top of page

The History of Hermitage Farm

Initially settled by Swedish pioneers in the seventeenth century, Hermitage Farm's modern identity was  cast when the land was purchased by Burley and Babs Cocks in 1947 from Plunkett Stewart, the founder of Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds.


Mr. and Mrs. Cocks decided to name the farm after Burley's first successful steeplechaser which raced under the Cocks colors of maroon and gold. In addition to establishing an impressive training facility with a mile wood chip track and thirty stalls, Hermitage Farm was the home to Babs, Burley and their children Susan, Wink, Barbie and Jessie. On many a warm summer night, the farm was host to a merry crowd dancing the night away to the tunes of Lester Lanin.


Hermitage Farm was so much more than a home to the Cocks family: it was the ground on which many a stakes winner trained and it became a college of sorts for innumerable young persons who went on to become leaders in the sport of kings whether as riders, trainers, or owners. Affectionately known as "The Boss," Burley was regarded as a master of horsemanship and a mentor to many. Babs was also an integral part of the operation's success. In addition to her roles as the bookkeeper and business manager, Babs could often be found out galloping the "fussy horses" or preparing a feast on any given night for every hungry mouth on the farm.


Today, Hermitage Farm is home to Burley and Babs' youngest grandson and his wife: Burley and Lizzie Vannote. and their daughter, Liza .The Vannotes are also lifelong equestrians and cherish the Cheshire countryside. Lizzie and Burley are honored to carry on this family tradition and to serve as the stewards of this hallowed ground.

Notable Hermitage Farm Alumni:

  • Wink Cocks

  • Mike & Paddy Smithwick

  • Jonathan Sheppard

  • Billy Turner

  • Bob Champion

  • Tommy Skiffington

  • Paddy Nielson

  • Mike Freeman

  • Doug Small

  • Charlie Cushman

  • Michael & Anne Moran

  • Dixon Stroud

  • Chuck Lawrence

  • Ricky Hendriks

... and MANY more!

W. Burling Cocks


  • Inducted in the Racing Hall of Fame in 1985.

  • America's leading steeplechase trainer 4 times.

  • Saddled 36 stakes winners 

  • Career winnings in excess of $2.5 million

  • As trainer, winner of ​six American Grand Nationals, five New York Turf Writers Cups, three Colonial Cups, and two Temple Gwathmeys.

  • Trainer and producer of three time Eclipse award winner, Zaccio.

bottom of page