The managing director of Hopes of Wigton has resigned.

Ian Ritchie, who has been at the helm of the auctioneering firm for less than a year, confirmed that he had resigned and would leave the company in June.

Ian, a chartered surveyor, also heads the company's land agency business set up in 2002.

He took over the once-troubled mart last Easter from Ken Stitchell, the former managing director of Aspatria Farmers.

"I am leaving amicably. There is no rift and I have not been sacked," said Ian.

"I have had enough of being a managing director. I want to explore other things," he added.

The prominent county auction mart two years ago struggled with debts totalling £6.6m.

During this time chairman, Jonathan Hope, from whose family the firm's name is taken, resigned. He was followed by Bruce Walton, who left to pursue other interests, after being managing director at the auctioneering firm for 18 years.

But Mr Ritchie said the team at Hopes had worked hard to turnaround the mart's fortunes.

"The future is bright for the mart. It is not a sinking ship. We have got through the troubles we had and are moving on to bigger and brighter things," said Mr Ritchie.

Hopes director, Paul Benson, said Ian had given everything to the company for 17 years. "Ian has given it a cracking go and we as a board have to finish the job he started. We will now work with Ian until his notice is up in June."

Last December a farmer's wife made history by becoming the first woman to chair the mart in its 121 year history.

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

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

She had joined the board of Hopes Auction earlier in 2018.

Mr Ritchie confirmed that the sale of part of the company's former Wigton town centre auction site had gone ahead.

After years of speculation the deal, worth more than £1m, was signed and sealed with housing provider Home Group for ten of the 12-acre site to build 110 homes.

"We are currently in negotiation to sell the remaining two acres on the site," confirmed Mr Ritchie.

Hopes moved to their new base in Syke Road in 2013.