was previously a brewery worker, disabled by tuberculosis; [1] while his mother Mabel was a maid at Dunstall Hall. [5] To help his family financially when he was nine years old Clarke undertook a daily paper round before school, delivered prescription medication in the evenings, and at weekends delivered meat for the local butcher. [1] [5] Clarke was thinking of leaving school to become a farmer's hand, but his father persuaded him to stay on at Burton Technical High School. [5] Clarke's father died when Clarke was aged 11.


Aged 15, he became an apprentice plumber. [2] [4] On graduation he started his own business. Working from a bicycle with a front carrier for his tools, he aimed to provide a better service, at a better price, than anyone else. [2]

Aged 21, he agreed a deal with a local farmer to buy one acre of land. The farmer agreed to waive the purchase price of £125 until Clarke had gained planning permission, which he duly did and sold the land ownwards for £650 before paying for it. [2] [4] [5]

St Modwen Properties

In 1966, Clarke and his brother-in-law Jim Leavesley set up the building firm Clarke Quality Homes, [4] [6] which he developed into a major regional house builder. Building more than 500 houses a year, it was the largest privately owned house-building and development company in the country. [2] [4] Clarke believed that quality was a prime requirement of any business or private enterprise, a notion which gained Clarke Homes six National House Building Council awards on different sites around the country in a single year. [2]

In 1987, shortly before the property crash, [1] they sold the house building side of the business to BICC subsidiary Balfour Beatty for £51 million, [4] a company which at the time only had net assets of £6 million, and in which Clarke and his wife owned 80% of the company. [5] Always ready to reward his staff for work well done, on completion of the sale he shared £12 million among all of the company's employees. [1] [2]

Renaming the residual business St Modwen, in 1986 the management reversed the business into Redman Heenan International plc, a listed former engineering concern that had become a shell company. [6] At that time the name was changed to St. Modwen Properties plc. [6] In the 1980s the company developed the 1986 Stoke-on-Trent Garden Festival site, [6] Burton's Octagon Shopping Centre, the Britannia Stadium, [4] and the Concorde Business Park near Manchester Airport. [2]

The property crash of the early 1990s, brought a confrontation with NatWest bank: [1] [2]

Everyone was running scared, and the banks got after us. They said we've got to close offices, got to do a rights issue . . . I was so cross, I stood up to my full height . . . and I took my fist . . and I banged it down on the table. That's when we started the policy of using the rent roll to cover all dividends. They could never understand what we were doing, those City boys.

After this time the company began to concentrate on the development of brownfield sites as shopping centres, office buildings and industrial estates. [2]

Before Clarke's death, St Modwen had acquired the 228-acre former MG Rover factory at Longbridge for £42.5 million, and 600 acres of disused land from Corus at Llanwern steelworks for £17.5 million. The company was named the best real-estate performer in Europe for 2002, and has a current stock market valuation of £400 million; Clarke's personal stake in the company was estimated to be worth £80 million. [2]

Horse Racing


A devotee of horses and horse racing throughout his life, Clarke took out a trainer's licence in 1961. [1] He sent out eight winners, before deciding to withdraw in 1966 in favour of breeding his own string of racehorses. [2]

Owner and breeder

Clarke concentrated on breeding stock, and with his wife initially featured prominently on the point-to-point circuit, with good horses such as Mount Argus and Captain Frisk. [3]

The couples black-and-white-striped colours featured on a number of notable National Hunt racing winners. He stabled a number of horses with Somerset-based Martin Pipe, who trained Rolling Ball , the Royal and SunAlliance Chase winner at Cheltenham racecourse in 1991. [7] So excited was his wife by the success, that she fainted afterwards in the winner's enclosure. [3]

In 1993, Lord Relic won the 1993 Challow Hurdle at Newbury Racecourse by 10 lengths. [3]

The high point came in 1997, when his New Zealand-bred gelding Lord Gyllene (born 10 November 1988), trained by Steve Brookshaw and ridden by Tony Dobbin, won the 1997 Grand National at Aintree racecourse. [8] The victory of Lord Gyllene is remembered as much for the circumstances surrounding the bomb threats and re-staging of the Grand National on the following Monday, as for his win itself. [3] With a race record of 13 runs in the UK (won 4, second 5 and third once), Clarke retired the horse in 2001 due to injury.

His other notable horse was Barton, which trained by Tim Easterby won 14 out of his 20 races. [1] [9] Barton won the 1999 Royal & Sun Alliance Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, and is one of a few horses to defeat the triple Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Best Mate . [3]

Clarke was an active director of the Racecourse Association and a director of the British Bloodstock Agency. [1] In 1991 Clarke was elected a member of the Jockey Club. [1] [2]

Northern Racing

In 1988 Clarke acquired the lease on Uttoxeter racecourse from East Staffordshire district council. [1] He invested in new grandstands, improving facilities for racegoers, jockeys, trainers and horses, and greatly increased prize money. [2] He engaged customers, and requested feedback, including pinning up "How are we doing?" posters in the toilets. [3] [4]

The development of Uttoxeter formed the business model for Clarke's later seven purchases, each with a distinctive green and white livery as part of a re-branding that concentrated hugely on their having a "spotless" appearance. [3] The group eventually included: Brighton; Fontwell Park; Yarmouth; Bath; Hereford; Sedgefield. After buying Newcastle Racecourse, Clarke appeared on the first race day in the Silver Ring, mounted a soap box and addressed the crowd. Telling them that having inspected the facilities he was less than impressed, and promised to put things right with investment. The punters responded with an enthusiastic ovation. [2]

Naming the umbrella holding company Northern Racing, it was one of the first racecourse groups to negotiate directly with the bookmaking industry to secure a deal for transmitting pictures from their racecourses directly to Britain's betting shops, and later internationally. [3] [4]

In 2000, he took an 80% controlling stake in the Alternative Investment Market-listed Chepstow Racecourse plc. [1] Installing himself as Executive chairman, one of his daughters as a director and his son as CEO, he reversed his existing seven other racecourses into the listed entity, renaming it Northern Racing plc. [1] [2]


Clarke was a notable philanthropist, both donating and raisining sums for various charitable causes. [1] [2]

Appointed chairman of the Lichfield Cathedral Trust in 1994, Clarke agreed to head an appeal to raise £2 million for repairs to the cathedral fabric. He then took on a second project to raise £4 million to make Lichfield Cathedral a centre of musical excellence, [1] which included the restoration of the cathedral's 1884 William Hill church organ. At the time of his death, Clarke was chairing an appeal to raise £2.5 million to restore the 16th-century Flemish Herkenrode glass in seven of Lichfield Cathedral's windows. [2]

In 18 months, Clarke raised £2 million for the Racing Welfare Charities. [1] He then joined an £8 million chaired by the Princess Royal, for a new headquarters for the Animal Health Trust. [1] [2] Clarke also gave a large personal donation to a fund to rescue Burton Albion F.C. when it was facing financial ruin. [4]

With his wife, Clarke was also contributed to medical and religious organisations. Although that to the Queen's Hospital Cancer Appeal is known, [4] the majority of their donations, running into millions of pounds, were always made on the understanding that they should remain anonymous. [2]


Clarke was appointed CBE in 1990, and knighted in 2001. [1] He was a Deputy Lieutenant of Staffordshire, and High Sheriff of the county in 2003-4. [2]

Personal life

Clarke married Hilda Leavesley in 1957, on his birthday. [5] The couple had three daughters (Sally, Mary and Jane) and one son, Simon. [1] [2]

Dunstall Hall

In 1997 the couple bought Dunstall Hall for £4.5 million, a house set in 1,260 acres (510 ha) of land adjoining their existing estate at Barton-under-Needwood. Clarke had three personal connections to the house: the last owner was Sir Robert Douglas, who had given Clarke his first substantial plumbing job; the Hall was where his mother had worked in service; [2] Clarke had poached game there as a boy. [3]

Investing in the restoration of the Hall and grounds, which feature in a dedicated programme on Channel Five, [4] the plan was to sustain its upkeep by turning it ito a conference, banqueting and wedding venue. [4] The family also used it for entertaining, where Clarke would put on charity and celebratory events, engaging artistes including Acker Bilk, Ken Dodd, Ronnie Corbett and Paul Daniels. On one occasion, the band of the Staffordshire Regiment marched down the garden beating the retreat. [2]


Clarke was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2000, with polyps on his liver and lungs, and given three years to live. [5] After a series of operations which removed three-quarters of his liver, he underwent chemotherapy. Pronounced in remission, in 2004 the cancer returned. [5] He resigned his positions with St Modwen and Northern Racing, before dying at his home in Barton-under-Needwood on 19 September 2004. [1] [2] [3] [4]

Related Research Articles

Staffordshire County of England

Staffordshire is a landlocked county in the West Midlands of England. It borders Cheshire to the northwest, Derbyshire and Leicestershire to the east, Warwickshire to the southeast, West Midlands and Worcestershire to the south, and Shropshire to the west.

Burton upon Trent Town in East Staffordshire, England

Burton upon Trent, also known as Burton-on-Trent or simply Burton, is a market town in Staffordshire, England, close to the border with Derbyshire. In 2011, it had a population of 72,299. The demonym for residents of the town is 'Burtonian'. Burton is 11 miles (18 km) from Derby, 26 miles (42 km) from Leicester and 28 miles (45 km) from Nottingham.

Barton-under-Needwood Human settlement in England

Barton-under-Needwood is a large village in Staffordshire, England, a mile from the A38 between Burton upon Trent and Lichfield. It has a population of approximately 5,000 and serves as a commuter centre for many residents working in Lichfield, Tamworth and Burton or further afield in Derby and Birmingham.

Burton (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom, 1885 onwards

Burton is a county constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elects one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system of election.

Lichfield City railway station

Lichfield City is one of two railway stations serving the city of Lichfield, in Staffordshire, England. It is situated in the city-centre, and is towards the northern end of the Cross-City Line 17 14 miles (27.8 km) northeast of Birmingham New Street. The station, and all trains serving it, are operated by West Midlands Railway. The other station serving Lichfield is Lichfield Trent Valley, on the city outskirts.

The South Staffordshire line is a partially mothballed and active former mainline that connects Burton-upon-Trent to Lichfield in Staffordshire and formerly then to the West Midlands towns of Walsall, Wednesbury, Dudley and Stourbridge. However, Dudley and Stourbridge were already joined to the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway's (OW&WR) line just north of Dudley Station. It in essence, continued to Stourbridge along with Wednesbury and Walsall.

Uttoxeter Racecourse horse racing venue in England

Uttoxeter Racecourse is a National Hunt racecourse in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, England.

Dunstall Hall country house in Dunstall, Staffordshire, UK

Dunstall Hall is a privately owned 18th century mansion house near Tatenhill, Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire. It is a Grade II* listed building.

Francis Noel Clarke Mundy British poet

Francis Noel Clarke Mundy was an English poet. His most noted work was written to defend Needwood Forest which was enclosed at the beginning of the 19th century. He was the father of Francis Mundy.

Needwood Forest Ancient forest in England

Needwood Forest was a large area of ancient woodland in Staffordshire which was largely lost at the end of the 18th century.

St. Modwen Properties

St. Modwen Properties plc is a British-based property investment and development business specialising in the regeneration and remediation of brownfield land and urban environments. It is headquartered in Birmingham and has a network of seven regional offices across the UK. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.

St Pauls, Burton upon Trent Church

St Paul's Church is a Church of England parish church in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire England. The church, on St Paul's Square and near the Town Hall, opened in 1874 and was designed by the architects James M. Teale and Edmund Beckett Denison. Later additions are by G. F. Bodley. The building is listed as Grade II*.

Lord Gyllene was a New Zealand-bred racehorse whose greatest victory came in the 1997 Grand National at Aintree. He was trained by Steve Brookshaw for owner Sir Stanley Clarke CBE and ridden by Tony Dobbin. Lord Gyllene was retired by his owner in 2001 due to injury. He had a race record in the UK of 13 runs: won 4, second 5 and third once, as well as two wins in New Zealand.

Dunstall Human settlement in England

Dunstall is a small village and civil parish in the borough of East Staffordshire, Staffordshire, England. It lies between Burton upon Trent and Barton-under-Needwood. The population of the parish at the 2001 census was 215, decreasing to 209 at the 2011 Census.

Clement Charlton Palmer (1871–1944) was a cathedral organist, who served at Canterbury Cathedral.

The 1997 Grand National was the 150th official running of the Grand National steeplechase held at Aintree near Liverpool, Merseyside. The race was scheduled to be run on Saturday 5 April 1997, but was postponed by two days to Monday 7 April after a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb threat forced the evacuation of the course.

Battle of Burton Bridge (1643)

The Battle of Burton Bridge was fought between Royalist and Parliamentarian forces at Burton upon Trent on 4 July 1643 during the First English Civil War. By the time of the battle the town, which had at various times been held by both sides, was garrisoned by a Parliamentarian unit under the command of Captain Thomas Sanders and the town's military governor, Colonel Richard Houghton. The key river crossing at Burton was desired by Queen Henrietta Maria, who was proceeding southwards from Yorkshire with a convoy of supplies destined for King Charles I at Oxford. The Royalists, led by Colonel Thomas Tyldesley, launched a cavalry charge across the bridge which succeeded in defeating the Parliamentarians and capturing most of their officers, including Sanders and Houghton. The Queen's convoy proceeded on its way south to Oxford with Tyldesley receiving a knighthood and a promotion in recognition of his victory. Burton changed hands several more times during the course of the war, before finally coming into Parliament's control in 1646.

Northern Racing was a private company that owned ten horse racing courses and one golf course in the United Kingdom. It was formed in 1998 by Sir Stanley Clarke CBE, and after being listed on the Alternative Investment Market, was owned privately by the Reuben Brothers. In 2012, it was merged with Arena Leisure to form Arena Racing Company

Barton was a British racehorse of Thoroughbred and Anglo-Arabian ancestry who competed in National Hunt racing. In a racing career which lasted from October 1997 until November 2003 he won fourteen of his twenty-six races. He had his greatest success in the 1998/1999 National Hunt season when he dominated the novice hurdle division in Britain, winning all seven of his races including the Classic Novices' Hurdle, Winter Novices' Hurdle, River Don Novices' Hurdle, Royal & SunAlliance Novices' Hurdle and Mersey Novices' Hurdle. After missing the next season he returned to win the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and the Aintree Hurdle, easily defeating Best Mate in the latter race. When switched to steeplechasing he won the Dipper Novices' Chase and the Mildmay Novices' Chase but was never as effective as he had been over hurdles.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 "Obituary – Sir Stanley Clarke". The Guardian. 27 September 2004. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 "Obituary – Sir Stanley Clarke". Daily Telegraph. 20 September 2004. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 "Obituary – Sir Stanley Clarke". The Independent. 22 September 2004. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 "Sir Stanley Clarke". Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Helena Keers (1 May 2004). "The butcher's boy who carved out a property empire". Daily Telegraph . Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  6. 1 2 3 4 St. Modwen: History Archived 30 December 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  7. "Racing mourns Clarke". BBC Sport. 19 September 2004. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  8. Racing Post results 7 April 1997
  9. "Barton". Retrieved 26 June 2012.