A farmer's wife has made history by becoming the first woman to chair Wigton-based Hopes Auction in its 121-year history.

Janet Wright, whose family are dairy farmers, was appointed chair after current chairman, Jeff Dixon, retired after 30 years on the mart's board.

Mrs Wright, from Tarnrigg Moor, Oulton, will fill the place on a temporary basis until a full-time replacement is appointed.

She joined the board of Hopes Auction earlier this year.

The news of the new chair comes at the same time as the sale of part of the company's former Wigton town centre auction site completed.

After years of speculation the deal, worth more than £1m, was signed and sealed with housing provider Home Group for 10 of the 12-acre site.

"Everyone knows we have money borrowed, but this deal will go a long way to getting the company back in the black," said managing director, Ian Ritchie.

"We know we still have a lot of work to do. We still need the support of our customers and shareholders because we know we need them and livestock coming through our auction mart to go forward and prosper in the future."

The plans for 110 homes on the former Hopes Auction Mart site and the surrounding land were originally given the green light by council planners on May 1 but were taken back to committee as Historic England had not been consulted by Allerdale Borough Council during the process.

A further meeting was held by Allerdale's development panel on June 26, where the plans were again approved.

The land had originally been lined up to become a new Tesco store.

But the supermarket giant performed a U-turn in 2014, leaving the site's future unknown and Hopes with multi-million pound debts.

Hopes moved to a new base in Syke Road the previous year and the town centre site, off High Street, has laid mainly empty ever since.

It was dubbed an "eyesore" by locals and had been on the receiving end of arson attacks.

It is understood that an offer from an unnamed party has been made for the remaining two acres with negotiations still ongoing.

It is is rumoured that it has been earmarked for a retail development, more specifically for a cafe, delicatessen, greengrocer-type enterprise.

It had been reported previously that another major supermarket had been in discussions about the site but it appears that their interest has cooled.

Mr Dixon, a beef and sheep farmer from Welton, stepped up as chairman two years ago.

Mr Ritchie said: "Jeff has been a member of the board for 30 years and has worked tirelessly for the good of the company and its shareholders.

"We thank him for all of his hard work over the years and look forward to continuing to see him in the mart in the future."