Tributes to respected breeder Jill Phillips of Church Farm and Mountwood Stud

  • The much-respected breeder of Anglo-Arabs and show ponies of the Mountwood prefix died on 8 October, following a recent diagnosis of cancer, aged 77.

    Born in Croydon during World War II, Mrs Phillips developed her love of horses at an early age. During her school years, she made it clear academia was not for her and was overjoyed when she was sent to a school in Iver, Buckinghamshire, that focused on riding. On leaving, her parents bought her Warlingham Riding School which she ran successfully for a number of years.

    Later, Mrs Phillips moved to Harbens Farm, Laughton, East Sussex, and taught young people to ride and look after horses. She was one of the “old school”, and stable management was always a priority within her teaching. Her yards were well maintained and immaculate, as were the horses and ponies.

    She married local farmer Leslie Phillips, who owned Church Farm in Ripe. They amalgamated their businesses and Mrs Phillips moved into Church Farm. However, she made a conditional request that an indoor school must be built so she could continue teaching and training indoors as well as outdoors. Mrs and Mrs Phillips had 30 happy years of married life together and her husband always referred to her as “my sweet Jilly”. Mr Phillips died in 1998 and Mrs Phillips continued to run Church Farm as a successful farm and stud.

    In later years, having stepped back from the breeding and showing, Mrs Phillips transitioned the farm to accommodate liveries. Her longest-serving livery was with her for more than 20 years. Although she will no longer be at the helm of Church Farm, it will continue its 73-year reign of the Phillips family, now that it is being passed on to Mr Phillips’ children.

    Mr and Mrs Phillips were keen hunters with the Southdown & Eridge. They took great pride in hosting lawn meets and hunt breakfasts from the farm. Her last horse was 32-year-old Rob who, until her diagnosis, she rode every day around the village and fields of Ripe. Rob outlived her by all but a few days. During their years together, nothing gave her as much pleasure as when she was riding and they enjoyed many activities including hunting, jumping and dressage.

    Throughout her life, Mrs Phillips was never seen without one of her trusted, home-bred Jack Russell terriers shadowing her every move. Another of her delights was hosting the local May Day celebration in her garden, a day always enjoyed by the villagers.

    Mrs Phillips was a one-of-a-kind, honourable lady, true to her word and with strong principles. She will be very much missed by all who knew her and is survived by her brother Ian and stepchildren James, Fred, Mary and Katrina.

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