The chairman of a multi-million pound infrastructure business which started up in an isolated Lake District village half a century ago has told a High Court trial how he was on the receiving end of a "tirade of abuse" from a former chief executive.

Iain Ferguson, chairman of the Stobart Group, which began life when founder Eddie Stobart went into business as an agricultural contractor in Hesket Newmarket, Cumbria, during the 1960s, told a judge how former chief executive Andrew Tinkler shouted and swore during a meeting earlier this year.

Mr Ferguson said Mr Tinkler "directed his ire" at him and asked not to be treated like a "small boy".

Stobart bosses have sued Mr Tinkler.

They say Mr Tinkler conspired with other businessmen to harm the company's interests and made claims about money spent on air travel.

Bosses want Judge Jonathan Russen to rule that Mr Tinkler was lawfully dismissed.

Mr Tinkler, who was chief executive of the business between 2007 and 2017, denies wrongdoing, saying he was removed for no good reason, and has counter-claimed.

Judge Russen began overseeing a trial, which is due to last more than two weeks, in London yesterday.

Barrister Richard Leiper QC, who leads the Stobart Group legal team, told the judge how board members had earlier this year learned that Mr Tinkler had been talking to shareholders and "briefing against the board".

He said there had been a "significant campaign" to oust Mr Ferguson.

Mr Tinkler disputes allegations against him.

The judge was told that Mr Tinkler did not like the "briefing against the board" characterisation and had spoken of having concerns about Mr Ferguson's chairmanship and being worried that Stobart was going "off strategy".

Mr Ferguson described events at a meeting earlier this year in a written witness statement given to the judge.

"Mr Tinkler stood up and directed his ire at me and told me not to treat him like a small boy," said Mr Ferguson.

"He said that either he or I had to resign.

"I was somewhat taken aback by this but responded by saying I would not resign and that was a matter for shareholders to decide.

"That precipitated a further tirade of abuse from Mr Tinkler."

Mr Ferguson also told the judge about a telephone call in May and said Mr Tinkler had become "very shouty".

"He again told me that he wanted me to resign as chairman, and again I refused," said Mr Ferguson in his witness statement

"Mr Tinkler became very shouty during this telephone call."

Mr Ferguson said Mr Tinkler accused him of trying to "cling to power" for "my own benefit".

He added: "I said that was not the case."

Mr Leiper had told the judge how Mr Tinkler had agreed to step down as chief executive in 2017.

He added: "Mr Tinkler appears to have found it difficult to let go of the reins."

Mr Tinkler says allegations that he wrongly took millions of pounds in "expenses" from the group are unfair.

Barrister John Taylor QC, leading Mr Tinker's legal team, told the judge that allegations about him taking £5 million of "so-called expenses" in breach of fiduciary duties should "never have been brought".

He outlined allegations relating to "excessive or unnecessary" helicopter use, claims about "air transport" and "jet transport", allegations about Mr Tinkler's daughter's use of a flat and a Range Rover and a claim about the sale of a horsebox.

Mr Taylor said the claims were part of a "campaign" against Mr Tinkler.

He suggested the allegations had been made to provide an excuse to "splash lurid headlines" across newspapers.

Mr Taylor said documents backing up the claims had not been disclosed and the allegations had not been proved.

He said the term "expenses" had been used but none of the claims related to expenses in the sense of an employee claiming reimbursement.

Mr Taylor said the vast majority of complaints related to the fact that Mr Tinkler had been "involved in arranging" expenditure.

He said Stobart bosses had adduced no evidence about Mr Tinkler's daughter Laura's use of a London flat, a company office and a Stobart Range Rover.

Mr Taylor said the claims had been made in an attempt to embarrass Mr Tinkler and "drag his daughter into this dispute".

Mr Taylor also criticised an allegation relating to the sale of a horsebox.

He said the company had bought Mr Tinkler a new horsebox but had kept the money from the sale of an old one. He said Stobart had broken even.

Stobart bosses have complained that Mr Tinkler had an "interest-free loan".