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Full text of "Fox-hunting in the shires"

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FOX- HUNTING 
INTHE- SHIRES 



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TUFTS UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES 




9090 014 537 100 




Waster Family Library of Veterinary Medicine 

Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at 

Tufts University 

200 Westboro Road 

North Grafton, MA 01536 



T'he Hunting Library 

EDITED BY 

F. G. AFLALO, F.R.G.S., F.Z.S. 
Volume II. 



FOX-HUNTING IN THE 
SHIRES 



The Hunting Library 
Edited by F. G. AFLALO, F.R.G.S. 

Pro/usefy illustrated, small demy ^vo, 
cloth ^It, 7s. 6d. net each volume 

I 

HARE-HUNTING AND HARRIERS 

BY 

H. A. BRYDEN 

Author of " Gun and Camera in Southern 

Africa, &c. 

II 

FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

BV 

T. F. DALE, M.A 

Author of "The History of the Belvoir 
Hunt," &c. 

Ill 
THE MASTER OF HOUNDS 

BY 

G. F. UNDERBILL 

Author of "A Century of Fox-Hunting" 

With contributions by Lord Ribblesdale 

Lt.^olonel G. C. Kicardo, Arthur ' 

Heinemann, John Scott, itc. 

London : GRANT RICHARDS 
48 Leicester Square, W.C. 



FOX-HUNTING 
IN THE SHIRES 



BY 



T. F. DALE, M.A. 

AUTHOR OF 

"the HISTORV of the BELVOIR. HUNT," "THE VIII ' " DUKE OF 

BEAUFORT AND THE BADMINTON HUNT," ETC. 



ILLUSTRATED FROM PHOTOGRAPHS BY 
R. B. LODGE AND OTHERS 



LONDON 
GRANT RICHARDS 

48 LEICESTER SQUARE 
1903 



1 
>3 



Printed by Ballantvne, Hanson S' Co. 
At the Ballantyne Press 



PREFACE 

In this volume Mr. Dale has given the results of 
his experience in the hunting fields of Leicester- 
shire and the surrounding counties, and has treated 
his subject from the dual standpoint, for which his 
earlier work so fits him, of hunting historian and 
hunting correspondent. His chapters are almost en- 
tirely practical, though he digresses where necessary 
to criticise, always briefly and to the point, such 
modern questions as the presence of ladies in the 
field, the latest development of the capping system, 
and the question of hunting dress and hunting morals. 
For the most part, and with some few such exceptions, 
he gives us minute descriptions of the country known 
somewhat vaguely as " the Shires," and some very 
excellent advice as to the purchase or schooling of 
the right kind of horse for hunting that country. 
The photographs obtained by Mr. R. B. Lodge, with 
considerable guiding assistance from the author, 
have here and there been supplemented, with a view 
to illustrating in as practical fashion as possible the 
main features of the book. 



CONTENTS 

CHAP. PAGE 

Introduction ix 

I. FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES I 

II. A Week at Melton 25 

III. A Week at Market Harborough ... 64 

IV. Rugby, Leicester, Northampton and Grantham 

I. RUGBY 96 

II. BUSINESS AND PLEASURE. LEICESTER AND NORTH- 
AMPTON . . . . , . , .105 

III. GRANTHAM ........ lOQ 

V. The Hunts and their History .... 120 

I. the quorn 127 

II. the COTTESMORE . . . . . . . I32 

III. THE BELVOIK I 35 

IV. MR. FERNIe's hunt , , . , . . 1 44 

V. the pytchley 152 

VI. the w^oodland pytchley 171 

VII. THE ATHERSTONE . . . . . . . I72 

VIII. THE WARWICKSHIRE AND NORTH WARWICKSHIRE . 1 77 

VI. Riding over the Shires— I. Precept . . .187 

VII. Riding over the Shires— II. Example . . 203 



viii CONTENTS 

CHAP. I'AGE 

VIII. A Week at Oakham and a Glimpse ok Stam- 
ford 221 

IX. The Horse for the Grass Countries . . 231 

X. The Horse for the Grass Countries {contd.) . 250 

XI. Sport in the Shires 264 

XII. Ladies in the Shires 274 

XIII. Dress and Equipment 284 

XIV. Expenses 294 

XV. The Prospects of Hunting in Grass Countries 307 

XVI. Principal Fixtures within Ten Miles of the 

Chief Hunting Centres 319 

INDEX 326 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



and Laid 



Plate 

I. The Quorn Huntsman and Hounds 

H, Melton 

HI. At the Covertside with the Quorn 
IV. Market Harborough 
V. The Belvoir Vale . 
VI. The Quorn Hunt . 
VII. The Cottesmore Hounds 
VIII. View from John Ball, and A Cut 
Fence .... 
IX. The Pytchley Hounds . 
X. Billesdon Coplow . 
XI. Smeeton Corse from Gumley, and A Hairy 

Place .... 
XII. A Well-known Weight Carrier 

XIII. A Typical Horse and A Brilliant 

XIV. A Cottesmore Glimpse 
XV. A Pytchley Panorama . 



Performer 



Frontispiece 

To face page 25 

33 

64 

109 

127 

132 

144 
161 
195 

208 
231 
250 
266 
284 



INTRODUCTION 



In the course of this book I have endeavoured to 
set before my readers a sketch of the sport of fox- 
hunting as it is throughout that part of the Mid- 
lands known as the Shires. Whatever may have 
been the case in the past, the fashionable hunting 
districts may now fairly be embraced within the 
wider limits treated of here. Such a book, though 
I hope it may not be without interest to those who 
know something of sport in grass countries, yet must 
naturally be of use chiefly to the man who wishes 
to learn more about fox-hunting in the historic hunts. 
It must not be forgotten, moreover, that the Mid- 
lands are not fashionable without reason, for people 
crowd to them because grazing districts are best 
suited of any to hunting in its brightest and most 
attractive form. But while I have striven to be of 
some practical service to the man who is, at the 
present day, anxious to hunt from some of the counties 
named, I have not been unmindful of the charms of 
the associations with the past so closely interwoven 
with hunting in these districts. No one who has not 
studied the subject can form any idea of the extent 
of the literature of hunting in the Midlands nor of 
its interest in throwing a light, not only on the sports 
but also on the social customs and ideals of. our im- 
mediate forefathers. But such a book as this could 



xii INTRODUCTION 

not be written only in the study. Its materials must 
to a great extent be gathered in the open air, and the 
advice contained in it suggested by participation 
in the scenes described. These chapters have, in fact, 
been written in the intervals of a busy season and in 
the rare leisure of a hunting correspondent whose 
duty and interest made him an observant spectator 
of the sport, and the book has therefore been put 
together in the atmosphere of hunting. I have hunted 
in nearly all the countries described ; and when I 
planned the book, I rode and walked over some of 
the most characteristic parts of the country, in order 
that the descriptions of fences might be drawn from 
nature. I have often been able to make use of the 
past to explain the present and in many cases to 
illustrate the book with instances which, though 
drawn from the past, are just as appropriate to our 
own times. I have thus avoided to a great extent 
the use of names of persons still living and yet have 
conveyed the instruction and examples I needed to 
make clear my meaning. I hope that the arrange- 
ment of the book on the principle of treating of the 
various centres and sketching the sport to be ob- 
tained from them will commend itself to my readers 
as being the most practical method of dealing with 
the subject. This has enabled me, at the risk of 
some unavoidable repetition, to make this book to 
some extent a guide from a hunting point of view to 
a visitor to the places dealt with. I need not say 
that each town is written of entirely from the point 
of view of its suitability as a hunting centre. A 
friend of mine once threw a guide-book down with 
indignation : " Here," he said, " is a fellow who writes 
four pages about the architecture of a church and 
dismisses the F hounds and their kennels in a 



INTRODUCTION xiii 

single line. Why can't people write of what one 
wants to know ? " I trust that hunting readers will 
here find what they want. 

The important subject of capping has been dis- 
cussed in The Field, The County Gentleman and other 
papers. This has been a constant, almost burning 
topic of conversation both in the hunting field and at 
dinner-tables in the Shires. If worked with tact, 
courtesy and judgment, and not used as an instru- 
ment of oppression against the less wealthy residents 
in the countries where it is established, " capping " 
should work well. By casual visitors the " cap " 
ought to be welcomed as a means of making them 
free of the hunt and of discharging a most undoubted 
obligation in a convenient manner. Experience will 
enable Hunt committees to determine the amount 
suitable and the best method of collection. It may 
be regretted that the various hunts in the Shires 
could not have agreed to united action in the matter, 
but the conference on the subject apparently failed 
to arrive at any arrangement that was satisfactory 
to all. This makes the subject more complicated, 
because it is obviously ungracious and perhaps im- 
politic to cap a man on Wednesday who has welcomed 
you to ride over his land on a Monday, or who is a 
member of a hunt which still freely welcomes the 
men from neighbouring hunts when they cross the 
border. But time and experience will no doubt 
settle all these questions satisfactorily. The spirit 
is the great thing, for we must always recollect that 
hunting is not like a polo club or a gate-money race- 
meeting, and its survival may be attributed as much 
to the friendly, neighbourly and hospitable spirit in 
which it has hitherto been carried on as to any other 
one circumstance. To say that the sport can no 



xiv INTRODUCTION 

longer be conducted on these lines is to confess that 
its decadence is far advanced and that the end is not 
far off. It may well be believed that the true spirit 
of the hunting community will prove too strong for 
any adverse and ignoble influences. Especially will 
those take comfort who have read the history of fox- 
hunting carefully. None of the difficulties of fox- 
hunting except wire are new. As Charles Leadam, 
the late huntsman of the Meynell, used to say when 
anything went wrong : " It's all happened before." 
Hunting has survived many material and social 
changes and may perhaps continue to be the chief 
sport of English country residents long after we have 
passed away and our troubles are forgotten. Hunt- 
ing men have always been inclined to be laudatores 
temporis acti ; but again a careful study of the past 
inclines me to think that the sport, if in some respects 
different, is quite as good as it was in old times. The 
hounds are probably better and the huntsmen more 
intelligent on the average than in the past, while the 
manners and customs of those who hunt have cer- 
tainly very much improved. The pictures of " the 
fox-hunter " in the writers of the eighteenth century, 
nay, even as late as the days of the author of " Soapy 
Sponge," certainly would not be accepted even as 
reasonable caricatures in the present day by those 
who associate with hunting people. It is impossible 
to say everything on any subject within the limits 
of a book like this, but I have tried to avoid anything 
that might mislead and anything that I have not 
reason to believe to be a fact. With regard to sub- 
scription to the hunts, I had intended to give the 
minimum expected by each hunt, but that could not 
fail to be misleading, because the proper spirit in 
which to approach the subject is to consider not how 



INTRODUCTION xv 

little we must give, but what we ought to afford. If 
we take down a dozen horses into the Shires, and 
mean to hunt six days a week, it is plain that we 
ought to contribute more to the hunts than a man 
with a much smaller stud. The test of a hunt sub- 
scription for the conscientious and liberal-minded 
man is similar to the charitable rule that we should 
not give what costs us nothing. Every man should 
make an effort for the sport to which he owes his 
health and happiness for half the year. The 
generous is also the wise course, for a judicious and 
sympathetic liberality strengthens the hands of those 
long-suffering persons, the master and secretary of 
the hunt, and increases the popularity of the sport 
far more than we dream of. In the chapter on Ex- 
penses I deal with the various legitimate claims on 
our purses. If I have compiled no budget, if there 
is no description of a royal road to hunting from 
Melton on £300 a year, it is because I know that all 
such attempts would be futile and misleading. I 
have striven to indicate the broad outlines of the 
necessary expenditure. Some people, without stingi- 
ness, will spend half what others do and have more 
to show for their money. The whole secret of economy 
in hunting is that we must, if we cannot spend freely, 
take trouble. Close attention to details, an untiring 
vigilance to stop leakage in the stable or the house 
by a careful superintendence, will make a difference 
of many hundreds in our expenditure. There is, in 
fact, no royal road to economy any more than there 
is to learning, and the old definition of genius is cer- 
tainly true of successful thrift, that it is an infinite 
capacity for taking pains. 

With regard to the sketches of the hunts, I wish 
to say that these are not to be taken as histories. 

d 



xvi INTRODUCTION 

They are intended merely to trace the growth of 
hunting in each famous country. If the reader wishes 
for history, he wiU find it in the fuller and longer 
stories of the hunt, and in a most delightful form, 
in the " Druid " series, now accessible to all in a cheap 
and excellent reprint. Indeed, the Shires are fortunate 
in their literature, for in the whole range of books on 
sport there is nothing more delightful than the Druid's 
works. I recollect being somewhat disappointed with 
Mr. Dixon's life as written by an excellent sportsman, 
the late Mr. Francis Lawley. But this author's life 
was in his books. He makes himself the mouthpiece 
of others, and yet, with something that is not very far 
removed from genius, he gives to the opinions and 
conversations he recorded a character and a dis- 
tinction that we can find in no similar writings. 
Hastily penned as were his books, in the midst of a 
life of continual pecuniary pressure and of hardship 
and self-denial, far different from the luxurious sur- 
roundings of modem sport, it is the Druid who shows 
us the most admirable aspects of hunting and racing. 
The whole story, though it deals with men of no 
education and sometimes, if other records may be 
believed, of rough and doubtful character, is never 
coarse. All the seamy side of the racecourse and 
covertside disappears. The characters sketched are 
natural and lifelike. The Druid shows these men as 
they were at their best, with all the dross of their 
talk purged by passing through the mind of the man 
who, alone among sporting writers perhaps, brought 
genius to his task. His books breathe, as I have 
said, the very best spirit of our national open-air 
sport, and may be read with interest and profit by 
any one whether he is a sportsman or not. I have 
tried at least to write this book in the same spirit, 



INTRODUCTION xvii 

following, at however great a distance, in the foot- 
steps of our greatest writer on sport. The works of 
the Druid and Whyte-Melville (a very different, but 
not less delightful, writer) have been given a long 
life (who dare say anything about immortality ?) by 
that court of final appeal of the public taste, which 
causes men to buy and read their books as eagerly 
to-day as when they first appeared. But I seem to 
hear my critics asking : What of the " admirable " 
Nimrod ? This is an unfortunate epithet. Delight- 
ful he is, but not " admirable," either as a man or as 
a writer. Clever and spirited as his books are, he 
was a man of the Regency period and had the spirit 
of his age. 



FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

CHAPTER I 

FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

Scope of the "Shires" — A Flying Country — The Grass Countries 
of the Midlands — Artificial Coverts — Attractions of the Shires 
— Wire — Hunting not merely a Rich Man's Sport — Popularity 
of Hunting in Leicestershire — Abundance of Foxes — Draw- 
backs to Hunting in the Midlands — Causes of Long Runs — 
Visitors who seek the Grass Countries— First and Second 
Flight Men — Those who never Jump — Good Days and Bad — 
The Crowd in Leicestershire — Decay of Provincial Hunts — 
Getting a Start — Growing Popularity of the Midlands. 

In treating of Fox-hunting as it is in the countries 
known by a term sanctioned by long use as " The 
Shires," the first step is to define what districts those 
are, compared to which all others are styled provincial. 
In reality, the hunts that are entitled to be accounted 
within such limits are those which can be reached by 
people living in or near certain well-known hunting 
centres, such as Melton, Oakham, Market Harborough, 
Grantham, or Rugby. These hunts are the Quorn, 
the Belvoir, the Cottesmore, Mr. Femie's, the Pytchley, 
the Woodland Pytchley, the Atherstone, and the 
Warwickshire. 

About these last two there may be a question, and 
some writers would exclude them, but I think they 
are entitled to be considered as equal, and in parts 



2 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

superior, to the countries about which there is no 
doubt at all. The fact that their hunting-grounds are 
on old turf for at least two days in the week, and that 
they can be reached from one of the centres above 
mentioned, is sufficient to entitle them to a place in 
this book. Rightly or wrongly, then, they are so 
accounted in these pages. 

Of course, as soon as we begin to define limits, there 
must be exclusions, and in the case of fox-hunting 
countries we leave out, of necessity, such famous hunts 
as the Grafton, the Duke of Beaufort's, the Vale of 
White Horse, and many others that yield sport as 
good as any that the Shires can show. Old Oxford 
men, too, will never be quite content to speak of the 
Bicester, the country of Mostyn and Griff Lloyd, and 
of Drake, and, in later times, of Lords Valentia and 
Chesham, as provincial. 

To many who came from Kent, Surrey, or Hamp- 
shire to hunt with the Bicester, the experience opened 
out to them a bright vision of a flying country. The 
first gallop over such country lives indeed in our minds 
with the thrills of first love and any other delightful 
epoch of our lives. Yet in these pages we must leave 
this and other good countries on one side, not because 
their foxes are not as stout and straight-necked, or 
their hounds as keen and brilliant, or the men who 
follow them as resolute and as well mounted as any 
in Leicestershire, but because in this, as in all other 
undertakings, we must draw the line somewhere. 

The countries, then, of which this book treats lie in 
the great grazing districts of the Midlands, in Leicester- 
shire, Northamptonshire, Rutland, and parts of War- 
wickshire and Lincolnshire. But within these 
boundaries there is a narrower limit still, for when 
we speak of the Shires, to many who have hunted in 



FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 3 

them all their lives, the term signifies the country round 
Melton. This is the cream of Leicestershire, and many 
people never go outside its boundaries for their sport. 
It is a country not only of grass, but of wide pastures, 
where there is plenty of room for a horse to extend 
himself between his fences, where the turf is old and 
sound, well drained and seldom really deep, except in 
the wettest seasons. As a rule the going is perfect. 
A springy green carpet under the horse's feet enables 
him to lift himself as it were from a spring-board over 
fences that would otherwise be impracticable, for these 
are meant to keep in bullocks that can jump as well 
as many horses, and that will bore through any ordi- 
nary fence. These districts are very stiff in places. 
On the Welham flats, for example, and in parts of 
the Harborough country the fences are nearly or quite 
impracticable, but in the cream of the Melton country 
they are not so big but that a bold horse well ridden 
can gallop over them. Any day you may see twenty 
or thirty men and women riding over any part of 
Leicestershire that is practicable and giving the lead 
to sixty or seventy others, some of whom are nearly 
as good. In proportion to the number of people who 
hunt falls are not numerous, and the results are not 
so often serious as in other countries. 

In this district, most of the coverts are small and 
artificial. They are carefully placed so as to link 
together the best stretches of country, and to lead the 
chase over the most favoured tracts of grass. Let us 
imagine, for example, that the Pytchley find a fox in 
Kilworth Sticks. From thence they might run him 
to Walton Holt, to Bosworth Gorse, Mowsley New 
Covert, John Ball, Wistow, over the railroad to Norton 
Gorse, from thence to Botany Bay, and to ground at 
John O'Gaunt. This is not a likely run, of course. 



4 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

but it is quite possible ; it is all over grass, and, with 
the possible exception of Wistow Park, all the coverts 
are artificial. Yet the fox would have travelled about 
twenty miles and crossed from the Pytchley to Mr. 
Fernie's, run the whole breadth of that hunt, and 
finished in the Quorn. A man could ride all the way 
on sound turf, and, if he pleased, jump every fence. 
It would be possible to trace many other lines as good 
or even better. This has been chosen simply because 
every covert and the intervening country are well 
known to most people who have hunted in Leicester- 
shire. 

But neither hounds nor huntsmen would be what 
they are, nor could sport be what it is, if all the Mid- 
land hunting country were like this. There are parts 
of it as rough as anything in the provinces, and with 
deep woodlands where stout foxes are bred. These 
foxes wander far afield in the spring-time, and give 
those magnificent runs that live in the history of the 
hunting-field. It is here, in these less well-known and 
less popular districts, that the actors are made perfect 
in their parts, and the drama of fox-hunting rehearsed, 
till on some February morning there is a full dress 
performance, with some hundreds of the best horsemen 
and horsewomen in England to see the whole action, 
or at least to trace the unfolding of the plot. 

There must be something in hunting in the Shires 
which attracts people. Even granting that some 
people go because others do, because it is the fashion, 
yet how did Melton or Market Harborough become 
fashionable ? Their popularity is no new thing. A 
hundred years ago men crowded to a fixture at Oadby, 
at Croxton Park, or at Welford, just as they do now, 
and just as they will do so long as hunting is a sport 
at all. The fields with the Quorn, the Belvoir, or the 



FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 5 

Pytchley in the past, as to-day, were drawn from all 
England, nay, from all parts of the world. 

If we have our Counts Kinsky or Trautsmandorf, 
or Larische, there was the Russian Matusciewitz, a 
contemporary of Nimrod and Alvanley, whose name 
crops up continually in all the memoirs of the early 
part of the nineteenth century. Nowadays we also 
have our American and Colonial detachments, for as 
wealth has grown in those lands, so these descendants 
of Englishmen come back to the sports of their fore- 
fathers, and show that they can hold their own with 
the best of us in the hunting-field and on the polo 
ground. But they all come to Melton, or Harborough, 
or Rugby, because the chance of sport there is better 
than elsewhere, and because there is more of it. 

As we have seen, a country naturally suited for 
hunting has been improved by the planting of arti- 
ficial coverts until it is an arena laid out for the pur- 
pose of sport. Indeed, large sums are paid every year 
for the rent and upkeep of coverts and for the fencing 
of some districts and the taking down of wire in nearly 
all. But although wire is a danger to those who hunt, 
and is, indeed, a great hindrance to sport where it 
exists, yet its appearance is not, save in a very few 
cases, to be attributed to hostility to fox-hunting, but 
simply to economic reasons. Wire is used because it 
is thought to be cheaper, more durable, and more 
effective than rails or hedges. 

There is little hostiUty to hunting in Leicestershire ; 
indeed, why should there be ? There, at all events, 
its benefits are plain to all. The grass countries of the 
Midlands, though as a rule, not without a charm of 
their own, yet have not the attractions of many other 
parts of England. The climate, though healthy, is 
cold, and the white fogs which veil the land for days 



6 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

in the winter time, to say nothing of the keen east 
winds, are trying to delicate folk, Leicestershire, then, 
without hunting would be left to itself, to the making 
of shoes and stockings and the fatting of beasts. But 
the hunting season fills it with a gay crowd, who rent 
the houses, help to pay the rates, buy the produce of 
the land, and give employment in one way or another 
to some thousands of people. They fill, too, the whole 
country-side with life and interest. 

Nor is hunting the amusement only of the rich. A 
few, very few, unwise people of wealth wish that it 
was, for foxes would not then be so often headed and 
there would be more room at the fences. But these 
are mistaken, for the backbone of hunting is in the 
hundreds of men who have a day with the hounds 
now and then, in the professional and business men 
from the towns, in the sprinkling of well-mounted 
farmers, and in those who see what they can of the 
sport on a bicycle, on foot, or in a cart. 

No one with eyes to see, who watches hunting and its 
followers, can doubt for a moment that in Leicester- 
shire, at least, it is not only a rich man's sport. The 
rich man, of course, will have the best of it, but that 
is the way of the world ; and no one would ever grudge 
a man a good horse if he could ride it worthily and well 
for twenty minutes over a grass country. 

Hunting in the Midlands is everybody's sport accord- 
ing to their means ; therefore there is no likelihood 
that there will be hostility to it, nor will wire increase. 
On the contrary, as we ride about, we think we see 
signs that it will, in the future, become less necessary. 
Every year more fences are being cut and laid, 
and the work is being better done. A good 
blackthorn hedge, with the top binders twisted, will 
stop most bullocks, as it will certainly turn a horse 



FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 7 

over if he chances it ; and in this rich soil blackthorn 
grows rapidly and strongly. Thus, if, as it is not un- 
reasonable to think, there are better times in store for 
the land, what is more natural than that with prosperity 
the farmer and grazier should take to hunting, seeing 
that it is his natural recreation, since the sport is at 
its best when his work is least urgent ? A large field 
of farmers, we may remember, means a small area of 
wire ; and, at least while damage funds are sustained 
and wisely expended, wire can be held in check. It 
is in any case rather a detriment to our pleasure and a 
danger to our lives and limbs than an actual menace 
to hunting, since the sport goes very merrily after all. 

In the Shires, at least, there is one sign that hunting 
is still popular. There are plenty of foxes, far more 
indeed I should say than at any previous period in 
the history of fox-hunting. All the season through, 
from October to April, there are always foxes for us 
to hunt, and what is more, there are no long pauses 
while foxes are sought for. If one covert is drawn 
blank, we can trot a mile or so to the next. No one 
is uneasy ; and we never whisper about a blank day. 
People have been heard to say that there are too many 
foxes in the Midlands ; but, with old Peter Beckford, 
I think they might just as well complain of having too 
much money. Those who, like the writer, have lived 
and hunted in countries where foxes are scarce, and 
where you may draw the livelong day and never hear 
a hound till it is too late to hunt, or, it may be, never 
touch on the line of a fox all day, will appreciate the 
advantage of being sure of finding a fox whenever you 
want one. 

The uncertainties of fox-hunting are no doubt part 
of the pleasure, but we cannot enjoy even the uncer- 
tainties, the ups and downs of the fortunes of the 



8 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

chase, without a fox. It is true, of course, that we 
seldom kill the fox we started with ; that two or three, 
or even more, foxes go to make up a run. Now, if I 
were hunting hounds myself, I should regret the change 
both for the sake of the pack and for my own, but 
among the followers, even the man who cares for the 
working of hounds will generally know nothing of the 
change, as it is sometimes difificult even for an ex- 
perienced eye to detect a fox that has been hunted. 
It is only if we watch the pack closely that, from the 
added eagerness of their manner in the chase, as they 
change from the fading line of a weary animal to the 
fresh scent of the lately found fox, we can infer a 
change at all. And this change is an imaginary evil, 
for when we go home at night after hunting all the day, 
our satisfaction is greater than if we had spent half our 
time looking for a fox. We have had two horses out, 
and each of them has done a fair day's work ; and 
what more can we desire ? 

Not only are there always foxes to hunt, but, owing 
to the small size of the coverts, the hunting is in the 
open, so that, even if it is not a very good hunting day, 
we can see all that is going on. On some days hounds 
absolutely fly, for over these big pastures there is 
nothing to stop them, and they flit through or over 
the fences in a wonderful manner. 

The courage and determination of a foxhound in 
forcing his way over or through a stiff country is 
simply marvellous. The obstacles seem fairly to melt 
before his single-hearted resolution to drive forward as 
long as the scent holds. We may well be galloping 
our very best and yet not be able to hold our own. I 
have seen hounds more than once three fields ahead — 
and Leicestershire pastures, remember, run to many 
acres, and are indeed often the size of a small estate — 



FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 9 

while never a horse could draw near to the pack as 
they flew on, yet those horses had the best blood in 
England in their veins, and the condition which two 
or three seasons of hard food and hard work had given 
them. 

It is this constant work in the open which is one of 
the charms of the Shires. The prizes in the lottery 
of scent, too, are more often drawn here than else- 
where. It is, then, because men can always hunt and 
always, when there or thereabouts of course, see what 
is going on, and because the chances of a run are 
greatly increased by the fact that if there is a scent 
there is nearly certain to be a fox, that people are 
drawn to the Shires in their thousands. 

But the reader is not to suppose that there are no 
drawbacks to hunting in Leicestershire. In the first 
place, there are the hills. The Midlands are not, as many 
people picture them, a wide tract of level grass. In 
the neighbourhood of Market Harborough, for example, 
the flats by Welham are almost the only very level 
districts, all the rest being a sea of rolling waves of 
grass and hills, more or less steep and almost equally 
trying to a horse, whether he has to gallop up or down 
them. Parts of the Cottesmore country are even more 
abrupt ; and the Tilton district, though excellent for 
sport, is desperately hard on horses. The Pytchley is, 
indeed, in some parts flatter, but then the pastures 
are less extensive, and the fences, always stiff, seem 
even more forbidding when they come more frequently 
in our way. But even in the valleys and on the hills 
the ground under our feet is not smooth. Everywhere 
the fields are in what is called ridge and furrow. If, 
as we have said, the whole district is of rolling waves 
of grass, every field has ripples across its surface, 
sometimes long like a swell, and sometimes short like a 



10 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

chopping sea. This is said to be a rehc of the days 
when corn was worth growing and every field was a 
ploughed one. 

It is trying to the best of horses, ruinous to the 
inferior ones, and unless you can gallop through it 
sideways or the lengthwise of the furrows, it adds very 
much to the effects of pace in distressing a horse. A 
straight-shouldered horse with upright pasterns is a 
misery to ride. He pitches and rolls like a small boat 
in a cross sea, and long before the end of the day the 
unaccustomed rider is almost as beaten as the horse. 

There is yet another disadvantage which arises from 
the hills and the ridge and furrow. In a hilly country 
with an uneven surface foxes are apt to run short, 
for a fox is an adept at crossing the open without being 
seen. He knows well how to take advantage of every 
depression in the ground and thus to escape observa- 
tion. So unless a fox is pressed hard he can turn and 
twist as he likes, and thus make his way back to the 
covert from which he started. Even if scent is good 
and hounds can drive along after a fox, he will run 
over only as much country as he knows, turning back 
when he reaches its limits. This I believe to be true 
of all foxes without exception, for when a hunted fox 
reaches the limit of his nightly ranges, he will seek 
to return. 

Long runs, then, are the result of two causes. First, 
when the fox is a traveller away from home. In the 
early spring, dog foxes travel far ; and, when found, 
they will return as fast as they can and generally in 
a straight line. In the other case, a great run is the 
result of more or less frequent changes, and hence it 
will be but seldom crowned with a kill. When this 
occurs, indeed, it is often claimed that the fox killed 
is the original one found. Jim, the first whipper-in 



FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES ii 

as likely as not, is quite sure it is the same. " I took 
partic'lar notice of the size of his tag," or " I saw he 
was a very little 'un when I viewed 'un," This is often 
said in good faith, though sometimes the wish is father 
to the thought, or it may be prompted by a glance 
from the huntsman. 

In Leicestershire, no doubt, where foxes are very 
numerous, and where, moreover, as the season goes on, 
they are much scattered, the chances are greatly in 
favour of a change. " If you run twenty minutes in 
Leicestershire," once said a well-known Master of 
Hounds, "it is more than an even chance that you 
have hunted two foxes at least." Nevertheless, there 
are authentic, though rare, instances of hounds hunt- 
ing the same fox for a long time and to a far distant 
point. " We were hunting for two hours and a half 
and never touched a covert," we may sometimes hear 
one of the field assert. That, however, proves nothing, 
for, as I have already pointed out, foxes in an open 
winter lie in the hedgerows and furrows near the smaller 
spinneys ; and especially is this the case towards the 
end of the season, when the foxes have been well 
disturbed. 

In spite, however, of all drawbacks, the Shires re- 
main the best hunting grounds in the world. Nor is 
this only on account of the natural advantages of 
the country for hunting, for they attract to themselves 
the best huntsmen. There are no hunting countries 
where the sport depends so much on the huntsman as 
in those of the Midlands. It is true that if hounds 
are left to themselves without a crowd behind them they 
will show excellent sport and kill many foxes, but it 
is far otherwise when they have several hundred eager 
men and women following them. In the Shires, then, 
a huntsman cannot leave his hounds to themselves in 



12 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

many cases where it would be wise to do so in a pro- 
vincial country. He has to keep them, if possible, 
clear of the crowd. To cast back if they have overrun 
the scent is impossible. The field are over the line in 
a moment, for, as Whyte-Melville says, if they give 
the hounds fifty yards that is considered liberal. If, 
then, the fox is not forward, or has not turned on one 
side or the other, he is lost, and the shortest plan is to 
go and look for another. To say that all huntsmen 
under such conditions make mistakes is but to say 
they are human ; but he who makes the fewest is the 
best. 

Now, as this book has been written to offer advice 
to those whose minds are fixed on hunting in the grass 
countries, we may pause to consider who those are who 
will be likely to go there. To give visitors the first 
place, we shall see foreigners who wish to know what 
English fox-hunting is like, and who, when they have 
bought their experience, prove good men and true over 
a country ; and there will be Americans and Colonials 
who have a weakness and liking for the best of every- 
thing. 

These will, as a matter of course, come to Leicester- 
shire, and they will, if they are wise, go to Melton or 
Market Harborough. Their wives will certainly prefer 
the former. It is more lively and social at Melton. 
There is a carrier e ouverte aux talents, only, be it re- 
membered, the talents must be the golden if the reward 
is to be obtained. 

To all, whether English born or hailing from other 
lands, the question has to be decided whether you 
determine to go into the Midlands as an actor or a 
spectator of the drama of hunting. 

Of the many people who stick in the gaps and jam 
the gateways probably not a few are merely spectators. 



FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 13 

They have not, and never had, any intention of taking 
a leading part in the hunting-field. Why, then, are 
they there ? Simply because our hunting countries 
are very pleasant places to spend the winter in. The 
society is that of London in the season, and is the best 
and pleasantest in the world. Its faults and its 
virtues are the same in both places ; and we enjoy 
the one and endure the other as best we may. 

There is for every day its occupation set down by 
fashion. You need never ask, "What shall I do to- 
day ? " for, having come to Melton, the question is 
answered for you. " To-day we meet at Six Hills, or 
Knossington, or Croxton Park," as the case may be. 
The life is a healthy one ; the exercise pleasant ; and 
you are sure of an appetite and pleasant company at 
dinner and of a game of bridge afterwards, if your 
tastes lie that way. A man who has money and 
some well-mannered horses can, even if he is not an 
enthusiast about hunting, have a capital time at 
Melton. He ought never to be bored ; he ought to eat 
well and sleep well and to be sufficiently amused. 
There is much of hunting talk it is true, as is natural, 
but only among the enthusiasts. Others can talk of 
what they please, and hear, if they are so minded, the 
latest gossip of their set. 

These people form a large proportion of the winter 
visitors. They supply much of the money and a good 
deal of the society of hunting, and are a useful addi- 
tion to our hunting-fields, so long at least as they 
abstain from using motors to come to the fixtures 
with. A motor is no doubt a useful thing in its place, 
and possibly a delightful way of taking the air, but 
surely the smallest appreciation of the aesthetic and 
historic aspect of hunting must make any one see that 
it is out of place at a hunting gathering. Then they 



14 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

are really a danger when we consider the number of 
led horses in the height of condition that are on the 
roads on a hunting morning. These horses are full of 
life, and many of them are already in a state of nervous 
excitement at the prospect of the day before them. 
Under ordinary circumstances they may be perfectly 
quiet with motors ; they might indeed meet a motor 
coming towards them with equanimity. The real 
danger, even with a fairly steady horse, is when the 
rapidly driven automobile comes up from behind. If 
our friends who drive — always, of course, within the 
speed limit — would only remember, passing from behind 
at what an automobilist calls eight miles an hour is 
far more alarming to the horse and his rider than if 
he meets them. For it is not that animals are as a 
rule afraid of automobiles ; it is that a high couraged 
horse is apt to be startled by anything that comes up 
from behind with some rattle and at what seems to 
the horse to be a great pace. Then the rider has to 
be considered ; and he is often more afraid than the 
horse, and thus communicates his fear to the animal. 
This is a digression, but not altogether an irrelevant 
one if it helps the automobilist to understand and re- 
spect the prejudices and fears of the horseman, to 
many of whom still his carriage is a strange and fear- 
some sort of fowl. 

To return, however, to our topic as to what people 
should come to the grass countries to hunt. We have 
already indicated one class ; those who come for a 
pleasant, healthy winter society. For the rest, hunt- 
ing men may be roughly divided into three classes. 
There are those, whether in the first flight or not, who 
mean to ride hard, and do so. This class includes the 
very few who can ride anywhere on almost any horse, 
however disagreeable, that is physically capable of 



FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 15 

covering a country after hounds. These men are few, 
though possibly Mr. Assheton Smith was one in spite 
of the fact that he was certainly defeated once. Dick 
Christian and Dick Webster could have ridden horses 
that few of us would care to try, but their mounts, if 
raw and young, were generally good in quality and 
power. I think, too, I have known two such men in 
my time ; but, as they are still living, I will not mention 
them, though their names will easily be guessed by 
those who have hunted in Leicestershire within the 
last twenty years. 

The second class are those who understand hunting, 
like to ride to hounds, can and will cross any ordinary 
country at a fair pace, but who cannot tackle Leicester- 
shire fences at Leicestershire pace, because their nerves, 
though excellent within certain limits, fail them before 
the stiff rails and the well-laid blackthorn, not to 
speak of occasional oxers and bullfinches. Even 
Whyte-Melville felt this, so he who pleads guilty may 
feel he has good company. There are also those who 
cannot mount themselves for Leicestershire, either 
because they cannot pay for the horses they could 
ride, or cannot ride the horses they could pay for. 
It is useless for ordinary mortals, who may be fairly 
good across country, to attempt to live with hounds 
over the grass on second-rate horses. They will only 
lame their horses and lose their own nerve. " The 
good country hunter here proves a brute," because 
all horses are bad fencers when they are blown. A 
friend proved the truth of this, for he had gone well 
in several countries, and when he came down into the 
Shires brought with him two horses on which he had 
held a good place in a by no means easy provincial 
country. These horses jumped well enough, but they 
could not go the pace, and they fell at last because 



i6 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

they were beaten. " After three falls in one day I 
sold them, and with some big blood horses in Melton 
condition saw plenty of sport and had no fall," he 
wrote, when telling of his experience. But if no other 
horses had been forthcoming, or there had been no 
money to buy them with, the chances are my friend 
would have left Leicestershire a worse man to hounds 
than when he came. 

The third class consists of those who do not mean 
to jump, but who love the sport for all that. They 
include those who are past their prime ; those who 
have lost their nerve or never had any ; those who are 
bad horsemen and know it, but prefer to call it want 
of nerve ; and the men who like to see a run and are 
not particularly afraid of falling, but who never get 
any fun if they really try to ride to hounds. Such 
men might, if they were rich and had the gift of common- 
sense, so that they had nothing but perfect-mannered 
horses in their boxes, do fairly well in the Shires. 
They cannot, however, steer an indifferent animal over 
a big country. 

Now of these three classes, the first and the last will 
probably have more fun in the grass countries than 
anywhere else. The first, because the open country 
enables them to see more of hounds and their work, 
and the sound turf enables them to gallop faster and 
to jump bigger fences with more safety than they could 
do elsewhere. The fact that there are many foxes, 
too, enables them to see more hunting in the course 
of a day than is possible in other countries. Very 
little time is wasted in looking for the fox, for if he is 
not in one place he is sure to be in another. More 
often than not, if once the hunt is started it goes on, 
with a short interval for changing horses and lunch, 
until it is too dark to see. There are few long and 



FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 17 

weary draws, with the chance of being sHpped at last, 
and blank days are unknown, save when the weather 
is too bad to hunt at all and even the very keenest 
Masters are obliged to go home. Yet even in the most 
unpromising weather the fashionable packs will often 
give you a chance to see sport if you care to risk your 
horse's legs and your own limbs. There is seldom a 
day without some sort of a gallop, and walking and 
trotting after a fox are unknown, for if a pack can hunt 
at all, they can generally go fast enough to keep their 
followers moving. 

Thus, the first and second flight men who honestly 
mean to ride the line, though this is not always possible 
in Leicestershire even for the boldest, have more sport 
and more fun than they could possibly obtain else- 
where. For men of the very first class like Whyte- 
Melville's young Rapid, Leicestershire is a perfect 
hunting ground. Every one knows the " Riding Recol- 
lections," yet if there should be any reader who does 
not, then I certainly will not spoil his pleasure by 
quoting from it. Yet I have never seen it remarked 
how perfectly young Rapid's education and training 
fitted him for taking and keeping, as he did, the first 
place in a fast run over a grass country. He was, as 
we learn from the chapter on the Provinces, the son 
of a country gentleman who was Master of a pack of 
hounds, apparently somewhere in the remote West. 
In the intervals of education, in the Eton holidays 
and Oxford vacations, he had the opportunity at home 
of learning the science of woodcraft and of hound work. 
Nor were these early lessons lost. No doubt he had 
run with the beagles at Eton, and from Oxford had 
seen Lord Macclesfield draw Stowe wood, or watched 
Squire Hall hunting the Heythrop bitches on the " let 
'em alone " principle over the stone-wall country. 

B 



i8 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

How wild those bitches were too sometimes, but oh, 
how they raced when there was a scent. I can re- 
member forty minutes one afternoon — but that would 
be a digression, though I plead guilty to still feeling 
the charm of those Oxford days. Lord Valentia and 
the Bicester would also help to teach him to ride ; and 
the reader will note how the training bore fruit, how 
the quick resolve enabled him to obtain a start, how 
by putting on pace at the right moment he cleared the 
yawning bottom, how he took a pull on the plough, 
and how he steadied his horse at the brook. The very 
first place is only given to those who have the know- 
ledge and have had the training. Hunting was a 
second nature to young Rapid, and such men we can 
never beat, for they will always have the best of a good 
thing. These men have fewer falls than others. 
Indeed, considering the fences they ride over and the 
pace they go, we are inclined to believe that the top- 
'o-the-hunt is the safest place. To well mounted men 
who have horsemanship enough, the Shires, then, will 
be the paradise of hunting. 

Strange to say, the other class who have more fun 
here than elsewhere, are those who never jump. If 
these will ride handy horses that can stay in a hilly 
country, are quick on their legs and can gallop fast, 
such unambitious folk can see much. They will, how- 
ever, have to work hard, to learn the country and to 
be handy with gates, and, like their betters, be able 
to make up their minds quickly. I have said they 
will have to work hard, for, though Leicestershire is 
the best-gated country in England, nevertheless 
hounds, or rather foxes, will not always take the line 
of least resistance to our progress. So the riders must 
diverge from the true line of the chase sometimes to 
avoid fences, and then gallop their best to get back to 



FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 19 

their place. If Lord Gardner's estimate is correct, 
that it takes as much out of a horse to jump a big 
fence with fourteen stone on his back as to gallop over 
half a big pasture, the horses of the non-jumpers will 
have done at least as much work as those of the leaders 
at the end of the day. In all probability they will 
have done more if we reckon the steadying at the 
muddy gateways, the loss of the pulls which those in 
front can take advantage of when hounds waver or 
turn towards them, or during those infinitesimal checks 
of which those in the rear know nothing, and if we 
consider, too, the extra distance travelled. The tribe 
of the Jorrocksites want two horses out, and good 
ones in their way, just as much as do the first flight 
men, and they will see much sport and have their 
share of lucky days. To speak from my own experience, 
I have galloped for two miles alongside the hounds 
from a certain famous covert, through a line of gates 
which my leader threw open ; and, again, a well- 
known Leicestershire farmer told me the other day 
that he had ridden for some miles of one of the famous 
hunts of the season 1902-3, and never left the hounds, 
and yet never had occasion to jump. 

These are the good days, but there are, of course, 
the bad ones, when hounds are always turning away 
from us. Still, from the nature of the country, the 
wide prospects and the fact that hounds are generally 
in the open, also because there are many gates and 
many bridle paths, Leicestershire is unequalled for 
those who like to see something of hounds and who do 
not mind galloping down hill as well as up, or going 
over rough ground as well as smooth, and who, at the 
same time, possess temperate horses. 

The intermediate class of whom I have spoken will, 
on the other hand, have much more fun in the pro- 



20 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

vinces. There they may, if they have chosen wisely, 
be leaders, and they may be of opinion that it is better 
to reign in hell than to serve in a better place. The 
average man will, at any rate, find himself outclassed 
and outpaced in the Midlands, and will be bothered 
by the crowd and puzzled by the country. 

This brings us to a characteristic of Leicestershire 
hunting which is frequently urged as a drawback. 
This is the crowd. That, however, it is not an in- 
superable obstacle, the continued existence of hunting 
tells us. Were it so, hunting must have already 
ceased to exist. The continued cry of those who hunt 
in the grass countries is that the crowd " has increased, 
is still increasing, and ought to be diminished." We 
all join in the cry, forgetting that we ourselves are the 
crowd. We all think it would be an excellent thing 
if other people would hunt elsewhere and leave more 
room for us. The question is : Who is to go ? The 
residents cannot ; the visitors will not ; and the 
casual sportsmen are not really very numerous. If 
the residents gave up hunting, if would be bad for 
the sport, for they guide local public opinion in its 
favour. Individually, it is true, they may seem to be 
a feeble folk, but collectively they are a power, and 
they have family or business connections all over the 
district. If the visitors ceased to come, there would 
be a lack of funds to carry on the sport, but now, 
though subscriptions are increased, people pay them. 
The crowd, moreover, has always been a characteristic 
of the grass countries, and probably always will be. 

There are some tendencies of modern life, too, which 
help to drive people to the Midlands for sport with 
hounds. Among others, the area and opportunities of 
provincial hunts are yearly becoming fewer and more 
circumscribed. The spread of towns, the turning of 



FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 21 

country villages near them into suburbs by the build- 
ing of villas, also the decay of the smaller gentry, the 
poverty of the farmers and the increase of shooting 
tenancies are all adverse to hunting in many places, 
where it has hitherto flourished. Anyway, in the 
Midlands the crowd is there and must be made the 
best of by its own members. There is, indeed, only 
one remedy for those who dislike it, only one way of 
diminishing the throng, and that is by staying away. 

Elsewhere I shall have occasion to dwell on the 
necessity of quickness in getting a start and on the 
dangers of delay if we would not lose the sport we 
have come out to see, yet the multitude of people bent 
on attaining the same object constitutes a great diffi- 
culty in the way of acting on this advice. For, strange 
to say, however much they may hang back and potter 
later, every one is in a hurry to make a start. There 
is a rush, awe-inspiring to those who share in it, but a 
fine sight in its way, when a whole field of some three 
or four hundred gallop round a covert. Fortunately 
their own haste soon solves the difficulty, for four- 
fifths will be jammed in the first gateway or blocked 
hopelessly at the nearest gap. An ounce of rashness 
is then worth a pound of discretion, for two or three 
big fences and a couple of miles' gallop, and the diffi- 
culty is over for that run, and possibly for the day. 
After a time, even the gates are passable if you reach 
them soon enough, and if hounds run there will not 
be actually more than half-a-dozen in the next field 
to them, and half as many again a few hundreds yards 
behind. A hunting crowd melts away in a wonderful 
manner when the country is open. A wired district, 
however, will soon bring them together again, and good, 
bad, and indifferent riders will once more be choking 
the gates. 



22 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

In every run there will be the first and second flight 
men and women who are riding the line, the rearguard 
scattered behind and the flanking divisions on the 
right and on the left who are skirting for gates and 
gaps, and hoping for a turn in their favour. When 
the turn comes, one half of them will necessarily be 
left behind. About one o'clock many who perchance 
have been going well will drop off, and by half-past 
two or three the remnant of the field left will be of a 
manageable size. 

In some of the grass countries the crowd is more 
easily absorbed than in others. In the Quorn, for 
example, there is room to ride abreast, while in the 
Cottesmore the steep hills and the holding scent will 
scatter the throng. In the Pytchley, on the other 
hand, owing to the nature of the country, the crowd 
is always more in evidence. But even in Leicester- 
shire or Northamptonshire it is not obligatory to hunt 
in a crowd. It is only on fashionable days, such as 
the Cottesmore Tuesday, the Pytchley Wednesday, or 
the Quorn Friday, that the masses are so overwhelming, 
and of these days the Pytchley Wednesday is perhaps 
the worst because it is for so many the only accessible 
hunt on that day. Melton, indeed, can hunt with the 
Belvoir ; but Market Harborough, Rugby, and Lei- 
cester, not to speak of all the villages round about, must 
either hunt with the Pytchley or stay at home. It is 
true that these days are in the very best country, but 
still if you avoid them your average of sport during 
the season may be on the whole as good if not better 
than if you went out and did not do well. 

If you would see the fashionable countries on their 
best days under the most favourable aspects, then the 
wisest plan is to keep the best horse for the afternoon, 
and make a long day. In the evening during the 



FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 23 

latter part of the season, when the day perchance is 
clouded over, the scent is often at its best, the " crowd " 
has gone home, and those who stay mean to ride. The 
hounds are not tired, for the condition of the hound 
in the Shires is as perfect as that of the horses, and 
they will do their work all the better for the absence 
of the thunder of many hoofs behind them. Even the 
hardest and most jealous riders can now afford to give 
them plenty of room. Now, if there is a travelling 
fox, you will see what a first-rate run over the best of 
the grass is like, nor will you think that the charms 
of the Midlands as a hunting district have been 
exaggerated. 

Thus we are able to answer the question, " Who 
should go to the Midlands to hunt ? " I should indeed 
be inclined to advise every one to have at least one 
season in the grass countries. It is a part of a hunting 
man's education which should not be neglected. There 
he will see the best horses and the finest horsemen of 
the day. He cannot fail either, if he is observant, to 
learn a great deal. Doubtless, however, in many cases 
the season will only be a single one, for considerations 
of money or of duty may keep many away who would 
enjoy the sport. Yet there are undoubtedly some 
people who hunt in the Shires who ought not to be 
there, and this not because they are not in every way 
suited to the sport, but because they ought to be else- 
where. For while the crowds which threaten the 
prosperity of hunting in the Midlands are weakening 
the fortunes of hunting elsewhere, we may be allowed 
to remark that men who have property in other 
countries ought to be taking their share in the duties 
of local government, and helping to support the pas- 
times of their neighbours and their tenants. 

It has been said that hunting in Leicestershire spoils 



24 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

us for hunting elsewhere, but if this is true, it is because 
we are not sportsmen at heart. Every kind of country 
has its pecuHar charm and its particular interests. In 
the Shires the sport is different, but not perhaps greater 
than in the provinces if we reaUy love hunting, and 
there is no doubt at all that a very large number of 
men and women would be far happier in a provincial 
country than in Leicestershire. They would see more 
sport and would come to understand it better. With 
the best will in the world, a man may hunt half a life- 
time in the Midlands, and know very little about 
hunting at the end of it. This is not possible in the 
provinces, for there, unless he learns something of 
hunting, he will scarcely persevere for long. 

Yet, with all deductions, there are still a great 
number of people who will find the Shires the best 
place to hunt in. The visitors from other countries, 
of whom we have already spoken, soldiers on leave 
from India or elsewhere, business men who want a 
gallop, all, in fact, who can and will ride and are their 
own masters, as well as those who love the social side 
and yet have a real affection for the sport itself, all 
these will, as I have said, find the Shires a paradise. 

Two things show that this is, indeed, only sober 
truth : the size and variety of our fields, and the 
increasing numbers of people who buy or lease houses 
in the Midlands and make them their home for a con- 
siderable part of each year. 



CHAPTER II 

A WEEK AT MELTON 

Choice of Centres — The Railways — Rise of Melton — The Old 
Club— Hunting Boxes — Hotels — Ladies in the Hunting Field 
— Society — Number of Horses required — Going with the 
Crowd — Dress — Expenditure — Economies — Hunting late in 
the Season — Advantages of Melton — Surrounding Villages — 
How to spend the Week — Monday with the Quorn — De- 
scription of the Country hunted — Tuesday with the Cottes- 
more — The Crowd — The Tilton and Owston Coverts — 
Wednesday with the Belvoir — Famous men who have hunted 
with the Belvoir— " Oxers" and "Bullfinches" — Croxton 
Park — Notable Belvoir Coverts — The Brooks — Thursday's 
choice : Mr. Fernie's or the Cottesmore — Vale of Catmore — 
Arthur Thatcher — P^iday with the Quorn — ^The Foxes and 
the Crowd — An Essex Sportsman's account — Going to the 
Meet — Scraptoft — Gaddesby — Prince of Wales's Gorse — 
Lowesby Hall : Lord Waterford's Feat — When to Jump and 
when to avoid Jumping — Knowledge of the Country — Saturday 
in the Melton country of the Cottesmore^ — The Essex Sports- 
man again quoted. 

If the reader has made up his mind to have one or 
more seasons in the Midlands, he will naturally wish 
to know where to go, and it is the purpose of the 
following chapters to put before him the advantages 
and drawbacks of the different places from which he 
has to choose. I have adopted the plan of taking my 
reader to centres rather than to particular hunts, 
because that is the natural and inevitable course for 
the newcomer. There is much variety in the Shires, 
and by going to certain recognised hunting centres he 



26 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

will see the different packs in their best country, and 
thus be able to decide with which particular hunt he 
will throw in his lot. By the time he has had this 
experience he will require no assistance from any one 
in making up his mind. 

The various towns of which I am going to write have 
become fashionable resorts for hunting people because 
they are so situated that the best meets of the most 
famous packs are within reach from them. The visitor 
to Melton, Market Harborough, or Rugby is not by any 
means tied to one pack. Rather he will skim the cream 
of several hunts. There is no doubt that Melton is the 
first thought of every one who contemplates a visit to 
the Shires, for its advantages are obvious to any one 
who will take a map and draw a circle of ten miles 
round the town. He will find that within that radius 
is some of the very best country for hunting over that 
Leicestershire or Rutland affords. If he knows any- 
thing of hunting history, he will recognise names of 
coverts that are household words wherever hunting is 
talked of, coverts that are connected with the great 
riders, the able huntsmen, and the historic runs of the 
past. It may also occur to him that from Melton he 
can hunt six days a week, yet never breakfast at an 
uncomfortably early hour and seldom reach home too 
late for dinner. 

He will also note that if he desires to visit more 
distant packs the joint railways, the L. & N.W. and 
the G.N.R., will be quite ready to give him a day with 
Mr. Fernie's or the Pytchley, if he should think the 
former too far to ride or drive to, or if, on the other 
hand, he desires to pit himself against the hard riders 
that wear the famous white collar. Every one who 
has thought of hunting from Melton has probably read 
Brooksby's story of the " Best Season on Record," 



A WEEK AT MELTON 27 

and he will remember the picture of the Melton 
man in a flowered dressing-gown leaning over the 
banisters with the order, " Hey, Johnson, breakfast 
in half-an-hour, and order me a train. I'll hunt with 
Sir Bache." 

The flourishing town we now see was little more 
than a village until Mr. Cecil Forester, drawn by its 
convenience for hunting alike with Mr. Meynell's 
Hounds and the Belvoir, went there for the hunting 
season. When once this discovery was made the 
growth of the place was rapid, and before many years 
Melton became the chief hunting centre of England ; 
and from that day to this there has been a steady 
flow of fashion and wealth to it. For, apart from its 
attractions as a sporting centre, it is a pleasant town 
enough, finely situated and embosomed in a rich vale 
through which flows the river Wreake. It has a fine 
church, the tower of which, as Nimrod observed, " is 
often a grateful sight to a returning sportsman on a 
beaten horse." 

For a long time, indeed. Melton was a place where 
men only gathered for hunting. " The grand feature 
of Melton Mowbray," says the writer quoted above, 
" is the Old Club." This house has long ceased to 
exist as a club, and the building has now been turned 
into a shop. One of the chief features of Melton 
architecture are the handsome hunting-boxes which 
have been built on the oustkirts of the town, and are 
comfortable but unpretentious places, many of them 
only differing from suburban houses elsewhere by the 
handsome ranges of stabling attached to them. For 
however modestly the owner may be lodged, he is sure 
to see that his horses have spacious and comfortable 
ranges of boxes. Some of these houses are to let 
every year, others again belong to those regular visitors 



28 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

who have not missed a Melton season for a score or 
more of years past. 

For those who cannot afford a house, or who prefer 
the absence of care and responsibiHty that accompany 
housekeeping, there are some excellent hotels, such as 
the George, the Bell, and the Harborough Arms. These 
are generally full during the winter months, and the 
man who would secure rooms must take time by the 
forelock in engaging them. Besides the hotels, there 
are comfortable lodgings to be had, as well as ranges 
of stabling with quarters for the grooms, which latter 
are let separately, and are found convenient by those 
who do not wish, or are not able, to take up their 
abode in the town for the whole winter. 

Melton was at first a place where ladies were seldom 
or never seen. For in the early days of the last century, 
while Melton was still not quite sure whether its 
prosperity depended on its Stilton cheeses and the 
excellence of its pork pies, or on the patronage of its 
hunting visitors, ladies as a rule did not and could 
not hunt. The old style of side-saddle made it diffi- 
cult, if not impossible, for a woman to ride over a 
country with safety, and the modern saddlers have 
done as much as any one to make hunting the popular 
sport for women that it is to-day. In its earlier years, 
then, when Melton society existed entirely for hunting, 
every one hunted six days a week or was supposed to 
do so, and, as the riders often larked home across 
country after a bad day, very large studs were required. 
In this respect the coming of ladies to Melton has 
brought about a change. It is no longer absolutely 
necessary to hunt every day, for there is much society 
for those who are able to enter into it. Indeed some 
people say there is too much, 2 .id that the pleasant 
dinners and bridge parties interfere with hunting. 



A WEEK AT MELTON 29 

Nevertheless, though it is pleasant to do as other 
people, it is not perhaps essential to copy them in 
all things. 

For those who mean to hunt four or five days a week 
I should say that six good horses, and a polo pony or 
two to ride or drive, are a minimum stable. Never- 
theless, if you are bent on seeing Melton with a smaller 
stud you can always have business in London if the 
stable runs short, or Mr. Hames of Leicester or Mr. 
Cowley of Braybrooke near Market Harborough will 
mount you as well or better than you can do it your- 
self. Like all other centres of English society now- 
adays, that of the hunting towns has become very 
large. The latter has, of course, its sets and divisions, 
but no one troubles about your affairs, and you can 
ride hard or not as you please and dress as you like 
without attracting attention. 

Nevertheless, wherever he goes, the wise man will 
try not to differ from the crowd. No one, for instance, 
would wear a cap or butcher-boots with a pink coat, 
or go out without a thong to his crop. I imagine too 
that he would not have a bridle with buckles, or any- 
thing but a plain flapped saddle, or put a breastplate 
on his horse. He should be prepared also to subscribe 
liberally to at least three packs of hounds. 

It is perhaps possible to hunt nearly as inexpensively 
in the grass countries as elsewhere, but still no one 
would choose Melton with a view to economy. The 
visitor who makes use of the country for his pleasure 
ought certainly to pay for the advantages to obtain 
which he has left his own country. For if fox-hunting 
is to continue and to prosper in the Midlands, it 
can only do so by having its advantages made clear 
to the people of the district. Everything then that 
can possibly be purchased in the place should be 



30 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

bought there, though this will add something to our 
expenses. 

Altogether, the necessary expense of a season at 
Melton will mount up to a very considerable sum. 
But if the question be asked " How much ? " this must 
of course depend on the scale on which the thing is 
done. 

Still there are ways by which one can reduce the 
total. To begin with, only a part of the season may be 
spent there. A very great many people do not come 
to Melton till after Christmas, and some only for the 
last two months of the season. Now, February is 
generally, and March often, a good time for sport. With 
regard to the latter month, it is frequently as good as 
any in the Midlands, and is nearly always better there 
than elsewhere. When other countries are dried up 
and hunting has ceased to be a pleasure, the grass of 
the Midlands still carries a scent and affords good going 
to the horse. Towards the end of the season, too, 
the evening runs are often first-rate, and as the Masters 
generally draw as long as there is light, there are many 
excellent gallops after the " crowd " has gone home. 

If a man is prepared to spend the money, has from 
six to ten really good horses, and is able to hunt four 
or five days a week, then Melton is an admirable 
centre. 

Hitherto I have supposed that only a visit to Melton 
is contemplated, but if it is intended to come there 
every year, then the best and cheapest plan in the 
end is to buy or take the lease of a house and furnish. 
For, although the rent for the season of a well- furnished 
hunting-box is large, yet house rent in the Melton 
district for unfurnished houses on lease is not extrava- 
gant. There are comfortable houses in and round 
Melton to suit most tastes, and it is infinitely more 



A WEEK AT MELTON 31 

pleasant and more comfortable to hunt from one's 
own house than from lodgings or an hotel. 

It has been said that the day of Melton is passing, 
that the town has been invaded by manufactories, that 
it is too crowded, and that the society is somewhat 
mixed. But granted that there is some truth in these 
objections, still there is no other place that can give 
so much hunting over such a good country with so little 
road work and so many advantages as Melton, and 
it remains, in spite of all deductions, the best hunting 
centre in the world. 

For those who do not like to live in or near a town, 
there are many pleasant villages round Melton, in 
which a good many well-known hunting people pitch 
their tents. According as we choose one or other of 
these, we shall find of course that the advantage of 
the central position of Melton is to a certain extent 
lost. Two or three miles, indeed, is not a long distance, 
but it is an appreciable addition to the evening ride 
home when we and our horses are tired. On the other 
hand, to the sociable person who dislikes a solitary 
evening, the town is the pleasanter place. But we 
will suppose that this important point has been settled, 
that Melton with its good shops and convenient rail- 
way service is your choice, and that you have plenty 
of horses. Now, we will proceed to consider how the 
week is to be spent and what kind of country you 
will find to ride over on each successive day. 

The regular Melton man begins his week with the 
Quorn as a matter of course. Indeed, although but 
two days or occasionally three days of the week are 
spent with this pack, yet it is the hunt to which he 
belongs, whose uniform he wears in the field and in 
the ball-room, and whose are the initials Q.H. that 
he is proud to wear on his buttons. He will hunt 



32 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

with the other packs as a visitor ; of the Quorn he is 
a member. On Monday, then, he rides with the Quorn, 
and he will find the hounds at no great distance as 
a rule from the stable door. Much of the Monday 
country, which lies north of the Wreake, is at its best 
near Melton, though the farther north we travel, the 
rougher, the wilder, and the deeper becomes the char- 
acter of the district. Nor is the latter much favoured 
by the more fastidious sportsmen. Six Hills or Seg's 
Hill, is, as Brooksby has well put it, the Croydon 
Junction of the Quorn country. In Sir Richard 
Sutton's day, if hounds went north of Six Hills to 
draw the Widmerpool country, many men would turn 
their horses homewards. " These Melton gentlemen 
are wonderfully afraid of a little dirt," was Sir Richard's 
remark, as he trotted off to Widmerpool with a much 
diminished following. But, after all, we hunt to amuse 
ourselves, and if we do not like sticky plough and boggy 
lanes, or ten-acre enclosures, there is small blame to 
us if we turn homeward and save our horse for another 
day and a better country. Moreover, every man knows 
his own stable secrets, and the horse that may be gay 
and safe on the springy turf may flounder and fall on 
deep ground. 

What the hard riding division go out for on Monday 
is, first, a gallop over the beautiful grass lines near 
Hoby or Ragdale or over the Belvoir Vale. South of 
Six Hills is the Hoby Vale, which is not far from being 
the most delightful line in the Shires. But this, the 
best of the Monday country, is not to be played with. 
For if the turf carries, as I believe it does, a better 
scent than elsewhere, and if the pastures are pleasant 
to gallop over, they are divided by fences which are 
stiff and strong. There are, too, here and there oxers 
to test the boldness of the horses and the courage of 




o 

X 



A WEEK AT MELTON 33 

the riders, but these are diminishing as time decays 
their stout ox rails and in their place comes the strand 
of wire, to guard the fence from the bullocks. The 
latter, thanks to the farmers, is generally taken down 
in the hunting season, and the way is thus left open 
where in earlier times it was closed to all but the few. 

On this side of the Quorn country are a number of 
artificial coverts which hold foxes and are separated 
by only short distances. Thus we find a chain of 
places, each of which is strong enough to hold a fox, 
but not large enough to detain the pack long if they are 
running. It is, moreover, a grass country as long as 
we are on the Melton side of Widmerpool. For this 
Monday country belongs particularly to Melton, since 
it is near no other centre ; and, though part of it over- 
looks the Belvoir Vale, yet there are no places of any 
size along its borders. That this is considered a very 
typical country may be gathered from the fact that 
when the present King desired to have a quiet day so as 
to see what the Quorn was really like, it was Ragdale 
that was chosen for the bye-day, when starting to 
hunt with the snow on the ground at three o'clock 
they had a rare gallop to Schoby Scholes from 
Cossington Gorse. 

But, of all the Monday fixtures, Kirby Gate stands 
first. As to the usual term " meet," I rather agree 
with the old sportsman who when asked where the 
meet was, replied with grim humour, " A boiled leg of 
mutton, sir, will be on my table at four o'clock, and I 
hope you will do me the pleasure to sit down to it, 
but if you mean the fixture of my hounds they will be 
at so and so." 

For many years Kirby Gate with the Quorn has been 
looked on as the formal opening of the hunting season. 
It has come to be an annual holiday for Leicester, and 

c 



34 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

a crowd gathers second only to the assembly that 
greets the opening day of the Devon and Somerset on 
Cloutsham Ball. To the pleasures of this opening day 
hunting in Leicestershire owes something of its strong 
hold on the people. From Kirby Gate the first covert 
drawn is Gartree. The hill above the covert forms a 
natural gallery from whence the foot people and 
cyclists, the occupants of the brakes and carriages, 
can see the sport and be scarcely any hindrance at all. 
Gartree Hill is always full of foxes, being part of the 
Hartopp property. Therefore a find here is a certainty, 
and a run over the Burton fiats and very often round 
by Leesthorpe, or away towards Stapleford, all three 
in the Cottesmore hunt, is a very usual sequel. This 
is a beautiful country, all grass and divided by fences 
that a hunter can jump. 

But even in the neighbourhood of Melton itself there 
is some rough country, and, supposing Wartnaby to 
be on the card, the stranger may find himself hunting 
foxes in a rough hilly district scarred with the tram- 
lines of the Ironstone mines. The rough country, 
however, will be borne with, for at any moment a fox 
may lead you away over Belvoir's sweet vale, a hunt- 
ing ground which, when the going is not too deep, is, 
as a Bel voir man once said, " the best to ride over in 
England." To this remark, indeed, some might add 
that they would like it better if the fences, which made 
the stout heart of one of the Duke's flying parsons 
tremble, were not quite so stiff. There is country here 
which is bothering in a crowd, and notably the rough 
and broken stretch below Wartnaby itself, where, in 
many places, you can but take your turn at the practi- 
cable places in the very stiff hedges. This experience, 
however, is likely to be followed by a gallop on the 
grass by Saxelby or from Welby Fishponds, one of 



A WEEK AT MELTON 35 

the coverts nearest to the town of Melton. This covert 
was a gift to the hunt from the Lord Wilton who ruled 
Melton socially for so many years. 

Not very far off we may see Thrussington Wold 
drawn, a beautiful little wood of forty acres, and one 
of the very few natural coverts on this side of the hunt. 
From here you may ride over some very deep country, 
and there are, unless memory deceives me, some fields 
of rough choppy ridge and furrow only equalled by 
some of the fields between Naseby Woolleys and 
Naseby spire, in the Pytchley country. Indeed, the 
best and the worst of countries lie side by side on 
a Quorn Monday. There may be steep hills, rough 
ravines and rugged ground crossed by the Ironstone 
railway, or there may be beautiful grass by Saxelby 
and Grimston, or, again, grass still, though much cut 
up into small enclosures and stiffly fenced, as you work 
northwards to Ellar's and Willoughby Gorses, with, of 
course, the plough again, cold, sticky and deep, that 
lies beyond the latter covert. It is hardly possible 
for ordinary men to take anything like a straight line 
from Ellar's Gorse to Willoughby. The distance is a 
mile, but, with a good fox, hounds run across in less 
than ten minutes, and unless you are in front at the 
gaps, you will be far behind them at Willoughby. 

Another Monday covert is the Curate's Gorse, which 
owes its favour with Melton to the fact that the line 
of hills, on which it lies, offers a view of the Vale of 
Belvoir and not seldom gives a gallop across it to 
Clawson Thorns, or even, if luck be very great, to 
Sherbrooke's covert, a glorious forty minutes away. 
Some who were there will remember the gallop with the 
Belvoir from the last-named covert to within a hundred 
yards or so of the Curate's, now nearly a score of years 
ago. A very varied line this, in which most kinds of 



36 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

the Leicestershire fences will meet you, and some un- 
jumpable obstacles among them. 

Farther away in this direction we come to places 
almost, but not quite, out of the ken of Melton, and 
among them Bunny Park, once the home of Lord 
Rancliffe, whom Nimrod found so pleasant and hos- 
pitable, but of whom Sir Horace Rumbold, in his 
amusing book, gives a less pleasant impression. But 
then Sir Horace lamed a favourite horse on the day 
he had from here, and the old Lord was one of the early 
school of fox-hunters to whom the new generation of 
diplomatists was scarcely congenial. There also is 
Prestwold, where Mr. Hussey Packe will show to any 
one the problem solved of foxes and pheasants living 
together in peace and amity. 

But these places hardly belong to the Monday 
country. Taking that side of the country as a whole, 
it has the charm of variety. The foxes too are perhaps 
stouter than on the other side of the Wreake. The 
fences, with certain exceptions, are to be jumped by 
a good hunter without overtaxing his powers, but he 
must be a hunter well schooled, handy and temperate, 
and with at least three years of Melton condition. Of 
the coverts of this side I have not said much, but 
some are artificial, such as Lord Aylesford's, Cos- 
sington Gorse, Ellar's Gorse, and Walton Thorns. 
The last was planted by Lord Plymouth, and is not 
to be confounded with Walton Holt, which lies on the 
border of Mr. Fernie's country. There are some natural 
woods and coverts like Old Dalby Wood, Thrussington 
Wolds and Schoby Scholes, not to speak of the more 
distant and extensive coverts of Kinoulton and 
Owthorpe, on the Nottinghamshire border, to which 
Lord Harrington's hounds often came after a Quom 
fox that has paid a visit to the South Notts country. 



A WEEK AT MELTON 37 

In these days the heart of the visitor to Melton may 
well beat a little higher at the thought of the sport that 
awaits him on a Cottesmore Tuesday. It will be the 
day of the week he will look forward to most eagerly, 
and turn his thoughts back upon with the most 
pleasure. 

Just at first when he reaches the fixture he will be 
a little staggered by the number of people assembled, 
for if there was a crowd on Monday, it is a multitude 
gathered together on Tuesday. The train will have 
brought visitors from afar. Market Harborough, as 
well as Melton, looks to find its Tuesday's amusement 
with the Cottesmore ; men travel up from Rugby ; 
and those who live at Oakham, and are thus in the 
centre of hunting fashion, are of course there to a man. 
Beside the first qualms caused by the vast assembly 
of men and women, most of whom mean to ride, and 
all to see as much of the sport as circumstances and 
their own nerve will allow, the newcomer may well 
have his keen expectations somewhat shadowed by a 
feeling of dismay when he sees the country. 

Tilton Wood is the first fixture of the season by the 
Cottesmore for their Melton country. As we ride up 
to the meeting place beneath Robin-a-Tiptoes, and 
stand at the gate which looks down over the field 
below, the crowd of horsemen, the dark masses of the 
woods and the steep sides of the hills may well daunt 
us. Can these be the fair green pastures, flat and 
smooth, which we are accustomed to think of as the 
Cream of the Shires ? But, indeed, if we have had 
such thoughts of the country, it is time we should dis- 
card them. If we desire flat and level plains of grass, 
it is in Cheshire, and the Woore country of the North 
Stafford hunt, rather than in Leicestershire that we 
must look for them. With the exception of one or 



38 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

two isolated bits of country, there is very little level 
ground in Leicestershire. 

However, when we have hunted for a short time, we 
shall appreciate the advantages of this Tilton side of 
the Cottesmore, and we shall recognise that, though 
there are bigger crowds with the Cottesmore than with 
any fashionable pack, except perhaps with the Pytchley 
on Wednesdays, yet they hinder the hounds and im- 
pede one another less than might be expected. The 
steep hills, the deep complicated bottoms and the big 
woods seem to swallow them up, while the stiff fences, 
met with after a gallop up hill, weed out all but the 
best men and the stoutest horses, for when hounds 
run in this division of the country they can always 
beat horses. If fox-hunting, indeed, were merely 
galloping over smooth grass in the wake of a racing 
pack, it would not have the charm it has, and this 
rougher country of the Cottesmore is attractive to 
hundreds. 

It is in the nature of Englishmen, and perhaps 
especially of hunting people, to grumble, and you will 
hear people complaining of the difficulties of riding to 
hounds over or through the stretch of woodland 
country that lies between the Tugby and Skeffington 
districts, or Owston Wood, or round Launde Abbey, 
but they will come all the same because they are 
sportsmen and sportswomen, and because they love 
the variety of hunting, and know that, if it were not 
for its disappointments, we might as well ride after a 
red herring. The pleasure of seeing a fox well found 
and steadily hunted, of seeing hounds as they draw 
nearer their fox running harder, and then at last, as 
the scent fails with a tiring fox, come to hunting 
again till they run into him at last, is in itself the most 
perfect of sports. Thus, although, when they have 



A WEEK AT MELTON 39 

been left behind, disappointed men and women will 
grumble sometimes at the intricacies of Loddington, 
the steeps of Tilton and Skeffington, or the depths of 
Launde, yet they will never fail to come there. 

Owston wood is different, for, though it is a long 
covert, it is not very deep nor is the undergrowth 
very thick. It is perfectly preserved and adequately 
hunted. This, indeed, is the secret of success in any 
woodland district. Constant hunting and woods pre- 
served and kept quiet between the hunting days will 
always produce stout foxes. If, as is the case in some 
countries, shooting interests prevail, and hounds are 
kept out of the coverts, there never can be first-rate 
sport. One of the reasons why the Cottesmore show 
such sport in their Tuesday country, is because they 
have a Master and huntsman who know that no bril- 
liancy in the open can result in good sport without it 
rests on a foundation of hard work in the woods. 
Thatcher works his woods and kills plenty of cubs in 
the autumn, and the members of the hunt reap the 
reward in the winter. 

To hunt with a pack of hounds, such as are the 
Cottesmore, in a wooded district like the Tilton and 
Owston portions of the hunt, where thick, deep and 
often sticky coverts are surrounded by old turf carry- 
ing a good scent, is in itself a training in hunting craft. 
No one who does not pay close attention to hounds, or 
who cannot understand what is going on to a certain 
extent, will see much of the fun, unless fortune is very 
kind to him or he has a pilot better instructed than 
himself. But Melton goes to Tilton because after all 
most of the visitors to the former place love hunting 
as well as riding, hounds almost as much as horses. 
The Melton people are drawn from the class who have 
hunted for generations, and from those who with in- 



40 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

creasing wealth are gradually growing up into the 
habits and ways of thought of that class. The mere 
hard rider is the exception, nor as a rule does he last 
long at hunting. When, after a short career of reckless 
riding punctuated by falls, he gives up hunting, he 
generally does so altogether, seeking distinction instead 
at the mouth of the golf hole or the hoop of the croquet 
lawn. 

Yet I may be permitted to warn the newcomer when 
he first visits Tilton Wood, probably about the first 
Tuesday in November, not to be led away by the size 
of the wood into thinking he has plenty of time. It is 
wise politely but steadily to work to the head of the 
line and be as near the hounds as is right. They are 
a pack of flying bitches noted for their necks and 
shoulders, and they can race up and down hill faster 
than the best of us can follow. The huntsman is quick 
and his hounds trust him and fly to him. There will 
be a single challenge from a hound, a note on the horn, 
and the pack will be flying through the covert much 
faster than you can travel along the sticky rides. Like 
a flash they will be over into Skeffington Wood, and 
when you reach the gate above the stream and turn 
sharp to the right after the man in front — it is just as 
likely to be a woman — gallop as you will, the hounds 
will very likely be half-way to the Coplow before you 
are over the fence or through the bridle gate. Mostly 
stake and bound fences and the usual ditches, some 
rails and the undulating ridge and furrow, with a con- 
venient grass - bordered road as an alternative, lie 
between you and the Coplow. But — and here you 
will find the difference between grass countries and 
others — hounds once on the grass, when there is any- 
thing of a scent, scarcely hover at all, but pack together 
quickly and race away. Or it may be that three or 



A WEEK AT MELTON 41 

four couple race off with the lead without pausing at 
all, while the rest strain after them through the crowd 
of horses, managing to reach their comrades somehow. 

Thus, in spite of all the disadvantages of strong 
woodlands and deep rides, it is well to make up your 
mind to be present as often as you can and to take one 
of your best horses whenever Tilton or Loddington is 
on the card, and, whatever else you do, you will never 
miss Owston unless you are laid up altogether. No 
one goes to Owston to see sights. It is far from a town 
and not very favourably situated for the railroad. 
Those who go to Owston go to hunt or to ride, most 
probably for love of both. There is some rough going 
round Withcote, a ploughed field or two, and some 
bottoms only to be crossed by bridges. There are also 
some beautiful rolling grass fields towards Knossington, 
on the other side of the wood. 

Perhaps most people know the line best as it appears 
when they ride from Knossington to Owston. Natu- 
rally it is the commoner line from the plantations, 
which Mr. Duncan preserves so carefully for foxes near 
Knossington Grange, to the woods of Owston and 
Launde. The fences hereabouts are stiff but jumpable 
by the ordinary (Leicestershire) man on an average 
(Leicestershire) horse. They do not require the com- 
bination of youth and audacity, or a horse out of the 
common, that the Skeffington Oxer or the fences round 
Waterloo Gorse demand. Mr. Sawyer on Hotspur 
could ride over the first, but it would take young Rapid 
and the King of the Golden Mines to cross the other, 
and even he might take a fall. There are some stiff 
posts and rails^ and those who have seen Mr. " Timber " 
Powell crossing this line of country in the past, will 
have noted his performance with great but possibly 
distant admiration. 



42 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

Owston Wood is in the middle of some delightful 
country. Two miles of grass and flying fences, not 
neatly cut and laid, but for the most part in a natural 
condition, rough but therefore not impassable, separate 
Owston and Lady Wood. It is a stiff four miles in the 
other direction to Tilton, and there is a rough but 
likely line over the meadows of Marefield and their 
rail-mended fences to John o' Gaunt. The man with 
a hunter that knows his business and that can jump 
rails at a pinch can cross most of this country if he will 
trust himself to the guidance of the pack. Probably 
too he who rides to hunt, but has not unlimited blood 
horses up to fourteen stone at three hundred guineas 
apiece, will see as much sport from Owston Wood and 
its suburb. The Little Wood, as from any coverts in 
the Shires. 

Some readers may think it rather slow to dwell on 
these big coverts when there are others more famous 
and surrounded by perfect country much nearer to 
Melton. But there is a precedent for the preference. 
" Lord Lonsdale and all the gentlemen like the Owston 
country best of any ... its quite Leicestershire 
fencing, very little plough, good scenting, quite open 
country, and every kind of fence." There are, too, 
fixtures which mean the same kind of country, such as 
Launde Abbey and its woods, where Major Dawson is 
a careful preserver of foxes. These woods have of late 
seasons been the point of some of Mr. Fernie's best 
runs. The Abbey is itself a notable feature, a fine 
Elizabethan house buried in the woods with remnants 
of the older Abbey built into it. It is now twenty 
years or more ago since the tenants of the Abbey were 
summoned from the breakfast table by the sound of 
the horn, and ran out just in time to see hounds 
breaking up a fox on the lawn under the windows. 



A WEEK AT MELTON 43 

" What hounds are they ? " " Mr. Tailby's " ; and 
they had come ten miles in a straight hne in the cub- 
hunting season from Glen Oaks. 

Every Tuesday, then, and every alternate Saturday 
the Melton man has the Cottesmore within reach. Of 
these fixtures Stapleford Park is one of the nearest, 
about four miles away, and Leesthorpe, perhaps the 
most famous of all, though if the latter has the Punch- 
bowl and Ranksborough, the former will possibly offer 
you a chance of distinction at the Whissendine. There 
are, in fact, two brooks, each of which claims to be the 
true Whissendine, but, whichever you fall into, the 
results are much the same. The streams vary in 
width in different places, and no doubt it was one of 
these narrower spots Lord Gardner was racing at, when 
he made his historic boast, " A fig for the Whissendine." 
At all events you may meet the brooks so called on a 
Tuesday or alternate Saturday, quite as often as you 
like. 

Ranksborough is of course the most famous of 
Cottesmore coverts. It has been sung by Mr. Bromley 
Davenport in the best song of the saddle ever written, 
" The Dream of the Old Meltonian." Every writer 
on hunting has spoken its praises. Ranksborough is 
a straggling covert on the slope of a low hill, and, look 
which way you will from its outskirts, you see a hunting 
country that cannot be surpassed. The source of 
Ranksborough's fame is first the care originally taken 
of it by the Noel family, themselves the founders of the 
Cottesmore hunt, and next the beautiful hunting 
country round it. It was when speaking of Mr. 
Osbaldeston's run from the Coplow that Nimrod re- 
marked — and he was riding to Ranksborough at the 
time — " I really think that if an artist were to paint a 
panorama and make fox-hunting the subject of it, his 



44 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

imagination could not furnish him with a finer subject 
for his pencil." Nothing could be more true. From 
Ranksborough you look over the choicest of the wide 
pastures, the flying fences and the variety of ground 
that make Leicestershire what it is. But indeed all 
this Tuesday country will be found delightful with this 
one caution to the newcomer : " You cannot ride over 
it on a bad horse, a weak horse, or a faint-hearted one, 
nor can you cross it on the best animal that ever was 
foaled unless he is in condition." 

Many are the charming and fox-haunted coverts of 
the district. Orton Park Wood, just three miles from 
Ranksborough, a square wood of thirty-five or forty 
acres, a refuge for foxes, a landmark to riders, and an 
almost certain find. Or there is Prior's Coppice, the 
Fishponds at Cold Overton, the plantations at Knoss- 
ington, or the Punchbowl at Leesthorpe. Wherever 
you go, the country is good, and perhaps there is no 
better scenting grass in Leicestershire than the Tuesday 
country of the Cottesmore. Nor must we forget the 
pleasant stretches of the more level lower country, 
such as the Burton flats or the fields near Pickwell. 

When on Wednesday comes the first time we hunt 
with the Belvoir hounds, it is an occasion not to be 
forgotten. Every covert, every field is historic in 
hunting annals, and it is probable that the prospect 
of following in the footsteps of the famous riders of the 
past will inspire us. Such were the gallant Lord 
Forester, who had at last to be lifted on to his horse, 
but could always take a good place, no matter what 
the country, when once in the saddle, or Will Goodall, 
the great huntsman who never seemed to think of 
fences at all but only of his hounds, or the late Duke 
of Rutland who once jumped Croxton Park wall six 
feet high and a drop beyond. 



A WEEK AT MELTON 45 

But this is wandering from the Melton man's Wednes- 
day Hunt. He will probably have heard that this 
Leicestershire country of the Belvoir is one famous for 
short quick bursts, and this is true, speaking generally, 
the fact being that there are many small artificial 
coverts, and the foxes found there are of the character 
common to most foxes that live in such places. They 
run short, knowing but little country, and the Belvoir 
are unquestionably a quick pack and have been hunted 
by a succession of quick huntsmen. Their sharpness 
at starting is favoured by the smallness of coverts like 
Brentingby or Scalford, and such little gorses and 
spinnies in a well-preserved, well-hunted country often 
hold a fox. In the nature of things, hounds cannot be 
very far behind their quarry when he starts. Yet the 
runs on this side are not by any means always short. 
Small coverts fairly numerous often mean frequent 
changes, and thus a run goes on from one to the other, 
covering in all a large extent of ground. The country 
is rather more difficult to ride over than the Quorn. 
There are more ditches and bigger, though, like much 
of the best of the Quorn, the fences in some, though 
not all, of the Wednesday country can be taken any- 
where, and it is no uncommon sight to see twenty or 
thirty men ride at them abreast. To wait for your 
turn is not, then, so frequently necessary as in some 
other neighbouring countries. The Melton side of the 
Belvoir, moreover, rides rather deeper in wet weather 
than the Quorn or even than the Cottesmore. But the 
general character of the country is much the same ; 
cut and laid fences are the rule with a ditch to or from 
you and, more seldom, one on both sides of the hedge. 
As in the Quorn so in the Belvoir, " the oxers " and 
" bullfinches " are decreasing in numbers, and the stout 
rail is now replaced by a strand of wire which is often 



46 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

taken down in the winter, but, alas, sometimes only 
has its presence marked by a warning post. From 
this however it must not be supposed that the Belvoir 
has more wire than its neighbours, for such is not 
the case. 

The traditional opening fixture is Croxton Park, 
under the ruined walls of a house built as a fishing box 
for the fourth Duchess of Rutland. The first draw 
from this fixture, the day I first saw the pack, was 
Bescaby Oaks, a fair sized wood reached by a muddy 
lane, but with broad sound rides intersecting it. Aided 
by the music of the pack, it is not a difficult covert to 
start from. Sproxton Thorns is within sight, a small 
square covert in which nevertheless a fox can some- 
times manage to hang for a time. Waltham Village is 
another fixture which, being but a very short distance 
from Croxton Park, means much the same coverts. 
Some time in the day hounds will draw Freeby Wood, 
a small covert of forty acres or so, which is noted for 
being the starting-point of many a good gallop. Not 
far away is Goadby Gorse, which, by the way, is a 
wood or copse of small size, perhaps of eighteen to 
twenty acres. Round about Waltham there is some 
plough, and the country is severe. Coston Covert is 
one of the best in the hunt. A quarter of an hour, or 
it may be twenty minutes away lies Woodwell Head 
in the Cottesmore country, a beautiful line to ride if 
you have a start. Round Coston the fences are not 
small, but you may as well ride at them in one place 
as another. As a rule, they are equally jumpable 
along the greater part of their length. Then there is 
of course Melton Spinney, easily noted by its trees on 
a hill, with the brook running below. This we might 
say was not difficult to jump, if so many people did 
not find it so. 



A WEEK AT MELTON 47 

Two of the most notable coverts, the drawing of 
which is looked forward to by Melton people, are 
Burbidge's and Sherbrooke's. The former was made 
by a stout old yeoman, who in the course of his life saw 
more sport on fewer horses than falls to the lot of most 
men. He kept but a small stud, and each horse lasted 
him for many seasons. His brother was well known 
to a past generation of Meltonians as the landlord of 
the George at Melton. It is not so very long ago that 
old Mr. Burbidge used to come out to see his covert 
drawn, and be as excited as a boy when a fox was 
handsomely found. The covert, a blackthorn brake 
only a mile from Melton, is situated in a bend of the 
river Wreake. Needless to say, the covert was meant 
to be a portal to the Quorn and Cottesmore countries, 
and often opens the way for a gallop over some of the 
best of one or other of these hunt territories. In the 
same way, Sherbrooke's, on the banks of the Smite, 
commands the Belvoir Vale, and forms a link between 
the Quorn and such Belvoir coverts as Piper's Hole or 
Harby Hills, with a nice bit of flat country towards 
the hills, with fences which have somewhere been not 
inaptly described as " stake and bound fair but 
fierce." 

The brooks of this Wednesday country are its chief 
drawback to those who do not like water, or whose 
horses refuse it. The Smite, with its steep and rough 
banks, has turned many a good horse and half drowned 
many a bold man. The same may be said of the 
other streams, but the Smite is the best known and 
the most feared. 

There are still a few coverts which I have not men- 
tioned : Casthorpe, which, it is said, was planted by 
the late Duke to hide a ploughed field from the castle 
windows, and some of the Vale coverts ; but I leave 



48 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

the Vale for Saturday, though, if you are fortunate, 
you will see something of it on a Wednesday too. 

On Wednesday our visitor will find himself in exactly 
the same company as on Monday and Tuesday, for, in 
fact, Melton has nowhere else to go. In any case, 
he will have had a pleasant day, and in all prob- 
ability not be far from his stable door when he has 
finished. 

As to the best way of occupying Thursday there may 
be some difference of opinion, and it is quite probable 
that the Melton division may scatter its forces on that 
day. Of course, if the Quorn should have a bye-day 
on Thursday, that would be the easiest, but then bye- 
days generally take place in a country subsequently to 
be described as the Friday country, one of the best 
and pleasantest in England to ride over. But if the 
Quorn be not within reach, or the pack should be in 
the kennel, two courses are open. You may take the 
train, or have a long ride or drive, to hunt with Mr. 
Fernie, whose Thursdays are, as were those of Mr. 
Tailby before him, delightful, or you may go to the 
Cottesmore. In any case, the distance will be greater 
than on the other days, just so much farther from 
home in the latter case as may make you wish you 
lived at Oakham. The increasing popularity of the 
last-named town as a hunting centre it owes to its 
pleasant situation and its freedom from the manu- 
factories which threaten to spoil Melton. 

The growing reputation of the Cottesmore hunt has 
tended to swell the gatherings in the Thursday country, 
which indeed has many attractions for the hunting man. 
The Vale of Catmore is chiefly grass, and is divided by 
fences easier than those of the more strictly Melton 
side of the country. This, however, pleases some 
people who like to jump as well as gallop, but who 



A WEEK AT MELTON 49 

like the former in moderation. In any case it is a 
change, and there is considerable difference between 
the Thursday district of the Cottesmore and the rest 
of the Melton country. There is more plough, and 
there are large tracts of woodland ; but the woods 
hold foxes, and the plough carries a scent and rides 
fairly light in an ordinary season. Moreover, the 
present huntsman, Arthur Thatcher, has shown excel- 
lent sport over this part of the country, and some most 
enjoyable runs have occurred during the season of 
1902-3. There may, nay, sometimes there must be, a 
day chiefly spent on the plough or in the woods, but 
not seldom there will be a gallop from Morkery to 
Woodwell Head. Cottesmore Wood, too, has been the 
starting-point of several excellent runs, and the Stocken 
Hall fixtures have proved successful. It is always 
worth while to go out for the sake of the possibility of 
a hunt over the Langham Pastures, or a gallop, such 
as took place while this book was being written, from 
Manton Gorse to Launde Wood, up the valley between 
Ridlington and Prior's Coppice. Burley Woods, too, 
are a certain find, and there is always the chance of a 
run into Belvoir territory. Then there is the oppor- 
tunity of seeing the dog hounds, which, handled as they 
are by their huntsmen, is one of the most interesting 
sights to watch in the Shires. So it is not surprising 
that each season we see more people go forth to hunt 
from Melton with the Cottesmore on a Thursday, and 
this is the choice I should advise. It is perhaps more 
of a hunting than a riding country compared to some 
which I have written of or about which I have yet to 
write ; but even this is only comparative, for no man 
who cannot or will not ride fairly straight and hard 
can hope to see the best of the sport. Yet possibly 
the average rider, he who is neither a thruster nor a 

D 



50 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

skirter, is likely to find as much enjoyment here as 
anywhere else in the Midlands. 

There is no question as to where you will go on a 
Friday, The Quom card will settle that. Wherever 
that pack is advertised will of course be your destina- 
tion. The whole of the country is grass and, although 
it needs the best of horseflesh, it is less trying than 
the Belvoir, the Cottesmore or Mr. Fernie's. The 
rider finds it easier too. It calls for pluck and judg- 
ment, but not the desperate resolution sometimes 
needed elsewhere ; for, without having the foolhardi- 
ness of a certain noble lord, who was said to look on 
every big fence as a challenge which it would be dis- 
honour to refuse, there are times in some countries 
when a man must jump a larger fence than he cares 
for, or resign his place in front and perhaps lose the 
run altogether. If we except certain places a man 
may as well ride at one fence as another, and so long 
as his horse is not blown and is a safe timber-jumper, 
he can follow the line of the hounds. Not that I mean 
to suggest that it is child's play to ride to the Quorn, 
but simply that the tax on the rider's courage and the 
strength of his horse is less severe. The hills and the 
ridge and furrow are both there, but are perhaps 
neither so trying nor so wearing as elsewhere. 

At first sight, the country seems to be one of sound 
grass and big flying fences, but on closer acquaintance 
we find that there are drawbacks. The foxes are 
plentiful indeed but not very enterprising. They may 
not know a very wide extent of country, but what 
they do they know thoroughly, so that not a drain or 
a rabbit hole but receives a hunted fox, not, as would 
be right if they played the game, as a last resort to 
save them, but before they have been a decent length 
of time before hounds. Then there is the crowd, which 



A WEEK AT MELTON 51 

for many reasons is very great. Mr. Fernie does not 
always hunt on that day, and, if he does, is on the 
side of his country least favoured by his more ambitious 
followers. The Cottesmore people who live along the 
border come across as a matter of course, and that is 
one of the attractions of a house at Somerby, while 
Leicester also is within reach. Once on a time Leicester 
was a hunting centre. It is so no longer, and if it 
turns out some excellent sportsmen it also sends out a 
motley throng, carriages, char-a-banc (locally cherry- 
bang), carts, bicycles, and an occasional motor. Not 
less than live or six hundred people will turn out, and, 
although it may be said that when hounds really run 
the crowd is scattered and the best men come here as 
elsewhere by their own places, yet the fox is a timid 
animal, and the fox-hound an excitable one, so that 
many a run is nipped in the bud. 

There was something to be said for the plan of the 
sportsman who galloped across country to the meet — 
that was in old days and would not be allowed now — 
but never really rode till the afternoon had thinned off 
the crowd. Putting aside the fact that scent on bright 
days is often better in the evening, particularly on the 
grass, the hounds and fox, not to speak of the hunts- 
man, have a better chance in the afternoon than in the 
morning. And yet, allowing for all disadvantages, the 
people who come out with the Quom on a Friday are 
in the right of it. Is there in the length and breadth 
of the Shires a country more perfectly adapted to the 
sport ? Does not the brilliancy of the too brief gallop 
over that springy turf, when the good horse gives one 
the sensation of flight as he strides over his fences, 
make up for many disappointments ? 

But let us turn to consider the country more in 
detail. The river Wreake is its northern and western 



52 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

boundary ; the Leicester and Uppingham road is the 
southern. The river and the rail are real limits, and 
foxes do but seldom cross them ; but on the east the 
way is open into the Cottesmore country, and the 
Quorn and the Cottesmore harry the foxes backwards 
and forwards, between the Friday country of one and 
the Tuesday country of the other, with considerable 
frequency. Curiously enough, though I cannot exactly 
say why, the excursions to or from Mr. Fernie's country 
are less frequent and shorter when they occur. 

The visitor's first Friday at Melton will recall the 
vivid description given by Nimrod of the bustle of 
preparation. First, the horses starting for the meet — 
and there will be many more of these than in Nimrod's 
time with side-saddles. The neat grooms are riding 
one and leading another, and jogging steadily on to 
the meeting-place, which we will suppose to be Scrap- 
toft. An hour or so later the masters and mistresses 
of the horses will begin to follow, some of the former 
on smart polo ponies ; and the ride to covert is not 
one of the least delightful features of the day's per- 
formance. The roads in Leicestershire run for the 
most part through the fields, and the stranger will do 
well to have a guide, for the geography of the place is 
not easily learned. Sign-posts it is true there are, but, 
having embarked on a bridle road, it is no easy matter 
to take the most direct course, as Mr. Sawyer in fiction 
and Mr. Vickerman in fact, found to their cost. The 
latter, for twenty years secretary to the Essex stag- 
hounds, paid a visit to Melton in 1846, and, riding to 
covert, got " completely bewildered in the great grass 
grounds of High Leicestershire, rising in undulating 
swells in all directions around me with few trees and 
sprinkled over with cattle and sheep, but not a living 
soul within ken." Then he met a woman, and received 



A WEEK AT MELTON 53 

from her some directions which did not much improve 
matters, as, hke those of many guides, her instructions 
were of no use unless you knew the way. So the good 
Essex sportsman got as " completely lost as if in the 
desert of Sahara, and in a locality which seemed about 
equally populous. Here was I fuming and fretting, 
galloping about among the large grass lands, trying 
one bridle way after another with alike indifferent 
success." 

However, Mr. Vickerman found hounds at last, but 
still we may remember from his experience that it is 
wiser not to trust to luck. When you do know the 
way, it is delightful cantering on the living turf in the 
soft grey misty light of a Leicestershire hunting morn- 
ing. This is the pleasantest way of going to covert, 
as it gets one settled in the saddle, brings the riding 
muscles into play, and prepares the way for the greater 
efforts to come. However, some people prefer to 
reserve their strength by driving, not as in Nimrod's 
day in post-chaises, but a few luxurious ones in 
broughams, and the majority in pony carts, while, alas, 
a few are to be seen in motors. 

Now I do not like to be reminded as I go hunting 
that I am an anachronism by the bee-in-a-bottle buzz 
of an automobile. I feel inclined to retort to the 
driver as a college don once did to an undergraduate, 
when the latter suggested that celibate Fellows with a 
lifelong tenure were anachronisms : " Possibly, but you 
must remember that commoners are an excrescence on 
the system of the University. " 

But, however we may choose to go, the fixture is 
reached at last, and as many as possible are being 
packed opposite the quaint old grey hall of Scraptoft, 
where Hartopps have reigned as long as most of us 
can remember. Well do I recollect the procession of 



54 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

well-mounted, well-equipped servants that used to 
delight the folk from Leicester in Lord Lonsdale's 
reign, which struck me, fresh from the provinces, 
all the more from its novelty. Scraptoft Gorse is just 
on the borders of the Quorn country, and is reached 
by a lane which on this occasion was packed as far as 
eye could reach. Of course there was a fox, for Captain 
Burns-Hartopp looked after the covert, and equally of 
course hounds got away, for Lord Lonsdale kept order 
and Tom Firr hunted hounds. I may be wrong, but 
it has always seemed to me that between Scraptoft 
and Keyham is a country as stiff as any in the Quorn. 
I seem to recollect chasms which only revealed them- 
selves in their full terrors of ragged water-worn banks 
when one was already in the air, having jumped 
apparently at a simple fence. The horse will, how- 
ever, probably get over if you only sit still and leave 
his head alone. 

From Scraptoft there is good galloping ground should 
the fox turn to the Coplow, that blue rounded hill 
which will tell you where you are going, and if you 
know any easy places, gaps, gates, or even lanes — and 
such there are — now is the time to make for them, 
unless you are able and willing to ride the line of 
hounds. The stake and bound fences are not high, but 
they are very firm. The skill of a Leicestershire hedger 
is not to be surpassed, and now that prizes are given 
for well-laid fences we may expect them to be more 
uncompromising than ever. If the Coplow is the point, 
it is more than likely that you may find yourself in the 
square wood by the roadside known as Botany Bay. 
Very likely the fox will turn and go back to Scraptoft, 
running over the road and skirting the Coplow coverts, 
crossing the picturesque field below the house and 
leading you over a hairy fence of thorn. Or, again, 



A WEEK AT MELTON 55 

there may be a fresh fox, and he may then run up over 
the railroad and past Quenby Hall, a fine old house 
which will catch your eye even in the excitement of 
the chase, and be marked down in your memory half 
unconsciously as a useful landmark. 

On another day you may find yourself at Gaddesby, 
and the Hall will seem strangely familiar until you 
recollect that you have seen the prints of it, from Mr. 
G. D. Giles's clever pictures, in some printseller's 
window. The country round is grass, the fences are 
strong but fair, and the gates swing easily on their 
hinges if the fences are, as they may be, too big for 
your early morning resolution. Many men, as we know, 
go well in the evening, who cannot, or perhaps I should 
say will not, do much in the morning. 

You may see hounds draw Barkby Holt, or ride the 
two miles, a very frequent and never stale ten minutes 
or so, to Baggrave. Possibly Scraptoft is once more 
the fox's point, and then, if you are quick, there are 
a good many fair rails in the otherwise stiff fences. 
Other people, however, besides yourself like to see what 
is the other side and will make for the rails, and you 
may have the agonising experience of waiting your 
turn while the musical ripple of hound music dies 
away in the distance. What perils we go through in 
order to lose a run, when it is really much safer as well 
as pleasanter to ride straight ! A post and rails in a 
corner, albeit not big, are no safer when twenty or 
thirty horses have poached up the take off, than a 
larger fence jumped from sound and springy turf ; but 
some people never can get rid of their dislike of the 
harsh outline of a well-grown blackthorn. Perhaps 
this is the reason why huntsmen are so bold. They 
have their hounds to look to, and, having once made 
up their minds that the fence is to be crossed, never look 



56 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

at it. Mr. Assheton Smith did not ; I never could see 
that Tom Firr did ; and Arthur Thatcher just takes 
any fence as it comes. 

There is another famous covert in this part of the 
hunt, the Prince of Wales' Gorse. It may be a second 
or later draw from some other fixture, or we may 
begin the day with it from Baggrave Hall, where not 
so very long ago General Burnaby was wont to receive 
the hunt with hospitality. Prince of Wales' Gorse was 
planted by the present King in 1871, and it has held 
foxes ever since it reached maturity. I saw it drawn 
three times, if not more, on one afternoon in Lord 
Lonsdale's mastership, and each time Firr came away 
with a fox. It is a stirring sight to see a big Quorn 
field start from the top side of the covert when a fox 
goes away to South Croxton. The chances here are 
everywhere in favour of a short gallop and a merry 
one, but there may be a longer run, as some five-and- 
twenty years ago, from the gorse near Barkby to 
Tilton, an almost ideal line for a fox-chase. 

Farther away towards the Cottesmore borderland is 
Lowesby HaU, in the dining-room of which Lord 
Waterford performed the famous feat of riding his horse 
over the table. Then there is John o' Gaunt, not now 
perhaps quite what it was before it gave its name to 
a railway junction. It is not the easiest of coverts to 
start from. The hunt is generally gathered in a field 
with the covert in front and to the right an impassable 
fence filled by a narrow bridle gate, which soon becomes 
jammed with the pushing crowd. There is a way 
round to the left, but it takes time which can ill be 
spared if hounds run, yet there is generally a chance, 
for, when I have been there, the pack has seldom been 
able to start quite at once. There is a line from here 
to Owston Wood or Tilton which is quite practicable 



A WEEK AT MELTON 57 

and over a wild hunting-like country. To the north 
of this lie Ashby Pastures, a square wood of perhaps 
a hundred acres or so, and Thorpe Trussels ; neither 
of these are very good scenting coverts, and hounds 
are apt to slip away from them quietly. Indeed, 
everywhere in Leicestershire it is advisable to be alert, 
because the undergrowth of thorns and grass in the 
coverts is thick and hounds cannot say much about 
the find. 

Nor have I told of the Twyford Vale, which is one 
of the famous riding grounds of the Shires. It was 
my lot once to share in a run which took us over this 
vale and right away to Scraptoft, and we lost a beaten 
fox at Keyham, Lord Lonsdale finishing on the horse 
of the whipper-in. Such a ride lives in one's memory, 
nor have I forgotten seeing the ease and grace with 
which the late Tom Firr sailed over the vale, never far 
from his hounds. The sport shown by that great 
huntsman on Fridays was wonderful when we consider 
the number of his field. For one thing he never lost 
his head and, keen as he was — for we felt he enjoyed 
the sport as much as any of us — he never was too 
excited to do the right thing. I have seen him lift his 
hounds clear of a crowd in the morning, and in the 
afternoon have watched him patiently hunting his fox 
to death with a failing scent and letting the pack 
alone to work. The crowd had gone home, and but a 
small band of followers watched the hunting of the 
fox with as much enjoyment as they had shown in the 
quick gallop of the morning. 

This Friday country of the Quorn is full of variety 
of fences, and a horse must gallop and turn, fly and 
creep as occasion offers, if his rider is to see the best of 
the sport. I have not seldom found that people have 
been disappointed on first coming to Leicestershire, for 



58 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

they have pictured it as a vast plain of grass intersected 
with flying fences. Instead of that, it is, as my readers 
will before now have learned, an undulating, rather 
hilly country and the fences of very varied descriptions. 
Sometimes you can fly these, and again at others you 
can barely creep through. Often only courage in the 
man, boldness in the horse, and the constraining effect 
of pace in the hounds will enable a rider to cross them 
at all. There are fences which even a good man to 
hounds would hardly ride at if he had time to think. 
Horses can do more perhaps than we give them credit 
for, yet it is certainly only the pace that carries us 
over some parts of the country. A horse must be a 
hunter, and a man must be something of a horseman, 
able at least to sit still and leave his horse's head 
alone. Moreover, he must like jumping, or he will 
find himself out of place here. " I think, sir," once 
said a well-known hunt servant to a man who was 
alongside, as a stranger turned aside from a big fence, 
" that gentleman has no business in our shire." 

Although, however, the man who would see a hunt 
must like jumping, he must not jump when he can 
fairly avoid it, for it has been well said that to be 
ridden over a big fence with fourteen stone on his 
back takes as much out of a horse as to gallop half- 
way over a forty-acre field. The best men do not 
waste their horses' strength, knowing that, though 
great, it is not unlimited. Therefore the men with- 
out judgment seldom see the end of a fast run. Thus 
if you watch the best men, you will see that they 
start quickly and gallop hard till they are on terms 
with hounds, and they turn from no possible fences, 
but they are always ready to trot off to a gate or 
take advantage of a gap if by so doing they do not 
lose their places. It may be safely asserted that in 



A WEEK AT MELTON 59 

few runs that last over ten or fifteen minutes do 
hounds go equally fast all the time. Directly you 
can command their pace then is the time to save the 
horse. It may be only a burst, but if it should last 
for forty minutes at a fair pace, even though you have 
the best blood in England under the saddle, yet you 
will want all your horse's courage and strength to see 
the end. 

To the man who really can and will ride to hounds 
a knowledge of the country is a positive snare. He 
may be a judge of pace, indeed, and must have an 
eye for a country, but he should see the hounds only 
and direct his course by them. To ride cunning, to 
ride to points, is fatal in grass countries. There is 
not time, so quickly do hounds rush forward even 
with a comparatively moderate scent. Then scent 
improves sometimes very suddenly, and hounds are 
away in a moment. True, if you are thrown out, as 
everybody must be sometimes, to know the country 
is an advantage, but it is not worth while to know it 
too well, for, after all, a pilot can generally be found. 
In this, however, I am speaking only to the hard- 
riding man. I have often occasion to seek for in- 
formation from people about runs, and I find that the 
straightest and best riders are often the worst his- 
torians. Even among hunting correspondents some 
of the most accurate narrators of the course of a run 
are those who do not ride, but go afoot or on a bicycle. 
The fact is that the man who rides a fox-chase is like 
a man in a battle in that he only sees a small part of 
the fray. 

But this has led me away from the Quorn Friday 
country, which on the whole is one of the best dis- 
tricts in England. That the sport is good the very 
crowds show. Fashion indeed may bring some, but 



6o FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

there is no field in England where there are so many 
men and women who mean to ride to hounds as will 
be seen in the lane by Cream Gorse, in the road near 
Ashby Pastures, in the village street of Twyford or 
Thorpe Satchville, or any other well-known spot 
within its borders from November to March, 

Saturday is a day which perhaps is looked forward 
to as keenly as any. If the five preceding days have 
left us a little jaded, the very names of the Saturday 
meets are enough to stir us up to renewed zest for 
hunting. There is sometimes a choice, but one 
Saturday will generally find us in the Melton country 
of the Cottesmore and the next in the Belvoir Vale, 
or, tempted by the country round Wardley Wood and 
the prospect of a gallop round Belton or Ridlington, 
we may ride the fifteen miles to Beaumont Chase or 
Stoke Dry. In any case there will be sport if there 
is scent. On the character of the country I need not 
dwell, for it is on the whole similar to the rest of the 
country of the Belvoir or the Cottesmore, which is 
within reach of the town of Melton. The Belvoir 
Vale is sometimes deep, and this gives its fences, which 
are severely neat with a stern primness about the 
strong, well-laid binders and the clean-cut ditches, 
a greater terror. Even good men have failed to face 
the Vale. 

The Cottesmore, on the other hand, will offer you 
a more unkempt country, but to my mind a certain 
wildness and roughness adds to the pleasure of hunt- 
ing. Fox-hunting is essentially a sport which appeals 
to the underlying poetic side of our nature, and I 
cannot imagine a true sportsman being unmoved by 
its picturesque aspect. If this were not so, why not 
pursue the carted deer or the red herring ? Whyte- 
Melville has said that there is much of the poet in the 



A WEEK AT MELTON 6i 

sportsman, and he was himself the best example of 
the truth of his own words. I think but few men 
continue to hunt after the first flush and fire of youth 
is over unless they enjoy this side of hunting. So 
this, perchance, is one reason why women, who are 
more prosaic than men, seldom become veterans in 
the sport. 

But that there is another side to this view of the 
Melton country is not to be disguised. Mr. Vicker- 
man shall once more give us his views, as they may 
be found in Mr. Yerburgh's delightful " Leaves from 
a Hunting Diary." This hard rider says : " There 
is many a spot in the neighbourhood where I should 
like to pitch my tent. The country looks so English, 
the very hills, though detrimental to hunting " — this 
I rather doubt, for if it were not for the hills it would 
be very difficult for hounds ever to draw away from 
such riders and horses as are found in Leicestershire 
— " give it a variety of scent, and the continued grass 
and bridleways render it delightful for riding or 
rambling over. I can scarcely imagine a more enjoy- 
able life than to have one's headquarters in this neigh- 
bourhood. . . . But after all this eulogium, shall I 
say I am disappointed with Leicestershire as a hunting 
country, or rather that it does not come up to my 
expectations or the opinions I had formed of it from 
the hasty view and taste of it I had in the latter part 
of the season of 1844 ? It is more hilly than I ex- 
pected, and the fences, though few and far between," 
— they are more numerous now — " are in too many 
places impracticable, so that it is impossible to ride 
as straight as over the Roothings, and offers a premium 
to those who affect gateways and bridleways, which 
are found in abundance. At any rate, I think that 
I am not premature in saying that I am disappointed 



62 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

with the greater part of the country round Melton, 
so much so as to feel some surprise that it should 
ever have attained such fame and popularity. But 
it must have proceeded rather from its central posi- 
tion in regard to the three packs of the Quorn, Belvoir 
and Cottesmore than to the goodness of the country, 
for all its best country lies in High Leicestershire, 
which is a greater distance from Melton than from 
either Leicester, Lutterworth or Market Harborough."* 

Like Brooksby and many other writers, Mr. Vicker- 
man then goes on to speak of " Billesdon, which is 
very central for the best country of the Quorn and 
Cottesmore." Billesdon, from which place comes the 
second title of Mr. Fernie's hounds, is indeed very 
central and wants but better railway accommodation, 
and possibly the social charms of Melton, to make 
it as popular as any of the villages round that town, 
such as Asfordby, Thorpe Satchville or Somerby. 
There is undoubtedly much truth in what Mr. Vicker- 
man says, yet one is a little surprised to find that 
he objects to the greater impracticability of the fences 
of the Melton district as compared to those round 
Market Harborough, for such is certainly not the case 
to-day. 

As we jog back in the gathering dusk after a week 
spent in such surroundings as I have described, we 
shall feel, in spite of all drawbacks, that a well spent 
and happy time has been passed. We shall not 
regret the hours or the money spent in hunting, for 
the chase leaves no bitter taste in the mouth. " If 
I had my time to commence again, I would flirt less 
and hunt more," is the saying tradition has assigned 
to a sportsman of old ; and who shall say he was 
wrong ? The only drawback to our perfect enjoy- 

* " Leaves from a Hunting Diary in Essex," p. 342. 



A WEEK AT MELTON 63 

merit of hunting is that it makes the time pass so 
quickly, that if it were not for the pause of Sunday 
we should scarcely know we were at Melton ere it 
is time to throw up the hunters and return to town. 

In the foregoing chapter I am conscious that I 
have but touched on the surface of my subject, but 
no one can say everything on any matter; and at 
least, as the reader comes to the end, he will know 
that Melton has become the most fashionable resort, 
because it is on the whole the best hunting centre in 
England. 



CHAPTER III 

A WEEK AT MARKET HARBOROUGH 

Mr. Sawyer's opinion of Market Harborough — Nim South on the 
subject — Convenience of the Town — Difference between it 
and Melton — Prices of Houses — Surrounding Villages — 
Hotels — Easily Reached from Town — Railway lines that 
serve — Influence of Canals and Railways — Market Har- 
borough compared with Melton — Reputation for Wire — 
Monday with Mr. Fernie— Lubenham and other Fixtures — 
Features of the Monday Country — The Monday alternatives : 
the Woodland Pytchley or the Pytchley — Tuesday with the 
Cottesmore — Or with Mr. Fernie — Or a Tuesday off — Wednes- 
day with the Pytchley — The Country — Lilbourne Gorse — 
Stanford Park — The Hemplow — Mr. Tailby's Thursdays — 
Some great Runs — Nimrod on the Sport — The Sheepthorns 
— Friday with Mr. Fernie^Mr. Greene — Alternate Fridays 
with the Pytchley — The Fences — The Cottesmore on Satur- 
days — Future of Market Harborough — Its Polo Club. 

" The very place. I wonder I never thought of it 
before. Strike me ugly if I won't go to Market 
Harborough." There is no doubt that when Whyte- 
Melville's immortal hero, Mr. Sawyer, uttered these 
words he spoke wisely. He had not arrived at the 
resolution without due consideration of the best place 
for a country squire of moderate means to enjoy fox- 
hunting in the Shires. He had considered and dis- 
missed Leamington, since its social advantages did 
not appeal to a bachelor who loved hunting and 
made no great figure in a ball-room. Then the author 
goes on to say that Mr. Sawyer was unwilling to face 

the crowds of a Pytchley Wednesday, though he 

64 




fe--. 



Fioin a photograph hy R. B. I.oifi^c, hi: 

MARKICr HARBOROUGH 



>»4l 



Platk IV 



WEEK AT MARKET HARBOROUGH 65 

altered his views about this later on, and he had no 
taste for the water-jumping which he understood to 
be necessary in Warwickshire. 

Still, there was Melton, but " I am not such a fool 
as I look," quoth Mr. Sawyer, " and I don't mean to 
keep eight hunters and a couple of hacks to meet a 
set of fellows every day who don't condescend to 
notice me unless I do as they do." Melton society 
was indeed most exclusive in those, as in earlier, days, 
for we recollect how Nimrod dwells on the habit of 
" quizzing a slow top," which was, according to him, 
one of the favourite sports of Lords Alvanley and 
Forester, and the pleasant playful way of speaking 
of unknown men as " Snobs," much as the Greeks 
in the past, and the French people of to-day, love 
to speak and think of all other nations as " barbarians." 
" Whist," goes on Mr. Sawyer — he would speak of 
Bridge to-day — "and dry Champagne and off to 
London at the first appearance of frost, ride like a 
butcher all day risking thrice as much neck as I do 
here, and then come out ' quite the lady ' at dinner 
time. . . . Besides Pd never sell my horses there. 
They order their hunters down from London just as 
they do their baccy and their breeches." Then it 
was that Market Harborough came into his mind, 
and he took the momentous resolution already quoted. 

Another author, Nim South, who made a hunting 
tour in imitation of Nimrod, written with a faint 
flavour of the great writer's peculiar style, gives his 
ideas of Market Harborough. " It stands," he tells 
us, " on the confines of Leicestershire and North- 
amptonshire about eighty-three miles from London 
on the mail road, and contains a good wide street 
with a few barbers' poles sticking out, a Town Hall 
and a large Church." This is a true, but very in- 

E 



66 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

sufficient, description of Market Harborough to-day. 
It is a pleasantly situated place and a perfect picture 
of a homelike English market-town. It has a popula- 
tion of above 6000, and is the centre of one of the best 
grazing districts in England. It has an excellent 
system of drainage and a good water-supply, and, 
although the town itself lies comparatively low, most 
of the hunting-boxes stand in a high situation, and 
the general healthiness of the place is above suspicion. 
A very considerable number of hunting people have 
made the neighbourhood their permanent home. No 
place that I know has so many pleasant houses of 
convenient, yet moderate, size in its immediate neigh- 
bourhood, while there is a continual demand for land 
suitable for building hunting-boxes. 

Market Harborough is not only a pleasant town ; 
it is a convenient one as well. It has good shops 
and excellent postal arrangements, not to speak of a 
first-rate railway service to town, of which I shall 
speak more at length presently. It is unquestionably 
— as I shall remind my readers again — a duty to buy 
what we can in the neighbourhood where we hunt, 
and nowhere can this be done more easily than at 
Market Harborough. The business people are well 
up to the requirements of hunting folk, and you can 
find everything you want in reason in the town or 
its neighbourhood from a high-priced hunter to a 
bootlace, and in the High Street you can have your 
hair cut and talk of sport to Mr. West while he does 
it. The fact is the business men of Harborough are 
themselves sportsmen and they thus learn by practice 
and observation what their customers require. I 
must not mention names, but for saddles, forage and 
sound liquors there are few places that beat Market 
Harborough to-day. Thus the same visitors come 



WEEK AT MARKET HARBOROUGH 67 

year after year ; statesmen, soldiers and bankers of 
distinction, men who work hard and play hard, and 
find quiet and comfort in the town and the most 
delightful of playgrounds round it. 

Possibly we might distinguish Harborough from 
Melton by saying that the visitors are older and for 
the most part men who have chosen their line of life. 
Hunting there is the business of the few, but the 
recreation of the many. There would thus be fewer 
six-days-a-week men at Harborough than at Melton, 
for even in his holidays the busy man can hardly 
find the strength to hunt six days a week. To do 
so is, no doubt, to put a great strain on the physical 
and muscular powers, greater as some of us have 
found by experience than the ordinary worker can 
manage. 

We may now consider the conveniences of Market 
Harborough as a hunting centre, especially for busy 
men and those who have ties which call them to 
London from time to time. There are several ways 
by which the man who intends to hunt from Market 
Harborough can find accommodation. The first is to 
buy or rent a house of suitable size. As to the prices 
for such, the following are those actually paid. A 
house and a little land has sold for £3000, and I am 
told that a larger one is priced at ;^5ooo. A com- 
fortable house, but without stabling, was sold a little 
while ago for £1800. The rent of unfurnished hunt- 
ing-boxes runs from ;£ioo to £250 for large houses, 
ranging down to £60 or £yo for smaller ones, while a 
furnished house for the season may be had for £150 
to £300, or from about 5 to 10 guineas a week for 
shorter periods. In all these cases the houses are 
comfortable of their kind, and the stabling is generally 
of a very excellent character. 



68 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

These prices and descriptions mark the houses 
in the pleasant villages round Market Harborough, at 
Great Bowden, which is in fact a suburb, at Luben- 
ham, hardly much more than a mile away, at Foxton, 
one of the most pleasant of country villages, some 
four miles out, at Farndon, Oxendon and Clipston, 
all three in a famous district of the Pytchley, at 
Medbourne, where the kennels of Mr. Fernie's hounds 
are situated, or at the Langtons, all of which are 
splendidly situated for hunting. The same may be 
said of Burton Overy, Great Glen and Carlton 
Curlieu, and many more. I mention these villages, 
because most of them have hunting-boxes, large and 
small, and because many people have a rooted objec- 
tion to living in or even very near a town. The more 
permanent our settlement, the more attractive are the 
rural districts. 

But if the intending visitor does not care to take 
a house, or if his visits are only occasional, then there 
are hotels which have a long tradition of hunting 
customers, and where the hunting man's wants are 
well understood. The " Angel " is a comfortable old- 
fashioned house which has been lately done up and 
yet not spoilt. We do not, indeed, want a second- 
rate imitation of a London caravanserai in a country 
town, but an inn where we can take our ease in the 
old way, and where there is plain food of the best 
and no chilly, sodden imitations of second-class French 
cookery. All the inns of Harborough are of the old 
coaching sort, and the " Angel " and the " Three 
Swans," which latter by the way has a most artistic 
sign, both have good stabling. So have the " Pea- 
cock " and the " Hind," and seldom do any of these 
fail of occupants. 

There was, indeed, a time in the days of Mr. Sawyer 



WEEK AT MARKET HARBOROUGH 69 

aforesaid, and when Mr. Tailby's fame filled every 
corner of the Harborough district, when more men 
lived at hotels for the hunting season than do so now. 
Yet nowadays there are some country inns where at 
less cost than at Harborough a man may live for a 
month or two, and these might well suit the con- 
venience and pockets of soldiers on leave. Such are 
the " Rose and Crown " at Kibworth, where, with a 
friend from the Colonies, I once spent a very happy 
five weeks, the " Black Horse " at Billesdon and the 
" Black Horse " at Foxton, where a soldier friend of 
my own lived pleasantly for a short time a year or 
two back. Everywhere the stabling is good, and 
there are doubtless many other inns as suitable as 
those I have mentioned. 

But to return to Market Harborough. I have 
already written of its convenience for men who have 
other occupations, and in this matter I speak from 
some personal experience that for busy men there is 
less wear and tear in living where you hunt and going 
up to town as the occasion arises. If Market Har- 
borough, then, be the centre chosen, it is possible 
to leave town on Friday evening, to hunt with Mr. 
Fernie's or the Pytchley on Saturday and with Mr. 
Fernie on the Monday, and return to town on Monday 
evening. Then you can come down again after busi- 
ness on Wednesday and hunt on Thursday, once 
more with Mr. Fernie in his best country, and, going 
up to town again that night, have a whole day for 
work on Friday. Even if only two days, Friday and 
Saturday or Saturday and Monday, are possible, it 
is worth the extra length of journey to hunt on the 
grass. I have hunted from town and thus may claim 
to know, for I have tried several hunts, the Surrey 
Union, the Essex, the Duke of Beaufort's and the 



70 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

Vale of Aylesbury, and I do not hesitate to say that, 
owing to the convenience of the trains and their 
swiftness and punctuality, Market Harborough is a 
better hunting centre than many places nearer town. 
The Midland Railway offers every facility, and the 
same is true of the North-Western. We can thus 
afford to smile at some of the prophets of evil. 

" It's all over with hunting, my Lord," said an 
old Pytchley huntsman to the grandfather of the 
present Lord Spencer. " Why ? " " Oh, these canals 
they are cutting must ruin it. There will be no 
getting across them after hounds." This is exactly 
what, a few years later, every one felt about railways, 
and these have indeed scored the Midland pastures 
with many tracks, and undoubtedly they have saved 
the life of many a fox. Even now I cannot see " John 
o' Gaunt " as the name of a railway junction without 
a shock ! But railways, though often a trial to hunts- 
men and occasionally a danger to hounds, have been 
far less of a hindrance to hunting than might have 
been expected. In one sense, indeed, they have been 
a blessing in disguise, for had there been no railways 
there would have been more canals, and the latter 
are a very serious impediment to the sport. As the 
railways have killed the canals, they have indirectly 
benefited hunting. The railways, too, place hunting 
within the reach of those who could not possibly 
have enjoyed it in the past. There is of course 
another view of this, considering the crowded state 
of the fashionable fixtures. But we are not at this 
moment concerned with that. 

As far as Market Harborough is concerned, no 
town has felt the benefit of railway extension more. 
The joint station of the Midland and North-Western 
railways is near enough for convenience and yet far 



WEEK AT MARKET HARBOROUGH 71 

enough away from the centre of the town not to be 
either a nuisance or an eyesore. Let us suppose that 
you desire to combine business with pleasure and 
we will see how it can be done. After a day on the 
Stock Exchange, let us say, you catch the 5.40 p.m. 
from St. Pancras and reach Harborough at 7.35. Or, 
if you prefer it, you can dine at your club and come 
down by the 8.30, or again you can leave Euston at 
7 and dine in the train and be in Harborough before 
10 P.M. Thus the traveller can go to bed in good 
time, a very necessary thing for a hunting man to 
do, for he who keeps early hours keeps his nerve. 
The London & North-Western gives a rather longer 
journey owing to the change at Northampton. If, 
however, you travel by daylight you will not so much 
grudge the extra time for the sake of the very sport- 
ing country the line runs through. The very names 
of the stations, Clipston, Oxendon and Lamport, are 
full of hunting associations. 

Nor are these all the advantages of Market Har- 
borough, for the branch lines are well contrived and 
the trains so arranged as to make convenient covert 
hacks. For instance, the line which runs through 
Welford and Lutterworth to Rugby commands all 
the famous Pytchley Wednesday country, and here 
again the names on the station boards are suggestive 
of hunting. Welford, North Kilworth, Yelvertoft, 
Crick and Lilbourne tell of past gallops, and, if you 
are going a-hunting, promise sport to come. Not less 
attractive is the line on to Tilton, where the station 
is full of horse-boxes from Melton and Market Har- 
borough on a Tuesday, when men from both places 
are bent on hunting with the Cottesmore in their 
Tuesday country, of which much has been written 
above. On these lines specials are often run in the 



72 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

hunting season ; the railway companies quite recog- 
nise the hunting traffic, and the officials are both 
courteous and intelligent. I have known a vixen and 
cubs to choose a platform for a playground in the 
early morning, and a friendly signalman has told me 
he used to watch them and count to see they were 
all there. I believe, too, that a vixen laid up a litter 
in Kibworth goods yard for several years. The care, 
too, which those good sportsmen, the engine-drivers 
and guards, take not to run over hounds, excites the 
admiration and gratitude of all who hunt in the Shires. 

Having, then, established the fact that Market 
Harborough is comfortable to live in and is convenient 
to reach, let us now consider how a week's hunting 
may be enjoyed there. I may say at once that, 
while the fixtures are handy. Market Harborough is 
not quite so near to those which serve its sportsmen 
as Melton. But three or four miles can be saved in 
several directions by living in one of the villages, 
which are little more than suburbs of the centre. 
Thus Lubenham, or Foxton, or the Langtons — there 
are five of the latter I believe, Church Langton, Tur 
Langton, Thorpe Langton, and East and West Lang- 
ton, though the last I take on trust as I have never 
seen it — are nearer to several meets of Mr. Fernie's 
and the Pytchley than Harborough itself. 

The second drawback, or indeed the real hindrance, 
to Market Harborough as a hunting centre lies in the 
fact that it bears an undeserved reputation for 
being wired. It is well to bear in mind that this is 
not now so serious a hindrance to hunting as it was, 
so well is it removed during the hunting season. Every 
year more of it disappears as each first of November 
comes round. There is a story told which illustrates 
the popular if erroneous belief on this subject. A 



WEEK AT MARKET HARBOROUGH 73 

certain well-known house standing on a hill flies a 
red flag when the owner is at home. " What is that 
flag for ? " asked a stranger, as he was trotting home 
after hunting. " Oh," replied his companion, " that 
is to show that the country is wired for ten miles 
round." 

Now, let the newcomer take his card and lay out 
his week's hunting. Monday will be spent with Mr. 
Fernie in that delightful little bit of country which 
lies southward of the Harborough-Leicester turnpike. 
The stranger, if he cares for the past and its history, 
will not forget that all Mr. Fernie's country belonged 
at one time to the Quorn. It was, indeed, known 
to our forefathers as the Harborough country, and 
was regarded by them with admiration and awe ; 
admiration because of the wide grass pastures, and 
awe on account of the stiffness of its fences. As it 
was then, so it is now, except that there are more 
fences and more coverts than when Mr. Assheton Smith 
dared the former, or when Mr. Osbaldeston invited 
his followers somewhat rashly " to ride over them 
now," when the hounds raced away over its pastures. 

This Harborough country has been written about 
most often by the older writers on hunting. One 
reason of this is that Nimrod seems generally to have 
visited Leicestershire late in the season, and there 
is no doubt that, about Harborough especially, the 
country round Slawston, Shangton Holt and the 
Ashlands valley carries a better scent late in the year 
than do most other parts. When other hunting 
countries, as we have seen, are dried up, then High 
Leicestershire can still be ridden over and hounds can 
often race a fox to death. Mr. Fernie's Monday 
country on its southern border marches with the 
Pytchley, the Harborough and Lutterworth road being 



74 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

the boundary between them, except that certain 
coverts round Lubenham, Marston Trussells and 
Hothorpe are neutral between the Pytchley and Mr. 
Fernie's. The Monday country of the latter hunt is 
much the same in character as the Pytchley in some 
parts, and the fences are chiefly cut-and-laid hedges 
with small ditches ; a few ragged bottoms, some 
timber, and a certain number of bullfinches are the 
obstacles that the rider may expect. Everywhere 
there is grass, with a rather larger admixture of plough 
than is to be found in the rest of the country. 

But it will be convenient to take the fixtures as 
the stranger will see them and to note what may be 
expected from each. The nearest to Market Har- 
borough is Lubenham, a small village which lies on 
the main road to Lutterworth. This will lead to the 
neutral coverts at Marston Hills, where there are 
fairly large coverts, and Hothorpe Gorse, which lies 
at the back of Sibbertoft, and is partly gorse and 
partly wood. These coverts are most picturesquely 
situated on the ridge and sides of an abrupt line of 
hills which divide Leicestershire from Northampton- 
shire. In and about the coverts the slopes are steep, 
and the going is rough ; but when once a fox is away, 
he will lead over a fine range of country, having the 
choice of some good Pytchley country on one side 
and a beautiful grass vale on the other, though the 
latter, alas, is spoiled by the railway and the canal. 
Foxes, however, will sometimes cross these, for on 
the opposite side of the valley is the wooded line of 
the Laughton Hills, grassy slopes with dark patches 
of woodlands giving excellent covert with a southern 
aspect, and much favoured by foxes. The covert 
known as Pamps lies at the foot of the Marston 
Hills. 



WEEK AT MARKET HARBOROUGH 75 

At the pretty village of Theddingworth the road 
again becomes the boundary, and we reach a country 
more like that so often written of and praised as the 
Pytchley Wednesday district. The coverts are mostly 
true gorses, such as Mowsley New Covert and Bos- 
worth Gorse, while beyond is Walton Holt, a thorn 
covert which generally holds foxes and is seldom 
a week without having hounds either to draw 
it or run to it. For about two miles away is Kilworth 
Sticks, a famous Pytchley covert. Generally the 
first thought of a fox when ousted from the one covert 
is to run to the other, and in so doing he leads over 
a charming line of grass fields and moderate fences. 
For all this part of the country Foxton or Thedding- 
worth may be named, as well as Lubenham. 

When Mowsley, which is only a pleasant trot from 
Harborough, is on the card, Gilmorton may be the first 
draw, and this will mean a gallop into the Atherstone 
country, where the fields are level and the fences to 
all appearance easier, for there is no need to string 
out and take your turn, as they can be jumped any- 
where. It is curious that, though this country looks 
easier than some of the neighbouring districts, there 
is sure to be a good deal of grief when hounds cross it. 

Not far from Mowsley are the famous coverts of 
John and Jane Ball, which, as well as Walton Holt, 
were planted for the Quorn hunt early in the last 
century by a yeoman named Oldacre, a noted maker 
of thorn coverts. A silver cup was presented to him 
by the hunt as a token of gratitude for his skill in 
making, and his care in preserving, these coverts. 
John Ball is finely situated on the slope of a rather 
lofty hill with a fine view which may well excite the 
admiration of the sportsman, for it presents a series 
of panoramic views of a country, every yard of which 



76 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

is fitted for the chase, and across which many historic 
runs have taken place. From John Ball over the 
road to Jane Ball, and away to Walton Holt or 
Willoughby Waterless are lines which will not be 
forgotten by those who have ridden them. Nor will 
any one ever weary of them. Peatling, Foxton and 
Countesthorpe are all names which will become familiar, 
and all are associated with sport. Wistow Park and 
its coverts lead us back to Kibworth, and thence we 
find ourselves at Smeeton Gorse and Gumley. The 
latter, though only a patch of woodland, is a noted 
stronghold for foxes, and Gumley Hall is the tradi- 
tional opening meet of Mr. Fernie's hounds. 

These are the chief features of the Monday country. 
There are no large coverts in it, and its extent is not 
great, but so well preserved and cared for are its 
coverts that it affords ample sport for one day a 
week and even for an additional bye-day. When 
once clear of the Marston Hills or Laughton, the 
country, though undulating, has hiUs less steep and 
severe than those characteristic of the Cottesmore and 
some parts of the Billesdon country round Keythorpe 
or Goadby. Thus, offering as it does chances of 
excursions into the best of the Pytchley and the 
Atherstone countries, besides its own excellent grass, 
the country hunted on Monday by Mr. Fernie's hounds 
is a very attractive one, and adds not a little to the 
fame of Harborough as a hunting centre. 

One of the charms of Market Harborough is the 
variety of the sport which is attainable from there. 
Some people are very fond of change. They like to 
see a new country, to watch the methods of a strange 
huntsman and the powers of a pack of hounds hitherto 
unknown. Now, on Monday the man from Market 
Harborough has always two and it may be three 



WEEK AT MARKET HARBOROUGH ^'j 

courses open to him. One of these has already been 
sketched. The second is to join the Woodland 
Pytchley, which is seldom far from the town on Monday, 
and in the spring and autumn enlarges its fields very 
much from Harborough. In the depth of the winter 
the visitor will find small fields with the Woodland 
Pytchley, but a charming stretch of country, stiff 
though well gated, within his reach. It is necessary 
to take out a quick, handy, stout horse, for the 
country is hilly, the woods may be deep, and it is 
hardly necessary to remark that the pleasure of the 
day is dependent on being able to see the hounds 
working. The woodland pack has been famous for 
its hounds for the past five-and-twenty years. Al- 
though the open country of the North Pytchley, parti- 
cularly the valley between Stoke Albany and the 
Welland river, is as charming a hunting ground as 
could be seen, yet for many reasons it is not altogether 
an easy one to cross. It is worth the ride to the 
fixture to see Dingley Warren drawn, so picturesque 
is its situation, and it is not unlikely to lead to a 
pleasant gallop. Foxes do not very often cross into 
Mr. Fernie's country, and thus a pleasant bit of 
country round Great Bowden and out towards Sutton 
seldom hears the cry of hounds, unless Mr. Stokes's 
Harriers happen to cross it. But the Woodland 
Hounds do sometimes go that way, and those who 
saw it will not soon forget the run of 1901 from 
Dingley to Sheepthorns, when once the railway was 
passed and the wired tract of country cleared, that 
marred the earlier stages of the run. 

Nor does this exhaust the resources of Monday, for 
occasionally the Pytchley are quite within reach, and 
indeed a short train journey towards Northampton 
will almost always enable you to see that hunt if you 



78 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

care to leave certain sport close at hand for chances 
equally good but farther afield. The man, however, 
who loves hounds will naturally watch for the chance 
of seeing the Pytchley dog pack, as it is generally 
the bitches that hunt round Market Harborough. 
But if the visitor is one of those to whom a hound 
is a hound, whose chief business it is to get out of 
the way of his horse's feet, then Monday with Mr. 
Fernie should never be missed. 

Tuesday generally offers a choice. If the Cottes- 
more is selected, then a horse-box must be ordered 
for Tilton or John o' Gaunt, unless, indeed, Loddington 
or Tilton Wood or Robin-a-Tiptoes is on the card, and 
then the distance may easily be done by road. Most 
probably Mr. Fernie will be out, but he may be at 
Blaby Wharf or somewhere in the Leicester district, 
where he has a little strip of country lent him by the 
Quorn, which, however, the growing prosperity of 
Leicester is rapidly curtailing ; or again he may be 
at Rockingham Station or Seaton, in a country which 
is as wild and picturesque as the Leicester end is 
tame and suburban. If none of these courses suit 
the hunting man, Tuesday will not be a bad day for 
going up to town on business or taking a rest. It 
is not obligatory in Market Harborough to hunt six 
days a week. Tuesday is market-day at Harborough, 
and of the many sportsmen who live in the town there 
are few but have some business on that day to prevent 
them from hunting. 

It is not possible for the Market Harborough visitor 
to think of his first Wednesday without a thrill. There 
is magic about such names as Lilbourne, Crick, Stan- 
ford and the Hemplow, which draws us almost against 
our will. We know that there will be a greater crowd, 
but not necessarily better sport, here than elsewhere 



WEEK AT MARKET HARBOROUGH 79 

in the Pytchley country. Indeed, it is quite possible 
that the man who goes out with the Pytchley on a 
Wednesday for the first time will return home sore 
and disappointed. He has not seen any great sport, 
but he has been crushed at gateways, thwarted at 
gaps, the foxes have perchance run round in circles, 
or if one had seemed inclined to run straight he was 
promptly chased by a cur dog, of which there are a 
superabundance in the field. There is not much wire, 
but still there is some ; and a stranger is very likely 
to run up against it. It is not improbable that, 
going out full of hope to one of the fixtures aforesaid, 
he will spend the morning running a bewildered fox 
round about Kilworth or Cold Ashby, and the after- 
noon in hoping against hope that a fox may be per- 
suaded to leave the Hemplow. When at last a fox 
does get away, he goes perhaps to ground at Welford. 
Nor will the stranger's feelings of disappointment be 
less when he has perceived that it is a country of 
delightful grass fields, not perhaps so extensive as 
parts of the Quorn or of Mr. Fernie's Thursday 
country, but with fences of much the same character. 
Prizes for hedge-cutting are given in the hunt, and 
there are not nearly so many rails in the fences as in 
some other parts. I believe it is a country of good 
wild foxes, and it is well preserved. There is a saying 
in Leicestershire that a certain village contains " more 
dogs than honest men." If the honest men and the 
dogs are equal in numbers in some parts of both 
Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, the standard in 
the two counties must be high. 

A keen observer, and one who knows the hunting 
country well, has remarked '* that every Field has its 
own character." A cricketer has said that the differ- 
ence between hunting in Leicestershire and North- 



8o FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

amptonshire is like that between playing at Lord's or 
the Oval. The real fact is that there are more people 
and less room in the Pytchley country than in many 
other parts of the Shires. The difficulties in the field 
with these hounds have been hit off by the same 
keen observer quoted above. " If anything will teach 
one to gallop, it is riding for a bridle gate in the com- 
pany of three or four hundred people, none of whom 
are morbidly civil. You must get there and get 
there soon, as it is the only visible means of securing 
a start, or getting into the next field. Sometimes 
one's horse has a sensitive habit of backing when he 
is pressed, which allows every one to pass you. In 
any case you will have a horse's head under each 
arm, a spur against your instep, a kicker with a red 
tape in his tail pressed against your favourite mare, 
with the doubtful consolation of being told when the 
iron of his hoof has rattled against her foreleg that 
' it was too near to have hurt her.' Your hat will 
be knocked off by an enthusiast pointing to the line 
the fox is taking, and your eye will dimly perceive 
the pack swinging over the ridge and furrow, like 
swallows crossing the sea, two fields ahead of you." 

It would be impossible to improve on the vividness 
or realism of that sketch, which has the advantage 
of being written by one who knew. " No one," con- 
tinues the writer, whose judgment may possibly have 
been a little coloured by her love for Melton — " no 
one is responsible for the manners of a field which is 
largely made up of specials from Rugby, Leamington 
and Banbury. A Northamptonshire hunting man is 
as nice a fellow as there is in England, . . . but the 
struggle for existence in the field with hard riding 
casuals has hardened his heart and embittered his 
speech." 



WEEK AT MARKET HARBOROUGH 8i 

But the number of people who ride hard will always 
be limited, and so will those who see a run. Yet 
there is no sweeter country to ride over than this 
Wednesday tract of the Pytchley. In this lies Lil- 
boume Gorse, from which it is a standing wonder that 
any fox ever succeeds in breaking, so closely is it 
hemmed in with the railway. Crick, too, is one of 
those fixtures that every one has heard about who 
knows of or cares anything for fox-hunting at all. 
Misterton, Kilworth Sticks and Stanford may be 
added to the above, and the reason of the fame of 
such coverts is that all around there lies a beautiful 
grass country, divided by fences which are just big 
enough to need that hounds should run for riders to 
cross them freely. For while there are a very few 
people who will always, fast or slow, ride the line 
conscientiously with the hounds, there are many more 
whose nerve will hardly permit them to ride freely 
over the grass countries unless they are warmed by 
pace and excitement. Whyte-Melville says some- 
where that courage in the hunting-field is a question 
of caloric. Certain it is that a low thermometer 
reduces the number of riders to hounds, while warm 
weather tempts even middle-aged men to deeds of 
daring which they thought they had left behind with 
their youth. 

There is something, too, in the very name of these 
coverts which stimulates the fox-hunter. Crick Gorse 
to Hillmorton and thence to Lilbourne is a short but 
very pretty gallop. It owes something of its charm 
to the fact that the fields are generally level as a 
polo ground, and the fences, though now and then 
guarded by big ditches, are fair. This ride should be 
done with a scent in perhaps something less than 
twenty minutes, yet, unless your horse is a very 

F 



82 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

wonderful stayer you will not grudge the almost in- 
evitable delay at Lilbourne. 

No notes on the Wednesday country, however, 
would be complete without a word of those famous 
places Stanford Park and the Hemplow. On a 
Wednesday you are more than likely to find yourself 
in one, and possibly in both these places. Stanford 
Park (Lord Braye) is a place where foxes are looked 
upon with favour, and they return the good feeling 
by haunting its pleasant coverts. From Stanford 
there are pleasant lines to Misterton, often by way 
of Swinford, or, again, over the river Avon to the 
Hemplow Hills. These hills are one of the most 
striking features of the whole country. Their rugged 
outline and picturesque undulations make the Hemp- 
low a conspicuous landmark. Naturally foxes love 
them, and often make their way thither. It is the 
key of this side of the Pytchley and needs to be drawn 
often lest foxes should hang there too long. During 
the past season (1903) the Hemplow has been well 
drilled. Naturally its steep sides, and its coverts that 
tempt a fox to cling to them for safety, and the long 
waits which are thus rendered necessary are not 
altogether popular. Yet without the Hemplow this 
side of the Pytchley would be a far less certain country 
for foxes than it is. 

But the coverts already mentioned do not exhaust 
the charms of the Wednesday country. From Thornby 
to Naseby or Longhold is a pleasant gallop. Winwick 
and Elkington are places with associations of sport, 
though I seem to recall some rather awkward ravines 
and nullahs round the latter. The stranger who finds 
himself anywhere, say, between West Haddon and 
Hemplow will be wise to select a pilot until he can 
ride alone. It matters little here how good you are 



WEEK AT MARKET HARBOROUGH 83 

or how bold your horse may be, for this is a country 
that requires to be known. Where the bridge is that 
crosses the ravine, where the hand gate in the im- 
practicable fence, and where the road is barred by 
wire are pieces of knowledge that may prevent the 
loss of a good run. Then, as you jog back at night 
(and the probabilities are in favour of your having 
little or no more distance to traverse on your return 
than when you rode out in the morning), you will 
probably reflect that, in spite of some serious draw- 
backs, there are few better countries to hunt over 
than this comer of Northamptonshire, The draw- 
backs are that the villages are rather too close, the 
sheep dogs too many, and sometimes the latter are 
used for the purpose of turning the fox away from 
land where he is not welcome. There is some wire 
too, and the crowd has already been spoken of. Of 
possible remedies for these ills I have written else- 
where, and, having conducted my hunting friend back 
to his pleasant quarters at the " Angel " at Harborough 
or wherever else he may be staying, I leave him to 
think over the sport of the past day and to anticipate 
the pleasures of the morrow. For to the Market 
Harborough hunting man, be he resident or visitor, 
Thursday has always been the day of the week to 
look forward to. 

The memory of most people now hunting hardly 
goes back beyond Mr. Tailby's Thursdays, when the 
Master and Frank Goodall showed such marvellous 
sport over this country and gave Market Harborough 
for a time all the fashion of Melton. But, as a matter 
of fact, long before that time this particular tract 
of high Leicestershire was already famous for sport. 
The country lies to the north and east of the old 
coach road from Market Harborough to Leicester. It 



84 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

is for the most part a grazing country, of which the 
quahty is borne witness to by the grand bullocks seen 
in the fields. It is a district of huge fields and of 
strong fences, and within its compass are some of 
the strongest of the still surviving " oxers," of which 
fine specimens may be seen on the ride from Skeffing- 
ton village to Rolleston. The Skefhngton Vale is 
noted for its severity, and I have often wondered what 
was the exact line the Hon. Crasher took when he 
led Mr. Sawyer to Tilton in the fog. I imagme he 
went by Langton Cauldwell over by Stonton Wyville, 
which would be a quite possible line, though not 
exactly one we should choose to ride over in cold 
blood. At all events this portion of Mr. Femie's 
country is one of the most famous parts of the old 
Quom territory, nor, so far as I can judge, is it much 
gone off since the days when Assheton Smith declared 
that the foxes of Glooston and Stonton were the 
stoutest in Leicestershire. It was only a week before 
I write that a fox from Glooston Wood was killed 
after having given the hounds four runs. One of 
these runs only was a half circle, the other three 
being to points of which the shortest was eight miles. 
Curiously enough, on the occasion the fox was killed 
he had the longest start of any of those four days, 
and I am inclined to think there was not so good a 
scent on this occasion as on the others. It is also to 
be noticed, while we are on the subject of stoutness, 
that this fox was run twice within a week, the first 
time being a Friday and the second the following 
Thursday. Then came a week's interval and a brilliant 
ring on the Thursday following, and lastly a straight 
point into the Cottesmore country on Thursday, 
March 5, 1903. This does not look like a falling off in 
stoutness in the foxes of the district. 



WEEK AT MARKET HARBOROUGH 85 

The Glooston Wood side of the country, which is 
also that nearest Market Harborough, is not so popular 
with the hard riders as the Leicester portion, though 
I think on the whole figures would show that most 
of the best sport is found on the Keythorpe side of 
the country. Yet there can be no doubt that for 
short and brilliant bursts such coverts as Glen Gorse, 
Norton Gorse, Thumby and Sheepthorns, not to 
mention Stoughton New Covert, which ought in pro- 
cess of time to open a way into some of the best of 
the Quorn Friday country, are excellent. But during 
many weeks of the season both sides of this country 
are hunted in the same week, on Thursday and Friday, 
the hunt card I have before me announcing Burton 
Overy and Keythorpe on these days for the second 
week in March. 

But let us begin with some of the coverts farthest 
from Market Harborough, though our hardier fore- 
fathers would have regarded the distance to, say, 
Oadby Tollbar, as nothing. " I should hope no fox- 
hunter would think twenty miles too far to ride to 
covert," writes one of them. Well, I suppose Oadby 
is twelve miles from Harborough, and we now think 
it quite far enough. We may begin the day with 
Knighton Spinneys or some of those coverts which 
always hold foxes and show that the good town of 
Leicester has not forgotten the days when it was a 
fashionable hunting centre, and when Lord Gardner 
and others made the " Bell " at Leicester almost as 
well known as a hunting inn as the " George " or 
the " Harborough Arms " at Melton. There are foxes 
in this part, though not much room to hunt them in. 
I have, indeed, seen hounds work out a line over the 
golf links, or run a fox to earth under the grand stand 
of the racecourse. This part of the day we accept 



86 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

with what patience we may, but the interest thickens 
when we come to Glen Gorse. What a wonderful 
covert this is ! Placed close to a highroad, and that 
a busy one, not very large but very thick in its under- 
growth, for more than a hundred years Glen Gorse 
has been drawn by fox-hounds from October to x\pril, 
and seldom drawn blank. So thick was the under- 
growth that in Mr. Osbaldeston's time the foot-people 
were accustomed to go in with hounds to drive out the 
fox. Indeed they horrified Nimrod, who, like all sports- 
men, was something of a purist in hunting matters, 
by their very unorthodox conduct. It was the custom 
to collect shillings from the field — I presume before 
the fox was found — as payment for the services of 
these beaters. 

Whenever I wait in the road outside Glen Gorse, 
I recall the incident of the Leicestershire country lads 
approaching Nimrod, who was the neatest and most 
precise of men. " If you threw Apperley into a horse- 
pond, he would come out clean and well dressed," 
declared one of his friends. He also liked things in 
order in the hunting field, so when they came to him 
for his shilling he read them a little lecture which 
must, I think, have considerably mystified a pre- 
board-school rustic. " Fox-hunting," said Nimrod, 
" has already lost much of its native wildness, but if 
men, not hounds, are to find our foxes we must soon 
leave them to men to kill, as every covert in the 
country would be surrounded by foot-people and 
every chance of a fox getting away would be lost." 
Whether, without the bestowal of shillings, some part 
of this prophecy has not come true, I leave it to those 
who know this side of the country to determine. At 
all events we must agree that Nimrod was right. 
Leicestershire foxes are wonderfully bold in facing a 



WEEK AT MARKET HARBOROUGH 87 

crowd and disregarding holloas, but still it taxes the 
skill of a huntsman to bring his hounds out and 
steady them on the line when they are excited by 
the shouts around them. " If the members of a 
deaf and dumb institution kept hounds," says Whyte- 
Melville on this point, " what a lot of foxes they would 
kill." 

Nimrod goes on to describe the start such as we 
often see it to-day — six couple of hounds away and 
the leaders of the field alongside them, the other 
hounds racing up to join their sisters in front, the 
crash of the hedges and the rattle of the timber. 
Personally, I delight in a find from Glen Gorse ; it is 
so charming a transformation scene. We start from 
the prosaic highroad, along which one of the hateful 
machines driven by steam is labouring and rattling 
with a trolley behind it. We edge up a narrow, muddy 
lane with the covert on the right and a couple of 
" this-land-to-be-let-on-building-lease " sort of suburban 
fields on the left. There is a scrimmage through a 
gate, and lo, there stretch before us the green uplands 
of Leicestershire. " The Vale of Cashmere of hunting 
countries," says Nimrod ; but if he had been to 
Srinagar, he would not have thought this a sporting 
simile. Under our horses' hoofs the turf is far firmer 
and more springy since it was drained than it was 
in Nimrod's time ; for Leicestershire, I have heard 
from oldsters in my youth, was terribly deep before 
the present system of drainage was adopted. The 
fences are the same, save that here, even more 
than elsewhere, the " oxer " has disappeared. But 
in the rough and ragged bit of country below 
Stoughton things look much as they did a century 
back. 

Another writer who rode a run from Norton Gorse, 



88 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

some twenty years later than Nimrod, describes the 
fences well and from the point of view of one who 
took them as they came. 

Norton Gorse comes in the draw on the same day 
as Glen, It is a small artificial covert, very thick 
and well cared for, for Mr. Fernie's huntsman takes 
a great interest in the well-being of the coverts. It 
was from this then our stranger started, and after 
meeting the well-known brook, which you may have 
to jump or ford according to the place the fox strikes 
it, he says, " One of the most awkward fences was 
one of the latter " (an ox fence), " from one grass 
land into another, sloping down to it with a drop on 
the other side and a very bad approach, the rail 
dark coloured and hardly discernible." This the 
writer cleared, as not a few would do to-day, and 
his words describe not unfairly some of the obstacles. 

Indeed, this is a country for a quick, bold horse, 
to say nothing of the man that rides him. Not long 
ago hounds ran from Thurnby, a long narrow covert 
of thorn and trees in a small dip, to Glen. This 
country carries a burning scent at times, and on this 
occasion hounds only hesitated twice, once when for 
a moment they were carried over the line near Little 
Stretton, and once when their fox was headed near 
Glen, but it is a beautiful characteristic of this pack 
— Mr. Fernie's bitches — that when once settled on 
the line, no hounds could lose less time in casting 
themselves for the scent, if for a minute they lose 
it, or in picking it up again. They can always beat 
horses, especially over this country, when there is 
anything of a scent. So well, too, are foxes pre- 
served and so carefully are these coverts kept that 
the three coverts I have named, together with a 
few spinneys, generally suffice for a whole day's 



WEEK AT MARKET HARBOROUGH 89 

sport, while there is always the famous Sheepthorns 
in reserve. 

This last is an extraordinarily thick little covert, 
of which I have heard it said that its growth is so 
close that while the hounds are searching underneath, 
the fox can run about on the tops of the bushes. In 
any case it is a difficult covert to draw, but the foxes 
understand the game and play fair, for they seldom 
hang long. They go away of their own accord up 
over the hill under Carlton Clump — a landmark 
that can be seen for miles — and across to Shangton 
Holt, which has hardly been worthy of its past 
fame in late years, or to Noseley. In bygone days 
from Glen to the Coplow was a common line, but 
I have not seen or heard of foxes going there 
recently. 

This brings us to the Friday country, and if Mr. 
Femie's card should summon you on a Friday you 
will do well to go. The Quorn will draw away a 
good many people, and there will be no crowd. Here 
then you will find the benefits of the provinces and 
the advantages of Leicestershire combined. Moreover, 
all the meets are within an easy reach of Harborough, 
and it is only in the case of an unusual run that you 
will have far to ride home ; and then you will not 
grudge the distance. If these hounds have a great 
run, it will be from Slawston, Glooston, Stonton or 
Noseley that it will begin. All writers tell how hounds 
once flew from Slawston to Shangton Holt, a more 
likely line before these comparatively modem coverts 
at Rolleston or Noseley were planted. It took them 
just sixteen minutes to go to Shangton from Slawston, 
which shows that the pace of hounds has not greatly 
increased since then. But we had a greater run still 
in the season 1901-2. Hounds found a fox in Mr. 



90 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

W. W. Tailby's covert at Slawston, and ran eleven 
miles to a rabbit hole on the other side of Botany 
Bay. Probably they changed at Noseley, but Mr. 
Philip Beatty, who generally manages to be with them 
when they run, told me he had never seen hounds 
go faster than they did when they left Noseley. The 
fox, or foxes, ran the centre of the fields and was 
scarcely off the direct course all the way. This is 
another instance of a truth I have long been con- 
vinced of, that if it were not for wire fox-hunting 
is as good now as ever it was. Never in the 
history of the sport have great runs been of everyday 
occurrence, but as they still are, the exception 
rather than the rule. It is curious that Nimrod 
should a hundred years ago make precisely the same 
complaint about short running foxes that we do 
to-day. 

Another very delightful bit of country is that round 
Rolleston. This is one of the houses that is bound 
up with the history of hunting. It was the home of 
Mr. Greene, " the fly," so called from the lightness 
of his hand on a horse. Mr. Greene was once Master 
of the Quorn and one of the best and most graceful 
horsemen who ever crossed Leicestershire. In the 
hands of the present owner. Lord Churchill, Rolleston 
has lost nothing of its attractions for hunting men, 
for its coverts always hold foxes, while the house is 
a pleasant feature in the midst of a fine stretch of 
country. Beyond this, again, is Keythorpe Hall, on 
the very borders of the Cottesmore. This is the 
residence of the Master, Mr. Femie, and its coverts 
swarm with foxes. From here are drawn the Rams 
Head, the Moor Hill Spinneys and Vowes Gorse, the 
last said to have been planted for Mr. Osbaldeston 
by a farmer of that day who was an admirer of the 



WEEK AT MARKET HARBOROUGH 91 

" Squire." It is an excellent covert, and picturesque 
withal. Indeed, the whole of this country gives us 
on a good day a series of most attractive hunting 
pictures, with its grassy valleys and bland, easy slopes 
leading up to the hills, and the little circular spinneys 
in the park which before now have been known to 
hold a fox. 

Friday is for the dweller at Market Harborough a 
day which is bound to be pleasant, for if he does not 
find himself hunting in the country I have been de- 
scribing, he will in every alternate week have the 
Pytchley at his very doors. Clipston, Oxendon and 
Farndon are all within five miles of the town, and all 
are within hail of Waterloo Gorse, one of the most 
famous in the Shires. It is perhaps a covert which 
lives on the memory of the past, and even now when 
wire has to a certain extent obviated the necessity 
for rails, it is surrounded by a very stiff bit of country 
which no one can be blamed for shirking. The fences 
are just too big for a brave man on a good horse, 
even with the stimulus of pace. In the Thursday 
country, of which I have just been writing, a hard 
rider who is properly mounted can, when hounds run 
hard, cross the fences in fair safety, but in parts of 
the Oxendon and Clipston country he cannot, and 
thus the enjoyment of what is an excellent scenting 
and pleasant bit of grass is reduced. Brooksby, who 
certainly cannot be accused of pusillanimity in the 
matter of fences, declares that this country is a 
hindrance to the prosperity of Harborough. Yet 
there are lines which are possible enough. Suppose, 
for example, that the fox crosses the road towards 
Farndon (and I have seen him do so ere now), you 
can by using the road shirk the three or four stiffly 
fenced fields that intervene between you and the top 



92 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

of the hill to the right of the village. Once here, it 
is fairiy plain sailing over a hilly rolling country to 
Sibbertoft and Hothorpe, whence a fox may go by 
Theddingworth to the Laughton Hills, or swing round 
by way of Bosworth Hall to Sulby. Sibbertoft is 
itself a meeting - place which commands a pleasant 
country and some good coverts. Sulby to Long Hold 
and Naseby Thorns, and so on to Cottesbrooke or to 
Scotland Wood or Kelmarsh, and over the road to 
Arthing worth, whereabouts is no wire nor will be 
while the present squire has a voice in the matter. 
There is Foxhall and Faxton Comer, and nearer 
Harrington, on the way back to Harborough, there is 
Loatland Wood, a frequent draw. Some pleasant 
country lies beyond, though there is a brook 
with a very boggy crossing, where a horse and 
rider coming after it has been well poached up by 
the field are likely to stay for the remainder of 
the afternoon. It is on the whole a pleasant, 
rather varied, hunting-like country, where foxes are 
plentiful and are often stout and wild. 

On a Friday or Saturday alternately the sportsman 
can hunt in a country which is in many respects 
different from the Thursday district, but none the 
worse for the change and variety it offers. Probably 
this side of Harborough is as well known to men 
from other countries as any, for the town is wont to 
bid its friends to the United Counties Hunt Ball once 
a year and to take them out to see Waterloo Gorse 
or Loatland Wood drawn by the Pytchley the next 
day. Friday or Saturday will be spent with the 
Pytchley, and on whichever day you are not summoned 
to meet that pack Mr. Fernie will offer sport in a 
corner of his territory that is bounded between the 
Eye brook and the railway. This is not so highly 



WEEK AT MARKET HARBOROUGH 93 

favoured as some of the rest of that choice Httle 
country, but it is very good all the same. There are 
few prettier valleys in Leicestershire than that of the 
Eye, on one slope of which is a chain of small patches 
of woodland stretching from Allexton and Stockerston 
to Nevill Holt, with Watson's Gorse last of all just 
above the Kennels at Medbourne, and looking over 
the Welland Vale in the Woodland Pytchley towards 
Wilbarston and Stoke Albany. Just over the brook 
on me opposing slope to Stockerston are Wardley 
Wood and Stoke End, two beautiful Cottesmore coverts. 
What more natural than that a fox should cross from 
one to the other and then run out towards the Fitz- 
william borders by way of Lyddington, or across by 
the Quaker's Spinney to the Manton Valley ! This 
does happen from time to time, and it is always 
present as a possibility. In any case there are plenty 
of foxes and much sport in a quiet way on Mr. Femie's 
side of the brook. Nor is there often a crowd to 
hinder us from seeing what sport there is. Some- 
times too, but more rarely because of the railway, a 
fox will run from Blaston Spinneys by way of Vowes 
Gorse into the Thursday country. But these woods, 
though not very extensive, have a value to the hunt 
in that they are practically the only woodlands within 
its limits. 

Nor is the meeting of Mr. Fernie's your only chance 
of seeing hounds in this country, for the Cottesmore 
will often come to Wardley on that day, meeting it is 
true at some distance from Harborough, but not so 
far as to be out of reach. Living as I did one winter 
beyond Harborough, I seldom missed a Saturday with 
the Cottesmore for the sake of seeing the hounds and 
the huntsman in these delightful coverts, where sport 
is almost a certainty. A friend, too, who like many 



94 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

other good comrades of the hunting-field, gave his 
hfe in South Africa, told me that when he was staying 
at Melton he never grudged a fifteen-mile ride to see 
Wardley drawn, and Harborough is quite four miles 
nearer to the coverts than Melton. Indeed, as a 
visitor who did not mind big fences once remarked, 
some of the best country is nearer Harborough than 
anywhere else. 

I am inclined to think that the future of Market 
Harborough lies in its being chosen as a centre round 
which people will buy or build houses. It is indeed 
a pleasant place all the year round, and the country, 
especially on the Rockingham and Northamptonshire 
side, is beautiful and interesting and rich in historic 
and hunting associations. In any case Market Har- 
borough is a pleasant old town with the grace of 
antiquity clinging to it. May it be long before so- 
called modem improvements spoil it, as they have 
spoiled so many other picturesque old English 
towns ! 

There is one other attraction that Market Har- 
borough possesses for the sportsman, and that is a 
most excellent polo ground and a well-managed club, 
of which Sir Humphrey de Trafford is President, and 
Mr. Philip Beatty, Secretary. The polo ground is 
boarded, and is of fine old turf in a pleasant and 
picturesque spot between Lubenham and Farndon. 
Most hunting men like to play polo in the summer, 
and Market Harborough is so accessible that it is 
easy for other clubs to visit it and for teams from 
that club to go elsewhere for matches. It is, indeed, 
an almost ideal situation for a polo club, and as it has 
been well supported and well managed, its existence 
may weigh with visitors when choosing a hunting 
centre. Play is kept up well into the cub-hunting 



WEEK AT MARKET HARBOROUGH 95 

season, and begins ere " to finish the season " appears 
on the cards of the fixtures. I may indeed finish this 
chapter as I began it with an echo of the oft-quoted 
words of Mr. Sawyer : " The very place. I wonder 
I never thought of it before ! " 



CHAPTER IV 

RUGBY, LEICESTER, NORTHAMPTON AND GRANTHAM 

Advantages of Rugby — Its Train Service and Polo — Choice of 
Packs— Three days a week sure — Monday with Mr. Fernie's, 
with the Pytchley, or with the Atherstone — Tuesday with 
Mr. Fernie or with the Quorn — Wednesday with the Pytchley 
— Thursday and Friday with the Warwickshire Packs or 
Atherstone — Stiff Fences — Difificult Country — Nimrod's Story 
— Reasons for choosing Rugby — Leamington — Advantages of 
Hunting — The Epwell Hunt Poem — Leicester and Northamp- 
ton — Tom Firr — His last Fall — Tuesday with the Quorn — 
Hotels and Inns — Freedom of the Midlands — Grantham — 
The Blankney and Southwold — The Belvoir — Horses required 
— Grantham a Sporting Town — Lincolnshire Huntsmen — 
A Hard Country — Will Wells — Character of Country round 
Grantham — Colonel Fane's Busy Day — Mr. Vickerman's 
Diary again quoted— Captain Micklethwaite — Folkingham — 
Two Great Runs in 1895 — Studying the work of the Belvoir 
Hounds. 

I. Rugby. 

Rugby is another town which has great attractions 
for a man who hkes polo as well as hunting, and 
commends itself as an all the year round residence. 
It is not in itself, apart from its famous school, its 
hunting, its polo, and the fact that it has a splendid 
railway service, a very attractive town. But the 
neighbourhood and the suburbs are delightful, and it 
is a centre rather to take a house near than to stay 
at as a chance visitor. On the other hand, there is 

no better place, on account of the North-Westem 

96 



RUGBY 97 

Railway train service, to keep horses at if you your- 
self require to be often in London. It is easy to leave 
town in the morning and always easy to return to it 
at night after hunting. In the same way, if you live 
at Rugby it is quite possible to go up to town and 
back with far less trouble and wear and tear than 
you would have in reaching many suburbs of London 
from the Metropolis itself. Rugby is, in fact, in point 
of time and convenience not so very much farther off 
than Ealing or Wimbledon. 

It is its train service, its polo and its school that 
are its chief attraction, for as a hunting centre Rugby 
is not to be compared for convenience with Melton 
or Market Harborough. From both these latter 
places you can, if you will, hunt sometimes in dis- 
tricts which, if not quite so fashionable, are never- 
theless not so crowded as many, and you may have 
very good sport, but from Rugby you must always 
take your pleasure more or less in a crowd, and in 
one where the amenities are perhaps not so much 
considered as in the more leisurely atmosphere of 
Melton or Harborough, The main attraction to 
Rugby from a hunting point of view is the number 
of packs which, with a little assistance from the rail- 
way, it is possible to see from thence. There is per- 
haps no place in England where horse-boxes are so 
much used in the hunting season as Rugby. There 
is a line of railway belonging to the North-Western 
system running from Rugby to Market Harborough, 
which cuts right through some of the best of the 
Pytchley grass and effectually cuts off that country 
from Mr. Fernie's. It is very seldom that the Pytchley 
run across that line. But though this railway is to 
a certain extent a disadvantage, preventing the fre- 
quent recurrence of such gallops as we read of in 

G 



98 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

Mr. Osbaldeston's time from Waterloo to Cranoe or 
Slawston, yet to the Rugby hunting visitor or resident 
it is a great advantage, since it takes him easily to 
some such convenient spot as Welford station or 
Lubenham, which command alike most of the Monday 
country of Mr. Fernie's Hunt, and the Wednesday 
and Friday or Saturday territory of the Pytchley. 
Of the hunting and the nature of these countries I 
have already written, and there is no need to dwell 
on them again here. 

The fact is that unless you are willing to box or are 
prepared for an inordinate amount of road work, 
Rugby is not a six days a week centre. Wednesday, 
Thursday and Friday are the days when hounds are 
sure to be within riding distance. In each case the 
country is of the best. On Monday sometimes, and 
Tuesday almost always, you will require the assistance 
of the railway, and Saturday generally needs a horse- 
box or demands a long trot. There is, in fact, for a 
man who desires to do nothing else but hunt, too 
much wear and tear about Rugby to make it a suitable 
centre. Yet it is a delightful neighbourhood for a 
sportsman to settle in, and no one who is at home in 
a hunting country dislikes a day or so off in the week. 
For the business man, as we have seen, it is very 
convenient, and the fact that you cannot easily do 
six days a week from Rugby is no real drawback to 
the place, for the men who hunt every day are the 
exception rather than the rule. It is also obvious 
that for six days a week Melton, Oakham, or Market 
Harborough and their neighbouring villages are un- 
questionably the most convenient. Nevertheless, 
although it may be true that we do not hunt every 
day, it is desirable to know what is possible on each 
succeeding day of the week. A busy man may find 



RUGBY 99 

it impossible to hunt on one day, and that another 
is open to him on the following day is a matter of 
interest. 

On Monday, then, a Rugby man will choose Mr. 
Fernie's as being within a long ride or an easy train 
journey. Or again, with or without the help of the 
same useful covert hack, the Pytchley or the Ather- 
stone would be open to him. Then on Tuesday I do 
not see how a long journey is to be avoided if you 
hunt at all. As most people, however, have a day 
off some time, this would be a good one to take. I 
may note, however, that on Tuesday it is often pos- 
sible to reach Mr. Fernie by training to Leicester or 
Market Harborough, according to the fixture for that 
day. You will not find him in his most fashionable 
country, but the sport may be none the worse for 
that. Tuesday is thus the most difficult day to pro- 
vide for from Rugby. Brooksby suggests that it 
should be spent with the Quorn, and this might not 
be a bad plan. The Quorn on Tuesday hunt in a 
country which is not without its attractions for the 
sportsman. Of that district, however, I shall have 
more to say when I come to Leicester. Wednesday 
will be spent with the Pytchley of course, in a country 
which belongs equally to Market Harborough, and 
which has been written of when dealing with that 
place as a hunting centre. 

The special glory of Rugby is found in the Thursday 
and Friday countries, when the two Wai'wickshire 
packs and the Atherstone offer their best and fairest 
hunting grounds to the sportsman. Wednesday it 
shares with Harborough, and the alternate Fridays 
and Saturdays belong entirely to that town. But 
Thursday, when the Warwickshire are in their Shuck- 
burgh country, or the North Warwickshire at Hill- 



100 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

morton, is a day to look forward to. Nor is it only 
the country which is the attraction. The Warwick- 
shire hounds have a peculiar character of their own. 
The late Lord Willoughby de Broke determined to 
build up a pack for his country, and the square- 
headed muscular dog pack are hounds that can race 
and hunt. Indeed, they hunt while they race, for 
they are seldom off the line, and the pace they go is 
the result of condition and stamina. No pack more 
seldom over-runs the line, and even a Thursday crowd 
will fail to carry them far. It is this pack, and the 
way they have been and are hunted, as much as the 
admirable country which has raised Warwickshire to 
the level of the Shires and drawn men who love to 
hunt as well as ride to live within its borders. I can 
recollect the day when the Warwickshire Hunts were 
scarcely allowed to be within the limits of the Shires ; 
but, whether they are so technically or not, no one 
who was writing of our best countries could omit these 
packs. Certainly they will receive a large share of 
attention from the Rugby man, who will find much 
of his pleasure in riding over the Warwickshire or 
North Warwickshire Hunt countries. The two packs 
are almost on the outskirts of Rugby on Thursdays, 
and even the boldest riders must speak of the Shuck- 
burgh country with respect. You may cross it with 
either the Warwickshire pack on Thursday, or again 
the Pytchley may run over it on alternate Saturdays. 
But whenever you do find yourself in it, you will need 
your very best horse. 

Warwickshire is nearly as stiffly fenced as any part 
of Leicestershire, " so little differ as makes no matter," 
as the country people say. The enclosures however 
are, though of fair size, not so large, and the ground 
a little softer. There is perhaps rather more arable, 



RUGBY loi 

but it seems to me that in the last twenty years there 
has been a great increase in the grass land of this 
hunt, not only on the Birmingham side, where the 
change is very notable, but to a certain extent all 
over the Warwickshire and North Warwickshire hunt- 
ing districts. Thus a horse here, as in the Pytchley, 
needs to be stout as well as bold, clever as well as 
fast. He must jump high at the stout quickset 
growing strong out of the rich soil, and must spread 
himself to cover the ditches which are invariably to 
be found on one side or the other. He must be able 
to face stiff timber, for a stile will sometimes be the 
best way out of the field. Nor must he dislike water, 
for if the brooks are not as a rule large, yet they 
come fairly often, and a horse which dislikes water 
is as likely to stop at four feet as at fourteen. 

Altogether this Thursday country is not an easy 
one. I have seen it indeed crossed by a pony, but 
then there are ponies that will do anything. This 
mare, " Freckles," ridden by a lady who came of a 
family of horsemen and horsewomen, was a wonder, 
but there is no doubt that with a suitable weight 
and well ridden there is nothing the modern polo 
pony cannot do. I have known at least two other 
polo ponies that have crossed grass countries with 
pleasure to their riders and credit to themselves. 
Doubtless there are many more. There is a story in 
Warwickshire of a friend of Mr. Meynell's who came 
to live in Warwickshire. He thought the country 
cramped. " A man who has hunted several seasons 
in Leicestershire is spoiled for any other country," 
he remarked. " Warwickshire could not show a run ; 
there is not room in it." But one day hounds found 
a stout fox at Walton Wood and killed him a mile 
and a half from Southam at Watergall in the Thursday 



102 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

country. Only three or four were up at the end, and 
among them was not the gentleman from Leicester- 
shire, to whom, when he appeared, Mr. Canning said, 
raising his voice to its highest pitch, " Now, Mr. 
Hawkes, can Warwickshire show a run ? " 

Writing of the same run, Nimrod, who knew the 
country well, tells a story which narrates no uncommon 
occurrence and amuses by its appeal to our common 
experience. " We had but two momentary checks, 
and all but the first mile was over grass. There was 
a very hard riding gentleman out on a new purchase. 
' A superior horse,' he said at the first check, and 
certainly he went right in front five miles farther and 
checked in the middle of a large cow pasture. ' D — d 
superior horse,' said my friend, patting him in the 
neck. ' Don't be in a hurry, it is not over yet.' In 
fact, I spoke from appearances. I had just heard 
him rap the top bar of a stile in a rather alarming 
manner. After the run was over the owner of the 
superior horse was inquired after. He had last been 
seen some miles in the rear leading the superior horse 
down a lane." The moral of this story seems to be 
that as the horse had got so far, he was a very superior 
horse, but in very inferior condition. 

Friday, too, with the Atherstone close to Rugby is 
a day in which sport is sure to be over a delightful 
country, " It holds a good scent, is easy and gentle- 
manlike to cross, and the Leicestershire side is very 
good indeed." So wrote Nimrod, who once lived at 
Bilton, close to Rugby, and what he then said is as 
true now as it was then, save that the London and 
North-Western and Great Central Railways run through 
it and so far hinder sport, for railways, even if they do 
not confuse the foxes, are a hindrance and a danger 
to hounds. No master can be free from anxiety 



RUGBY 103 

when he sees his hounds casting themselves, intent 
only on the chase, on the top of a lofty embankment, 
with an express train due from one direction or even 
perhaps from both. Nevertheless, with all possible 
deductions, there are few better countries than the 
Atherstone portion of Leicestershire. A fixture at 
Brownsover or Coton House, Newnham Paddox or 
Bitteswell is sure to bring all hunting Rugby, not to 
speak of the Pytchley residents who live along the 
border, and thus command the two superlative coun- 
tries on either side of the railway and canal. From 
Coton to Swinford is a possible line and a pleasant 
one. There is but one railway barrier, and then all 
the pleasures of the Pytchley are open. In fact, all 
the best country round Rugby is Leicestershire, or 
shall we say, to give a wider scope, the grass countries 
at their best. Description then becomes repetition, 
and, though riding after hounds over the grass never 
palls, yet to write more of it might weary the reader, 
and he would learn little that has not been said 
already. 

So it will be understood that the man who chooses 
Rugby will do so because he desires to ride over well- 
fenced grass, and must therefore mount himself ac- 
cordingly, and also because he likes the pleasant 
society of men of the same tastes as himself. The 
same country can be reached from many towns and 
villages ; and if a man desires quiet and has a small 
stud, there are worse places than the town of Ather- 
stone, which is no great distance from the kennels at 
Witherley, and is pretty much in the centre of the 
country. There are of course those who rather shrink 
from than seek society in the hunting season, who 
find that early hours are easier kept in solitude, and 
that the recollection of to-day's sport and the antici- 



104 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

pation of to-morrow's will pass away the time plea- 
santly enough. Round Rugby as a centre there are 
many pleasant villages, and hunting-boxes are to be 
found. 

For those who like a more lively life Leamington 
has plenty of accommodation and plenty of amuse- 
ments, and is a clean and pleasant town. It is quite 
true of course that an enterprising Leamington man 
could visit (by rail) the Quorn or more easily the 
Pytchley. Leamington, though a sporting town 
enough, and once the headquarters of chasing, is 
nowadays a place for a man to go with a small stud 
of useful horses and a hack, sure that he will there 
see as much sport as anywhere, and need not be 
dull if he can find amusement in a good club and 
pleasant society on the days when he does not hunt. 
In fact, it is one of those places where hunting is 
only one of several other recreations, and not as it 
must needs be at Melton and Oakham, the chief 
business of life for the time you are there. 

Here I may be permitted the reflection that it is 
one of the advantages of hunting as a recreation 
for busy men that it takes them more out of them- 
selves and away from the cares and worries of life 
than any other amusement. While you are hunting 
you have no time to think of anything else. It is 
not only physical exercise, but mental too. No 
thoughtless, careless, stupid man ever rode well to 
hounds through many long runs and during a series 
of years. Fox-hunting is a sport which attracts men 
of affairs. Distinguished soldiers naturally delight in 
it ; it is by the love of such sports, indeed, that they 
have come to distinction. A man's youth soon 
leaves him if he has no game or sport to preserve 
it, and a soldier cannot afford to grow old or even 



LEICESTER AND NORTHAMPTON 105 

comfortably middle-aged, for directly he does so he 
ceases so be of much value. But we find not only 
soldiers coming into the hunting-field, but statesmen, 
and foreigners as well as Englishmen. Lawyers too, 
like that Serjeant Goulburn who was the delight of 
the Stratford-on-Avon Hunt Club for his powers of 
anecdote, and who wrote the Epwell Hunt Poem, 
a work which, as our friend Nimrod truly prophesied, 
has outlived the Serjeant's finest judicial orations. 
All these find in hunting a recreation which cannot 
be surpassed. Some men there are, too, whom games 
do not interest greatly, and such men often find in 
hunting and horsemanship the exercise and change 
of occupation which every busy man needs. 



IL Business and Pleasure. Leicester 
AND Northampton 

Both Leicester and Northampton have been hunt- 
ing centres in their day. Time was when the " Bell " 
at Leicester was a favourite resort. Many horses 
were stabled there. But to Leicester prosperity has 
since then come in another way, and the town would 
not now be chosen by any one who desired merely 
to hunt. Yet, for all that, Leicester has its hunting 
men, and in increasing numbers. Happily the old 
prejudice which regarded almost any sport or amuse- 
ment as unprofessional or unbusiness-like is dying 
out. The English middle class, thanks to cricket, 
football, golf, and in many cases hunting, are ceasing 
to live lives that were truly the dullest possible. 
Nearly every business man nowadays has some out- 
door recreation which he makes his hobby. Nor is 



io6 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

it possible for a man to live in Leicester and love 
sport and not to think about hunting. 

Those old sportsmen who chose Leicester as their 
centre were not far wrong. Oadby Tollbar, just four 
miles out, is an historic meet ; Scraptoft is barely 
six or seven miles away, and Syston, though rather 
suburban, is not far from much good country of 
the Quorn. Then Leicester has all the Charnwood 
forest side of the Quorn, which seldom sees a Meltonian 
at its fixtures, and only now and then a few stray 
visitors by train from Rugby. I have often thought 
what splendid lessons in the science of fox-hunting 
those men must have had who were out with the 
late Tom Firr on this the less fashionable side of 
the Quorn. There are stout foxes and no crowd. 
The country is rough, with woodland and rocks in 
some parts and in others it is given over to tillage. 
There is always plenty of room for hounds to work. 
No one knew when the decisive moment had come 
to break through the rules of hunting and make a 
bold cast to avoid a crowd better than the late hunts- 
man of the Quorn, yet no one took more pleasure 
in seeing his hounds work out a line patiently and 
steadily. There never was so notable an instance 
as Firr of the way in which a huntsman can influence 
a pack. His hounds always seemed to me to work 
above their form so to speak, and as a matter of 
fact they did not do so well in other hands. The 
pack he had to begin upon was the Craven which 
Mr. Coupland bought, and Firr in a few years made 
the hounds not specially notable in looks but 
wonderful in their work when he handled them. The 
Leicester sportsmen must have had some splendid 
days in watching his work. 

The season in which these lines are being written 



LEICESTER AND NORTHAMPTON 107 

has been marked by some great runs on the Charn- 
wood side, and indeed the Quorn had all their best 
sport there at the beginning of the season. The 
country is not attractive after the grass fields of 
Leicestershire, for, although the forest is a thing of 
the past, yet the coverts are thick and strong and 
of considerable extent. If, however, the country is 
well worked foxes will travel from it, and it has 
been remarked that this side is free from the stain 
of cattle and sheep, and from men and dogs. It is 
rather a dangerous country to ride over, and two 
famous hunt servants, Dick Burton and the late 
Tom Firr, both had severe falls among the stones 
and rocks ; and it is well known that from the last 
fall he had in the forest Firr never really recovered. 
It was in that country too that the present master. 
Captain Bums-Hartopp, had a very severe accident. 
It is usual to keep horses specially for the forest side 
because of the liability to injury from the stones 
and walls which form part of the obstacles. Foi 
the fixtures on the south side of the Midland Railway 
from Leicester to Derby you may keep a cheaper 
stamp of horse, but if hounds go away from Bunny 
park on the north side of Barrow-upon-Soar or from 
Prestwold, the fox may lead his followers into a 
country which will test the best hunter Melton can 
produce to cross it. All this country is open to the 
Leicester man who may live and earn his daily bread 
there, or to the visitor from elsewhere who knows 
how to combine business with pleasure, and brings 
a horse with him or hires one from Mr. Hames. 

But if the visitor came from a provincial country, 
I should not take him out on Tuesday with the Quorn, 
but endeavour to beguile him to wait for Thursday 
with Mr. Fernie, or Friday with the Quorn, for did 



io8 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

he only go out on Tuesday and see Bradgate Park 
or Bardon HiU, even though the sport would probably 
be excellent, yet he might well think that the county 
of Leicestershire was not all that it had been painted. 
For Bardon Hill is 900 feet above the level of the 
sea, and there is plenty of plough and woodland, as 
I have already pointed out. But the man who lives 
in Leicester or its suburbs and who makes the Quom 
his own pack, following its fortunes for three or four 
days each week of the season, as leisure and fortune 
may permit, will sometimes feel that his lines are 
in pleasant places as compared with other business 
men who must train long distances or else not hunt 
at all. The Leicester man can ride or drive to most 
of the fixtures of his county hunt. The same remarks 
are true of Northampton, where the Pytchley is 
always within reach, and the Monday country lies 
at his doors, while Badby Wood is within a fairly 
easy distance. This is one of the best coverts in 
this or any hunt, and ranks with Wardley, Owston 
or Tilton as the home of stout foxes. The Monday 
country of the Pytchley however, which lies to the 
north of the town, is the peculiar territory of the 
Northampton man and is possibly one of the most 
sporting districts of Northamptonshire. Rougher 
than some parts, it yet gives us hunting in a varied 
form, the grass and plough, the woodland and the 
gorse being mingled in a charming variety, and yield- 
ing as a rule all the sport it promises. 

Far away in the comer of the Pytchley are two 
places, Weedon and Daventry, which give the Grafton 
and Bicester as alternatives, but which also enable 
the sportsman to hunt with the Pytchley or to reach 
the Warwickshire. Weedon is a place where soldiers 
love to be stationed if they are fond of hunting, and 



GRANTHAM 109 

the old soldier who loves the sound of the bugle might 
do worse than take up his abode there. I have 
stayed at the " Globe," and found myself very com- 
fortable. Weedon is even nearer to town than Rugby 
and almost as well served with trains. Daventry is 
quiet and out of the way, but with the air of homely 
English country life and sport about it, which is so 
delightful nowadays. It is four miles from Weedon 
and about fifteen from Northampton. It has a com- 
fortable inn and commands the Pytchley, the Grafton 
and the Warwickshire. While I was stationed in 
India it was strongly recommended to me as a place 
to hunt from, and I went to look at it accordingly, 
and, had not the conveniences of Market Harborough 
drawn me, I should have gone there. I certainly 
recommend it to any one who likes quiet. Places 
that seem dull to the homekeeping folk appear very 
havens of peace to those whose lives have led them 
to wander widely. That is one of the charms of 
hunting in the Midlands, that you can do just as you 
please and suit your own tastes. The men who 
gather round the covert side are as a rule no more 
provincial in mind than in appearance, and each 
man is left to follow the sport in his own way, so 
that whether you like a gay watering-place or a quaint 
village or a sleepy little country town, you can find 
what you want and have the very best hunting, which 
is also surely on the whole the best sport in the world, 
at your doors. 

III. Grantham 

There is, however, a place which deserves a more 
extended notice in a book like this than any other 
hunting centre save Melton or Market Harborough. 



no FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

Grantham, a two hours' journey from King's Cross, 
is a pleasant town in the county which shares with 
Yorkshire the right to be called the most sporting 
in England. Indeed, the Yorkshire man loves the 
thoroughbred better even than horse or hound, while 
the latter are to the true Lincolnshire man the first 
objects of his admiration. Nor is this to be wondered 
at when we consider that for nearly two centuries 
this county has been hunted by the Brocklesby and 
Belvoir packs, and that besides these the Burton, 
the Blankney and the Southwold all hunt within its 
borders. That the blood of the Blankney pack is 
now the source of such famous kennels as the Wood- 
land Pytchley at Brigstock, and the Pytchley at 
Brixworth is well known, while to the Belvoir and 
Brocklesby strains every kennel in England goes back. 
The whole country save the fen district is suitable 
for hunting. The very best of that hunting country 
is found round Grantham, a town which has a history 
connected with sport as long and as important as 
any in England. Grantham is a centre from which 
you can probably see as much hunting in the course 
of a season as from any town in England, for hounds 
are within reach four or five times in the week, and 
the Great Northern Railway is always there to act 
as covert hack. 

The Belvoir hounds are less often stopped by frost 
than any pack in England, for the great variety of 
soils to be found within the borders of the hunt gene- 
rally make it possible to hunt somewhere. For 
example, in the season of 1901-2, the worst I ever 
recollect, many packs were kept in kennel, as although 
it thawed by day it always froze at night, but the 
Belvoir were able to hunt when no other pack was 
out. Therefore if a man chooses Grantham as his 



GRANTHAM 



III 



headquarters, he is hkely to put in on the whole as 
many days' hunting in the course of the season as 
from any place, Melton only excepted. We shall 
find that Grantham has, and always has had, a certain 
number of regular visitors who, having once found 
it out, continue to go there year after year. Grantham 
has two excellent hotels, lodgings are to be found in 
the town, and stabling is to be rented. 

But it is desirable to take a strong stud, in both 
numbers and quality, to Grantham. The foxes are 
stout, the Belvoir hounds travel fast, and the country 
is not one that can be taken lightly anywhere. More- 
over, round Grantham it is not all grass, for there 
is plough and also some strong woodlands. If any 
one wishes to see the right type of horse to take to 
Grantham let him obtain permission to see Ferneley's 
portraits of Sir Thomas Whichcote's horses, which 
are let into the panels of the dining-room at Aswarby 
Hall. They are big blood horses, and the greatest 
pains was taken with their conditioning. It is better 
to have a somewhat inferior horse in really hard 
condition than a first-rate one short of muscle and 
thick in the wind from want of proper treatment. 
No one ever saw more sport than Sir Thomas Which- 
cote or rode so consistently to hounds. And he 
wisely never kept a bad horse and seldom parted 
from a good one. He knew and trusted his horses, 
and they obeyed his hand, both very important matters 
in crossing a strong country. 

Grantham has always been a sporting town. Its 
bankers and its manufacturers, as well as the squires, 
the farmers and the parsons of the country round, 
are and always have been devoted followers of the 
Duke of Rutland's hounds. It was Grantham that, 
when agricultural depression made a hunt subscrip- 



112 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

tion necessary, raised £1500 a year and offered it to 
the late Duke without conditions, as a contribution 
to the poultry and damage fund. It was also, I 
believe, Grantham that prevented a division of the 
hunt, and to this we owe the fact that the historic 
hunt of Belvoir is still undivided. Grantham is the 
hunting capital of Lincolnshire, a county which has 
produced more hounds and huntsmen of note than 
any other. The families of the Smiths, the Thatchers 
and the Goodalls all handle fox-hounds, as Frank 
Gillard once said, as naturally as a setter or pointer 
takes to finding game. 

It is perhaps not very surprising that Grantham 
and its neighbourhood have produced hard riders, 
for the ditches are deep, the rails strong and the 
fences, if neat and well kept, are not to be trifled 
with. When I was preparing to write the history 
of the Belvoir hunt, I drove, rode and cycled over 
the country round Grantham, Aswarby, Folkingham 
and other places, and it struck me as most sporting, 
but rather stiff. Will Wells, the huntsman succes- 
sively of the Puckeridge and Hertfordshire, was a 
noted rider, and the following incident which he 
wrote to me himself may serve to illustrate what I 
have said. " The hounds were drawing Colonel 
Reeves' Gorse at Leadenham. Wells rode down to 
the bottom to view the fox away, and Mr. Clark, 
the great sheep-feeder, was there with a friend. He 
said, ' Will, if we find a fox how are you going to get 
over that fence ? ' — a very big ditch with a post and 
rails from me. — ' Wait and see,' said Will, and at 
that very moment a fox broke. ' Now let us see,' 
said Mr. Clark, and Will, giving his horse a ten yards' 
run, flew the fence." * If the fences are strong, 

* " History of the Belvoir Hunt," p. 328. 



GRANTHAM 113 

however, the foxes are stout and have always borne 
this character. An old squire of Boothby writes to 
Cooper begging him not to kill his foxes in the spring. 
" A woodland fox we cannot spare. You know well 
a good Boothby wood cub in the cub-hunting season 
to be worth a dozen in the Heath coverts for young 
hounds. I hope and trust you will not think of 
coming." * 

It has been the glory of the Grantham district 
from a hunting point of view that it has produced 
so many hard riders, for whom no day was too long, 
no fence too big. Such are not merely followers of 
the hounds for the sake of a gallop, but they have 
a sound judgment and knowledge of hound-lore and 
the science of fox-hunting. 

Now, let me go somewhat more into detail as to 
the country round Grantham. There is the Heath 
country, which consists of a considerable proportion 
of light plough divided by thorn fences, not very 
high, but stiff. Near Cranwell are some stone walls, 
and, as is usually the case where there are walls, 
there are few ditches, and the same may be said of 
Weever's Lodge and Newton Toll Bar close to Grant- 
ham on the Aswarby side of the country and near the 
fenland. In this direction you jump often out of 
deep and heavy soil over stiff fences, and the nearer 
you are to the Fens the bigger and deeper seem the 
ditches. The Belvoir Vale is partly under plough 
and is noted for the combination of stake and bound 
hedges and wide ditches, and there is the Stubton 
country, which has been long famous for sport and 
also for the severity of its fences. Between Stubton 
and Leadenham runs the river Brant, and about 
this district is told the story of Colonel Fane of Ful- 

* " History of the Belvoir Hunt," p. 301. 

H 



114 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

beck, who is said to have been married, to have 
dropped in with the hounds afterwards near Stubton, 
got a good ducking in the Brant, and started for 
India all in one day. Nimrod describes the Stubton 
country thus : "I think I never did see one so 
strongly fenced. If I could have made use of the 
pencil, I would have brought away a sketch of one 
of them. It was a blackthorn hedge about eight 
inches higher than the top of my hat as I stood on 
the ground, with growers in it as thick as a man's 
thigh plashed at the top, and with a wide ditch on 
one side. On remarking to Mr. Robert Grosvenor 
that it was a stiff country, he observed that it was 
so to be sure, but, added he, a man has nothing to 
do but to throw his heart over and follow it. ' This 
is all very well,' thought I (and my readers will prob- 
ably agree), ' but it is not every heart that will leap 
so high even when its owner gives the word.' " * 

But not always did even the hard riding field throw 
their hearts over, for Will Goodall, the famous Belvoir 
huntsman, in a letter to Sir Thomas Whichcote, says : 
" It's really wonderful to see a body of old fox- 
hunters when hounds start off with their heads up 
and sterns down telling them over the very first 
field that there's no time to lose, to see them follow- 
ing one another over a weak place to avoid a rasper 
and thereby losing that portion of precious time 
which has gone for ever, thus verifying the old pro- 
verb that ' time and fox-hounds wait for no man.' " f 
This is a true enough picture, only it is a testimony 
to the hard riding of the Belvoir field that Goodall 
should have found such action wonderful. It is 
certain that in past days more people journeyed to 

* Nimrod's " Hunting Tours," p. 219. 
I " History of Belvoir Hunt," p. 193. 



GRANTHAM 115 

the Lincolnshire side from Melton than do now. We 
are told that besides the attractions of Goodall, some 
of the hard riding men used to go on purpose to take 
on Sir Thomas Whichcote on King Charming or some 
other of his magnificent horses. 

Once more on the principle of trying to see our- 
selves as others see us, I give an extract from the 
graphic diary of Mr. Vickerman, who seems to have 
thought nothing of riding from Melton to Grantham, 
sixteen miles, and thence hacking the famous Cognac 
on to Aswarby. This is how the Lincolnshire side 
appeared to him. " The country round here was 
very rough and uninviting, smallish fields and a good 
deal of heavy plough "• — there is more pasture now- 
adays — " and blind wide fences very unlike some of 
the country I had passed through on my way from 
Grantham, which though principally plough land 
seemed firm, with large fields and neat compact 
fences." They had a good gallop, and Mr. Vickerman, 
who early saw the " propriety of taking a line of 
my own," was with the hounds, and in the course 
of it " Cognac " (the writer always gives all the credit 
to his horse) " set the whole field twice. The first 
place looked on coming to it like an ordinary hedge 
with a widish ditch on the other side, but when taking 
it, it proved to be a Lincolnshire dyke, very wide 
in itself but with the earth dug away at this parti- 
cular fence, materially increasing the width. While 
in the air I thought he must drop short, but he 
cleared it gallantly, and turning round I shouted to 
one of the whips who was following me that it was 
a bad place, but found that he did not need the hint, 
for neither he nor any one else attempted it. The 
second place occurred when hounds were running 
slowly, and in the latter part of the run I could 



ii6 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

observe that the huntsman and all the field turned 
away from the line of the hounds into a road, but 
supposing this was to avoid a wide place I was not 
sorry to be left alone with a pulling horse. I soon 
perceived the cause of their taking to the road from 
a bank of earth rather recently thrown up, but this 
same bank prevented me from seeing exactly what I 
was coming to or its width, but seeing Goodall and 
those of the field who were parallel with me in the 
road turn in their saddles to observe what I should 
do, I concluded it was a wide place and therefore, 
selecting a portion of the bank which seemed sounder 
than the rest, I put ' Cognac ' smartly at it for the 
honour of Essex, and he cleared the whole superbly, 
alighting right on the top of the bank of earth on 
its opposite side, causing Goodall to exclaim, ' Well 
done.' It proved to be a regular Lincolnshire dyke, 
with the width and difficulty much increased by 
having been recently cleared out and the earth thrown 
up on both sides. It certainly was a place to startle 
weak nerves, for I could see when crossing it that 
the sides were perpendicular and about ten or twelve 
feet deep, so that there would have been little chance 
of getting out in the event of a mistake." * We 
shall all agree that the honour of Essex was well 
sustained on this occasion, and our assent will be 
all the warmer if we have had any close acquaint- 
ance with Lincolnshire dykes. The same rider met 
many stiles and rails just as any one would do to-day ; 
indeed here, as I believe almost everywhere in the 
Shires, a timber jumper is a necessity. 

There was in days gone by a very popular, if some- 
what eccentric, visitor to Melton, Captain Mickle- 
thwaite, who was rather noted for his exploits in the 

* " Leaves from a Hunting Diary in Esse.x," p. 337. 



GRANTHAM 117 

way of charging timber. A contemporary verse writer 
thus addresses him — 

" Bold Tar who for so many winters 
Has knocked our five-barred gate to splinters. 

For when the hog-back stile appears 

You forwards rush devoid of fears. 

The stile collapses in a heap, 

And through the wreck the funkers creep." * 

No description of the Grantham country would be 
complete without a notice of Folkingham. This is 
an ideal English country town or large village, and a 
fixture at Folkingham is worth all the journey to 
see. So much was I struck with it that for a long 
time I thought of casting anchor there, and it is a 
place to be recommended to other old Anglo-Indian 
wanderers who may be seeking retirement and sport. 
The place is full of the traditions of sport. Not far 
away is Lenton with its spire and brook, the one a 
famous landmark and the other a terror to the timid 
riders of the hunt. Thence, too, from Folkingham 
Gorse has been many a famous run, or again, a little 
to the south you may find a fox to lead you into 
the Cottesmore country. From Coston to Woodwell 
Head has already been written of. Twice in one 
season did the pack run from Buckminster coverts. 
In 1895, December 18, the pack found a fox near 
Lord Dysart's house. Now, to be sharp in getting 
away is a note of this pack. They came out racing 
over the park close to their fox. Gillard and his 
two whippers-in were in their places, Lord Charles 
Bentinck and Mr. H. T. Barclay striving for a lead, 
Mr. Seabrooke of Waltham also and Mr. Gale. There 

* From an unpublished copy of verses by Mr. J. E. Welby. 



ii8 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

was never a pause or a hover till Woodwell Head 
was in sight ; when two fields short of this, the 
hounds cast themselves to the left and then to the 
right. One touched the line and with the Belvoir 
note, like a bell, called the others to him, swung round 
in the beautiful Market Overton valley, and marked 
the fox to ground at Edmonthorpe. From Buck- 
minster to Woodwell Head, it is said, they took but 
twenty-three minutes, and seventeen minutes on to 
the finish. On New Year's Day, 1896, they ran the 
same line from Buckminster to Woodwell Head, and 
among those who saw and enjoyed this gallop were 
the late Lord Edward Manners, then field master of 
the Belvoir hounds, and M. Roy, a Frenchman who 
was ever constant to Grantham in the hunting season, 
though often going back to spend his Sundays in 
Paris. 

When once on the subject of hunting from Grantham, 
it is tempting to hnger, yet enough has been said to 
show that it is no bad centre for a man whose whole 
mind is set on hunting, yet who wishes to be within 
reach of London. The man who goes to Grantham 
should make up his mind to hunt chiefly with the 
Belvoir and to share the local interest in and en- 
thusiasm for this famous pack. He should love 
hound work and study it, or he will lose half his 
pleasure. Yet must he be able to ride up to the pack, 
or he cannot know what is going on. If you never 
see the hounds, what difference is it whether the 
Belvoir hounds are before you or a scratch pack of 
staghounds ? 

Therefore, being lovers of hunting, it is well to 
ask ourselves whether we are prepared to ride to 
hounds. We shall generally have room. Even near 
Melton there is often room at the top of the hunt, 



GRANTHAM 119 

but in the Grantham district there is no crowd. Yet 
the squires and farmers have been hard riders from 
their youth up. They were trained and led by such 
men as the late Duke of Rutland, Frank Gillard, 
Messrs. Hutchinson, " Banker " Hardy, Sir Thomas 
Whichcote, Mr. John Welby and many more heroes, 
past and present. There will be rivalry and some 
of what Brooksby happily calls " zealous " riding. 
If, however, you love hunting and yet cannot take 
your place with such as these, then surely an easier 
sphere is really more likely to afford enjoyment where, 
at less cost of nerve and horseflesh, you can see hounds 
at work. I say horseflesh because, with a few, very 
few, exceptions, no man can really enjoy himself 
from Grantham except on good stout well-bred horses 
in hard condition. But if you have the horses and 
can ride them, and yet hounds are still your first 
thought in hunting, then by all means go to Grantham 
and you will never regret it. 



CHAPTER V 

THE HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 

Importance of the Huntsman — Increasing Difficulties of Hunting 
— Music and Pace of different Packs — The Quorn — Mr. 
Meynell — Lord Sefton — Nimrod's Comments — Mr. Osbaldes- 
ton — Tom Firr — Lord Lonsdale — Captain Burns-Hartopp — 
The Cottesmore — Sir William Lowther — Sir Richard Sutton 
— Lord Kesteven — Mr. Baird — Foundation of the Kennel — 
Mr. Evan Hanbury — Arthur Thatcher — Oakham as a Hunting 
Centre — The Belvoir — A Big Crowd — The Hunt Servants and 
their Horses — A Typical Day — History of The Pack — Suc- 
cessive Huntsmen — Belvoir Blood in Other Packs — Sir 
Gilbert Greenall and Capell — Brocklesby and Belvoir — 
Goodall and Gillard — Masters of the Belvoir — Society at the 
Castle — Deputy Masters — Lord Forester — Dukes of Rutland 
— A great County Hunt — Mr. Fernie's Hunt — The Country — 
The Division during Sir Richard Sutton's Mastership — Mr. 
Tailby — Some Hard Riders — The Billesdon — Sir Bache 
Cunard — Why Mr. Fernie's Fixtures are not Overcrowded — 
Big Studs the Exception — The Right Kind of Horse — Brooks 
in the Country — Notable Huntsmen trained in Mr. Fernie's 
Country — The Pack — The Pytchley — Mr. Naylor's Master- 
ship — Squires, the Huntsman — Northamptonshire as a Hunt- 
ing County — Mr. Meynell's Influence on Hunting — The First 
Earl Spencer — Dick Knight — Mr. Warde — His Horse " Soly- 
man" — A Long Run— Lord Althorp — Later Masters — Sir 
Bellingham Graham — Mr. Osbaldeston — Mr. George Payne — 
Lord Chesterfield — "The Other Tom Smith" — Sir Francis 
Goodricke — A Hunting Pauper ^ — Charles Payn — Colonel 
Anstruther Thomson — Conflicting Interests in a Hunting 
Country — Lord Spencer as Master — M. Bruneti^re on 
English Sports — Sir Herbert Langham — Whyte-Melville on 
the Pytchley — The Woodland Pytchley — Early Masters — 
The Woodlands — The Atherstone — Mr. Osbaldeston — Lord 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 121 

Vernon's Hounds — Famous Hunt Clubs — Lord Anson's 
Mastership — Mr. Oakley — Mr. J. C. Munro — Lord Denbigh's 
Coverts — Other Landowners who Support the Hunt — The 
Warwickshire and North Warwickshire — Character of the 
Country — The Shuckburgh Country — Stratford-on-Avon — 
The Plough Lands — Nimrod's Views — Mr. Corbet — An Old 
Writer on the Warwickshire Country — Will Barrow — Lord 
Middleton— Mr. Shirley— Mr. Vyner's Scratch Pack — Other 
Masters — Leamington as a Hunting Centre — Mr. Baker — 
Peter Collison— Hounds Crossed with Bloodhounds — Lord 
Willoughby de Broke. 

This chapter will deal with the packs that hunt the 
various countries which are included in the general 
term of the " Shires." The word, though an awkward 
one, is commended to us by usage and by the fact 
that it expresses our meaning. There are other 
" grass " countries besides those treated of in this 
volume, but, though their hunting is over pasture 
land for the most part, they are not included in the 
Shires, the fixtures of which can be reached from 
the centres treated of in the foregoing chapters. In 
the following pages I shall sketch the history, organisa- 
tion and methods of hunting of these packs of hounds. 
The history of some of the packs has been written 
in full or in part by those who have had access to 
the papers of the various masters and huntsmen, 
or whose personal knowledge of the country has 
made them authorities on the subject. My object 
here is only to give such a general view of the past 
of the hunts as may enable a visitor to understand 
their present position. 

There is an undoubted increase of pleasure in hunt- 
ing over ground which has been connected with so 
many famous men in the past. In the Quorn, the 
Belvoir, the Pytchley and Mr. Fernie's hunt there 
is no covert, nay there is scarcely a field or a fence 



122 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

which has not some association with the story of 
fox-hunting and its rise as a national sport in England. 
I confess I can never see Glooston Wood or Shangton 
Holt drawn without seeming to hear, as the too 
impetuous field dashes away, the " Hi, Hi " of Mr. 
Assheton Smith uttered with all the old H' emphasis 
as he strove to gain time for his hounds to settle. 
In the lane by Glenn Gorse I seem to hear the shrill 
tones of the Squire (Osbaldeston) as he alternately 
cheered his hounds and gossiped with his friends, 
or darted away with three couple of leading hounds, 
leaving the others to come through the horses, as 
indeed you may sometimes see them do to-day. Or, 
again, with the Belvoir I hear the silky tones of 
Gentleman Shaw at a check, as hounds waver for a 
moment outside Freeby Wood or Bescaby Oaks. 
" Gently, gentlemen, gently. One moment, and I'll 
thank ye." 

Or, to come nearer to our own time, Tom Firr's 
deep note sounds in our ears, as his hounds put down 
their heads after being lifted clear of a too eager field, 
or the eager " Huic, Huic, Huic " of Will Goodall 
the younger as he cheered his hounds together. The 
dark fences before you in the Harborough country 
are those that Mr. Smith said could all be crossed 
" with a fall," and the hedges clean and fair of the 
best of the Quorn those that Lord Wilton sailed 
over, never finding " those big places they talk of," 
because to a consummate horseman with an eye for 
country and the best of cattle even Leicestershire 
loses its terrors. 

In looking back over the history of the past, certain 
points seem common to all the hunts in all periods 
of their history. The first of these is the importance 
of the huntsman to the sport. Say what we will 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 123 

about this, one fact stands out clearly, that when 
these packs have had a first-rate man to hunt them 
the average of sport has been good, and when ordi- 
nary knowledge and skill carried the horn there has 
been plenty of fun, but when the huntsman has not 
had the requisite qualities there has been comparative 
failure. I say comparative, because in grass countries 
— and more rarely in the provinces — are days when 
hounds cannot but run, so strong is the scent, at 
all events until they lose the scent because they are 
blown. 

As time has gone on and the conditions of hunting 
have changed, the huntsman has become still more 
important to the sport. The difficulties in the way 
of hunting and killing a fox are always increasing, 
and a huntsman cannot continue to show good sport 
without killing a fair proportion of the foxes he hunts. 
It has been said that the huntsman matters little, 
for, with a scent, any one can kill foxes, and without 
no one can. This, however, is not true. Though a 
moderate man can hunt a fox with a scent, he often 
cannot kill him. There is no moment in the chase 
when the coolness, judgment and woodcraft of a 
huntsman are more tested than when he has a sinking 
fox and therefore a failing scent before his hounds. 
Hounds know when a fox is dying and they work 
hard to catch him, but if then an untimely halloa 
get their heads up, they will not again pick up the 
thread of the chase which has been thoughtlessly 
snapped. 

Take the following instance. There had been a 
long run, and the fox had lain down in a field of 
turnips. As the huntsman and hounds came into 
the field, the fox jumped up in view. Now, only 
about half the field was under turnips, the rest was 



124 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

— I forget what ; but at all events it was open ground. 
The huntsman viewed the fox. Off went his cap, 
a shrill cheer broke from his lips, and the hounds 
coursed the fox to the hedge. He turned short the 
other side and ran up to the right, while the excited 
pack flashed half across the next field. The fox 
escaped, the thread was broken, and the hounds 
could only feel after the line, till at last it faded out 
altogether. That huntsman had found his fox well 
and hunted him fairly, but he could not kill him. 
If he had held his tongue, hounds would have had 
the fox in the hedgerow. We forget how much 
nearer the ground than ours the hound's eyes are, 
and consequently how much more limited his field 
of vision is. It is always safer to let the hounds 
run their fox into view themselves. 

Hunting a fox is a much more difficult task in the 
grass countries than it was fifty or sixty years ago. 
There always were, it is true, stains of sheep and 
cattle over the line, and there always was in Leicester- 
shire and Northamptonshire a too eager crowd. But 
there were no railways nor so many fences, and cattle 
were not left out so late. There are more herds 
and flocks in a given area now, when the crowds of 
followers are bigger and more men ride up to hounds 
than was formerly the case. Shepherds' dogs are 
more common, and are perhaps more often used by 
those who, with no objection to hunting in the ab- 
stract, would prefer that the fox should take his 
course over some one else's fields rather than their 
own. " Can't you keep your dog in ? " " Garn, 
what are you talking about ? my dog have as much 
right to run him as yourn have ! " is a true story 
and an attitude of mind not unknown to us. Un- 
sportsmanlike if you please, but it exists. Then 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 125 

there are more foxes now, and changes are more 
common, and hounds that change often and are 
cheered from one scent to another will naturally 
take the fresher, more fragrant line of the newly 
found fox in preference to the line of the hunted one. 
All these difficulties have gone on increasing, but 
we have always found huntsmen equal to the task. 
Naturally, the ablest men are drawn to Leicestershire, 
and their presence and skill have in their turn helped 
to increase the fame of the countries. One advantage 
the modern huntsman has, or may have if he will. 
He has certainly a better instrument in his hounds 
than had his predecessors. The modern pack of 
hounds in Leicestershire includes few bad ones. I 
do not know, indeed, whether individual hounds are 
better than they were, but I think that the average 
excellence of packs of hounds is steadily growing. 
There will, of course, always be hounds of special 
gifts that will stand out from the others, but all are 
up to a certain standard of make and shape. All 
have shoulders and loins ; few indeed are crooked 
or flat sided ; all can stay, and if a special failing is 
noted, it is corrected. The modern fox-hound with 
bone and stamina is, for example, growing more 
musical, silence being a mark of a certain want of 
strength and constitution. " Oh, sir," exclaimed a 
Eurasian lady to an Indian M. F. H., " how do you 
make your dogs to run and bark so ? " Now hounds 
" run and bark," because they are sound. Gillard, 
the best hound-breeder of our day, restored the music 
to the Belvoir at the same time that he increased 
their bone and stamina. The Cottesmore bitches 
could always sing as they went, and Mr. Wroughton 
left behind with the Pytchley a lady pack which can 
leave the horses when there is a scent and yet dis- 



126 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

course ravishing melody. The modern fox-hound can 
hunt and race, and with a man who can handle the 
instrument as our great huntsmen in the Shires 
have done, sport must needs be good in spite of 
difficulties. 

The instrument with which the modern huntsman 
has to work is therefore a fine one and is improving. 
But in the conditions of sport in the grass countries 
the best pack of hounds in the world cannot show 
sport by themselves. The mistake often made in 
this connection is that, having bred a wonderfully 
perfect animal, we do not sufficiently recognise the 
limits of his powers. In the old state of things when 
there were no railways, fewer hedgerows — it is wonder- 
ful that foxes resist the temptation to run up and 
down these as much as they do — not nearly so many 
foxes, and undrained land, it was possible for hounds, 
if left alone, to hunt a fox to death. This is much 
more difficult now, and consequently the importance 
to sport of the huntsman has increased. The best 
huntsman is the man who can obtain from his hounds 
the utmost amount of work, who can leave them 
to themselves, but who knows their limits ; can see 
when they have come to the end of their resources 
and, without delay or hesitation, come to their assist- 
ance. Such a huntsman was Tom Firr ; such too was 
William Goodall, Jr. ; and their success was great, 
although neither of them had a remarkably excellent 
pack of hounds to work with. 

With a huntsman of the highest rank, however, 
this is to a certain extent compensated by the trust 
which his hounds repose in him, the quickness with 
which the pack flies to the horn, and the ready and 
willing obedience which they give to his voice when 
he cheers or restrains them. That the huntsman 







o 

D 

X 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 127 

should recognise the limits of his hounds' powers 
and come to their assistance is necessary, and in the 
Midlands it is also needful that he should understand 
the conditions imposed upon him by the numbers 
of people who hunt. Some huntsmen are bewildered 
by the crowd, and excellent men have therefore failed 
entirely in the Shires. 

The criticisms often inspired by ignorance are also 
continual and trying, but must be borne with. More- 
over, if the huntsman will reflect, there is truth in 
some of the grumbling. He has, it may be, shown 
an excellent hunting run. Yet the followers are not 
pleased. Why ? Because with such a crowd no one 
has been able to see it. The huntsman in the Shires 
then must always be striving for a quick start, the 
whole secret of sport lying in the work of the first 
ten minutes, which shakes the crowd into their places 
and disperses them widely. Time, like money, is 
best made by small economies ; and the huntsman, 
though never in a hurry, must never lose an instant. 
Every second is of importance to him for the double 
purpose of pressing his fox and getting clear of the 
crush behind. Thus, not to dwell longer on a sub- 
ject which would lead me too far, we may say that 
the history of fox-hunting in the Shires is epitomised 
in the story of the huntsmen who have handled the 
horn. 



I. The Quorn. 

The first pack to be dealt with is the Quorn. It 
matters little whether or not this is the most ancient 
pack, for modern hunting dates from Mr. Meynell, 
and he was master of the Quorn from 1753 to 1800. 



128 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

He bought Quorndon Hall and built the kennels, 
and to him the hunt owes its name as well as its 
reputation. In all history there must be a starting- 
point, and Mr. Meynell's mastership has been fixed 
upon as the beginning of modem hunting. It might 
be said, of course, that Lord Spencer and Dick Knight 
handled their hounds in much the same fashion in 
Northamptonshire about that period. No doubt they 
did, and no doubt wherever there was a young eager 
master and huntsman and good scenting ground the 
" Meynellian " system was more or less followed. 

Mr. Meynell's character and position, however, gave 
a name to a system. He was in every respect a 
remarkable man, and seems to have made a great 
impression on his own generation. He made the 
Quorn famous, drew men to the country, and in- 
directly founded the prosperity of Melton Mowbray, 
for it was the fame of his hounds that drew Mr. Cecil 
Forester and other hard-riding sportsmen thither. 
Nothing, however, shows the change in hunting even 
in Mr. Meynell's time and our own more than the 
difference between the extent of country drawn. Mr. 
Meynell hunted from Nottingham to Market Har- 
borough. It was not merely that he began, or rather 
caused Jack Raven to begin — for Mr. Meynell never 
hunted the hounds himself — a quick style of hunting, 
but that he paid more attention to the all-important 
subject of condition. This attracted the attention of 
his contemporaries, as witness the couplet from the 
Billesdon Coplow verses : 

" But for horses and hounds and the system of kennel^ 
Give me Leicestershire nags and the hounds of old Meynell." 

The faster hounds stimulated the eager riders, and 
these in turn reacted on the huntsmen. Lord Sefton, 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 129 

who succeeded Mr. Meynell in 1800, reaped where 
the latter had sown, and, with Jack Raven and 
Stephen Goodall as huntsmen, showed great sport. 
By the time Lord Sefton became master the country 
had already altered from the earlier wild, unenclosed 
country, and the foxes too were stout. The ox- 
fences and bullfinches now made their appearance, 
and artificial coverts were plentiful. As the fences 
taxed the horses more, second horses were introduced. 
The distances covered by the hounds were much 
greater in Mr. Meynell's day than they are now, and 
while the country was still open, it was much if a 
man could tell where he would dine and sleep when 
he started in the morning. 

In Lord Sefton's time — and the same may be said 
of the two seasons of his successor. Lord Foley — the 
pace increased, the runs were more often circular, 
and foxes began to run from one to another of the 
small coverts. As much time as formerly might 
indeed be occupied in the chase, but the point between 
start and finish was much shorter. Then came Mr. 
Assheton Smith, whose fame as a horseman has some- 
what eclipsed his reputation as a huntsman. But he 
was always with his hounds. No fence stopped him 
in the chase or hindered him from making a cast. 
Wide and bold casts were the characteristics of his 
handling of the pack, and the same system was fol- 
lowed by Mr. Osbaldeston. " Nimrod " comments on 
the way these two great masters of the sport hunted 
a fox, and his words are as true to-day as they were 
a hundred years ago. " Quickness of decision is the 
life and soul of fox-hunting. A fox instantly recovered 
is worth recovering in Leicestershire with two hundred 
men in the field. The stumbling upon him by the 
time he has got two miles ahead of the pack is only 

I 



130 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

productive of mischief. Hounds are ridden over — 
pressed upon they are sure to be — confusion arises, 
and as a fresh fox is at hand that is the cure for the 
disappointment. . . . ' D — d unlucky losing that first 
fox. Very pretty whilst it lasted. The Squire's cast 
no doubt was right, but depend upon it he was headed 
by that shepherd and his dog.' ' But why did he 
not try back ? ' asks one of the old school (note, 
reader, this was the first quarter of the last century, 
and the old school is with us still !), ' Not used to 
so fast a country. I think, by the crows, he's gone 
over yonder hill.' ' Very likely, sir,' says Jack Stevens, 
as he holds a gate open for the hounds who are on 
their road to Shangton Holt, where they are sure of 
a find in ten minutes." All this might have been 
written to-day. 

Mr. Osbaldeston greatly improved the pack, and 
he bred for pace. He entered, though he did not 
breed, the famous Furrier, to whom most of our best 
hounds strain back. Mr. Osbaldeston also taught 
his hounds to disregard the pressure of horsemen. 
This was done by going away with the first lot of 
hounds and leaving the others to be cheered forward 
by the whipper-in. A fox-hound hates to be left 
behind, and will strive to get forward in spite of 
horses and the perils of a crowd. It would be outside 
my plan to detail the history of the pack. It is 
enough to say that the example set by these earlier 
huntsmen was followed by those who succeeded with 
more or less success according to their ability, until 
we arrive at the present day. 

Of all the huntsmen in the field who ever carried 
the horn in Leicestershire the late Tom Firr was the 
greatest. He knew exactly what his hounds could 
do in the circumstances of the hunt. He never lost 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 131 

his head, and as a rule kept clear of the crowd, which 
certainly was increased by his fame. He never 
seemed to be riding desperately, but was always 
with his hounds ; yet, being the fine horseman he 
was, he must often have run risks and taken chances, 
as his occasional severe falls show. But the fact 
that he hunted hounds over Leicestershire for twenty- 
six seasons, and without any diminution of nerve or 
success, shows his marvellous ability. He had to 
make his own pack, for the Craven hounds, which 
were bought when Mr. Masters took his famous hounds 
into the South Notts country, were hardly at first 
suited to the Quorn. Never I think at any time 
had he such hounds to hunt as fell to the lot of his 
contemporaries of the Belvoir and the Cottesmore. 
In one circumstance he was fortunate, for early in 
his career some stout Scotch foxes were distributed 
through the country, and for many seasons they and 
their descendants gave great sport. 

I should say perhaps that his best time was in 
the early 'seventies. It was not till nearly twenty 
years later that I saw him, Lord Lonsdale then being 
master. No master ever was more successful in 
keeping an eager field off the hounds' backs than 
Lord Lonsdale, who was himself a practical hunts- 
man. But, on the whole, the time which men will 
look back to is that when Mr. Coupland and Tom 
Firr worked together in Leicestershire, and Brooksby 
recorded their doings with all Nimrod's humorous 
spirit and grace and with something more than 
Nimrod's modesty. 

Of the Quorn country I have already written, and 
what it was in the past it still is to-day. The present 
master, who is the twenty-fourth in succession, is 
Captain Burns-Hartopp, with Tom Bishopp, late of 



132 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

the Grafton, for his huntsman. The Ouorn for two 
or three days in the week is on the best grass, and 
for other two in an excellent wild country. If you go 
to Melton, you will join the hunt and take a pride 
alike in its present glories and its past achievements ; 
and many a pleasant hour may be spent in turning 
over the records of the past. Thus we add to the 
pleasures of hunting over a beautiful country the 
charms of historic associations with the past of the 
sport we love. 



II. The Cottesmore 

The Quorn has been a subscription pack for the 
greater part of its history, but the Cottesmore owes 
its existence and its fame to-day to two families, 
those of Noel and Lowther. It is a very ancient 
hunt, and no one will be surprised at this when he 
becomes acquainted with the country, for it would 
be difficult to find a district more suitable for hunting. 
It is an extensive country and almost as various as 
the Belvoir. Like most other masters of his time, 
Mr. Noel began by hunting over a large and undefined 
country which, as time went on and foxes became 
more numerous, was gradually reduced to its present 
limits. At one time, in the middle of the eighteenth 
century, part of the present Cottesmore and a 
portion of the Belvoir were hunted by a sort of 
joint-stock company, consisting of the Duke of 
Rutland and Lords Cardigan, Gainsborough, Gower 
and Howe. 

But the true founder of the Cottesmore Hunt was 
Sir William Lowther, afterwards the first Lord Lons- 
dale. He lived at Uffington and at Stocken, after- 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 133 

wards so well known as the abode of General Grosvenor, 
a keen sportsman, a cheery companion, but not a 
bold rider. For nearly fifty years Lord Lonsdale 
hunted the Cottesmore, and he had kept harriers 
before that. The hunting was quite in the old style, 
and foxes were walked to death by a steady pack 
of big hounds, much to the disgust of the Meltonians 
who came out. The huntsman bore the not inappro- 
priate name of Slacke. Before the death of Lord 
Lonsdale, his second son, who succeeded him in the 
title, took the management, and is said to have 
learned a great deal from both the Quorn and the 
Belvoir, which were in style of hunting and kennel 
management many years ahead of the Cottesmore. 
It was in Colonel Lowther's time (1870-1876), with 
Lambert as huntsman, that the Melton people began 
to perceive the possibilities of the Cottesmore country. 
Lambert was a quick intelligent man, and gave life 
to the pack which had plenty of hunting power. 
The quickest and best bred hounds will become slow 
with a slow man, and it is wonderful what pace a 
lively huntsman can raise even with a pack of Bassett 
hounds. The fox-hound has drive, but he soon loses 
it if he is not kept up to the mark. 

In 1842 the first Lord Lonsdale gave up the hounds, 
and Sir Richard Sutton succeeded, taking over the 
old pack and the same huntsman. We may pass 
lightly over the following years after the old pack 
had been sold. Sir Richard Sutton, who had built 
up an excellent pack on Belvoir lines, with old 
Goosey as kennel huntsman, took his hounds to 
Quorndon in 1847. Then came Mr. Henley Greaves 
and Mr. Borrowes. In his third season Sir John 
Trollope, afterwards Lord Kesteven, began to form 
the pack, which was the foundation of the existing 



134 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

one. This was in 1857, so that the present Cottesmore 
pack have been nearly fifty years in the country. 

Lord Kesteven was an excellent judge of a hound, 
and when Mr. Baird (1880-1900) began his master- 
ship of twenty years, he found an excellent pack, 
though the standard of the dog pack was afterwards 
reduced. The real foundation of the kennel was a 
lucky union between Lord Fitzhardinge's Termagant, 
that came to the Cottesmore in a draft, and the 
Bel voir Lexicon. There is also a considerable strain 
of Lord Henry Bentinck's blood in the kennel, and 
another hit was made in Seaman, who combined 
Belvoir and Grove blood. On the whole, the Cottes- 
more pack is full of Belvoir blood, and that handsome 
hound, Stainless, has transmitted his looks to them. 
Mr. Baird was fortunate in his huntsmen, and when 
admiring the beautiful pack of to-day, we must not 
forget the excellent work done by Mr. Baird's hunts- 
men, Neal and Gillson, who were both men of sound 
judgment in kennel matters. 

When Mr. Evan Hanbury succeeded, he found the 
pack famous and its record of sport second to none, 
and in the two seasons he has been there it is well 
known that the sport has been something remarkable. 
Arthur Thatcher, the present huntsman, who was born 
at Brocklesby and has been with hounds all his life, 
is deservedly appreciated by all who have hunted 
with him, and is one of the soundest, as well as most 
brilliant, of the younger huntsmen of the day. 

If I were given my choice of a place to live in and 
a pack to hunt with, I would say, let me live near 
Oakham and hunt with the Cottesmore every day 
they are out. The country is wilder and, if I may 
say so, less artificial than some other parts of the grass 
countries, and in consequence the foxes are stouter 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 135 

and wilder, and for that reason possibly leave a better 
scent. 

Doubtless other packs can show bursts as brilliant 
for the satisfying daily bread of hunting, but for runs 
that are long but not tedious, for chases that are 
hunts but not slow, the Cottesmore, like its neigh- 
bour the Belvoir, is the country. 

For more than a quarter of a century now this 
hunt has been thoroughly worked and well hunted, 
and the tide of fashion has flowed towards it. It is 
a hunt to settle in and to take a pride in. But still, 
for the casual visitor, the man of two or three seasons 
in the Shires, I hold to Melton and the Quorn. When 
you come to the Shires you want to have not only 
the best of hunting but the best of country ; and, 
with the exception of part of the Tuesday and Saturday 
countries, I may say plainly the Cottesmore is not 
as a riding ground equal to the Quorn or Mr. Fernie's. 
There are parts, too, of the Tuesday, or Leicester- 
shire, country that are very rough ; and Tilton, 
Loddington, Tugby, Skeffington and Launde are 
places where none should venture unless he has a 
stout horse. The present pack is one of the most 
successful instances of judicious introduction of Bel- 
voir blood. 



III. The Belvoir 

The first day that we hunt with the Belvoir will 
always remain in our memory, so associated is the 
pack with the history of fox-hunting and the fox-hound. 
So many men in the past have looked on this hunt 
as the very embodiment and type of the best side 
of our national sport that we feel that a day with 



136 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

the Belvoir is an experience not easily to be forgotten. 
Suppose then that some Wednesday early in the 
season we find ourselves at Croxton Park. The day 
is cloudy, and the wind has a touch of east in it. 
The remains of the old fishing lodge of the Duke of 
Rutland are before us, and the pond's steely grey 
in the subdued misty light of the November morning 
adds a beauty to the landscape. There is a gathering 
of all the hardest riders, soldiers, statesmen, men of 
business, lawyers and farmers, people of every degree 
of rank and wealth. Then the women are on the 
best horses that money can buy or judgment select ; 
others are riding less high-bred, but still useful animals ; 
and there are many on foot and quite a cloud of 
cyclists. 

There, too, quietly being walked up and down is 
the famous pack, all with a wonderful family likeness 
in shape and colouring. Clean and bright in their 
coats, they have the easy grace and motion of perfect 
shape. Marvellous examples of careful selection they 
are, combining strength and speed that can tire 
out and outstrip the best of horses. The Hunt ser- 
vants are neatly got up in quiet and workmanlike 
manner, and are mounted on horses chosen by one 
of the best judges in England. A trifle high in flesh 
for hunt horses perhaps ; but when you have said 
that, you have said all that the keenest critic can 
find to object to. Every one is full of hope and 
expectation, for the whole season is before them with 
its possibilities of glorious moments, the like of which 
can be enjoyed only in the hunting-field. The hunts- 
man possibly feels a little anxious, for the whole 
throng depend on him for their sport ; and, as he is 
judged strictly by results, a bad scenting day, for 
which he is in no way responsible, may nevertheless 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 137 

lower his reputation. But, after all, he is not much 
to be pitied, for his work is his pleasure, and he knows 
as no one else does what those eighteen or twenty 
couple of hounds can do. 

The Master has his cares, for the very popularity 
of the hunt fills his mind with a continual dread lest 
some of those reckless youths should take as little 
thought for his hounds as they do for their own necks. 
He looks at his watch and nods to the huntsman, 
who moves quietly off, the pack clustering round 
his horse and then trotting on in their eagerness as 
far in front as their respect for the first whipper-in, 
who leads the way and represents order and discipline, 
will allow. They know what is before them, and 
their waving sterns flash white in the anticipation 
of coming pleasure that fills them. 

Bescaby Oaks is the first covert to be drawn. The 
field follow till they are packed in a muddy green 
lane where they can do little mischief and whence 
many of them will find it hard to disentangle them- 
selves. But we have edged as near the gate on the 
right as may be. The leaves are still on the trees, 
golden, scarlet and brown, and there is that inde- 
scribable scent of hunting in the air that stirs us 
with the associations of past pleasures of the chase. 
There is a cheer from the huntsman, a crack of the 
thong of a whipper-in, then a note from a hound 
which silences the chatter in the lane and brings 
every one to attention. Then arises a tumult of 
hound voices which sinks into silence and swells out 
again. The clamour divides and tells us there are 
two lines, and then a shrill voice sounds from the 
far side of the covert. Those nearest the gate dash 
through, up one side and down to the left, half the 
horses out of hand with excitement ; but there is 



138 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

no time to lose, for the fox is away, and the Belvoir 
hounds are already striving forward. With incon- 
ceivable rapidity they flit through the undergrowth, 
and, by the time the first men are through the gate 
and out of the covert, the whole pack has tumbled 
out of the wood spread wide for the scent, hit off 
the line, and are streaming away with a rippling, 
chiming cry that tells of a scent. 

Now, catch hold of the horse by the head and send 
him along, for, even though he has the best blood 
of the Stud book in his veins, hounds will beat him 
for pace. Sit back and let him have plenty of rein 
at the first hairy fence, for there is probably a ditch 
as well to clear and, as he flings the first two fences 
behind him, there will be more room. The mass 
of the field are hindering each other at the gate or 
making for a gap, heedless of the fact that with a 
good horse the safest and happiest place is in front. 
But it is the hounds we have come out to see, and 
the horse is but the means to an end. See they 
have overrun the line. The fox, only a cub, feels 
the pace already and turns short down a hedgerow. 
The hounds never pause or waver but cast them- 
selves widely and freely to the left, then to the right, 
and, with scarcely the loss of a moment, are going 
as fast as ever. But the pace steadies them, and 
there is a bit of bad scenting ground where they have 
to feel for the scent ; yet, even though they are 
hunting closely, they still drive forward, never wasting 
a moment. There is no dwelling to rejoice over 
the scent, and though they are not able to race, we 
shall have to look to it that we do not lose them. 
The eager puppies and two impetuous leaders are 
off the line now and again, but the hounds in the 
middle never lose the scent and recall the others 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 139 

by a timely note. But in this small square covert 
of thorns the fox, being young and inexperienced, 
has waited, and that pause has sealed his fate, for 
this time hounds and fox come out almost together, 
and it is a race for life for the fox and a steeplechase 
for the followers for the next two miles till the hounds 
fairly run into him in the open. A Bel voir burst 
of twenty minutes of the best ! So the day, with 
perhaps another burst, or it may be a long steady 
hunt, goes on. If you stay to the end, when the 
hounds turn away for the kennels at the end of the 
day, you will see that they will trot off as gaily as 
they started in the morning. The Master, the ser- 
vants, and the much diminished field will have tired 
out two horses apiece, but courage and condition 
will apparently leave the hounds as willing and able 
to hunt when the shadows of the short November 
twilight put a stop to the sport as when they left 
their kennels in the morning. 

Now, this pack that you have watched and followed 
with so much interest and pleasure, is the result of 
at least a hundred years of selection, judgment and 
thought. There are fifty or sixty couples in kennels 
and as many puppies are sent out to walk, of whom 
not a third will be found worthy of a trial in the 
pack and fewer still of a permanent place on the 
hound list. The first definite knowledge we have 
of the Belvoir hounds is in 1727, in the days of the 
third Duke of Rutland. His son, the famous Marquis 
of Granby, spent some of the time he could spare 
from " the wars " in hunting, and we know that he 
improved the pack. The fourth Duke married a 
Somerset, the beautiful Lady Mary Isabella, whose 
portrait by Sir Joshua hangs on the walls at Bad- 
minton, and from Badminton came two hounds. 



140 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

Champion and Topper, to which many of the famous 
hounds of Brocklesby and Belvoir can be traced back, 
through Songstress. 

From 1 79 1 the pack has been hunted by a succes- 
sion of able huntsmen who remained long at their 
posts, Newman, Shaw, Goosey, Goodall, Cooper, 
Gillard and Capell having each hunted the pack in 
turn from 1791 to 1903. Goosey laid the foundation 
of the pack, Goodall brought in the famous Rally- 
wood, and Gillard carried the work to perfection. 
There is scarcely a pack in England which has not 
Belvoir blood, and the most noted of these hounds 
can trace their pedigree back through Weathergage 
to Rallywood, and so back to the famous Furrier 
that was drafted from Belvoir to the Quorn in Mr. 
Osbaldeston's time, but whose descendant. Rally- 
wood, a gift from Brocklesby, brought the Furrier 
blood back into its natal kennel, to the lasting benefit 
of the English fox-hound. The result of this good 
work of the past is that the present Master, Sir 
Gilbert Greenall, and his huntsman, Capell, will show 
you sport to-day with the finest pack of hounds which 
ever hunted a fox. 

The Brocklesby and the Belvoir hounds are to all 
intents of the same race nowadays. They have had 
the advantage of being kept by two great families, 
the Pelhams and the Manners, for a hundred and 
fifty years or more. Our interest in the antiquity 
of hunting may tempt us to trace the existence of 
hounds kept for hunting back into a dim past, but 
the real origin of the modern fox-hound, as he exists 
to-day in the most famous kennels, may be traced 
to two men, Will Smith of the Brocklesby and Goosey 
of the Belvoir. These two men took the material 
that existed ; they bred to a type, and made that 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 141 

type permanent in their kennels. They were enabled 
to do this because, being the servants of great noble- 
men with wide estates, they could send out many 
scores of puppies to walk and thus had a large field 
for choice. Other men, who came afterwards, im- 
proved the hounds. Goodall gave the Belvoir dash, 
and Gillard increased the music and the stamina ; 
but old Goosey and W. Smith, the Brocklesby hunts- 
man, it was who fixed the type to which all modem 
fox-hounds are bred to-day. Luckily for us and fox- 
hunting, these men lived before the days when a 
boy's gifts and abilities were liable to be dissipated 
by what is called education. They gave minds un- 
distracted by irrelevant acquirements to the task of 
their lives and achieved success in proportion. 

The Masters of the Belvoir hounds have been not 
less notable men than the huntsmen. The active 
Masters in the field have not always been the Dukes 
themselves, for from the death of the soldier Marquis 
of Granby to the time when the sixth Duke took 
over the pack from Lord Forester, by far the greater 
part of the time the hounds were managed by relatives 
or friends. The fourth Duke was a statesman and 
the friend of Pitt ; the fifth, though he was proud 
of the pack, only regarded the hounds as one of the 
lesser interests of a busy life, for this Duke and his 
Duchess were by gifts and tastes leaders of society. 
The visitors to Belvoir during their reign comprised 
every one of note, and thus no doubt helped to make 
the town of Melton fashionable and hunting popular ; 
but the fifth Duke was not, like his son and successor, 
a keen sportsman. The best of Melton society was 
always to be found at the castle, and Beau Brummell 
and Mr. Assheton Smith and Sir Francis Grant, 
sportsman, man of fashion and P.R.A., Berkeley 



142 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

Craven and Lord Alvanley were visitors and followers 
of the pack. Yet, on the whole, it may be said that 
the hunt was supported as much for the benefit of 
the neighbourhood as for the pleasure of its owners. 

In the history of the Belvoir, then, we shall notice 
that there were a number of deputy Masters. Sir 
Carnaby Haggerstone, Lord George Cavendish and 
Mr. Thomas Thoroton managed the hounds during 
the absence of the fourth Duke in Ireland and after 
his death in 1787, until, in 1791, Mr. Perceval took 
the entire control. The pack hunted two days a 
week, and the yearly cost, as shown by a balance- 
sheet still in the possession of the Duke of Rutland, 
amounted to ;^775, los. In 1799 the fifth Duke of 
Rutland took over the mastership, which in 1830 he 
handed over to Lord Forester, the successor of Mr. 
Meynell's Cecil Forester. Lord Forester gave up the 
hounds in 1857, and thus out of eighty-four years 
for no less than forty-two the hounds were managed 
by Masters who were not of the Manners family. 

When we hunt with the Belvoir, we must not 
forget that a great debt of gratitude is due to the 
memory of Lord Forester. His judgment it was 
that selected Will Goodall, when only a second 
whipper-in, for the post of huntsman in succession 
to old Goosey. Lord Forester supported and en- 
couraged Goodall in his efforts to improve the pack, 
so that it should not merely be first-rate at work, 
but both in this respect and in make, shape and 
quality should surpass all others. Lord Forester and 
Goodall had excellent material to work on, for " two 
such judges as Mr. Lambton and Sir Richard Sutton 
had declared that they always felt discontented with 
their own hounds after a visit to Belvoir. The aim 
of Goodall was to preserve the rare quality of the 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 143 

pack, but to reduce the standard and increase the 
bone." 

But on the story of this hunt I will not dwell 
further, for it was my pleasure and privilege to write 
the history of the Belvoir Hunt, and in that volume 
I have gathered together all that I was able of the 
history of the pack. Besides, the present book deals 
with the past only in its bearing on the present. But 
the Belvoir sport and the Belvoir pack are now what 
they have always been. It has been the congenial 
task of the present Master, Sir Gilbert Greenall, and 
his huntsman, Ben Capell, to carry on the pack in 
a manner worthy of its great traditions. It was no 
easy task for the one to succeed Masters so popular 
and respected as the Duke of Rutland and his son 
the late Lord Edward Manners, or for Capell to follow 
a huntsman whose skill in the science of hunting 
was only surpassed by his tact and judgment in the 
kennel. Frank Gillard completed the work of his 
predecessors, and when he left Belvoir he left a pack 
which could hardly be improved upon. To have 
bred such hounds as Stainless, Weathergage, Gambler, 
Dexter, and others less well known but almost equally 
good, was to establish a name as a breeder that will 
not soon be eclipsed. 

The Belvoir Hunt, then, and the Belvoir kennel 
flourish as of old. The good hunt horses are worthy 
of the hounds, for no servants are better mounted 
than Capell and his whippers-in, and as for the sport, 
it was only a week ago as I write that the Belvoir 
hounds ran from Buckminster to Woodwell Head 
and so round to Stapleford, repeating and indeed 
improving on a famous hunt of some seven years 
back. Now, as of old, the Belvoir hounds offer sport 
varied, brilliant and satisfactory, and draw the best 



144 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

of Melton to the covert side when hunting in their 
Leicestershire country. Of the Lincolnshire side of 
the Belvoir I have already written when describing 
the sport open to visitors from Grantham. 

In speaking of this hunt, then, it must not be for- 
gotten that it still is a great county hunt, affording 
sport to the squires and farmers of the district, the 
fathers and forefathers of many of whom have sup- 
ported the hunt, preserved foxes and ridden after 
the hounds for as long a time as the Manners family 
have kept the pack. Times have altered in the 
Belvoir country as elsewhere, and it is now a sub- 
scription hunt. Still, owing to the unrivalled pack 
which the Duke of Rutland lends freely to the country, 
and to the kennels and many splendid coverts pro- 
vided by him, the connection between the hunt and 
Belvoir Castle is in no way severed, the present Duke 
being not less interested than his predecessors in the 
fame of the hounds which still depend upon his support 
and influence in so many ways. 



IV. Mr. Fernie's Hunt 

From the hunts round Melton we pass to those 
for which Market Harborough is the centre, and the 
chief of these is the Billesdon Hunt, better known to 
its members and to the world generally as Mr. Fernie's. 
This hunt was formed out of the southern portion 
of the Quorn, and in old books, before the division, 
it is always described as the Harborough country, 
and was by many people considered the cream of 
the Quorn Hunt. Mr. Meynell stayed at Langton 
Hall, and the hounds were kennelled at Great Bowden 




VIEW FROM lOHN HAIJ. 




A CUT AND LAID FENCE IN HIGH LEICESTERSHIRE- 

Pl.ATK VIII 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 145 

Inn when this part of the Quorn country was to be 
hunted. In his time there were not a great many 
foxes, and most of the coverts which we draw to-day 
were not planted. 

The country was more open than now, and it is 
said that from Glooston Wood to Skeffington there 
was no covert and scarcely a tree. But by the time 
Mr. Assheton Smith was Master of the Quorn (1806-17), 
enclosures, draining and the planting of artificial 
coverts had gone on apace and the country was 
already much in favour with the hard riders. We 
have seen how Mr. Vickerman looked on it as the 
best part of Leicestershire when he visited Melton. 
Yet the hilly nature of the ground and the severity 
of its fences caused many Meltonians then, as now, 
to avoid it and to seek their Thursday's sport in the 
Market Overton district of the Cottesmore Hunt. 
But Mr. Smith and Mr. Osbaldeston both liked it, 
and the names of its historic coverts recur often in 
the pages of the Sporting Magazine. One dis- 
advantage this part of the Quorn always laboured 
under, in that it was a long way from Melton and it 
was necessary for hounds and servants to lie out 
the night before hunting, on account of the distance 
from the headquarters of the hunt at Quorn. 

It was in Sir Richard Sutton's mastership that the 
division first began. Mr. Richard Sutton (1885) 
hunted the country from Billesdon, where he built 
kennels, and to this day the members of the hunt 
have B.H. on their buttons. In the days of Lord 
Stamford the division became definite, and ever since 
the time when Mr. Tailby first became master (1856) 
the Billesdon Hunt has been practically a separate 
institution. There was an idea of reuniting to the 
Quorn when Mr. Tailby resigned in 1878, and it was 

K 



146 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

understood that Mr. Coupland, at that time Master 
of the Quorn, desired to reclaim the Harborough 
country. But landowners, farmers and subscribers 
had tasted the advantages of autonomy and were 
in no way inclined to agree to reunion. The good 
town of Market Harborough, which, during Mr. 
Tailby's mastership, rivalled Melton itself, threw all 
its influence into the scale for separation, and the 
Billesdon is now as firmly established in the loyalty 
of its members as any hunt in England. 

Since the days of Mr. Tailby the limits of the 
country have been much narrowed and reduced. It 
so happened that the beginning of Mr. Tailby's master- 
ship coincided with the resignation by Lord Lonsdale 
of the mastership of the Cottesmore, and Sir John 
TroUope (1855), who had stepped into the breach 
with a view of keeping that hunt going, was unable 
to undertake so wide an extent of country. Mr. 
Tailby therefore received the loan of the Leicester- 
shire woodlands of the Cottesmore and some of the 
choicest coverts of that hunt, having the right to 
draw the Punch Bowl, Ranksborough and other 
places in the old and present Cottesmore country. 
Thus for many seasons Mr. Tailby hunted the best 
four-day-a-week country that has ever been known. It 
is a matter of common knowledge that he showed extra- 
ordinary sport and the Tailby Thursdays were famous. 
Quarters at Market Harborough went to a premium. 
AH the hardest riding men flocked to the country. 

Such were Mr. J. H. Douglass, still the secretary 
of the hunt and one of the best of the heavy weights, 
the Messrs. Murrietta, whe were pioneers of polo, the 
Goslings, who lived at Harborough, Mr. Alan Penning- 
ton, who has for many years now hunted with the 
Quorn, " Timber " Powell, so called from his liking 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 147 

for that kind of fence, the late Lord Hopetoun, who 
hved at Papillon's Hall, Captain Whitmore, of Gumley 
Hall, whose team of greys was a feature of the coach- 
ing meets at The Magazine in Hyde Park in bygone 
days. Major Bethune of Burton Overy, Colonel Baillie 
of Illston, Mr. Hay of Great Bowden, and last but not 
least, Mr. Tailby of Skefhngton, a very hard man, 
who still rides to hounds and can take a fence and risk 
a fall with many a younger man. He set the example 
of riding hard, and they still show the gate which he 
attempted, took a severe fall, picked himself up and 
went on after his hounds. Shortly afterwards the 
hounds ran back over the same line when the Master 
on the same horse charged the same gate as gaily as 
before and this time cleared it without a fall, as he 
deserved to do. 

The same cheery friendly spirit which marked the 
hunt in those days prevails still, and the Billesdon 
remains a hunt neither spoilt by wealth nor corrupted 
by fashion. Nowhere indeed so much as here does 
the gallant old Leicestershire spirit survive. There 
were fewer ladies hunting then than now, but still 
this hunt has never failed to attract those who loved 
to be with hounds when they run, such as Mrs. Arthur 
of Desborough, the late Mrs. Douglass and others 
who, being still with us, shall not be named here, but 
who are quite as keen, as gallant, and as brave as those 
who went before them. The time, however, of which 
I have spoken was too good to last, and when the late 
Lord Lonsdale took the mastership of the Cottesmore 
he not unnaturally reclaimed this attractive side of his 
country, which had the effect not only of curtailing the 
Billesdon country but deprived the hunt of practically 
all its woodlands. For a time Mr. Tailby hunted the 
reduced country two days a week, but in 1878 he 



148 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

resigned after a mastership which will be remembered 
as long as hunting continues in the Midlands. 

Then came Sir Bache Cunard of Nevill Holt, and 
his mastership marks an important era in the history 
of the hunt, for from his first year practically dates 
its existence as a separate and independent body. 
Sir Bache Cunard hunted two days a week, with an 
occasional bye. This brings us to the reign of the 
present Master, Mr. Fernie, and since he took the 
country the sport has been better and the wire less 
than before. In nine years of mastership Mr. Fernie 
has received an increasing support from farmers and 
landowners, and many people have settled within the 
limits of the hunt for the sake of the hunting and to 
share the privilege of riding over the best grass country 
in England. The whole district has benefited in 
consequence. The smallest villages have their tenants 
for the hunting season, and Market Harborough has, 
as we have seen, visitors who return there every year. 
But the surest sign of the prosperity of the hunt is 
to be found in the preservation of foxes, and there can 
be no better instance of the growth of good feeling 
in this respect than the history of this small piece of 
country, but twenty miles by fifteen miles in extent. 
In 1800 it was hunted for only a part of the season ; 
later on, it had one day a week, and Mr. Tailby found 
it hardly sufficient for two days ; and now it is hunted 
seven days a fortnight, with very frequent bye-days, 
and such a thing as a blank day is unknown. The 
whole of the old undivided Quom country, from the 
borders of Nottinghamshire to the boundary of 
Northants, supplied foxes for four or five days in a 
week ; now hounds are often advertised for nine 
places within the same limits during each week from 
November to April, 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 149 

In spite of its advantages, however, Mr. Fernie's 
fixtures are not overcrowded, for the truth is that to 
ride to hounds fairly straight is beyond the power 
of all save a few. Those who would do so must have 
nerve unshaken and big bold blood horses, for the 
fences are serious obstacles, and it might well happen 
that during a run many, possibly most, of the fences 
will be such that they can just be jumped and no 
more. This is not only a test of nerve in the rider 
but of staying power in the horse, since big fences take 
more out of them than galloping. Inasmuch, then, 
as the reason for choosing such a country is that you 
wish to ride hard (for, as I have previously pointed out, 
if you do not desire this there are other countries than 
Leicestershire which would suit you better), two horses 
a day are a necessity or you must make up your mind 
to forego a great deal of the best sport. There are 
seasons (1901-2 was one) during which hounds will 
often run better in the evening than in the morning, 
and it is certain that there are many days in each season 
when they will do so. But before these afternoon 
runs begin the man with one horse ought to be well 
on his way home. 

There is, however, one consideration on the other side 
of the account. I know no country where horses 
come again so quickly as they do here, and I think the 
percentage of injuries to horses is small. They are 
always galloping on sound turf which, if sometimes 
hard, is nearly always springy and elastic. Thus, 
the strains which happen in deep and sticky ground 
are avoided. I think, too, that while it is always a 
luxury to have a horse a stone over one's riding weight, 
yet that a lighter horse can be more safely ridden in 
this country than elsewhere. Horses come out more 
often, and if two horses a day are provided, there is 



150 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

no reason why they should not, if sound and fairly 
stout in constitution, be hunted twice in the week. 
Indeed, condition is so important a matter in these 
grass countries that if a horse is able to come out often 
he will be all the better and pleasanter to ride. Speak- 
ing of the hard work done by the hunt horses in his 
earlier days, Frank Gillard says, " It is astonishing 
what a well-bred one can do, and we liked it better " 
{i.e. riding horses in hard work) " than did Lord Henry 
Bentinck's servants who were over-horsed." 

It is well perhaps for men of moderate means who 
may be contemplating a season on the grass to be 
reminded that the big studs we read of are the ex- 
ception, since wealthy men are comparatively few. 
Indeed, even rich men do not only spend their money 
on horse flesh. Probably from four to six horses and 
a hack is the average number in most stables. If, 
once more, I may refer to " Market Harborough," 
we shall find that Mr. Sawyer saw much sport with 
four and a horse of all work. But to enjoy hunting in 
Mr. Fernie's country a man must, as I have said, 
come prepared to ride and he cannot be too well 
mounted. The country is undulating, with ascents 
often steep ; therefore a horse must be stout ; he 
must have good shoulders to gallop down hill ; he 
must go fast or he will be left behind or become so 
blown that he will fall ; he must be fairly handy and 
temperate, because there are times when the rider will 
have to open gates or take his turn at a gap. Then 
the horse should be a bold clean fencer, able to crash 
through a thick hedge, to clear a stout top binder, 
to gallop over his fences at a fair pace or to pull back 
to a trot, to hop over a stout rail in a corner, or a 
High Leicestershire stile which is simply four rails 
stout and high, with a footboard to help the pedestrian. 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 151 

I could find two of these within half a mile of the place 
where these lines are being written which would tax 
a horse good at timber, and they are the only possible 
way from one field to another. 

You will say it is not easy to buy such a horse. 
True ; but the nearer you can obtain him to this 
standard the more fun you will have, and in Mr. 
Fernie's country there is no doubt that you would 
be better off with two such horses than with four 
inferior ones. When Nimrod wanted to tell of a 
typical ride over Leicestershire, he chose the line 
from Norton Gorse to Tilton Wood, as those may read 
who will in the thrilling story of the death of Edwin 
in the " Hunting Reminiscences." 

Nor would any account of the country be complete 
without writing of its brooks, though they are to be 
forded and are well supplied with bridges. The 
Norton brook and Stonton brook are perhaps quite 
as often jumped on paper as in real life. This is as 
well, for they are ragged in their banks and generally 
awkward places, though they can be avoided without 
undue shirking. Nevertheless they do come in the 
line, and only in this last season six of the field flew 
Norton brook, led by the Master and the huntsman. 
Now if a friend were to ask me what was the best 
class of horse for High Leicestershire, I should advise 
him to try to keep in his mind the hunt horses, for they 
are not only apt to go, but they are true in type and 
make to the best class of grass country hunter. There 
are perhaps thirty of them in the stables at Medbourne, 
and there are few men who have not wished that 
they could be one of Mr. Fernie's hunt servants for 
the day. 

Though a small country, Mr. Fernie's is rather 
notable for the number of huntsmen it has trained. 



152 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

Mr. C. M'Neill, the Master of the North Cotswold, 
and Mr. Carnaby Foster, of the Ledbury, have both 
taken a first-class as huntsmen. Mr. C. Mills, too, 
is deputy-master of the Worcestershire. Then Kinch, 
a first whipper-in, at one time hunted the Ather- 
stone, and of Thatcher of the Cottesmore every one 
has heard. All of these came out of the Billesdon 
country, where they were well known as hard and 
keen riders over the country and as careful students 
of the work of hounds. 

Mr. Femie's country lies entirely in Leicestershire. 
The kennels are at Medbourne, a pretty village on the 
Welland, but in the extreme corner of the county 
and of the hunt. They have about sixty couple of 
hounds in kennels, a charming pack with the true 
make, the good loins, the hocks near the ground and 
the beautiful necks and shoulders which enable them 
to gallop all day without tiring up and down the 
hills of their country, and to travel at a pace which is 
surpassed by no other pack of our time. 



V. The Pytchley 

Taking the packs in order from a centre, the pack 
next of importance to Market Harborough visitors 
is the famous Pytchley Hunt. I have dwelt on its 
history because, unlike the Quorn and the Belvoir, this 
hunt has not yet found its systematic historian. There 
is a pleasant book written by Mr. Nethercote which 
rather contains Memoirs pour servir than a complete 
account of the Hunt. Indeed, the mastership of 
Mr. Naylor is scarcely noted in its pages, but luckily 
our old friend Baily's Magazine has filled the gap 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 153 

with the amusing Biography of a Huntsman. This 
huntsman was Squires, who served under Mr. Naylor 
and who showed good sport with a scratch pack. 
The story of this man's varied career as told by himself 
cannot be read without interest by any sportsman. 

The history of the Pytchley Hunt is more closely 
connected with English social life in the later part of 
the eighteenth and the whole of the nineteenth century 
than that of any other. The story is full of interest 
and the country of associations with men celebrated 
not only in the chase, but in war, literature, states- 
manship and commerce. Northamptonshire has been 
the playground of many distinguished men. The 
country, too, owes something to its situation, for it 
has at all times been accessible from London, and the 
railway has added to its convenience without cutting 
up its best hunting ground to the same extent as has 
been done in some other equally famous countries. 

As regards hunting it is second to none, and we 
have on record the opinion of Osbaldeston, who hunted 
hounds and carried the horn in both the Quorn and 
Pytchley countries, that he preferred the latter. But 
there is no need to make comparisons, for in reality 
men are likely to prefer that country in which they 
find themselves. They can see its advantages and 
experience the sport which is shown. Now, in the 
Pytchley, as in some other famous hunting districts, 
there are more good runs every year than the best 
mounted and the boldest man can see. The Pytchley 
is known wherever men speak of hunting and even 
to those who have seldom or perhaps never joined in 
the sport. It is rather difficult to say exactly at what 
period the Pytchley country was first hunted. Prob- 
ably there never was a time when the chase in some 
form or another did not exist in a county so suited for 



154 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

it as Northamptonshire. But though we may amuse 
ourselves by tracing back to early times the origins 
of our sport, yet we must not forget that fox-hunting 
as we know it began with Mr. Meynell. No doubt 
the fox was hunted before that, but it was Mr. Meynell 
who first took fox-hunting in hand and out of a 
Squireens' exercise made of it a national sport. It 
is not the mere fact of chasing a fox, but the way in 
which it is done, which really makes fox-hunting 
what it is. No doubt others had prepared the way 
by careful breeding of hounds, and, though Mr. Meynell 
may have improved, he could not have invented 
the fox-hound. 

But, though the possibilities of fox-hunting were 
first made known by Mr. Meynell, a many-sided man 
who touched life at many points, having literary and 
social as well as sportsmanlike tastes, the same idea 
had occurred earlier to the first Earl Spencer. It 
was the latter who founded the Pytchley Hunt Club, 
with the Old Hall at Pytchley as its headquarters. 
The rooms at the Old Hall were occupied by the 
members of the hunt, and at the same period the white 
collar was adopted as the distinctive hunt badge. 

As we have already seen, from the hunting man's 
point of view the huntsman is no less important than 
the master. Indeed, the fame of every pack has been 
founded and established by some distinguished hunts- 
man. What Newman was to the Belvoir, what Raven 
was to the Quorn, that Dick Knight was to the Pytchley. 
Knight was not merely a bold rider and a fine hunts- 
man, but a man of character and much esteemed by 
his master. " Come along, my lord ; the longer you 
look, the less you will like it," was his exhortation to 
Lord Spencer when the latter was craning at a fence. 
We may be tolerably sure that no member of the 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 155 

hunt would have addressed the Master in such terms ; 
indeed, those were days when it was not etiquette 
for any of the field to go before the Master or the 
huntsman. What would have happened if they had 
knocked either of them down or ridden over them, 
as has certainly happened to later Masters and hunts- 
men in this country, it is difficult to say. 

But while the Quorn and the Belvoir were going 
on and carrying out to greater perfection the principles 
of Meynell, the Pytchley were for a time to fall back 
to more old-fashioned ways. When Lord Spencer 
resigned he was followed for one season by Mr. BuUer 
of Maidwell Hall, who had Stephen Goodall as his 
huntsman. In 1798 Mr. John Warde became Master, 
and under his regime everything was changed. The 
new Master was a hunting man of the old school. 
Mr. Warde had begun to hunt twenty-five years 
before by keeping hounds at Rouen in Normandy, 
and then he hunted a country which included most 
of the present Bicester territories for twenty years 
before he moved into Northamptonshire. Mr. Warde 
bought twenty-four couple of hounds from Lord 
Spencer. He lived at Boughton Hall, near North- 
ampton, which place must not be confused with 
Boughton House in the present Woodland Pytchley 
country. In 1806 he moved to Great Harrowden, 
and during his mastership he built kennels near 
Wellingborough and also at Brigstock. These latter 
were for the purpose of hunting the famous Pytchley 
Woodlands in the Spring and Autumn. It is perhaps 
not necessary to say that the present Woodland or 
North Pytchley country was then part of the Pytchley 
in practice, as it is still in theory. Mr. Warde, how- 
ever, did not hunt quite the whole of the Pytchley 
country, as Mr. Otway Cave kept a small pack of 



156 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

hounds at Stanford Park, with which he hunted the 
Lutterworth side. 

Mr. Warde was a heavy man. He rode twenty- two 
stone and hked big hounds. His famous Solyman 
was twenty-eight inches in height. At no time were 
these probably a very fast pack, and towards the 
end of his hunting career he had them purposely 
kept big in condition to reduce the pace. Never- 
theless he showed very good sport, and the hounds 
were very steady on the line, as the following may 
show. They found on February 3, 1802, in Marston 
Wood, a covert which is about three or four miles 
from Market Harborough. They ran down the hill 
into the valley, then, turning to the left, they ran 
through Theddingworth to the Laughton Hills, which 
the fox threaded, and, turning to the right by Foxton 
Windmill, went on over the valley to Gumley. Be- 
yond that hounds had a view of their fox, and ran 
with Saddington on the left, past where the reservoir 
is now, up the steep hill into Kibworth, then with 
a left-hand turn to Wistow and by way of Stoughton, 
Stretton, Norton by Galley and Frisby, up to Botany 
Bay. Then, very slowly, they picked out the line 
to Cold Newton and finished by killing their fox 
close to Tilton village after a run of four hours and a 
quarter, in the course of which they ran through 
twenty-six parishes without going into any covert. 
The distance was said at the time to be twenty-seven 
miles, and I leave those who know the country to 
trace out the line on the map and to decide for them- 
selves how far it was. Sir Henry Warde, brother 
of the Master, Sir Andrew Barnard, Robert Forfeit, 
the huntsman, and James Butter, the whipper-in, 
were the only men up at the finish. The hounds lay 
out that night at the Quorn kennels at Great Bowden 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 157 

Inn, Mr. Meynell remarking that it was the most 
wonderful day's sport ever known with any hounds. 

The following is an account of this run in a letter 
from a contemporary to his father : — 

" The horses and I arrived here quite safely. Jim 
brought them in well, and with a continuance of the 
same good conduct is like to do well. Tell Sampson 
(their huntsman) that I said so. I hope you and the 
hounds are well and are having sport the same as 
we are having here. I like this country very much. 
The fences are built very strong ; often you meet 
with a rail and a growing hedge and then another 
rail. These are to protect the hedges from the cattle 
which are very many here, for most of the farms are 
kept for grazing farms and are held by very rich 
men. They ride fine horses, and it is no uncommon 
thing to see them take two or three gates in a line. 

" The members of the hunt are a very gentlemanly 
set but they do ride jealous. It is often a regular 
steeplechase, not minding much about the hounds. 
This is particularly the case when some of the men 
from the Quorn and the Pytchley meet. These two 
hunts adjoin, in fact the road from this town to 
Lutterworth is the boundary between the two. Of 
course we often cross over as he did in the great run 
I am going to tell you of, that we had the other day. 
Mr. John Warde is the master of the Pytchley Hunt. 
He is a very big man, weighing, they say, more than 
twenty stone. How he ever buys horses to carry 
him is a puzzle to me, but he does. Bob Forfeit is 
the huntsman and a very intelligent, clever servant. 
The hounds are, like their master, very big, more 
like mastiffs than fox-hounds, but they can hunt a 
fox, though they are not so fast as Mr. Assheton 
Smith's that hunt the Leicestershire country. Well, 



158 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

I was going to tell you of the run we had the other 
day. I rode the big horse out of Peeping Jane you 
gave me ; he was very restive and pulled very hard 
at first. They found a fox in a wood called Marston, 
which is on a hill looking over a very fine valley 
towards Mr. Assheton Smith's country. Well, the 
hounds were soon in full cry in the wood and presently 
I heard a halloa. I was glad to see hounds running 
well, for I can tell you I could not have held the 
horse another minute. We crashed through a big 
overgrown hedge — they call them bullfinches about 
here — you can't jump over them, but put up your 
arm and go as fast as you can and the pace and your 
weight carry you through or else a branch catches 
the horse and then you fall. Several men did fall, 
but the horse is a big bold fencer and he went right 
through, but I lost one spur, though I did not know 
this till afterwards. 

" Well, we galloped on, hounds in full cry, down 
into the valley and crossed the road just below a 
village called Theddingworth, then we came to some 
steep hills with covert on the sides called Laughton 
Hills and so by a village named Foxton, a good name 
too for a Leicestershire place. There were some 
stiff fences here, and I had a fall at one, an ox-rail 
about four feet on the far side of the hedge and ditch 
just caught the horse's legs and he rolled over. Luckily 
I kept hold of the reins, and we were soon going on. 
This fall knocked the wind out of us both and we were 
some way behind, but I rode the horse steadily, like 
you told me to after a fall, and a very good thing 
it was I did, for the run was a long one. Luckily, 
hounds were not going very fast, but just hunting 
along. You could see them, and what a good thing 
for sport it is to have hounds that will put their noses 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 159 

down. They laugh at these hounds and call them 
Warde's Jackasses, but they were no Jackasses the 
way they held the line. I got a bit of help up a lane, 
and when I passed Gumley hounds were beginning 
to run again. 

" The horse was quite fresh again and beginning 
to pull, so I jumped out of the road and was at the 
bottom of the hill below Gumley and soon in the next 
field to the pack. Oh, it was beautiful to see them 
running and to hear them too, better than the Italian 
Opera, for you could tell what they meant ! We were 
getting fewer now ; Sir Harry Warde the master's 
brother was leading and then the huntsman and three 
of four more, and then I was coming along. The horse 
was quite steady now and was going most beautifully, 
taking all the fences as they came. You would not 
have had to feel ashamed of the old country. I 
wished some of ' ours ' could have seen us. 

" It was a fine country, most of it grass such as 
you might graze a bullock on to every acre of it. 
There was a place called Norton in front, and in the 
distance we soon saw Billesdon Coplow, and I made 
sure we were going there. I was beginning to wish 
for the end, for I did not know how much longer 
the horse would go on. The funny thing was that 
this fox did not go into the coverts but just skirted 
the edge. We were now a long way in the Quorn 
country of course. Still hounds were running on, 
not very fast, 'tis true, but quite as fast as we could 
manage. Well, in the bottom below Norton was a 
brook and there I had another fall, for the horse 
jumped at it well, but, a bit of the bank giving way 
on landing, we came down, but soon scrambled up. 
This put me further behind and, not knowing the 
country, I lost sight of hounds, which you can easily 



i6o FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

do in an up and down country like this. However, 
I trotted on and presently met the hounds coming 
back. They had killed their fox near a place named 
Tilton-on-the-Hill. 

" I trotted back with them, and they all said they 
never remembered such a hunt. We were about 
fifteen miles from where we found, but of course 
hounds had travelled much farther. The hounds 
slept that night at Great Bowden kennels belonging 
to the Quorn Hunt, but I rode back to Market Har- 
borough where I was glad to find that the horse was 
none the worse, and Jim says that he ate up every 
bit of his feed, but he does not think I ought to take 
him out again for a week or ten days. I am very 
pleased with him, and to think a horse bred in our 

country could hold his own. Lord , who is here, 

offered me 250 guineas, but I could not sell him as 
he was your gift, and, thanks to my dear father's 
generosity and good advice, I am not in want of 
money. If a good wife is far above rubies, a bold 
hunter is better than guineas in these hunts." 

Mr. Warde's portrait painted by Barraud, on 
Blue Ruin, a wonderful blue roan with a black head, 
and with a favourite hound, Betsy, looking up into 
her master's face, is well known and even now may 
not seldom be seen in print-sellers' windows. As 
may be imagined, Mr. Warde found some difficulty 
in buying horses to carry him, though he had some 
good ones. Dustman, bought out of a London dust- 
cart, and the above-named Blue Ruin being perhaps 
the best. Even when master of the Pytchley, Mr. 
Warde would never pay large prices, and ;£ioo was 
quite beyond his limit. He was something of a 
character and fond of a good glass of port. Several 
of his witticisms are related and are rather of the 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY i6i 

sledge-hammer style, which appears to have been 
necessary to gain a reputation for wit in those days. 

When Mr. Warde gave up his hounds in 1809, 
they were bought for 1000 guineas by Lord Althorp, 
who somewhat significantly declined having any- 
thing to do with the horses. It is probable, indeed, 
that he bought the hounds rather to save Mr. Warde's 
feelings than because he liked them. Lord Althorp's 
mastership was a golden time for the Pytchley. He 
mounted himself and his men well, and he had a 
capital huntsman, Charles King, whose son, Harry, 
was huntsman to the late Queen's Buckhounds. 
King was a man of unusual intelligence, as most 
good huntsmen are. He was also, which is not so 
common, a musician of considerable natural gifts. 
The volumes of his diary are still in the library at 
Althorp. 

When Lord Althorp resigned the mastership in 
1817, he was followed by Sir Charles Knightley and 
Lord Sondes, each of whom reigned but for a single 
season. The year 1820 was a memorable one in 
the history of the Pytchley, for then Sir Bellingham 
Graham became Master, and the kennels were built 
at Brixworth. "The Old Pytchley Hall Club, with 
all its memories and associations, was now done away 
with and in a few more years the ancient building 
(Pytchley Hall) was pulled down by order of its owner, 
Mr. George Payne." * For a time about this period 
even the white collar ceased to be worn, no doubt 
falling into disuse at the time that the Club of which 
it was a badge was done away with. 

In 182 1 Mr. Musters took the hounds, and during 
the time he was Master the sport was very good. Then 
came Mr. Osbaldeston, a character of whose exploits 

* " The Pytchley Hunt, Past and Present," p. 48. 

L 



i62 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

more than enough has been written. A vain, talkative 
little man, he was, say his contemporaries, a fine 
judge of a horse or hound, and on the whole he was 
a good huntsman. He could not have been quite 
first-rate, for he was a careless man in covert, but, 
once the fox was away, he was after him as quick 
as thought and riding alongside the leading couples. 
He had three first-rate whippers-in in Jack Stevens, 
Jim Shirley and Dick Burton, and any one of the 
three, but more particularly the first and last named, 
could be well trusted to make up any deficiencies in 
their master. But whatever his faults, Osbaldeston 
was a true sportsman and he was much missed when, 
in 1834, he resigned the hunt and was succeeded 
by Mr. Wilkins, a Welshman, who afterwards changed 
his name to De Winton. 

Then, after the first mastership of Mr. George 
Payne of Sulby, came the brief and splendid reign 
of Lord Chesterfield. The latter kept two packs 
of hounds, buying the Quorn hounds from Mr. Erring- 
ton. His men were well mounted, and the magnifi- 
cence of the whole turn out of the hunt was such 
as has never been seen before or since. Will Derry 
was his huntsman, and the sport shown was good on 
the whole. Nevertheless there was perhaps more 
show than substance. The Master was late at the 
fixtures, and the members of the hunt were often 
kept waiting. But the resources even of Lord Chester- 
field were embarrassed by this profuse expenditure. 
The hunt was only one of many drains on his purse. 
Crockford, the race-course and the Four-in-hand Club, 
but especially the first, crippled the Earl's resources, 
and he in his turn made way for Mr. T. Smith. 

Of all the sportsmen of his time, this Mr. Smith — 
" the other Tom Smith " as he was called to distinguish 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 163 

him from the famous T. Assheton Smith — was one 
of the best. Mr. Smith had but a scratch pack, an 
inferior lot of horses, and rebellious servants, yet 
he contrived to show capital sport, while he hunted 
the hounds himself. If Lord Chesterfield had many 
distractions and looked on the mastership as merely 
an episode in his career of extravagance and pleasure, 
Mr. Smith cared only for hunting. Yet he was a 
scholar and a man of considerable ability, as his 
books show, and " The Diary of a Huntsman " is 
one of the most practical and useful books on the 
science of hunting the fox that has ever been written. 
The story of Mr. T. Smith's mastership of the 
Pytchley reads like a romance. He accepted the 
country at the request of a committee, of whom 
Mr. George Payne of Sulby was the spokesman. 
Negotiations to buy Lord Chesterfield's pack as a 
whole failed, and Mr. Smith started the season of 1840 
with a pack from which the best hounds had been 
drafted for Lord Ducie. In addition, the Master had 
a few hounds which he brought from Wales. Thus, 
on the 29th of October Mr. Smith was ready to begin, 
and planned a day's cub-hunting at Sywell Wood. 
There are evidences that there had been complaints 
of the conduct of the hunt servants, and they con- 
firmed the bad opinion which had been expressed 
of them by some members of the hunt by refusing 
to go out in the morning. But the Master was equal 
to the occasion. He told old Hayes, the feeder, 
and Moody, a helper, in the stable who, as he knew, 
had occasionally ridden a second horse, to get ready 
to go with the hounds, and then went back to his 
lodgings where he put on his red coat, and filled his 
pockets with bread and biscuit to throw to the hounds 
on their way to the covert. As he rode back with 



i64 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

his horn in his hand he met the malcontents, when 
Derry said : " Why, surely you are not going to hunt 
them ? You can't know them nor they you." " Never 
mind," was the reply ; " they'll know me as well 
as they know you in an hour or two." The new 
Master trotted away, and the whole village assembled 
to discuss the situation with the recalcitrant servants, 
who prophesied the ignominious return of the Master 
without a single hound. But Mr. Smith hunted a 
fox in Sywell Wood for two hours, marked him to 
ground, and brought every hound home. Soon after, 
Mr. Smith, still without regular servants, killed a 
fox from Nobottle Wood, a covert of Lord Spencer's, 
to the astonishment of King, " my Lord's old huntsman 
and the best that ever was," From that day Mr. 
Smith's reputation was made, though his troubles 
were not over. He showed excellent sport during 
the time that he remained. After two seasons he 
resigned, though the farmers and yeomen of the 
hunt signed a letter of regret and stated that the 
country had never been hunted more satisfactorily 
even by the celebrated Mr. Musters or Mr. Osbaldeston. 

To Mr. Smith succeeded Sir Francis Goodricke, and 
I mention his mastership because it was marked by 
the fact that a pauper in receipt of out-door relief, 
mounted on an old bay horse, actually appeared at 
the meets and shared in the chase. After a time, 
however, the patience of the guardians of the poor 
broke down, and, though possibly not without sympathy 
for the pauper in the matter of hunting, it was decreed 
that no one in receipt of relief should be permitted 
to hunt. The story goes that the pauper hunted 
on foot henceforth, and the old horse was eaten by 
the hounds ! 

Surely at no period of its history was the Pytchley 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 165 

more genially ruled than by Mr. George Payne of 
Sulby Hall. He was " pre-eminently the right man 
in the right place." In 1884 he began his second 
and longer period of mastership (he had been Master 
for a short time from 1835 to 1838), and, popular as the 
Master was, he is now chiefly remembered by the 
fact that he brought into the Pytchley country the 
most famous of their huntsmen, Charles Payn. This 
man, whose name deserves to rank in the annals 
of sport with the best of his profession, did great 
things for the kennel. He began with but few hounds, 
but the next Master, Lord Alford, who succeeded 
Mr. George Payne, in 1849, bought a large Belvoir 
draft and from that day Charles was a devoted 
admirer of the Belvoir blood. The hound that made 
the kennel was Belvoir Pillager. He hunted for six 
seasons, which shows that he had a constitution, 
never felt a thong across his back in or out of the 
kennel, left more than twenty couple of descendants 
in the kennel all marked with Belvoir tan and all 
worthy of their origin. Charles Payn remained with 
the pack during all the changes of mastership until 
the close of the present Lord Spencer's first term 
of office. Not only was he a great huntsman in the 
field, but he was a particularly fine horseman, as 
indeed a man has need to be if he is to show sport 
over Northamptonshire. 

In 1864 came Colonel Anstruther Thomson, who 
settled at Brixworth and hunted the hounds himself. 
To write of a man who is still with us is difficult, and, 
though the time of his mastership is now nearly forty 
years since, it is never likely to be forgotten. The 
sport was of a very high order, even had it not been 
marked by the wonderful Waterloo run. Not the 
least remarkable feat of that great historic hunt 



i66 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

was the fact that the Master reached the end of it, 
though it took him three horses to do it. Nor must 
we forget the fine judgment and horsemanship of the 
late Captain Mildmay Clerk, who rode through the 
run on one horse and helped the Master to bring the 
hounds home at night. 

Of Colonel Anstruther Thomson no better descrip- 
tion has ever been penned than that written by his 
daughter. " In Spring and early Autumn," she says, 
" we always went to the Woodlands, for the Woodland 
Pytchley had not then become a separate pack, and 
I once more seem to see him long of leg and lithe of 
limb on the raking chestnut mare and hear his cheery 
voice drawing those great woods. And as I listen 
to his view halloa, I feel a thrill run through me and 
in fancy I see him striding down the broad grass 
ride while the hounds fly to him from every point 
and with an ' Over, over, over, over,' which simply 
made one shiver, he cheers them over the ride, while 
they swing to the right and crash into covert with 
a glorious burst of music like a chime of silver bells."* 

The five seasons during which Colonel Anstruther 
Thomson kept the hounds passed all too quickly for 
the members of the hunt. In 1869 came Mr. Craven, 
and he was followed by Mr. Naylor, after which Lord 
Spencer took the hounds for the second time. In 
the history of the Pytchley it has been the exception 
when the mastership has been held by a landowner 
of the country. Of the men who have ruled the 
fortunes of the Pytchley few have been born or bred 
in the county. Thus the mastership of Lord Spencer 
has a peculiar importance in the history of the hunt 
and even to the prosperity of hunting as a sport. 

There is always a possibility in those hunts which 

* " Sportwoman's Library " : " Fox-hunting," p. 16. 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 167 

attract visitors from all parts of England that the 
management of the hunt may become separated 
from, and even antagonistic to, those who live in 
the county. Wealthy strangers may obtain a too 
preponderating voice in its affairs and, trusting too 
much to the power of money, they may forget that 
expenditure, however liberal, is one of the least of 
the sources of strength to hunting. The chase exists 
on sufferance, and the feeling which prompts men 
to preserve foxes or to permit the hunt to ride over 
their land cannot be estimated in money. The right 
to hunt cannot be purchased, for it is not in the market. 
When, therefore, a man in the position of Lord Spencer 
is Master, the conflicting interests are more or less 
easily conciliated. The hunt is felt to be a county 
institution and one open to all. There is a pleasure 
and a pride felt in its existence and its fame, and the 
guests and their money are welcomed. Thus, apart 
from a peculiar personal fitness for the mastership, 
Lord Spencer's three periods of office were of the 
greatest benefit to the hunt. He was fortunate 
in his huntsmen too, for Charles Payn was his servant 
in the first period (1862-64), while in the second 
period (1874-78) and the third he had the younger 
Will Goodall. The country was not only well managed 
but well hunted, and residents and visitors were 
alike pleased. 

It has been said that Lord Spencer was somewhat 
too stern in his restraint of his followers. That he 
was firm in keeping the field in a place where they 
could do no mischief while the coverts were drawn 
must be admitted, nor was he slow to reprove those 
" skirters " who are great offenders in the matter 
of heading foxes. But the discipline made for sport, 
and when once hounds were fairly settled on their 



i68 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

fox, no fence or pace would prevent the Master from 
being in his right place to hold back a too eager field 
at the first check. Lord Spencer was nearly always 
at hand to support his huntsman during the run. 
Unfortunately after each too short period of master- 
ship Lord Spencer was obliged to resign. On the 
first occasion this was on account of health, and later 
in response to a call from his political chief for his 
services. But, like Lord Althorp, his heart was 
always with the hunt, and I have heard that when 
in office he was always pleased to turn aside to hear 
of the doings of the Pytchley. 

Lord Spencer is an example of that strenuousness 
in work and play which is so characteristic of English- 
men, and so unintelligible to other nations : " Leurs 
sports qui n'etaient peut-etre apres tout qu'une forme 
aristocratique de la paresse," says M. Brunetiere ; 
and again, writing of the way that Englishmen throw 
themselves into sport, " Vous etes-vous demandes de 
quelle occupation apres quelques heures de cet exercise 
un honnete homme pouvait etre capable ? Toute 
une categoric d' Anglais ne travaille vraiment qu'a 
jouer, mais il est vrai qu'en revanche elle s'y fatigue 
epouvantablement." Yet the late Master of the 
Pytchley is but one example out of many in the Mid- 
lands of men who work and play equally hard. Lord 
Spencer not only brought the field into order, but 
he endeavoured to improve the hounds, and laid the 
foundation on which his successor, Mr. W. H. 
Wroughton, and his huntsman, Isaacs, have raised 
the pack, the improvement of which is marked by 
its successes at Peterborough and by the beautiful 
and musical hounds that take the field. 

For the sake of convenience I have taken Lord 
Spencer's three periods of mastership together. But 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 169 

between the second and third came the time when 
Mr. (now Sir Herbert) Langham of Cottesbrooke 
ruled the hunt with a firm but gentle hand. He 
was fortunate in finding such a huntsman as Will 
Goodall, who had been selected and trained by such 
a master as Lord Spencer. Born at Belvoir, educated 
by Sir Thomas Whichcote, and trained under such 
masters of the craft as Colonel Anstruther Thomson, 
Lord Henry Bentinck and Frank Gillard, it is small 
wonder that Will Goodall the second has left a good 
name. The quickest and brightest of huntsmen, 
he was as keen when carrying the horn as he had 
been when whipper-in to the Belvoir. His rectitude 
made him respected, and his manners won the affec- 
tion of all with whom he came in contact. His 
memory lives in hunting history with that of his father, 
the famous Goodall of Belvoir, and the no less re- 
nowned Tom Firr of the Quom. Mr. Langham's 
mastership was marked by excellent sport, and this 
was due in a great measure to the fact that from 
the moment he took over the office he determined 
to master the science of hound breeding. 

In modern days we have perhaps been inclined 
to think too much of make and shape. This is im- 
portant, but it is not everything. The master of 
a pack in the grass country, like Mr. Jorrocks, 

" Full well he knows 
As well as pace he must have nose." 

There never was any period in the history of the 
Shires when hunting power in a hound was so much 
needed as now. Of the numerous foils and difficulties 
in the way of a pack of hounds I have written. There 
is more draining, and there are more bad foxes which 
are harder to kill than good ones, as every huntsman 



170 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

knows. The late Lord Charles Russell said truly : 
" The pack that stops the least goes quickest, and 
the one that carries most head and has the greatest 
number of line hunters will be gaining on their fox, 
while the one that might shine for a short time on 
a catchy scent will be getting farther and farther 
behind at the first check." How true this is we see 
every day in the grass countries, and there is a strong 
conviction among some masters and huntsmen that 
to have sport hounds must hunt more perhaps than 
they have been permitted to do at times in certain 
hunts within the last twenty years. Nose and tongue, 
which Mr. Langham tried for, are as necessary in 
the Pytchley country as in Berkshire or Hampshire. 
Sir Herbert's mastership was a brilliant period in 
the history, and his resignation was regretted, for 
he, like Lord Spencer, was a man of the Shire. Of 
Mr. W. H. Wroughton I have already written. The 
present master is Lord Annaly, who is known as a 
hard rider and is making a name for himself as a 
judge of hound work. 

The nature of the Pytchley country is well summed 
up by Whyte-Melville in a letter to Colonel Anstruther 
Thomson, " You know the pros and the cons of the 
Pytchley as well as I do. It has the best woodlands in 
the world. You can hunt from August to May, both 
inclusive, as they say. The disadvantage is the crowd 
on a Wednesday (that was in 1864), which you know 
from your experience with the Atherstone does not 
do half the mischief it appears as if it ought to do. 
If there is a scent, it is soon disposed of." On this 
Mr. Nethercote comments truthfully, " Given a scent, 
a real runaway scent, and in four minutes or less after 
a fox has broken cover five hundred horsemen will 
in no way affect the character of a run. The entourage 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 171 

of a Midland fixture at a crack meet must needs wear 
a more or less formidable aspect in the eyes of master 
and huntsman, but nothing is so bad as it seems, 
and it is to be doubted if an accurate return could 
be made of sport spoiled on these occasions whether 
it would not be a very humble one." * 



VI. The Woodland Pytchley 

Mention above has been made of the Woodlands, 
though at that time (1864) the Pytchley hunted the 
whole country. Lord Spencer hunted hounds in 
the Woodlands for two seasons, but it was not until 
Mr. Langham, of Cottesbrooke, took the Pytchley 
country in 1878 that the Woodland or North Pytchley 
became a separate establishment. In that year 
Mr. G. L. Watson, of Rockingham Castle, formed a 
pack at the Brigstock Kennels. He was succeeded 
in turn by Captain Pennell Elmhirst and Lord Lons- 
dale. Then came Mr. Austin Mackenzie in 1885, 
who remained for fifteen years and was a most success- 
ful hound breeder. His pack of hounds, which he 
brought with him from the Old Berkeley, had a great 
deal of the Blankney blood. On that Mr. Mackenzie 
grafted the desired Belvoir strains, and formed by 
degrees the magnificent pack that produced such 
celebrities as Vaulter, a Peterborough champion. 
The pack was sold to Mr. Wroughton and the present 
Duke of Beaufort for five thousand guineas, the 
latter taking the dog pack and the former the bitches. 
Mr. Wroughton lent the latter pack or some of it 
to Lord Southampton and Mr. Cazenove, who were 

* "The Pytchley Hunt, Past and Present," pp. 169, 170. 



172 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

successive Masters of the North Pytchley, and he 
himself hunts them in 1903-4. The Woodland 
Pytchley has a separate establishment and is inde- 
pendent of the parent hunt, save that the Master of 
the Pytchley Hunt nominates the Master of the 
Woodland pack when a vacancy occurs and retains 
the right to use some of the coverts during the cub- 
hunting season. 

The Woodlands are, as Whyte-Melville said, the 
best in England, and, once outside them, the country 
is as good a flying country as can be found anywhere. 
There are small fields as a rule, for woodland hunt- 
ing does not commend itself to every one, least of all 
perhaps to those who come to Market Harborough 
to hunt over the grass. 



VII. The Atherstone 

Of aU the countries that we have written of none 
has more advantages than the Atherstone. Situ- 
ated partly in Leicestershire and partly in Warwick- 
shire, this country has been sometimes reckoned to 
belong to the Shires and sometimes to the provinces. 
But I have no hesitation in ranking it with the 
former, to which it belongs alike by its history, its 
situation, and the fact that it is accessible from the 
three centres, Rugby, Market Harborough and 
Leicester. Indeed, without the Atherstone the claim 
of Rugby to be a first-rate hunting centre would 
be a small one. We have seen how that town looks 
to the Atherstone Friday as one of its great attractions. 

The Atherstone Hunt was in reality the creation 
of Mr. Osbaldeston ; not that the country now 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 173 

known by that name was not hunted before, but 
there was until his time no organised hunt. Mr. 
Osbaldeston took the country in 1815, formed a 
Hunt Club at Witherley, a village close to the town 
of Atherstone, and built there the kennels and stables 
which have served the hunt till the present day. 
Up to that time the Atherstone country as we now 
know it had been hunted with the Sudbury country 
by Lord Vernon, who kept the hounds alternately 
at Gopsall and Sudbury. He is said to have hunted 
in excellent style. His hunt uniform was orange, 
and there was great rivalry between Lord Vernon's 
men and the Quornites when the latter came, as 
they often did, into the Leicestershire country of 
the former. But until Mr. Osbaldeston came there 
was no Atherstone country, except in the sense that 
every part of the existing hunt of that name was 
hunted by some pack of hounds or other. It was 
reserved for the Squire and his mother to give 
the social eminence and the sense of esprit de 
corps, which counts for so much in the well-being of 
a hunt. For while Osbaldeston hunted the country, 
his mother, who seems to have been a person of 
magnificent tastes, entertained the wives and daughters 
of the hunt members. 

Then the new Master founded one of those pleasant 
Hunt Clubs which were so important a feature of 
the old fox-hunting days. The members dined to- 
gether at certain intervals and subscribed for the 
benefit of the hunt. The Warwickshire Hunt Club 
at Stratford-on-Avon, the Pytchley, of which men- 
tion has already been made, and the Atherstone at 
Witherley are notable instances of these Clubs. 
Membership was sought as a social distinction as 
well as for the conviviality and good fellowship which 



174 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

prevailed at their meetings. Nimrod mentions that 
his election to the Warwickshire Hunt Club at Strat- 
ford-on-Avon was a reason for hunting with the 
county packs. The day of Hunt Clubs is over in 
the Shires, though I have sometimes thought that a 
Club might help to solve some of the difficulties of 
subscription. Yet, since the essence of a club is 
exclusion, its existence might, in bodies so large as 
modern hunts, excite jealousy and ill-feeling. But 
there is no doubt that the Atherstone Hunt Club 
helped to give the hunt an independent existence 
and made the members feel that, like their neighbours 
of the Quorn and the Pytchley, they had a centre for 
their " patriotism " to their hunt. 

The country as it now is extends from Ashby-de- 
la-Zouche to Coventry north and south, and from 
Lutterworth to Coleshill east and west. Part of the 
old Staffordshire side of the country is now hunted 
by the South Staffordshire. This is much the same 
hunting territory as supplied Mr. Osbaldeston with 
his extra days of sport, for, after he had hunted the 
country for two years, the number of foxes had so 
much increased that he was able to hunt five days a 
week instead of three. There is one respect in which 
the Masters of the Atherstone have been at a dis- 
advantage. The country has never until now pos- 
sessed a pack of hounds of its own. Each Master 
has been obliged to purchase the pack of his prede- 
cessor or to form a new one. It was in this way 
that, after various changes, Lord Anson, afterwards 
first Earl of Lichfield, began a memorable master- 
ship in 182 1, which lasted for ten years and was most 
successful. Nobody could have started under more 
unfavourable circumstances. Sir Bellingham Graham 
took his pack with him into the Quorn country. 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 175 

Lord Anson bought Mr. Mytton's hounds, which 
were well bred, but as wild as their master. In ad- 
dition to this Lord Anson is said by contemporaries 
not to have been a very first-rate horseman. But 
when he became a Master of hounds and hunted them 
himself, thus, as Nimrod puts it, being " an honour 
to his country," he developed a great gift for making 
a pack of hounds. 

Starting with an unpromising lot, as we have seen, 
in a few seasons he had a level pack with plenty of 
power, and the Master rode up to them taking his 
place in a desperately hard riding field. He had as 
first whipper-in Robert Thurlow, who was a man of 
parts, for when in the service of Mr. Assheton Smith 
he whipped-in to hounds in the winter, but in the 
summer doubled the parts of cook and boatswain 
on the yacht. There was among the hard riders of 
the hunt a certain Mr. Peel, whose manner of riding 
to hounds as narrated by Robert Thurlow may be 
given here for the obvious moral it contains : " He 
rides as near to hounds as any man need do, but 
never rides over them. If every gentleman was to 
ride like Mr. Peel, hounds would not so often lose 
their foxes, and we should have much better 
sport." 

When Lord Anson retired, there was a rapid suc- 
cession of masters and each one seems to have formed 
his own pack. At all events there were many changes, 
until at last Mr. Oakeley took the hounds, first with 
Colonel Anstruther Thomson in 1870, and from 1871 
to 1891 by himself. His huntsman, George Castleman, 
was justly noted for the sport he showed, and this 
proved to be the beginning of a long period of pros- 
perity to the hunt which has lasted to the present 
time. Mr. Oakeley was an admirable Master and he 



176 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

was worthily succeeded by his son-in-law, the late 
Mr. Inge, and then by Mr. Gerald Hardy, who has 
now become Master of the Meynell, in the county 
where he was bom and where his property is situated. 
The present Master is Mr. J. C. Munro, who has had 
the East Sussex and the Albrighton hunts suc- 
cessively. 

If it had no wire, the Atherstone country would 
be one of the best in England, but then as much might 
be said of several others. There is, however, now, 
as in the past, much good sport, and if two days in 
the week the country is better from a riding point 
of view than on the others, that is equally true of the 
Quorn. The Atherstone is fortunate, too, in having 
the support of the chief landowners. Lord Den- 
bigh's coverts at Newnham Paddox are in the middle 
of an excellent country, and the same may be said 
of Combe, belonging to Lord Craven. Gopsall is the 
property of Lord Howe, whose father was Master of 
the pack, and Lady Howe was at one time one of 
the five horsewomen who were said to be the best 
with the Quorn and Cottesmore. Then there is Mr. 
Newdegate, of Arbury, whose place has been made 
famous by George Eliot as Cheverel Manor in Mr. 
Gilfil's love story. I can recollect, when staying at 
Atherstone, that there were people who identified, 
or professed to identify, many of the characters in 
George Eliot's novels. Certainly her brother, Isaac 
Evans, was a keen follower of the hounds. But the 
Warwickshire and Leicestershire borders, even within 
my recollection, retained many of the old character- 
istics of English country life, and there was perhaps 
a more marked individuality and more character 
there than could be found nowadays. Fox-hunting 
at all events is indigenous, and not all the changes of 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 177 

our time have much weakened the attachment of the 
people to it. A visitor will, of course, see little of 
the life of the country, mingling only as he does with 
a crowd on Fridays when he is with hounds. 



VIII. The Warwickshire and North 
Warwickshire 

Like the Atherstone, the Warwickshire country 
has reached its present form by degrees, though the 
county has always been hunted as long as fox-hunting 
has been known. Warwickshire is indeed well suited 
for the sport, for within its boundaries there is a 
great variety of country, and almost every part of 
it is suitable for hunting. Indeed there is probably 
no single hunt which in our time or that of our fore- 
fathers can show a more consistent record of sport. 
It has always been a country of note, and in the first 
half of the last century was reckoned, during what 
some consider to be the golden age of fox-hunting, 
the third best country in England, the first and second 
places being assigned to Leicestershire and North- 
amptonshire respectively. Everything has worked 
for the prosperity of Warwickshire as a hunting 
country. The natural features of the country are 
favourable to hunting, and time has rather improved 
Warwickshire than otherwise, for up to our own day 
more and more of the land has been laid down in 
grass. Old writers seem to have looked on a great 
part of Warwickshire as a very excellent plough 
country, but even since Brooksby wrote an account 
of it in the Field in the late 'seventies, much of what 
was then plough has been laid under grass. Part of 

M 



178 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

Warwickshire, of course, has always been as much 
a grazing country as Northamptonshire or Leicester- 
shire, and the characteristics are much the same 
from a hunting point of view. 

The Shuckburgh country, for example, is a fine 
stretch of grazing land fenced to keep in bullocks, 
and thus of course to be regarded with respect when 
hounds run over it. Indeed all the side which borders 
on the Pytchley is much of the same character as 
that country. It has been said that Warwickshire 
is a pleasanter and more practicable country to get 
over than Northamptonshire, and Nimrod, who liked 
it well, thought that no man who knew how to ride 
to hounds and had a hunter under him ought to be 
stopped as often in Warwickshire as he must be at 
times in Northamptonshire. 

Since those days the limits of the country have 
altered, and its division into two hunts has taken 
place. Some of the country that belonged to the 
Warwickshire now forms part of the Atherstone, for 
in 1835 the Warwickshire stretched from Hook 
Norton in Oxfordshire to Newnham Paddox in 
Leicestershire. The woods of Warwickshire were, 
and are, famous as fox preserves, though the question 
of shooting interests must sometimes become acute 
in a country which has in some parts the good fortune 
to be almost equally suited for both sports. As a 
rule, however, throughout the length and breadth of 
Warwickshire landowners and tenants alike recog- 
nise the fact that hunting is the paramount sport of 
the district. Owing to the favour with which it is 
regarded by those whose position in the country 
gives them influence, hunting may be said to 
have in Warwickshire the weight of opinion on 
its side. 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 179 

In the early days of the hunt the kennels and the 
headquarters of the Hunt Club were at Stratford-on- 
Avon, which is situated in the least attractive part 
of the country from a riding point of view. This 
side of the country is separated from the rest by 
the river Avon, and has much plough and a wide 
extent of woodland. But those who, like the writer, 
have ridden over Oxfordshire plough and formed 
their ideas from that, will not find the arable lands of 
Warwickshire so formidable as they might expect. 
These ploughs do not carry a bad scent and do not 
hold the horse in the same way that the sticky fallows 
of Oxfordshire or parts of Lincolnshire do. The 
fixtures, then, on the Stratford-on-Avon side should 
not be neglected, though it is a better country to begin 
the day, on a fresh horse, than to finish, on a 
tired one. The foxes are stout, and it is possible — 
Nimrod says it was a frequent occurrence in his time — 
to run right away to the Pytchley borders and thus 
to be in a grass country most of the way. 

This, of course, means a very long point, such as 
foxes do not often make in these days. Nor were 
such distances probably ever very common. True, 
Nimrod sketches an imaginary run from one of the 
coverts at Charlecote to Wormleighton by way of 
Kineton, Geydon, Chesterton, Tedington, Upton, 
Ladbrook and Southam, a line then, as now, chiefly 
over grass with strong, but fair, fences and no river, 
but nowadays there is a railway, the Birmingham 
and Oxford line of the G. W. R. The fine woodland 
country on the west is rather out of the range of 
territory included in this book. On the Shepston 
side again is a pleasant district, but that too is outside 
the limits of an ordinary hack to covert from the 
centres to which I have limited myself, and there- 



i8o FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

fore I may pass it over here, merely noting that it is 
well worth a visit. 

As to the Edgehill country, in 1809 from Epwell 
White House, in this country, took place the run 
which was the subject of a copy of verses by Serjeant 
Goulburn which were as famous in Warwickshire as 
Mr. Lowth's Billesdon Coplow poem was in Leicester- 
shire. Warwickshire, in most of the districts where 
my readers are likely to meet the hounds, does not 
differ greatly from the Pytchley. The fences of 
Warwickshire in the grass country will have nothing 
strange about them to the rider from Leicestershire 
or Northamptonshire : thorn fences, stout and thick, 
with a ditch on one side, and a few oxers, which 
become rarer as time goes on. The stiles are of the 
upright, uncompromising sort familiar to us all over 
the grass countries. The rails with which the fences 
are mended are stiff and strong. There are plenty 
of brooks ; indeed we have already seen that the 
presence of these daunted the redoubtable Mr Sawyer. 
They are not wide as a rule, but they must be jumped, 
and are quite sufficient to stop some horses and 
many men. 

The founder of the Warwickshire Hunt is generally 
considered to have been Mr. Corbet, whose name 
continually meets us in the early history of hunting. 
He was the master of the renowned Will Barrow and 
the owner of the famous fox-hound Trojan, who be- 
came a toast in his own time and a myth in ours. 
Mr. Corbet was a model Master of hounds. Always 
polite and courteous, we are told that " his popularity 
knew no bounds. The gentlemen of the hunt honoured 
him, the yeomen almost adored him." He was 
indeed full of consideration for the latter, and would 
never meet in his best country on a Saturday, because 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY i8i 

that was market-day at Warwick. He lived at 
Clopton House near Stratford, and always attended 
the dinners of the Hunt Club at the White Lion at 
Stratford-on-Avon every other Thursday during the 
hunting season. It was not a very convenient place 
to hunt the country from. " The town of Stratford- 
on-Avon, the headquarters of the Warwickshire 
Hunt, has little to recommend it, save a handsome 
church, a bridge and an excellent accommodation for 
sportsmen at the inns." Then, as a kind of after- 
thought the writer (an anonymous one in the New 
sporting Magazine) adds, " The house in which Shake- 
speare was born is still standing and reminds us of 
a pleasing feature in ancient history." The same 
writer, who is enthusiastic in his praises of everything 
belonging to Warwickshire, adds, " The enclosures of 
Warwickshire are for the most part of a fair size, par- 
ticularly in the grazing districts, which I should esti- 
mate at one-third of the whole extent of the country." 
This included, it must be remembered, what we now 
know as the North Warwickshire. " Taking it as a 
whole, I consider the soil very favourable to scent, 
as the staple is generally good. A great portion of 
the plough lands, however, are very tender after hard 
frosts succeeded by rains, and Warwickshire may be 
termed a deep country to ride over and one which 
requires strong and well-bred horses." 

To return to Mr. Corbet, he was an excellent judge 
of hounds, and, although Colonel Cook, the author of 
the " Observations on Fox-hunting," thought (prob- 
ably with justice) that Mr. Corbet was too fond of 
the blood of the Trojans, yet these hounds were con- 
sidered to be good line hunters and very stout by 
those who followed them. Of Mr Corbet as a rider 
I have already written. He had a great knowledge 



i82 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

of the country and the run of his foxes, was well 
mounted and not afraid to gallop, so that he generally 
saw at least the finish of a great run. Probably 
Serjeant Goulburn summed up the generally received 
view of his riding in the Epwell Hunt poem : 

" How he lived to the end of this terrible day 
The Muse neither wishes nor ought she to say, 
That he saw it, is clear, what more could old Meynell ? 
And witnessed th' effects of his care in the kennel." 

At all events Mr. Corbet enjoyed himself, for his 
enthusiasm was unbounded and his keenness only 
lost its edge when ill-health forbade him to hunt. 

But if Mr. Corbet was not fond of fences, his hunts- 
man, the famous Will Barrow, was not to be stopped 
by anything. Like the whipper-in of the legend, it 
was all the same to him when he charged a fence 
" whether there was a ditch or a coal-pit on the other 
side." He rode so well that he was able to give his 
hounds immediate assistance, and, as he was at all 
times regardless of fences, his casts were quick and 
decisive. He was rather a morose, sour-tempered 
man, and in manner and language the reverse of his 
master. It is said that when a hard-riding stranger, 
who had, as Will thought, been riding too near his 
hounds, rolled over and over in a tremendous fall, 
" There, thank God," said Barrow, " we have done 
with you." Two fields later the stranger reappeared. 
" The devil's in the fellow surely," remarked Will in 
despair. 

The long, prosperous and popular reign of Mr. 
Corbet ceased in 1812, and Lord Middleton succeeded 
him. He was far from popular, at all events with the 
writers of the day. We need not dwell on the changes 
that followed, save to note that when Lord Middleton 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 183 

resigned in 1822, the Warwickshire hounds became a 
subscription pack for the first time in their history, 
under the mastership of Mr. Shirley. But the hunt 
was now firmly established and went on prosperously 
on the whole until the division of the country into 
two parts. This did not take place formally until 
1853, during the first mastership of Lord Willoughby 
de Broke, the grandfather of the present Master of 
the Warwickshire. The country was hunted in various 
ways before this, sometimes by private packs and 
sometimes not at all, and at other periods some coverts 
were occasionally drawn at the convenience of neigh- 
bouring masters. The man, however, who first showed 
what the North Warwickshire country was capable 
of being made was Mr. Vyner, the author of " Notitia 
Venatica." With the help of Mr. Bolton King of 
Umberslade, he established a scratch pack of about 
thirty couples at Solihull. Such excellent sport did 
he show that, the subscriptions coming in well, the 
hounds were removed to Leamington and remained 
there till they were once more removed to Kenilworth, 
where Lord Middleton had some kennels. 

Mr. Vyner was followed by Mr. Shaw Hellier and 
Mr. Wilson, and then there was an interregnum of 
eight years, at the end of which Mr. Selby Lowndes 
became Master and after two seasons was succeeded 
by Mr. Baker. The name of this last Master will be 
remembered for what he did for the town of Leaming- 
ton. Within two hours and a half of London and 
one from Birmingham, Leamington is marked out 
for a hunting centre. Its mineral waters, comfort- 
able hotels and lively society draw people to spend 
the winter there, and, though the best meets are 
rather wide of the town, its other attractions will 
always bring a certain number of people to it. Then 



i84 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

of late years golf links and a polo ground have been 
added to its advantages. The Leamington Polo 
ground at Sydenham farm is an excellent one, and 
every year the best players may be seen at its annual 
tournament. 

Mr. Baker further established the reputation of the 
North Warwickshire country by engaging Peter 
Collison as his huntsman and by making with his 
help an excellent pack of hounds. Mr. Baker worked 
his woodlands thoroughly, and this, too, tended to 
improve sport. Lastly, he made a most interesting 
experiment by crossing his hounds with bloodhounds. 
Of these a contemporary wrote, " Although some years 
have passed since the first cross, there remains in the 
descendants of the union unmistakable evidence of 
the bloodhound original in both colour and appear- 
ance and they are said to possess great superiority of 
nose." Yet the cross has not commended itself to 
many Masters or huntsmen, and I am inclined to 
doubt whether every quality that is required may not 
be reached by careful selection and judicious crossing 
of existing lines of fox-hound blood, without resorting 
to such violent outcrosses. However, this is by the 
way ; and at the present time Mr. Arkwright and 
Tom Carr, his huntsman, have a capital pack of hounds 
and show great sport. 

A glance at the map will make it plain that Leaming- 
ton is conveniently situated for the greater part of 
both the Warwickshire countries, of which, as we 
have seen, Rugby commands the cream. Of the 
North Warwickshire, what is known as the Dun- 
church country, which runs up in a long narrow strip 
between the Atherstone and the Warwickshire and 
borders on the Pytchley, is the best and the best 
known, and all that has been written of the Warwick- 



HUNTS AND THEIR HISTORY 185 

shire grass applies equally to it. The North War- 
wickshire or the outlying quarters of the hunt need 
not detain us, and, not forgetting that to the roll of 
its huntsmen must be added the name of Tom Firr, 
we pass to the history of the Warwickshire since the 
division. 

It may be doubted whether, in spite of railways, 
wire and mange, the golden age of Warwickshire will 
not be found by future historians of hunting in the 
late Lord Willoughby de Broke's mastership from 
1876 to 1900. Not only was the sport during that 
time of the highest order, but with infinite pains and 
thought there was built up a kennel of hounds which 
is second to none. How Lord Willoughby de Broke 
did this, of his popularity with the puppy walkers, 
of his annual visits to the leading kennels in company 
with Mr. J. M. Richardson, the Rev. Cecil Legard 
and the late Mr. J. M. HoUiday, I leave my readers 
to gather for themselves from the pages of Baily's 
Magazine. There they will find the story of Lord 
Willoughby's mastership traced by a skilled and 
sympathetic pen. The writer had a knowledge of 
his subject to which no outsider could pretend. Thus 
he has enabled us to see the secret of success in the 
pains taken in both the kennel and the field by a 
man who was always thorough and of undoubted 
ability. 

The skill as a huntsman which enabled the late 
Master of the Warwickshire to show such unrivalled 
sport was the result of study and pains. Always a 
forward rider, he was able during Mr. Lucy's master- 
ship to watch the methods of Robert Worrall and 
Charles Orvis, two excellent sportsmen and thorough 
huntsmen who carried the horn at that period. During 
the latter part of the time of Orvis's service Lord 



i86 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

Willoughby de Broke was hunting hounds one day a 
week in a rough plough and woodland part of the 
country. It was hard work, but the young Master 
showed the same pluck and endurance with which he 
afterwards bore the long purgatory of a most trying 
and painful complaint. In 1881, when Orvis left 
the hunt, he took the horn himself and for many 
years hunted the hounds with the same indomitable 
judgment and perseverance that he showed through- 
out his life. One incident I cannot forbear quoting, 
for it is, so far as I know, unparalleled in hunting 
story. 

It was " when hounds came down Shuckburgh 
Hill into a dense fog the master rode over that stiff 
country to Calcot to the cry of the hounds ... he 
told me that the fog lifted for a moment and he saw 
the fox nearly beat and Sparkler running him alone." * 

Of the Masters of our time he was perhaps the most 
successful in dealing with the wire difficulty. " He 
could stand on Brailes and Ilmington Hills and look 
over the whole country and know that there was 
scarcely a strand of wire in it and that the hounds 
were everywhere welcome." It is, therefore, small 
wonder that sportsmen and hard riders flocked to 
the country and that Warwickshire stands high for 
sport. When, too, I look up and see before me as I 
write the engraving of the fine portrait that was 
presented to Lord Willoughby de Broke on his retire- 
ment, I feel that we have had in our generation a 
Master of hounds who, in all the relations of life as in 
the practice of sport, stands as an example to those 
who shall come after him. Hunting is not in danger 
while we have such men to lead us in the sport and 
to rule over our hunting countries. 

* Bailys Magazine, March, 1903, p. 202. 



CHAPTER VI 

RIDING OVER THE SHIRES 

Ways of Riding to Hounds — Value of Experience and Practice — 
Motives for Hard Riding — Strange Horses and Fine Horse- 
manship — School Riding — Polo as a School of Horsemanship 
— Scent in a Grass Country — Effect of Large Grass Fields — 
Great Run by the Cottesmore — Another by Mr. Fernie's 
Hounds — Opinions of Charles Isaacs — Hounds Changing 
their Fox — A First Experience in Leicestershire — Quickness 
in Starting — Advantage of knowing what Hounds are doing 
— Two Classes of Hunting Men — Ability to Gallop. 

I. Precept 

There are as many ways of riding to hounds in 
Leicestershire as there are different sorts of men and 
horses. It may indeed be possible to lay down rules 
and construct precepts for the benefit of the be- 
ginner, but it must ever be borne in mind that riding to 
hounds is not an art that can be learned from books. 

A man might read all that has been written on 
the subject, from Nimrod to Whyte-Melville and the 
Badminton Library ; he might conscientiously put 
in practice all the advice to be found in the pages of 
these writers ; and yet would not improbably find 
that he seldom saw a run to his own satisfaction. 
Not that such study would be thrown away ; still 
less would time be wasted in watching those who go 
well ; for in this, as in so many things, example is 

better than precept. 

187 



i88 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

Yet still more is to be gained by actual experience. 
Other things being equal, the man who is most often 
in the saddle will be the best rider to hounds. For, 
after all, a great deal depends on natural aptitude 
and almost as much in most cases on the horse we 
ride. 

The gifts of nature may be cultivated by taking 
pains and must be perfected by practice. Every- 
thing about horses and riding is worth knowing, and 
each accession of knowledge will be an addition to 
our pleasure. 

Many hunting men who are fair performers over a 
country rather despise the niceties of school-riding 
and the arts of the manege. But in this they are 
mistaken, A man who understands the refinements 
of horsemanship is likely to cross a country with more 
ease and safety than one who does not. There is 
always a right and a wrong way of meeting every 
emergency that may arise in the course of a day's 
hunting. It will depend on our having given time 
and attention to practise the right way until it be- 
comes a habit whether we shall in any given case act 
rightly or wrongly. If we are riding a run with fox- 
hounds over the grass, the time given for thinking 
will be very short. A rapid decision must be followed 
by instant action, and the arts of school-riding should 
teach us how far we can really help a horse. It very 
often happens that, with the best intentions, we 
hinder him when he is in difficulties far more than we 
help him. Practice will enable us with the help of 
the legs and the bridle to suggest to the horse what 
he shall do, as well as tell us how to avoid that inter- 
ference with him which is so often fatal. 

Then we have to consider the powers and dis- 
position and even the previous training of the particular 



RIDING OVER THE SHIRES 189 

animals we ride and adapt ourselves to them. There 
is no way of doing this except by riding different 
horses. Some men can only go well on certain 
animals, and when, in course of time, these horses 
break down or wear out, the riders perforce join the 
ranks of those who seek no longer to be with hounds. 
They ride about happy if two or three times in the 
run they can see the pack, and are contented if they 
can trace the line of a good hunt sufficiently well to 
be able to talk it over with their friends after dinner. 
It will be found in most cases that the men who ride 
longest in the front rank are those whom circum- 
stances constrain to ride many different horses in 
the course of their career. A well-known rider across 
Leicestershire once said that he had seen many men 
retire comparatively early because they allowed them- 
selves to become so attached to particular horses 
that they could ride no others. For this reason he 
had made a rule to sell at least two of his horses every 
year and replace them with new ones. Every one 
must have noticed how those who are obliged by 
circumstances to part with a horse directly they have 
an offer of a large price are as a rule going well long 
after their contemporaries have ceased to ride straight. 
It may be said, of course, that such people are more or 
less riding to sell and that it is their interest to go 
well. But no amount of gain in prospect will enable 
a man or woman to ride straight to hounds over a 
stiffly fenced grass countr}^ if the nerve is once gone. 
On the other hand, so great is the enjoyment of taking 
and keeping a forward place in a fast run with fox- 
hounds, that no other stimulus is needed to spur us 
on to make the effort if it is within our power. 

It is strange how we sometimes see the strongest 
motives of interest fail to make men ride hard. Take 



igo FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

the case of hunt servants, who have every induce- 
ment to ride. Their reputation and their hvehhood 
depend on their doing so. Yet we sometimes see 
them fail. For example, there was Ben Morgan, 
who, when whipper-in to Sir R. Sutton, and when he 
had little or no choice of the animals he rode, was as 
fine a horseman as ever crossed a country. In due 
time he became a huntsman, but from this point in 
his career he was only at his best on a horse he liked. 
If his horse did not suit him, he would not try, and 
thus he was not a success. 

In all countries it is an advantage for the huntsman 
to be close to his hounds, but in Leicestershire it is 
absolutely necessary if he is to show sport. 

To be able to ride strange horses to hounds re- 
quires, as I think it preserves, a firm nerve, but it is 
also certain that fine horsemanship is most desirable. 
It may, of course, be said, and with considerable 
plausibility, that the rough and ready riders do go 
successfully to hounds. We have all known men 
who were ignorant of and indifferent to all niceties 
of horsemanship, who crammed along when hounds 
ran hard. But of such horsemen severe falls take a 
heavy toll. They spend a considerable portion of 
their hunting career in compulsory inaction while 
broken bones are mending. For the daring but 
ignorant rider is sure to have a great many falls un- 
less indeed he has a long purse and only keeps the 
most perfect horses. But even then his sins of omis- 
sion and commission in the saddle and with the bridle 
are sure to find him out, and sooner or later he will 
come to grief. In any case a horse, however first- 
rate, if ridden by a bad horseman is not likely to 
reach the end of a long and brilliant run. In short 
scurries of ten minutes, or in ringing gallops, he may 



RIDING OVER THE SHIRES 191 

hold his own fairly well, but of a long, fast and straight 
run he is not likely to see even the greater part. 

To every man who aspires to a high place in the 
hunting field I should like to give a preliminary edu- 
cation in school-riding. Not, of course, that there 
is any wish to bring the tricks of the manege or riding- 
school into the hunting field, but because we cannot 
possibly know too much about horses and riding. 
If then you are not among the most wealthy, it is 
quite possible to improve a horse greatly by being 
able to teach him to go in true form. Many horses 
are awkward and disagreeable because they are only 
half broken and have never been taught the use of 
their limbs. And though for the horse, as for his 
master, the hunting field is no doubt the finishing 
school, the university in which each must take his 
degree, yet I believe in preliminary lessons for both, 
in the school and on the road. 

It adds interest to our rides to make our horses go 
in proper form, to trot and canter and walk well, 
collectedly and neatly, and to change their legs as 
required. Of course, I know that many men ride 
only when they are hunting or playing polo, the 
bicycle and the motor-car having to a great extent 
taken the place of the hack. Nevertheless there are 
many who will agree that riding is the pleasantest. 
the most interesting, and the healthiest method of 
taking exercise. It is quite certain too that the 
man who hacks about in the summer will enjoy his 
hunting the more for doing so. I should go further 
and say that a summer's hacking, due regard being 
had to the state of the ground, is an excellent way 
of finding out much about a new hunter. It is like 
an engagement which may enable a couple to learn 
if they are suited to one another. 



192 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

But on this matter it is vain to preach, because 
most people, and particularly those who hunt in 
Leicestershire, have an unceasing round of occupa- 
tions and no time even to think of one sport when 
the next is pressing on their attention. Fortunately 
for the horsemanship of the country the game of 
polo has become fashionable ; not only so, but the 
game, as played nowadays, requires trained ponies, 
and this has forced men to give more attention to 
schooling. People can scarcely fail to ask them- 
selves why it is that polo ponies are for the most 
part so pleasant to ride, and to apply the reflections 
that follow to the training of hunters. Polo, more- 
over, I believe to be an excellent school of horseman- 
ship. Practice at the game gives strength of grip and 
an easy balance and teaches the rider not to hold on 
by the reins. 

To return, however, to the subject of riding over 
Leicestershire, from which the above is a not irrele- 
vant digression. The better hack a horse is on the 
road, the pleasanter hunter he will be ; and most of 
the qualities of a hack can be taught to a true-shaped 
horse, such as a Leicestershire hunter must be. In 
the same way, the better horseman the rider is, the 
more he will enjoy his hunting. So far, however, 
what has been written would apply to any hunting 
country. Now, supposing the rider to have pro- 
gressed so far as to be a fair horseman and a good 
performer over other countries, he may ask what is 
the difference between riding over grass countries 
and provincial. The first and most important quality 
necessary in the former is quickness both of decision 
and of action. The man who hesitates in Leicester- 
shire is out of the run. If I may be permitted a 
bull, hounds travel so much faster over the grass 



RIDING OVER THE SHIRES 193 

even when they are hunting slowly than they do 
over plough, that we are much sooner left behind 
than we should be where hounds meet alike with a 
colder scent and more hindrances. 

In a grass country the scent keeps on improving 
as hounds drive forward, so that the chances are 
that a pack once settled to the line of their fox will 
keep on running faster and faster. Scent, it is true, 
often dies out very quickly in grass countries, but 
while hounds can run on it at all, they can always 
run forward with more confidence than they do over 
a plough country. When they cease to drive, they 
very often cease to run. It follows from this that 
hounds soon run away from the laggards. 

Then there is another point. The grass fields are 
very large, some of the pastures round Foxton, Carlton 
Curlieu, Noseley, RoUeston and Skeffington being of 
immense extent. They are perhaps sixty or a hun- 
dred acres, or even more. Such great fields offer no 
obstacle to a pack of hounds, and, as we all know 
that hounds are faster than horses, the pack will soon 
leave us hopelessly out of the hunt if we do not keep 
near them. If there is a scent, indeed, we may fail 
even with our very best efforts to remain on terms 
with the hounds. Let me give an instance. In the 
season of 1901-2, the Cottesmore hounds found a 
fox in Skeffington. There was no great scent in the 
woods, a single hound throwing his tongue at inter- 
vals all down the covert. The huntsman, of course, 
kept moving on, and near him were three men 
whose names, were I to write them down here, would 
be those of men who are heard of in most good runs, 
though none of them are very young. When the 
hounds reached Priesthill Coppice, they burst into 
a loud chorus and raced away. There were but 

N 



194 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

these men with them, and in a short distance the 
hounds had beaten even them. The huntsman, 
Arthur Thatcher, one of the most gallant riders across 
Leicestershire, and mounted on one of Mr, Hanbury's 
good horses, could never reach them, the three fields 
which hounds had gained in the few moments it 
took him to disentangle himself from the covert 
having given them a hopeless advantage. Two of 
the other men, good as they were, were farther behind, 
while a fourth, who started as well as any one, being 
on a slow horse, was fairly distanced before the pack 
threw up near the Coplow. 

Again, Mr. Fernie's hounds had on Friday, January 
30, 1903, one of those magnificent runs that will 
always make the season of 1902-3 memorable to those 
who hunted in Leicestershire. 

The Master was unwilling to disturb Glooston 
Wood, and the huntsman found his fox without 
ever going into the covert at all. He touched the 
horn, and a travelling fox boldly faced the open for 
Loddington. The dog pack were laid on at once, 
and within a single field they were 150 yards clear 
of the horses. The turf was sound, and horses had 
everything in their favour, yet hounds beat them 
all the way to Keythorpe. 

Now in a case like this, only those men who started 
close to the hounds would see anything of the fun 
at all till the first check. If this check should come 
at the end of but ten minutes at the best pace, you 
will have thrown away the most delightful moments 
of the day. Most likely you will have galloped very 
fast, jumped several fences with the backs of the 
leaders as your guide, only to find when you catch 
sight of the pack that they are running as fast as 
ever. A first-rate pack of hounds will have made 



RIDING OVER THE SHIRES 195 

their own cast and hit off the hne, or failed to do so, 
and been put right by their huntsman in a very short 
space of time, and be away again so that you will 
never have a pull at your horse. Thus you start 
on the next stage at a disadvantage with the men 
who were close to the pack when they checked, since 
they have had the inestimable benefit of a pull back 
into a trot. How great that advantage is you will 
soon learn in Leicestershire, for the chances are that 
you will have galloped down one slope and up an- 
other and jumped six or seven fences before you reach 
the hounds. Even the best horse will be the better 
for catching his wind for a moment after this, but, 
since you find hounds running on when you reach them,' 
you cannot pull up. So on you must gallop and 
jump, if you really mean to keep with them. Now, 
your only chance of saving your horse is that hounds 
will not run quite straight, and you must on a scent- 
ing day try to make the best of your bad start by 
easing him as opportunity offers. The very best 
horse cannot go on up and down the Leicestershire 
hills and over the ridge and furrow for a long time 
at the pace which the Pytchley, the Cottesmore or 
Mr. Fernie's bitch pack will run. 

You may take liberties with your horse, perchance 
saying to yourself, "No fox can stand up before 
hounds very long at this pace." Of that, however, 
I am not so sure. The last Duke of Rutland used to 
say that, with an old dog fox in front, it was six to 
four on the fox, and Mr. Fernie's huntsman, Charles 
Isaacs, who hunts hounds in one of the best scenting 
countries in England, has told me the same. He 
had, in fact, the day before he spoke of this, been 
beaten by a fox that had been raced to Launde Wood 
from Glooston, and, though after this the fox was 



196 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

probably out of his country, he escaped some miles 
farther on near Knossington. We may be sure that 
there was want of neither skill nor pace on the part 
of his pursuers. 

Even supposing that one of the short running 
foxes, which are so common, is before hounds, yet 
foxes are plentiful, and hounds may change and 
run harder than ever with the fresh scent. An ex- 
ample of this may be taken from a run which took 
place last season (1901-2) and which was, I think, 
the straightest fox-hunt I have ever known. Hounds 
were scarcely thirty or forty yards out of the direct 
line all the eleven miles from Mr. W. W. Tailby's 
covert at Slawston to Botany Bay. In this case two, 
perhaps three, foxes in succession were in front of 
hounds, and none but the foremost riders could have 
had a chance to steady their horses from start to 
finish. Hounds hesitated, they did not check, at 
Noseley coverts, so there was no time for a slow starter 
to ease his horse. 

Therefore, once with hounds, it is wise to take 
every chance. If hounds lean — and runs so straight 
as the last mentioned are very unusual — to the one 
hand or to the other, be ready to bend with them. 
If they are turning towards you, it is worth while to 
diverge a couple of hundred yards or so from the 
direct course to a gate, if you can arrive there before 
the crowd. Every man in Leicestershire should 
be able to open a gate. They are well hung and easy 
as a rule ; and if you do not know how to manage 
them, it certainly will not be for want of practice. 
All over Leicestershire the cross roads are gated, 
and you can hardly ride to covert without opening 
half-a-dozen. But to return to the subject of a 
quick start. The only way is to keep touch with 



RIDING OVER THE SHIRES 197 

the hounds whatever they are doing. In Leicester- 
shire the fields are numerous, and it is worth while to 
work your way quietly to the head of the line. In 
the small coverts quick finds are the rule and out- 
lying foxes not uncommon. When you arrive at 
the covert, keep with the rest of the field where the 
master places you. Do not wander vaguely about. 
But there is no harm in being near the gate, or opposite 
a practicable place in a fence, so that you can start 
at once. 

When I first hunted in Leicestershire, a friend 
said to me : " You cannot hope to be with hounds 
in these countries till you know something of them. 
You would be pounded or come to grief in these 
fields. But if you will promise not to ride over me, 
you may follow me till you can go alone." 

Accordingly, the first day I watched my friend 
from a respectful distance, while Gillard and the 
Belvoir hounds were drawing Melton Spinney. The 
first notes of a halloa struck on my ear and in a moment 
I saw my pilot race off at a pace that made it hard to 
keep him in sight. " At this rate we shall not last 
long," was my thought ; but I saw the reason of the 
haste later on. Quick as my pilot had been, the 
hounds were two fields away when we first saw them. 
Then a turn in our favour enabled us to take a pull ; 
a momentary hover — you could not call it a check — 
gave another chance, while those behind must have 
been unconscious that hounds had ever done any- 
thing but hold right on. They must therefore have 
been galloping their best all the time. 

Quickness in starting, which means to see what 
ought to be done and to do it at once without hesi- 
tating, since every moment the hounds are driving 
farther and farther away, is one great means by 



198 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

which you will see the best of the sport in the Shires. 
If hounds always raced on, very few people would 
see much hunting, but the less prompt division have 
still two points in their favour. One is the extra- 
ordinary number of shepherd's dogs in the Shires, and 
the other the fact that, if hounds do not change, 
the fox, generally speaking, is sure to turn before 
long. The ordinary Leicestershire fox does not know 
very much country, and the instinct of the fox, indeed 
I believe of all wild animals when they reach the 
limits of their beat, is to work back to the original 
starting place. When I hunted jackals in India, 
I found that, like foxes, each jackal had his run and 
that when he reached his limit he would invariably 
turn back. This knowledge, when he grasped it, 
gained the huntsman some undeserved praise for 
successful casts. 

This brings me to the second point which I believe 
to be of great importance in riding over Leicester- 
shire so as to obtain the greatest enjoyment. We 
ought always to know what hounds are doing. Every 
one has heard the story of Lord Alvanley and his 
alleged saying about what fun we might have if it 
were not for " those d — d hounds," though I do not 
believe so good a man over a country ever did say 
anything so foolish. Somebody said it for him, or 
it was fathered on him, as speeches wise and other- 
wise are apt to be on acknowledged wits. So far as 
my own observation goes, the best men in grass 
countries watch hounds most attentively, know what 
they are doing, and are very often able to form an 
" intelligent anticipation " of what they are going 
to do. Indeed the only thing that can keep men with 
hounds after the first flush of youth is over is the love 
of hounds and their work. This is to be found the 



RIDING OVER THE SHIRES 199 

most often among first-flight men. Who, indeed, 
see so much and thus are so well able to form con- 
clusions about the work of hounds as they ? True, 
there are men in Leicestershire as elsewhere who 
merely come out for a ride, but they do not " stay " 
as hunting men. When the mere love of rapid 
motion and the thrill of galloping over big fences 
ceases to charm, they will drop back into the crowd 
or take to golf or motors. But the men who really 
love hounds and delight in their working will con- 
tinue to face big fences rather than not see the hunt, 
long after the pursuit of danger for its own sake has 
ceased to attract. The former class of men have 
taken up hunting, as they take up polo, as a fashion- 
able amusement, but they are not born with the 
love of the chase and sooner or later they will give 
it up. 

The most famous riders have undoubtedly ridden 
to hunt. Take Assheton Smith, for example, the 
greatest rider to hounds of the last century. Mr. 
T. A. Smith was strangely indifferent to and careless 
about his horses. He had no fancies or preferences 
in the choice of hunters, for with a strong seat, a 
light hand and an iron will he used the horse as a 
means to an end. He meant to be in every field 
with his hounds, and he was so in the majority of 
cases. He took his sixty or seventy falls in the 
season as a matter of course, for he cared above all 
things to see hounds hunting in grass countries, where 
they can best be seen. If he cared little for horses, 
he was always thinking about his hounds. This 
was one reason why he did not enjoy his hunting 
less in Hampshire when he was obliged by a sense of 
duty to hunt there. We read, too, how Mr. Osbalde- 
ston, after he had certainly lost something of the 



200 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

boldness of his earlier days, faced a big fence from 
Waterloo gorse in order to be with the hounds. 
" Osbaldeston rode Pilot and I shall never forget 
the beautiful manner in which he put him to a leap 
just at starting, taking him back several yards into 
the field and going at it as hard as ever he could 
drive, indeed nothing but the impetus could have 
carried him through. For it was a stiff fence with 
a wide brook on the other side and very indifferent 
landing. Still I should not say Osbaldeston was 
fond of rasping." No, but his hounds were just 
starting and he knew they might want his assistance, 
as hounds often do, especially when coming out of a 
covert with a scent and fairly close to their fox. Their 
over eagerness in such a case will sometimes carry 
them over the line, and their huntsman being at 
hand to put them right will make all the difference 
between a good and a bad run, or even between a 
good run and none at all. The times when hounds 
are most likely to lose their fox are at the very moment 
of starting and when running for blood at the close. 

How, then, are we to gain this knowledge of hounds ? 
To some men it comes almost unconsciously. Early 
associations, the Eton, Christ Church or Trinity 
Beagles, running with harriers or with otter-hounds, 
or following the home pack on a pony, all these are 
ways of learning what it is of the first importance 
for us to know. 

Many of us can never remember the time when we 
did not look on the hounds and their working as a 
subject for thought and conversation. But still 
much may be acquired in later life and much can be 
learned by reading and close observation of a pack at 
work. In the latter case we soon begin to distinguish 
some hound that often puts the pack right, we are 



RIDING OVER THE SHIRES 201 

able to judge when hounds have overrun the scent, 
to see, when they cast themselves, which way they 
are leaning and to anticipate a turn. We may, too, 
if we hunt in the same countries year after year learn 
much about the run of the foxes, all of which know- 
ledge, as we have seen, is of great value. 

Another condition of success is that we must be 
willing and able to gallop. For twenty men that 
will jump a big fence there are only four or five, if so 
many, who will gallop. Yet in Leicestershire, where 
scent is strong and the pace is necessarily fast, we 
must send the horse along, and we must ride faster 
at our fences than would be quite orthodox in other 
countries. If you watch a real master of the art, 
you will see him swinging along, not bucketing indeed 
but galloping a fair pace and taking the fences at the 
places he has marked out for himself, without ever 
pulling his horse out of his stride. 

It has been said that men ride over the Quorn 
country, but through the Pytchley ; meaning that in 
the first case, galloping on the top of the ground, they 
fly big, but clean, fences, while in the other case they 
dash through hairy obstacles of the nature already 
described. The distinction is not perhaps so clearly 
marked as it was when first made, but there is still 
some truth in it. One thing, indeed, is certain. 
Through or over, in most cases — not in all, for there 
are no absolute rules in hunting — you must go fast. 
You cannot afford to lose time at the fences. True, 
to ride a horse fast at his fences takes more out of 
him than to go slowly, but in Leicestershire, if you 
have only one horse, you must make up your mind 
to go home early, while if you have a second one, you 
will take to him when the first is played out. In 
any case a sticky horse is out of place. To ride in the 



202 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

easy way some men do, presupposes knowledge of 
the country. You cannot, remember, go quickly 
over Leicestershire unless you have either a first-rate 
pilot or know something of the country. Without 
one or the other you will certainly be in difficulties 
before long. The men who swing with such apparent 
ease over the country know their way and go quickly 
and directly from one practicable place to another, 
for the fences in some districts are not always, as I 
have shown, to be jumped everywhere. 

What I have said here, while it makes no pretension 
to teach the reader how to ride across Leicestershire, 
brings before him those things which must be attended 
to if success is to be attained. We must be quick to 
start, ready to note what hounds are doing and what 
they are about to do, and able and willing to gallop. 



CHAPTER VII 

RIDING OVER THE SHIRES 

Experience of the Grass Countries — Views of Nimrod, the Druid 
and Whyte-Melville— Other Great Riders — Assheton Smith 
— Mr. Greene of Rolleston — Dick Christian — His Preference 
for Young Horses— Sir Harry Goodricke — Lord Forester — 
Lord Wilton — Tom Firr — Reckless Riders — Mr. Morant — 
Mr. Canning — Lord Lonsdale — The "other" Tom Smith 
— His Sport with the Pytchley — Lord Sefton — Mr. Corbet — • 
Mr. Stubbs — Rival Methods — Economic Sport — Mr. Carring- 
ton — Other Great Riders of the Past — A Lady's Account of 
a Hard Run — Fences and Gates — Difficult Places. 

II. Example 

Quickness and some knowledge, or perhaps it would 
be better to say some experience, of the grass countries 
is, as I have tried to show, required before you can 
hope to ride over them. Nevertheless the truth is 
that there are and must be many different ways of 
doing this, since no two men are quite alike in their 
methods, and no two horses in their powers. It has 
therefore seemed that it may not be unprofitable to 
collect what information can be found about the 
methods of famous men in bygone days, and to see 
how they crossed the country. For the beginner 
and for the moderate performer there may be in this 
inquiry both instruction and consolation. 

The best authorities on riding across Leicestershire 
unquestionably are three : Nimrod, the Druid, and 
Whyte-Melville. The first and last of these tell us 



204 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

of what they have seen and known, for each hunted 
with the hounds of which he wrote. They Hved too 
with the best men who rode over Leicestershire. 

Nimrod was unquestionably a fine horseman. He 
was perhaps what we should call a " bit of a coper," 
but he was perfectly frank on the subject and he rode 
none the worse that he rode to sell, while perhaps he 
wrote all the better, for he was forced to keep a keen 
eye on the peculiarities of his contemporaries, to 
whom he generally had a horse to sell. Whyte- 
Melville is the most delightful writer on sport that 
there is in the English language. This no doubt is 
because he was so much else beside being a sportsman ; 
a genuine scholar, a lover of literature and a story- 
teller of the most delightful kind. Riding Recollections 
and Market Harhorough will probably live as long as 
men love sport and are willing to read about it. But 
Whyte-Melville had theories about riding and horses. 
He believed in thoroughbreds as hunters, in which 
faith very few people will be with him in practice, 
and he has, it is believed, laughed gently and good- 
humouredly at his own theories in Market Harhorough, 
where he appears for a few pages in the character of 
Captain Struggles. Yet theories about riding are 
useful reading because they make us think, though 
they are not, even from such delightful pages as those 
of Whyte-Melville, to be put in practice absolutely or 
slavishly. 

The following examples may help to show what 
some of the great men of old did and why they did it. 
One of the greatest riders across country was Mr. 
Assheton Smith, and, though so much has been 
written about him, it is impossible not to allude to 
him. The keynote of his style of horsemanship was 
resolution. He was a man of strong will and great 



RIDING OVER THE SHIRES 205 

nerve and he meant to go into every field with his 
hounds. Now, resolution goes far in riding to hounds, 
for a man and horse can generally go where the man 
really wills. Moreover, a man of resolute character 
will cross a country with more glory and more safety 
than the faint-hearted would imagine to be possible. 
Constant practice and his perfect condition had some- 
thing to do with Mr. Assheton Smith's success, of 
which he himself always said the chief secret was 
that he could make his horses gallop. 

An even better horseman was Mr. Greene of RoUe- 
ston, who shares with Lord Stamford and the present 
master of the Quorn the distinction of being the 
only Leicestershire squires who have ever held that 
office. The other aspirants to fine horsemanship at 
the time used to study Mr. Greene. It is said that 
he used his legs to convey his meaning to his horse 
far more than he did his bridle. This is undoubtedly 
one secret of successful riding. Like Mr. Assheton 
Smith, he liked to ride at his fences somewhat aslant. 
But he came to them with bounding strokes to the 
last, when he slackened his rein and allowed his horse 
to exert its full power, the fling almost invariably 
bringing him safely into the next field. 

Indeed, I believe that this letting the rein slacken 
as the horse takes off to be one of the secrets of safety. 
Let the horse, as he stretches over a big place, run 
the reins through your fingers so that there is no 
restraint on him ; yet do it in such a way that you 
can hold him together directly he gets into his stride. 
A horse is far less likely to fall on landing if he has 
his head free than if he is held up. Yet it must be 
borne in mind that most, or at all events many, 
horses need to be held together with firm grip in 
going up to a fence or they will take off anyhow. 



2o6 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

For, while some perfect horses will jump if ridden at 
their fences with but the lightest pressure on their 
mouths, others need to be taken by the head lest 
they refuse. This is one of the difficulties that 
practice, experience, and a knowledge of your horse 
must help you to decide. Every one, however, 
must have noticed how much more pleasantly those 
horses jump which require the least pressure. 

Plenty of rein on landing, too, is the secret of avoid- 
ing falls. On this point Dick Christian has some- 
thing to tell us. He was a fine horseman, as we all 
know, and in his lectures, which every one should 
read, there are many excellent hints based on an 
amount of practice that it is given to but few people 
to have. For many years Dick Christian rode horses 
at fifteen shillings a day, in order to make them into 
hunters. Thus, what he did not know about horses 
and riding is not worth mentioning. 

He was a great advocate for what he called " setting 
at liberty on a horse. A man's body should be all 
loose, but he should be firm in his thigh. You 
shouldn't be able to see under 'em when you're behind 
'em." A little observation in the hunting field will 
show us how seldom this latter condition is fulfilled 
by hunting men. Yet if a man rolls in his saddle, if 
he has not ease and liberty, be sure that he must be 
steadying himself by his horse's mouth. This it is 
that makes so many horses unpleasant to ride. 
Dick, too, preferred young horses to old ones, for he 
thought them safer, and he was probably right. Yet 
most unquestionably an old horse that knows his 
business is more pleasant to ride. The idea that 
Dick had, and one that a great many people share 
with him, is that the young horse is quicker to extri- 
cate himself from a difficulty, while the old horse, as 



RIDING OVER THE SHIRES 207 

he puts it, " falls like a clot." Undoubtedly this is 
true, but perhaps the balance is more even than 
Dick thought, seeing that the clever old horses fall 
more seldom. A precept that is well worth bearing 
in mind is that when you are trying a horse before 
buying him, you should ride him down hill, and that, 
when you have bought him, you should give him his 
conditioning work up hill. 

Sir Harry Goodricke, on the other hand, who was a 
strong, resolute rider and always near his hounds, 
rode through rather than over a country. He would 
creep or force his horse through the hedges. In fact, 
this plan has been followed by many heavy-weights, 
for nothing takes so much out of a horse as jumping 
high and big with a heavy weight on his back. The 
combined weight of man and horse will drive them 
through places that a light-weight will be forced to 
jump. A proof of this is that in a strongly fenced 
country it will often be found that the heavy-weights 
will beat the lighter men. The latter break their 
horse's hearts, as old John Warde used to say, by 
continually jumping, where the impetus of the heavier 
ones will carry them right through. It needs nerve, 
indeed, to ride through a country quite as much as 
to ride over it. Lord Alvanley was another heavy- 
weight and a very bold one, who rode as much through 
the country as over it. We learn this from those 
curious boots of his made to cover and protect his 
knees from the blows of branches, of which a picture 
may be seen in Mr. Birch Reynardson's Sport and 
Anecdotes. 

Two or three men have been noted for their power 
of crossing Leicestershire without any apparent effort. 
They may, indeed, be said to have glided over it. 
It was not till their followers arrived at the fences 



2o8 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

that they discovered how big those obstacles were 
which had been got over so easily. The earliest of 
these of which we have any record was the first Lord 
Forester. He was a heavy-weight, yet a horse, it 
is said, would stay under him a longer time than 
under many a far lighter man. Nimrod, who knew 
him well and had followed him over a country, ac- 
counts for this by the fineness of his hand and the 
care he took to prevent his horses from leaping higher 
or farther than was absolutely necessary to clear 
their fences. Very similar must have been the 
style of the Lord Wilton, whom no one ever saw in 
a hurry, who was never far from hounds and who 
yet never saw— so he said — the big places others 
talked of. 

Last, but not least, came Tom Firr, the famous 
huntsman of the Quorn, who was as notable as a 
horseman as he was in killing his foxes. He too was 
one of those men who rode quietly and resolutely and 
had the art of handing his horses quietly over big 
fences. He sat forward, just behind his horse's 
shoulders, leaning the upper part of his body well 
back at the fences and, with long reins, giving the 
horse plenty of liberty at his jumps. 

In contrast to such as these are the men who are 
always in a hurry, the reckless, hard-riding ones, 
who seldom see the whole of a run. It is related of 
a certain Mr. Morant, who hunted in Warwickshire 
early in the last century, that no horse could live 
with him in a fast run for more than fifteen minutes. 
He was a most determined rider, but had little judg- 
ment, and it was a matter of indifference to him 
whether his horses cleared their fences or not so long 
as he reached the next field. 

Of a different type from Mr. Morant was another 




A TYPICAL LEICESTERSHIRE COUNTRY 

SMEETON GORSE FKOM GUMLEY 




A HAIRY PLACE 



Plate XI 



RIDING OVER THE SHIRES 209 

Warwickshire sportsman, Mr. Canning, who was so 
fine a horseman and so undefeated over the stout 
Warwickshire fences that Nimrod opines he was 
sent into the world on purpose to show what a horse 
could do. He was six feet four inches in height and 
rode seventeen stone ; yet, like all heavy men with 
judgment, he not only stayed through a run, but 
hunted in the front rank of riders for a great many 
years of his life. " When hounds ran," said a con- 
temporary to Nimrod, who tells the story, " Mr. 
Canning came out of the crowd like a bee out of the 
hive, and beat every man that was out." 

Possibly among heavy-weights in our time the 
present Lord Lonsdale most resembled Mr. Canning 
in judgment and knowledge of pace. He too is 
quick to be with hounds when they run. A fine hunts- 
man, he has the inestimable advantage of knowing 
what hounds are doing and thus is enabled to save 
himself by many a turn. Few men have combined 
knowledge of hunting and skill in horsemanship in a 
greater degree than the late master of the Quorn. 

But we may return to the famous riders of the 
past, of whom we are able to write with a freedom 
that we cannot use of our contemporaries. After 
all, human nature in the saddle and out of it is much 
the same at all periods, and the observant man in 
Leicestershire to-day will see men crossing the country 
who show the same characteristics in their riding 
as did those of whom we have spoken. All whom 
we have named have their prototypes in the present. 
Similar effects are produced by like causes, and the 
success which our riders to hounds have to-day is 
due to the same boldness, judgment, fineness of hand 
and ease of seat, that made men like the Lord Forester, 
Lord Wilton, Mr, Maxse, Mr. Little Gilmour, Dick 

O 



210 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

Christian and Mr. Osbaldeston famous in hunting 
history. 

The " other " Tom Smith, too, was Hke his name- 
sake an admirable horseman. He never had the 
purse of Mr. Assheton Smith, but his feats of horse- 
manship were not less remarkable, though they have 
been somewhat overshadowed by those of the better- 
known founder of the Tedworth Hunt. That he 
had courage and fine hands the following incident 
shows. Mr. Smith was on a visit to Mr. Chute of 
The Vine. The master, anxious to show his visitor 
what the pack — whose motto inscribed above the 
kennel door was " multum in parvo " — could do, 
ordered the hounds out in a frost. There was a scent 
as there often is at such a time. The fox took a line 
over some of the steep hills of the Vine hunt, and 
every one was left behind save Mr. Smith, who went 
on with the hounds and killed the fox. 

But perhaps there has been nothing more remark- 
able in the history of horsemanship in the Shires 
than the sport Mr. Smith showed with the Pytchley. 
Taking the country without an established pack of 
hounds, he collected a scratch pack. He was, of 
course, a stranger to the country and he had no assist- 
ance in hunting the hounds owing to the misconduct 
of the men who had been spoilt by Lord Chesterfield's 
somewhat extravagant regime. Yet he not only 
hunted the hounds himself, but showed wonderful 
sport, and pounded the whole field of Pytchley men 
near Yelvertoft over a stiff fence consisting of a high 
stout rail with a deep and wide ditch on the far side. 
The result of this exploit was that Mr. Smith was the 
only man who saw the run. 

At an earlier period came Lord Sefton, who was 
the immediate successor of Mr. Meynell in the master- 



RIDING OVER THE SHIRES 211 

ship of the Quorn. Lord Sefton was a heavy-weight, 
but nevertheless a very quick man to hounds. 
Though seldom left behind at the start, no one could 
make up lost ground quicker than he. Timber he 
disliked and always preferred boring through the 
thick blackthorn hedges. This his weight enabled 
him to do, and probably nearly all heavy-weights 
would do the same, though many light and medium- 
weights, and perhaps most ladies, would prefer a 
post and rails to a hedge. So many fences in the 
Shires are mended with rails that you can almost 
always find timber to jump if your tastes lie that way. 
Lord Sefton loved pace, and it was the difficulty of 
finding horses to gallop under his weight which at 
last caused him to give up hunting for the raising of 
fat bullocks. In a poem quoted by Nimrod he is 
touched off in four lines : 

" Earl Sefton came next, and, for beef on the rib, 
No Leicestershire bullock was rounder ; 
A wonderful weight at a wonderful rate, 
He flew like a twenty-four pounder." 

Lord Sefton was the introducer of second horses. 
His second horse was, however, not ridden to points 
as our custom is to-day, but close behind him, so that 
he could change whenever it seemed desirable. 

It appears to me, as I study the records of the 
past, that most of the hard riders in those days were 
heavy-weights, but that may well be because their 
feats were more wonderful and their deeds conse- 
quently more fully recorded. Certain points all 
those famous men had in common. All rode the 
best horses they could find, and hunters seem to 
have brought larger prices than they do to-day. 
There are instances of as much as 1000 guineas having 



212 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

been offered for a horse, and I should doubt if, with 
the exception of a show hunter — and the show hunter 
is not the horse we should choose to cross Leicester- 
shire on — many horses have been sold for this sum 
in our time. All these riders were also determined 
not to be daunted by any reasonable fence and all 
were actuated by the same resolution not to be far 
from hounds. They were fine horsemen and, though 
they drank more claret and port than we do, they 
smoked much less, so they may have had the advan- 
tage of us in nerve. If the reader will study the 
pictures of those days, he will see that the riders are 
drawn as a rule with excellent seats. In the paint- 
ings of Aiken, Ferneley, Wildrake and other artists 
of the day, the riders, whether depicted galloping or 
taking their fences, are all sitting on the right place 
on their saddles. The horses have light double 
bridles and have plenty of liberty given them by the 
rider's hand. 

But then, as now, these front rank men were not 
the only ones who went out hunting in the Shires. 
We have seen that a visitor from Essex has noted 
that the gates were then, as they are still in our own 
day, a temptation to many, so while valour naturally 
has the largest share of the record, discretion had 
the greater number of disciples. Some of the latter 
manage to see a great deal of the good runs and 
nearly the whole of the inferior ones. In all periods 
of hunting history the first-rate runs have been few 
in comparison to the ordinary hunts. It is true that 
in Leicestershire there are very few days during 
which, for some few minutes at least, the gallant ones 
have not opportunities of showing their courage, 
for, if you make up your mind to ride as near hounds 
as possible, there are nearly always bright minutes 



RIDING OVER THE SHIRES 213 

in a run over the grass. If the fox runs a ring — and 
for many reasons this often occurs — then he must 
at all events for some part of his course be running 
up-wind, and hounds can travel fairly fast against 
the wind unless the fox is a very long way in front 
of them. 

Hitherto we have drawn our examples from those 
who aimed at being with hounds, some of them along- 
side, and others now and then in front of the pack. 
There is perhaps, if anywhere, more excuse for riding 
rather too near hounds in Leicestershire than else- 
where. A very hard riding Pytchley man of past 
days being once reproved for pressing on the pack, 
replied that the crowd during Lord Chesterfield's 
reign was such that the only place whence a view of 
hounds could be had was at the very top of the hunt, 
and that when a check came the following crowd 
were apt to press him too close to them. But there 
are many sportsmen who see a good deal and yet 
seldom jump at all. Possibly these see more than 
others who pick their places, for, as a Duke of Beau- 
fort once remarked, the man who takes half measures 
and does not jump everything he comes across, is 
sure to be pounded and is always likely to be thrown 
out, whereas the man who jumps not at all cannot by 
any possibility be stopped. 

Two such men there were in the old times who 
fairly represent those who follow hounds to-day in 
an unambitious fashion, and yet managed to see 
much of the fun. Both hunted in Warwickshire, and 
as this country comes within the scope of this volume, 
some account of their methods will not be out of 
place. The first was Mr, Corbet, who belonged to 
what we may call the galloping section of the skirters. 
He did not mind how fast he went or over what sort 



214 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

of ground he galloped. Now, it is probable that a 
rider of this sort exchanges an imaginary danger 
for a real one, as galloping over rough ground and 
down stony and boggy lanes is more dangerous than 
jumping fences. No doubt, indeed, the author of 
" Fifty Years' Fox-hunting " is right when he says, 
that if a man is mounted on anything of a hunter, 
to be near to the hounds is the safest place. 

Nevertheless, each man has his own ideas as to 
what he can do best, and, as far as seeing a run is 
concerned, such riders as Mr. Corbet possibly have 
a better general idea of the course of a hunt than 
any except those in the first flight. What they 
do miss is the working of the pack. The beautiful 
head hounds carry in the chase, their sudden sweep 
to keep the scent, the rapid cast forward of their 
own accord, and the instant recovery of the line — 
with the drive onward that follows — these delight 
the man who loves hounds, but cannot well be 
seen from a quarter of a mile away. Hounds are 
never more delightful to watch than when they are 
hunting at a fast pace. No doubt there is glory and 
exaltation in riding to them on the rare occasions 
when the scent serves and they simply drop their 
sterns and race straight forward. These days, how- 
ever, are but few, and the times when even the best 
of us see them are fewer still. 

Such pleasures, then, are not for the skirter, though 
he may indeed see the slower parts of the hunt, and, 
if he keeps down-wind, sooner or later on most days 
hounds will turn to him. If, indeed, they run clean 
away up-wind he has nothing to do but keep pegging 
on. A fox that runs up-wind has in most cases a 
point in view, some favourite covert, some handy 
refuge in a drain, or maybe a convenient rabbit hole. 



RIDING OVER THE SHIRES 215 

The steeplechase — for such the hunt then is — will 
not last long, and our friend is fairly certain to pick 
hounds up again. There is, even in such riding as 
his, no time to lose. He must be first at the gates 
and he must know the country and have some know- 
ledge of the lie of the coverts and the run of the foxes. 
Thus an outlying fox, unless he is very hard pressed, 
almost always goes to the nearest covert, or, if found 
in the outskirts of a village or town, he will describe 
a circle or two until he can find leisure to pop into a 
rabbit hole or drain near his home. Following the 
pack and watching for a turn — and you can see a 
long way in Leicestershire — the skirter will ride 
wide of the line. He is thus bound to keep a keen 
look-out, or he may head the fox or ride over the 
line. He will avoid the eye of the master and, like 
the women of Athens, esteem it his greatest glory to 
be noticed as little as possible. 

Now for our second instance. Mr. Stubbs hunted 
in Warwickshire from Stratford - on - Avon. His 
method was to peg along at the same pace, and this 
he would keep up for twenty miles if the run lasted 
so long. It was, says Nimrod, " a nice gentleman- 
like canter of about nine miles in the hour." The 
pace at which Mr. Stubbs rode over a country after 
hounds, indeed, at last became proverbial. "I re- 
member once being too late at covert and the hounds 
had gone away with their fox ; meeting a groom 
returning with his master's hack, I asked him whether 
they had gone away quickly. ' No, sir,' said the 
man, ' about Mr. Stubbs' pace.' " Yet, Mr. Stubbs 
could always describe the run, seldom failed to come 
up at the finish and was always ready to see a fresh 
fox found, at any hour, " frequently reminding his 
brother-huntsmen that there was a moon which 



2i6 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

would serve to kill him by." Mr. Stubbs and the 
trotting fox-hunter of Lincolnshire had, and still 
have, their disciples, and when we recollect that 
there are many days when hounds do not travel 
very fast in pursuit of their fox, such riders, if they 
have Mr. Stubbs' eye for a country, will see a fair 
amount of sport in the course of the season. 

Both the above methods require, however, a very 
strict attention to business. Neither class of rider 
can afford to be left far behind or he will miss the 
chances that might have been his, and after the 
meet will seldom see a hound at all. 

There is yet one other description of rider to 
hounds, of whom the type can be found among the 
riders of the past, the men who hunt with small means 
and an indifferent steed. The most remarkable of 
these was a certain Mr. Carrington, once a subaltern 
in the 15th Hussars, who had but ;^300 a year and 
hunted from Melton about the year 1825. Mr. Car- 
rington kept four hunters and a hack. He was not 
a coper, for he rode low-priced light-weight horses 
and is said to have made very little by their sale. 
The way he economised was by being his own stable- 
man. " He has but one man in the stable, actually 
performing the duties of a groom himself, and is 
seen at exercise with his horses, as grooms or their 
helpers are wont to be, and he also actually performs 
his part of the necessary duties of the stable." I 
am sorry to say that the Meltonians expressed ad- 
miration, but did not ask him to their houses. " When 
I used to go to Lord Waterford," said Mr. Carrington, 
" to know about hunting, I went to the back door ; " 
and Mr. Carrington was a good deal touched by the 
condescension of Lord Gardner, who actually asked 
him to take wine with him. So far, I think we have 



RIDING OVER THE SHIRES 217 

improved, nor would a man, who was otherwise a 
gentleman and a once popular subaltern in a good 
regiment, be ostracised for his economies. There 
are, of course, a certain class of men who might sneer, 
but these are they whom wealth has raised socially 
without elevating either their minds or their manners. 
Such, however, are few among hunting people, for 
in the hunting-field, as in a public school, men soon 
find their level. Nowhere perhaps are men more 
valued for what they are rather than what they 
have, for wealth, though it has some consequence, 
has little influence in that most democratic of in- 
stitutions, the hunting-field. 

We have seen what some of the riders of the past 
were like, though I have touched upon but a few. 
No word has been said of Lord Gardner, who knew 
what pace was and could make a horse do anything 
with his fine hand ; of Sir Frederick Johnstone, who 
was noted for his love of timber and seldom saw a 
flight of rails without having a fling at them ; of 
Whyte-Melville, who for many years saw much sport 
with the Pytchley with but moderate horses, and 
who has recorded his own experiences in " Market 
Harborough " for those who can read between the 
lines ; of Charles Payn, one of the famous huntsmen 
of the past ; of Colonel Anstruther Thomson, who 
went through the stiff Pytchley country because his 
weight forbad that he should ride over it ; of Mr. 
Maher and Mr. Little Gilmour and many others. 
All, however, are agreed on certain points : to ride 
slow at timber and aslant at big fences ; to avoid 
riding straight over ridge and furrow ; to put on 
pace for a rasper ; to ride steadily, but not too slowly, 
at their fences ; and never to turn their horses' heads 
from the hounds if they can help it. As I have already 



2i8 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

said, a man must ride faster over the fences on the 
grass than elsewhere, but should never rush, or let 
his horse out of his hand, if he can help it. For 
there are moments in a crowd racing for a start 
when we must take our chance and jump where and 
how we can if we have a high-couraged horse a little 
out of hand with excitement, for we know there is 
the probability of being jumped on if we fall. But 
that is only for a moment in the first mad race for 
a start. For the rest, courage, calmness and fine 
hands, with an eye for country, will take their fortu- 
nate possessors to the front — if their horses are good 
enough — now as they did eighty years ago. 

There is an admirable description of such a ride 
written by a lady well known at Melton, but whose 
anonymity, though it is an open secret, we must 
respect. Speaking of her horse she says : — 

" I had not gone ten strides before I knew that I 
could not stop him. My host on receiving the in- 
formation said, ' What does it matter ? Hounds 
are running. You surely don't want to stop him.' 
' Oh, no, but I cannot guide him.' ' That doesn't 
matter, they are running straight,' So, stimulated 
by this obvious common-sense, I went on in the 
delirium of the chase till I had jumped so close to an 
innocent man that my habit-skirt carried off his spur, 
and, in avoiding a collision at a ford, I jumped the 
widest brook I have ever seen jumped, and after that 
I got a pull at him." Again in Whyte-Melville's 
" Riding Recollections " who does not remember where 
young Rapid and his three friends race for the one 
practicable spot in a big fence ? But all the rush 
is over in five or ten minutes, and after that there 
is plenty of room. 

There is, however, another difficult moment : if 



RIDING OVER THE SHIRES 219 

the first fence is altogether unjumpable and a gate 
the only outlet, and this perhaps a narrow hunting 
gate. With the agonising sense that hounds are 
running farther away every moment, you find your- 
self in the midst of a too eager throng. You push 
your way in, hoping that there is not, or that there 
ought not to be, a bit of red ribbon in the tail of the 
horse in front. At last your chance comes. You 
shoot from the muddy gateway into the field and, 
it may be, are rejoiced to find that the pack has 
checked in the next field and that there was no hurry 
after all. 

Luckily, in most cases, hounds take a perceptible 
time to get clear of the covert ; r\dge and furrow 
will soon steady the wildest horse that can be ridden 
at all ; and not all fences are impossible. But, with 
everything in your favour, there wiir always be four 
or five who will be alongside hounds when you struggle 
up. These will nearly always be the same men, 
for they will have taken a line of their own, a thing 
which no amount of instruction can make any one 
able to do. It is, indeed, a combination of a faculty 
of horsemanship, knowledge of the country, pluck, 
judgment and experience, together with a good 
horse that can and will jump not only when, but 
also where, you want him to do so. 

Yet there are places which no one can get through 
quickly, whatever his qualifications. Such is the 
bottom between Burton Overy and Carlton Curlieu, 
and there is another somewhere near Tilton ; the 
Manton brook below Manton Gorse, and the second 
fence from Glooston Wood on the way to Keythorpe. 
Some of the bottoms can only be penetrated at one 
place and then but by a narrow slippery path, with 
a steep scramble on the far side of the muddy stream. 



220 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

In some parts an obstacle unjumpable may bring the 
whole field together at a gateway such as that from 
Sheepthorns to the pasture nearest to the Kibworth 
and Tur Langton Roads ; and then, with the best will 
and judgment in the world, it will take us time to 
work our way through, unless, indeed, we arrive 
there with the first half-dozen. 

But we must needs do what we can, and fortunately 
in hunting, as in life, there are more chances than 
one for most of us, if we have the courage, persever- 
ance and intelligence to take advantage of them. 



CHAPTER VIII 

A WEEK AT OAKHAM AND A GLIMPSE OF STAMFORD 

Rise of Oakham — The Surrounding Country — Monday with the 
Quorn or Cottesmore — Negotiating the Dykes— Wednesday 
with the Pytchley or Belvoir — Lord Exeter's proposed new 
Pack — Thursday with the Cottesmore or Mr. Fernie — Follow- 
ing a Single Pack — Advantages of so doing — Friday with the 
Quorn — Wardley Wood — The Busy Man — Capping — Stamford 
— Choice of Several Packs — The Fitzwilliam Hounds. 

The town of Oakham has risen into note as a hunt- 
ing centre within the last few years. No doubt it 
was known to many people before that. But it 
was not until the Cottesmore reached its present 
height of fame as a hunt that Oakham became fashion- 
able. Though a charming town and situated in 
the Vale of Catmose, which as a riding ground is not 
to be surpassed, it must, owing to its limited accom- 
modation, always be select in point of numbers. 
The town has, including the parish of Barleythorpe, 
a population of some four thousand souls. It is the 
very picture of a quiet market-town. It is reached 
by the Midland in from two hours to two hours and a 
half by fast trains from St. Pancras and by the G.N.R. 
from King's Cross. There are generally through 
carriages, and here, as elsewhere, both railway com- 
panies, the Midland and the Great Northern, are 
careful to consider the wants of hunting men as re- 
gards accommodation for both themselves and their 
horses. 



222 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

Oakham is the capital of the county of Rutland, 
the smallest, but one of the best hunted, counties 
in England. It is a district of strong woods, open 
pastures, and stout foxes. There is practically 
little or no wire in the county. The population 
favour hunting almost to a man, and from the 
great landowners to the men who work in the fields 
every one takes pleasure in the chase of the fox. 
Owing to the fact that the Noels and Lowthers were 
the founders of the Cottesmore Hunt, the country 
has had a larger proportion of local men as Masters 
of the hunt than some of its neighbours. The motives 
which would lead a stranger to choose Oakham as 
his headquarters would be a liking for quiet and 
a taste for hunting as well as riding. As a matter of 
fact, and putting aside all theories and fancies, those 
who hunt in Leicestershire are not, in the majority of 
cases, less fond than others of the working of hounds, 
but they like riding too. They like to see hounds 
working quickly. Indeed, just now, fox-hunting 
may be seen from Oakham in all its phases at its 
very best. But he who would hunt from Oakham 
must take time by the forelock and secure his quarters 
perhaps a year ahead. There are many other people 
who are aware of its attractions and equally eager 
to enjoy the sport of which it is the centre. The 
man, however, who has been fortunate enough to 
secure a lodging for himself and stables for his horses, 
which last should be the very best that he can afford, 
will spend his week as follows. On Monday he will 
have a choice sometimes, for the Quorn will be not 
seldom within reach, though it will necessitate a 
long drive or ride and an early start. Perhaps a 
horse-box to Melton would be the easier way of 
reaching hounds. The Cottesmore, however, have 



A WEEK AT OAKHAM 223 

shown such excellent sport of late on a Monday that 
very many people turn their horses' heads in that 
direction, bearing in mind that, although there may 
be a long trot in the morning, yet that the afternoon 
draw is likely to lead us homeward at night. The 
Cottesmore hunt in this direction right away to 
Lincolnshire. On Monday the hounds are often to 
be found in some of the big woodlands of the north- 
eastern part of their territory bordering on the Bel- 
voir country. Into the territories of that hunt they 
not seldom take back a travelling fox that has been 
driven over the border by the Duke of Rutland's 
pack. The going is often heavy, and, as the fen- 
land is approached, the man whose horse will not 
face the big dykes is apt to be left behind. Some 
of these dykes can be jumped by a bold horse, but 
in my Lincolnshire days I have seen horses, and 
notably a clever, well-bred, lop-eared mare belong- 
ing to a hard riding young farmer, slip neatly down 
one side, take a standing leap at the bottom, and 
scramble up the other. If a horse can and will do 
this, though it takes time, yet it occupies far less 
than dragging him out of a dyke with a team of cart 
horses, after an abortive attempt to fly a drain. 

The scent in this part of the country varies a good 
deal. At times hounds can run very fast and at others 
they have to work for every foot of ground they cover. 
When scent is such that hounds can go fast, horses 
are often reduced to a very steady pace by fields of 
holding plough or deep woodland rides. Thus the 
man who goes out simply for a gallop will not as a 
rule choose this side of the Cottesmore. On the 
other hand, there are great pleasures in store for 
those who love hunting, for they will see Thatcher 
and his dog hounds. This is a very killing pack. 



224 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

In 1901 they went out twenty-nine consecutive times 
early in the season and never once missed kilhng 
their fox. They are very handy, very full of drive 
and of a steady perseverance worthy of all admira- 
tion. There are often large gatherings on a Cottes- 
more Monday but never an overwhelming crowd. 
Even if there were, the big woods, the plough where 
it occurs and the ditches would soon spread it out 
and thin it down to manageable dimensions. It may 
well be imagined, then, in the case of a pack which 
is accustomed to drill its foxes and be drilled itself 
in the woods, that, although the coverts may be 
large, yet no undue time is wasted. Besides, a 
travelling fox may have come from the Melton side 
of the country, and so you may find yourself not 
seldom beginning the day in the woods, but finish- 
ing it over the best of grass. You may start in char- 
acteristic Lincolnshire surroundings, but finish over 
a typical Leicestershire country. When such an 
event does happen, it is likely to be one of the runs 
of the season. Of Tuesday I have no need to write, 
for on that day and probably on Friday the men 
of Oakham will find themselves meeting the Melton 
division, and the destinations of travellers from both 
towns will be the same. On Wednesday the Oakham 
man will either take a day off or go by train to swell 
the Pytchley crowd or will (and this is the most likely 
course) join the Belvoir in that Wednesday country 
of which I have written already. Thursday is a 
day when interests are sometimes divided, for, while 
no one would dream of missing a fixture in the Market 
Overton country, yet on that day hounds are some- 
times to be found in the less popular district border- 
ing on the Fitzwilliam Hunt in the country which 
some years ago used to be the Wednesday country. 



A WEEK AT OAKHAM 225 

The fact is that this part of the Cottesmore would 
be even better than it is — and the same is true of 
the eastern side — if it were hunted more. Lord 
Exeter, whose residence at Burleigh House has been 
marked by an immense improvement in the sport 
in his neighbourhood with both the Cottesmore and 
the Fitzwilliam, is now anxious to start a pack to 
hunt the eastern district, which, if not now exactly 
neglected, is nevertheless inadequately hunted, both 
for the sake of the education of the foxes and in the 
interests of the inhabitants. It is perhaps hardly 
necessary to say that the establishment of this pack 
would add to the hunting attractions of both Stam- 
ford and Oakham and would improve the sport in this 
eastern side of the Cottesmore. 

The counter-attraction to the Cottesmore on a 
Thursday for those who do not come into the Shires 
to hunt over plough or through woodlands is Mr. 
Fernie's Thursday fixture. The admirable country 
round Keythorpe, Skeffington, Goadby and Rolles- 
ton is well within reach on that day. Mr. Fernie's 
hounds will certainly give a gallop. There is no 
pack with which some good sport is more a certainty. 
But some men prefer, when they have settled them- 
selves in the centre of a hunting country, to follow 
the fortunes of a single pack. The truest pleasure 
is to be found in this. After a time we begin to 
know some at least of the best working hounds by 
sight. When we see these hounds leading, we know 
that all is well. When, after a check, they feather, 
we are sure that we are about to take up the thread 
of the sport again. If we have an ear for hound's 
voices, we recognise the notes of certain trusty ones 
among them. Altogether we begin to take a close 
and more intelligent interest in the pack of our choice, 

p 



226 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

and to exchange the feverish anticipation of our 
personal share in the sport for an observation of the 
doings of " our hounds " and " our huntsman." 
Directly we are able to do this, and yet not to be- 
come slow in a quick thing, we had better hunt every 
day we can and make our days as long as possible. 
Our enjoyment of hunting is at its zenith and we 
shall never have a better time. It so often happens 
that while we can still ride hard, we do not under- 
stand the science of hunting ; and when we have 
learned that, we can no longer ride near enough to 
enjoy it. But if it be our happy state to be able to 
do both, we shall be less fastidious about country 
and take our pleasure with the Cottesmore on Thurs- 
day wherever they may be. On Friday the Oakham 
visitor will find the Quorn the most convenient pack 
to meet. 

Of Saturday I have already written, and this last 
it may very well happen will be the very best day 
of the whole week. It can scarcely fail to be full 
of interest to the sportsman. It is one of the 
undoubted advantages that Oakham possesses over 
other centres that it is an easy ride from Wardley 
Wood and the surrounding country. I have heard 
this covert called by an enthusiastic and experienced 
sportsman the best in the whole district. But, while 
all is so good that it seems needless to compare, yet 
I agree that Wardley and Stoke are in a delight- 
ful corner of the hunt. Many a time have I left 
nearer fixtures and trotted ten or twelve miles only 
to see this wood drawn by the Cottesmore, and to 
follow, if so it might be, a hunt over the charming 
country round about. We may also note that Oak- 
ham is a peculiarly suitable place for the busy man 
who can give only one or two days a week to the 



A WEEK AT OAKHAM 227 

sport. The less often we can hunt, the more we need 
that the quahty of the sport should be of the best 
on those days that we can spare. Business men who 
are in a position to hunt from Oakham can generally 
spare Saturday, not seldom Friday as well, and 
sometimes Monday. Now, from Oakham these three 
days may all be enjoyed in the fairest country of 
the Cottesmore and the Quorn. Then the leisure 
which Christmas, and sometimes an early Easter, 
bring to the worker will certainly be spent as pleasantly 
here as elsewhere. Even the busiest man who can 
afford time to hunt at all will have more for his 
money. For him the capping arrangement will be 
convenient and perhaps economical. He pays strictly 
for what he has and, should he be unlucky in the 
matter of frosts and of a frugal mind, as perhaps a 
business man ought to be, he will, taking one season 
with another, under the new arrangement of a £2 
cap find himself free of obligations to the hunt for his 
sport at a comparatively moderate expense. 

There is, however, another place that can hardly 
be omitted from our list of hunting centres, though 
it lies very wide of the best country. This place is 
Stamford, which has some advantages over Oakham 
for the man who can pay only flying visits, in that 
it offers more hotel accommodation for the casual 
visitor. It is also an ancient and pleasant town. 
Stamford is about twenty miles from Melton and 
about ten from Oakham, and is directly connected 
with Market Harborough by rail. In the old coach- 
ing days it was more of a hunting centre than it is 
now, owing to its situation on one of the best-known 
routes. But if the Marquis of Exeter's hounds be- 
come an established fact, as may be well the case 
before this book is in the hands of the public, then 



228 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

Stamford will have an additional interest for hunting 
men. Even now there are the Cottesmore hounds, 
the Fitzwilliam and Lord Exeter's harriers. The 
Fitzwilliam are one of the great historic packs. The 
strains of " the Milton " are in all the famous kennels 
of England, and they rank with the Belvoir and the 
Brocklesby as among those packs to which the modern 
fox-hound traces his pedigree. Then the Woodland 
Pytchley are well within reach at times, so that the 
hunting man might employ his time very satisfactorily. 
There is one respect in which the Fitzwilliam are un- 
rivalled, and that is in the music of the pack. " Every 
hound threw his tongue at the top of his voice " was 
the description given me of them by a Leicester- 
shire man noted for hard riding, as well as for his love 
of the chase in all its many phases. Coming as he 
did from a rather silent pack, he told me the con- 
trast was delightful. Plenty of tongue is also needful 
if we are thoroughly to enjoy hunting round Stam- 
ford, for much of our time must be spent in big 
coverts, and there is surely no pleasure in hunting 
unless you know where the hounds are. Fortunately, 
too, the coverts are in the hands of men who love 
hunting, and Lord Exeter, at Stamford, and Mr. 
J. Hornsby, at Laxton Park, are determined to 
have foxes both numerous and (what is of more im- 
portance) wild. So well supplied are these coverts 
that, though the Cottesmore and the Fitzwilliam 
both draw them, Mr. Fitzwilliam was able to invite 
Mr. Fernie to have a day or two in the autumn and 
spring of 1902-3, and to give his hounds some of the 
woodland work which Mr. Fernie is unable to do in 
his own beautiful country. Stamford has an ex- 
cellent train service from King's Cross and St. Pancras. 
The journey occupies from two hours and a quarter 



A WEEK AT OAKHAM 229 

to two hours and three quarters by quick trains, and, 
if you halt at Peterborough, you will be able to visit 
the famous kennels of the Fitzwilliam at Milton, 
which are only about two and a half miles distant. 
There you will see a pack which, in spite of the ad- 
mixture of other blood, like all our famous family 
packs, has a marked character of its own. It seems 
as though the notable men who have had to do with 
these great kennels had given to the race of hounds 
an individuality of their own. The Belvoir, the 
Brocklesby, the Badminton, the Fitzwilliam, the 
Warwickshire are to a certain extent akin, but typical 
hounds from each kennel have an unmistakable 
stamp. Thus, the long, beautiful, springy neck, 
the combination of lightness and strength, and the 
large but not heavy and very intelligent head of the 
Fitzwilliam hounds are notable. Nor do I think 
it would be possible to mistake a Fitzwilliam hound 
whenever you saw him. I do not know that their 
standard is much higher in inches than that of any 
other pack, but it is certain that they look large, 
perhaps owing to the appearance of speed and power. 
The present master, Mr. Fitzwilliam, and Barnard, 
his huntsman, take the greatest interest in keeping 
up the standard. I have noted above that every 
great pack is the result of the work and judgment 
of one or more able huntsmen, and in the case of 
the Fitzwilliam the name of Sebright is most closely 
identified with the founding, and that of G. Carter 
with the later days, of the pack. The history of the 
Fitzwilliam pack and its origin is that it was founded 
on a blending of judicious mating with Brocklesby, 
Beaufort, and Belvoir blood, and suited to the country 
by a man who was well able to select his hounds 
right and fit them for the country they had to hunt 



230 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

over. " The dam is the thing " (the secret of breeding 
in a nutshell) was Tom Sebright's guiding principle. 
Like all great hound-breeders, he was a good hunts- 
man in the field and probably one of the very best 
who ever blew a horn (which he was not over fond 
of doing) in a big strong covert. The elders have 
told me that his hounds loved him and would fly 
to a touch on the horn or to his cheer. But we must 
not dwell on a hunt which is not within our limits, 
save for an occasional visit for the sake of finding our- 
selves on historic ground. It has only been included 
to give completeness to the information in this 
chapter. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE HORSE FOR THE GRASS COUNTRIES 

Intelligence of the Horse — Extreme Views — Breeding Hunters — 
Young Horses versus Old — The Day's Routine — Irish and 
Arab — The Right Horse for Leicestershire — Care of the 
Horse — Osbaldeston's " Cannon Ball " — A Description by 
Nimrod — Beauty and Strength — Big Horses the Best — Buy- 
ing and Selling — Educating. 

The objects of this chapter are sternly practical. 
In it we shall occupy ourselves only with the subject 
of horses to ride over the Midlands. I shall make no 
attempt to describe an ideal Leicestershire horse. 
There is, indeed, no one type of horse which is suit- 
able for every one, though there are of course certain 
points and qualities which we cannot do without. 
It is my object to find out what these are, and to 
this end I have gathered a number of particular 
instances, from which we shall find that, important 
as physical qualities are to a hunter, these are useless 
without those which we cannot call by any other 
name than mental gifts. 

It used to be the fashion with writers to eulogise 
the intelligence of the horse and possibly to exaggerate 
it. Nowadays it is rather the custom to depreciate 
the mental powers of the horse, to call him stupid 
and even senseless ; and the drivers of motor-cars 
desire to make out that he is a kind of machine, of 
which the boilers are always out of order and on 



232 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

which the levers refuse to act. The fact is that it 
is as impossible to generalise about the intelligence 
of horses as about that of men. In both cases, how- 
ever, we find after examining a number of cases 
that there is a sort of average of mental power, which 
may be counted on, and of stupidity, which must be 
reckoned with. In the horse, and more particularly 
in the hunter with which we are at present specially 
concerned, this average intelligence is increased by 
the influence of education and of heredity. 

I am not prepared to dogmatise about horse breed- 
ing in general or hunter breeding in particular, but 
on one point I am quite clear, and that is that, if 
we desire excellence in any particular quality, we 
must breed from parents which have a record of 
performances in the line we desire. I am sure that 
hunters should be bred from thoroughbred or half- 
bred sires which have won races or steeplechases, or 
at least run in such form as to prove their staying 
power and their courage, and from mares with a 
satisfactory record in the hunting field. We shall 
find, when we look back over the long string of horses 
that must have passed through the hands of any 
man who devotes his leisure to hunting and riding, 
that the variety of the intelligence of horses is as 
great as that of their make and shape, but that of 
both there is an irreducible minimum, without which 
there cannot be a hunter. The mental gifts, however, 
are indispensable, for I have known horses poorly 
shaped, at all events to the eye, to go well over a 
country, but I never knew a really stupid, silly, 
cowardly, or sour-tempered horse that was a safe 
conveyance. 

In looking back over the very many horses I have 
ridden, those that stand out in memory as of ex- 



HORSE FOR GRASS COUNTRIES 233 

traordinary excellence were all animals of consider- 
able intelligence within the limits of a horse's mind. 
And here I have a suggestion to offer to horse owners, 
and particularly to those who have large studs of 
hunters. I think it must have occurred to many 
men that young horses are more intelligent than 
older ones. Dick Christian has noted it in his own 
quaint and forcible style : " If they " (the old horses) 
" get into difficulties, blame me, they won't try to 
get out. They haven't the animation of a young 
horse. Those young 'uns will still try to struggle 
themselves right." But it certainly ought to be the 
other way, and indeed, with horses properly treated, 
it is so. 

Our treatment of horses is not such as is likely 
either to develop their minds or to make the best 
of such intelligence as they have by nature. In a 
large stud a horse spends a very small portion of 
his time in the hunting field and the rest in his loose- 
box or at exercise. He seldom sees or hears any- 
thing, and his life is monotonous in the extreme. If 
you ride about the roads round Market Harborough 
or Melton you will admire the magnificent grass 
sidings on either side of the well-kept roads. If 
you look more closely at these you will see that they 
are, by the beginning of the hunting season, scored 
by a number of narrow footpaths running in parallel 
lines. These are trodden out by the hunters at 
their daily exercise. Day after day the same weary 
round is followed by the strings of horses, generally 
at an early hour when they are unlikely to meet 
much on the road. Their lives are thus dull and 
monotonous to a degree, and it is small wonder if, 
like a man suddenly plunged from solitude into 
society, they do fooHsh things when they find them- 



234 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

selves in the bustle and crowd of the hunting field. 
I am strongly of opinion that many bad falls would 
be prevented if horses were treated in a more rational 
manner. The plan of turning hunters out to grass 
in the summer is bad for their wind and for their 
legs, but it is better for their minds than the dull 
sameness of the moss-littered box and the everlasting 
round on an oft-trodden road. With every want 
cared for, with his bodily powers kept at the highest 
point of health and condition, what outlet has a 
hunter for his mental activities ? In a wild, or semi- 
wild, state the struggle for existence is still a school 
for the mind, a stimulus to courage or cunning. A 
man with a neglected intelligence becomes stupid 
or develops faults or vices. Why, then, should we 
be astonished when horses show the same tendency ? 

The stupidity of the horse is often only the reflection 
of the limited intelligence of the man under whose 
care and in whose power he is. Nor is it fair to blame 
grooms as a class ; they are not seldom very intelligent 
men, but they cannot escape any more than the 
rest of us from the traditions of their occupation 
and the habits of their life. The master may be 
more intelligent than the man, but he acquiesces, 
whether through indolence or thoughtlessness, in the 
old routine. 

We often see it stated in books, or hear it said in 
the horse talk which is so common that we may 
be surprised it does not result in better manage- 
ment, that Irish horses with Arab blood or those 
descended from pony ancestors make the best hunters. 
Is not this simply because they are nearer to the 
time when the horse had to use his own wits ? The 
Irish colt, the Arab horse, and the hill pony all have 
to learn to take care of themselves, and they use 



HORSE FOR GRASS COUNTRIES 235 

their wits to save their necks and incidentally those 
of their riders. Every one knows how quickly Irish 
horses learn our Leicestershire fences. They are apt 
to drop their hind-quarters into them at first, feeling 
possibly for the familiar banks, but after a fall or 
two, seldom serious, they understand exactly how 
to manage. Some years ago I bought in Ireland a 
mare which was so much in the rough that oats were 
to her a novelty. There was no mistaking her clever- 
ness when she was tried over the fences of her native 
country. During the two seasons I rode her in 
England she gave me one fall, dropping her hind- 
legs on to a rotten bank in the Surrey Union Country 
and rolling over into the next field. The lesson 
was never forgotten. About the same time, or a 
little later, I had an ex-steeplechase horse. He 
had been admirably schooled, and, if you rode him 
straight and hounds went fast, he would stride over 
his fences in grand style, but he was a horse without 
resources, and, if you asked him to go slowly at a 
gap, to creep through an awkward bottom, or to 
jump out of a road, he was as likely as not to give 
you a fall. He was an old horse, and the mind had 
been drilled and droned out of him. 

For all practical purposes such a horse is useless 
in Leicestershire, where above all things you require 
a made hunter. You may ride a run which is straight 
and fast like a steeplechase once or twice in a month, 
but you will probably see a hunt every day you go 
out. On the horses with wits you may see every- 
thing ; on the other class of horse you must wait 
your chance and then, when hounds are running 
hard, catch him by the head and send him along, 
trusting in the extraordinary reserve of power that 
a blood horse has, and a little too to the chapter of 



236 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

accidents, to bring you safely to the end. " How 
do you ride over such big places at your age ? " was 
asked of a gallant old farmer who bred and rode for 
sale. " Well, sir, nowadays when I comes to a very 
big place I shuts my eyes, trusts a little in Providence, 
and leaves a deal to the horse." And this is what 
the rider of such a horse must do, at all events as to 
the latter part of the advice. 

It is from horses of this class that we often have 
our worst falls. They are easy and pleasant to ride 
when everything goes right, and a bold man who 
will sit still may often distinguish himself in a burst, 
which fills the rider with a misplaced confidence. 
But the downfall, when it does come, is generally 
a bad one, and sooner or later is bound to happen. 
Therefore I suggest that it is well to consider and 
to train the minds as well as the bodies of our horses. 
In Leicestershire a horse must be fit, or he is practi- 
cally useless. He has to gallop up and down steep 
hills and to jump forty or fifty more or less stiff 
fences, and all this at a pace which is often not very 
much slower than is required of a chaser. But we 
also want the horse to have his wits about him. 
Every one who has ridden to hounds for any length 
of time must, I think, realise with increasing cer- 
tainty how little the rider can do to help his horse. 

To sit still and leave his head free is the secret of 
few falls, and those few comparatively harmless. 
Of these the following is an example direct from 
the practice of one of the greatest huntsmen of our 
day. " Afterwards Lord Willoughby left his horses' 
heads much more alone and went much slower at 
his fences. This was, no doubt, the secret and the 
reason why he had so few falls and so few bad ones. 
He rode chiefly by balance, but at the same time 



HORSE FOR GRASS COUNTRIES 237 

was very secure. He leaned back a good deal at 
his leaps, so was seldom unseated and always gave 
his horses plenty of rope at the jumps." * Now, this 
is undoubtedly the right way, but it presupposes 
that the horse can take care of himself. It will be 
found that all the greatest riders to hounds adopted 
the same methods, but they almost always either 
bought good horses or made them. 

A horse that was stupid by nature or training 
would have beaten even such horsemen as Lord 
Willoughby, and indeed he had at least one horse he 
could not ride ; and everybody else would tell the 
same tale if their experiences were written down. 
Some horses, no doubt, like some men, are fools by 
nature, but many of both are made so by bad training. 
Now, I am not going to suggest any far-fetched 
methods of educating a horse. I believe in school 
training for the hunter as well as the charger or the 
hack, and I am sure that good results come from 
taking notice of your horses in the stable and speak- 
ing to them gently both out of doors and in. I have 
a habit myself, which I believe in greatly as estab- 
lishing a good understanding between the horses and 
their owner. During the hunting season my horses 
have a feed at ten p.m. This I generally give my- 
self, taking a stable lantern and the key and going 
round and feeding each horse and speaking to him 
when the stable is quiet. This may be merely a fad, 
and many people would not take the trouble about 
it ; but I am firmly convinced that it has made some 
eager, excitable horses much pleasanter to ride. 

But, putting on one side such fanciful practices, 
I believe greatly in a man hacking his hunters him- 

* •' Lord Willoughby de Broke : In Memoriam." Baily's Magazine, 
1903, p. 198. 



238 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

self if he lives in the country and in endeavouring 
to prevent the horses being taken the same round 
and on the dullest roads every day. I have known 
several men who drove their horses in harness, and 
I can see no objection in practice, though in theory 
of course it is objectionable. One friend takes them 
in the coach as leaders, and this is to my mind an 
ideal way for a hunter to spend his summer, provided 
his legs and feet are sound and healthy. If he has 
these, I am sure that by moderate work he is much 
more likely to keep them so than in a grass park or a 
moss-littered box. But even if I had to put the 
hunters in a brougham or a four-wheeled dogcart — 
I confess I do not like two-wheeled vehicles for riding 
horses — I would rather face the disadvantages of 
this than allow the horse to become dull and stupid 
in his box. To give as much change and variety, 
to let the horse see as many different sights and sounds 
as possible, is more important than almost anything 
else. 

The point which comes next is to consider what 
kind of horse ought to be found in our studs in the 
grass countries. Here I shrink from laying down 
any rules. Not only do horses defy the dogmatist 
by showing most unexpected qualities, but so much 
depends on the man. It is well, then, to take counsel 
with ourselves in solitude when we can afford to be 
quite honest and perfectly frank, and to consider 
what sort of horse we are really able to ride with 
pleasure and comfort. That is the first point to 
consider. We may not, very likely we shall not, be 
able to find exactly what we want, but at any rate 
we are more likely to do so if we have the Type clearly 
before our minds. 

The next points to consider are what we can afford 



HORSE FOR GRASS COUNTRIES 239 

to pay and how many horses we can keep. These are 
most important matters to a man who is thinking 
of a season in the Shires, for on the determination 
he comes to with regard to them will depend in all 
probability not only the place he selects to go to, but 
the amount of pleasure he will have when the serious 
business of hunting really begins. We will take these 
three points in order, and on our decision as to the 
kind of horse we want, or perhaps, to be more accurate, 
on the sort of horse we can ride, will depend in part 
the decision come to on the other points. 

As we have no occasion to make-believe, the first 
thing is to take stock of our own capacities as a horse- 
man. Here we may consider not only what we can 
do when fairly well mounted, but what experience 
we have had. For, without long practice in the 
hunting field, the faculty of taking not so much one's 
own line across country as the best and most effective 
line, is likely to be absent, and so is the rider during 
the greater part of the run. If, however, a man has 
hunted all his life, from the day when he scrambled 
about on a rough pony to the time when he contem- 
plated a season in the Shires, and if he can honestly 
say that no matter in what provincial country he 
has hunted he has generally been able to see the 
greater part of most good runs, he need not be afraid. 
He will be soon able to find his way across Leicester- 
shire as across his native fallow. Nor is it necessary 
to have learned horsemanship in the hunting field, 
for I have noted that men, like those from the colonies, 
accustomed to the saddle generally ride well over the 
grass. 

If, then, we have the skill and the experience, the 
best kind of horse is a big, bold, well-bred animal who 
will go where he is put without a lead. I say a big 



240 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

horse, because in the Shires I think a good big horse 
is better than a good httle one. Upstanding horses 
of 16.1-16.2 are the best, and I have known 17-hand 
horses which rode, as the saying is, hke a pony. Size, 
courage, and a fairly good temper are all we need look 
to unless we are millionaires. " Handsome is as hand- 
some does " is an excellent motto for the horse buyer 
who has to consider his purse. Many good horses are 
rather plain to look at. Read the following descrip- 
tion of a certain horse called Ferryman, which saw 
out the first and second horses in a great run in 
Northamptonshire. " He was a coarse, ugly, ragged- 
hipped chestnut horse, a very plain head, lean and 
long but beautifully hung on, as we say, to his neck, 
and with rather a Roman nose. Shoulders nearly 
perpendicular in front, but at the same time running 
far enough into the chine to come under the denomina- 
tion of lengthy ones. A very long shank bone with 
long elastic pasterns, a long back with an indifferent 
spur place, though not exactly light in his carcase ; 
quarters good, hocks lean and hind legs well bent under 
him." Now this horse had a great many good points. 
His shoulders indeed were not those which the late 
Lord Willoughby said were a luxury for the rich, but 
he could use them or he could not, as he did, have 
jumped a stiff stile out of deep ground at the end of a 
long day. Note too the long pasterns, and we shall 
not be surprised to learn that he was " the smoothest 
galloper over ridge and furrow I ever rode in my life." 
There is a point which is not mentioned in the above 
description, but which is of the greatest importance. 
Some of the best, and all the pleasantest, hunters I 
have ever ridden have been rather narrow between 
one's legs, but deep through the heart, and, for grass 
countries, I should say look out for depth rather than 



HORSE FOR GRASS COUNTRIES 241 

width. It may be recollected, too, that a horse which 
looks narrow and light will nevertheless gallop satis- 
factorily under a considerable weight if he is deep 
enough through the heart. For Leicestershire I do 
not dislike a horse with a small head, provided the eye 
is good and the head has " plenty of meaning in it." 
Yet in buying horses it is a mistake to be so set on 
one point, be it shoulders, or depth, or even the ex- 
pression of the head and the full eye, important as these 
are, as to refuse a horse absolutely because of some fall- 
ing off from our ideal. Hunting is not like polo, for in 
choosing ponies for that game we must remember there 
are some points without which it is a physical impossi- 
bility that a pony should be a good one. With hunters, 
on the other hand, we can overlook a great deal. 

We all know the story of Osbaldeston's famous little 
Cannon Ball horse, which was rejected by the Melton 
hard riders. 

" A sweet horse, but has not length enough for 
Leicestershire," said one ; while another brought his 
tape out and observed that the horse was a mere weed. 
The same day, during a run after a straight-necked 
Owston Wood fox, the weed jumped six gates in 
succession and went to the Squire for 200 guineas. 
Here is another description from Nimrod of a horse 
named Spring, which he considers to have been the 
best he ever had. " His head was long with rather a 
narrow and somewhat convex forehead, expressive of 
anything but good temper, a very small muzzle the 
colour of a hazel nut, and not large nostrils ; but his 
jaw bones were remarkably far apart and the setting 
on of his head and the form of his neck were perfect. He 
was not wide between my legs, but the depth and extreme 
declivity of his shoulders were such as to give his rider 
unbounded confidence in his strength of forehand in 

Q 



242 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

all his paces, and on all trying occasions. No part of 
his frame was wide but there was a little rise behind 
the saddle, or more properly speaking in the loins, the 
effect of which was powerfully felt by his rider. His 
quarters were rather short but his thighs long and 
muscular and his hocks fit for models. He had the 
knee of a wagon horse, a very sinall shankhone hut a large 
leg to span, and no day's work appeared to make the 
slightest impression on his legs, which from his standing 
over at the knee were always on the totter in the stable." 
The writer goes on to say that he had remarkably long 
fetlocks, to which he says, rightly, was to be attributed 
his very springy action as well as power in dirt. I 
have myself a great liking for long pasterns, even so 
long as to be regarded as weak, and an equal prejudice 
for work in the grass countries against pasterns in 
the least degree short and upright. I believe that 
long pasterns, from the ease and spring that they give 
to the action, are among the points that contribute to 
the staying power. 

But to return to Spring, I cannot imagine a better 
description, not indeed of an ideal, but of a likely 
Leicestershire hunter. I have italicised the points 
which made him what he was, and the reader will note 
those which might have caused a man who bought his 
horses by the look to turn away from him. His per- 
formances were notable ; no fence came amiss to him. 
He would refuse nothing he was ridden at and would 
do his best to get over it. Of his power of endurance 
we read that on one occasion, after having spent 
twenty minutes in the Cherwell and being nearly 
drowned, his master, with small credit to his humanity, 
rode him for a beautiful burst of eight or ten miles, 
" Spring going as if nothing had happened." He was 
an upstanding horse of about 15.3. 



HORSE FOR GRASS COUNTRIES 243 

It is in fact advisable to discard all prejudices and as 
a rule to turn a deaf ear to advice when buying a horse 
for Leicestershire. If a horse has a character, and 
you can ride him, he is worth a trial. Every one who 
buys horses must sometimes make mistakes. If, how- 
ever, a horse is otherwise a good one, though he does 
not cross the country quite to your satisfaction, it is 
well to take into consideration the horsemanship of 
his previous owner, for there are very few horses that 
can pretend to gallop or jump over Leicestershire that 
cannot be improved in the hands of a straight and 
bold rider. This, of course, would be a truism if I 
were referring to fine horsemanship, but I am now 
writing only of the will and the power to send a horse 
along. If my reader can do this, he may be sure that 
horses, otherwise fair, will improve in his possession. 

A man never knows what a horse can do until he 
really tests him. There is an excellent illustration of 
this in the story of the way the famous Dicky Bayzand 
made a hunter of Nimrod's red-legged mare in an hour. 
(She was a beautiful grey on a black skin, with one 
bright chestnut hinder leg and thigh, quite up to the 
stifle.) " With a skinful of wine we turned out about 
six o'clock in the evening of one of the last days in 
April to wind our way homewards not by the road, 
but as the crow flies, over that stiff vale between 
Tenbury and Ludlow, and there and then the educa- 
tion of the red-legged was completed. So straight- 
forward and so fearlessly did Dicky Bayzand put her 
along — no finer horseman than he was, but shy of 
unmade ones when sober — that she never offered to 
refuse another fence, and I afterwards called her a 
hunter." * 

It will be seen, then, that beauty by no means has 

* sporting Review, 1 840. 



244 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

the first place in the choice of a Leicestershire hunter. 
Indeed, when we see combined in one animal not 
merely the necessary points, the strength, the endur- 
ance and the speed combined with good looks, such a 
horse is apt to find a career in the show yard and to 
be lost to the hunting field. Horses, for example, 
like Mr. Cory's Gendarme, Sir Humphrey de Trafford's 
Brampton and Red Cloud would naturally be ridden 
with care and saved for the ring. If, when their show 
career was over, they should be put to hunting, they 
might easily be beaten in the field by horses that would 
stand no chance with them in the show ring. This 
fact — and fact it is — has really no bearing on the 
utility of horse shows, on the soundness or unsound- 
ness of the judgment of the judges, or even on the 
actual merits of the horses in question. It is quite 
right, if horse shows are to do their legitimate work, 
that a horse should be shown in top condition and 
with a bloom on him. The horse show is not intended 
as a competition for actual performances, but to set 
before breeders and dealers a living picture of the ideal 
hunter, a type or standard at which we ought to aim. 
It is quite true that, as I have written above, it 
would be foolish to reject a horse because he was 
rather plain. But a horse is none the better for being 
ugly ; indeed the ugliness is so far a sign of defects. 
The plain, or ugly, horse lacks that perfect symmetry 
which, in animals at least, often goes with consummate 
powers. To say that show horses are often of no use in 
the field is nothing to the purpose. The horse has 
been kept in lavender for the show yard and he lacks 
the experience in crossing a country which is as neces- 
sary to a horse as it is to his rider, if either are to 
become first-rate performers. It is very evident that 
a good hunter is always learning to measure his leaps, 



HORSE FOR GRASS COUNTRIES 245 

to economise his strength, and to ensure his safety. 
Compare the way the good, but inexperienced, horse 
bounds over a two-foot drain with the almost imper- 
ceptible way in which a trained hunter will glide over 
a fence, measuring the effort to a hair's breadth. Rut 
no horse that has spent his life cantering round the 
show ring can have the experience necessary to do 
this any more than a man could all at once take a line 
over Leicestershire who had, with whatever grace of 
seat or delicacy of hand, never ridden anywhere save 
in Hyde Park. We shall therefore, in looking for 
horses, look beyond mere beauty and avoid flat 
catchers if possible. 

I have said, and I believe with truth, that for a man 
who wishes to cross Leicestershire in the front rank, 
a big horse is better than a little one. But if you 
cannot find, as you very likely will not, a good big 
horse, why then a good little one is not to be despised. 
Naturally, little horses of excellence are commoner than 
big ones, and though I think on the whole that the 
majority of men who ride would agree with what is 
said above, yet I know that there are some people 
who prefer smaller horses. Nor in looking over a 
horse must we be guided by the eye alone, for a very 
true shaped horse often looks much smaller than he 
really is. There have been some very famous little 
horses too, such as Lord Howth's, The Slug, which was 
barely fifteen hands. He won many chases in Ireland, 
carried Lord Howth over the Belvoir country, was 
the only horse to jump the Smite at the end of a long 
day, and was for some time alone with hounds at the 
close of a hard run. Though he was so small, he 
stood over a great deal of ground. That is to say, 
he was a big horse on short legs, not at all a bad com- 
bination for a hunter. 



246 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that many small 
horses have gone well over Leicestershire, and with 
suitable weights even ponies of polo height have dis- 
tinguished themselves, yet I think that a hard rider 
can never hold that commanding position in a run 
on a small horse, however good, that he can on a big 
one. The lesser animal must screw through some 
fences and creep where the big horse can stride or 
crash through. Both may jump a big place in good 
style and land safely, yet the little horse has necessarily 
taken a great deal more out of himself in the effort. 
On the other hand, it may be argued with justice that 
the smaller horses often stay better than the big ones 
and that, as a rule, they come round again sooner 
after a hard day. Other things being equal, then, the 
smaller horses will give you more hunting than the 
larger ones. I knew well a most brilliant horse, a big, 
tall, rather narrow animal, that was a most perfect ride 
in fast gallops with the Quorn, with which he was 
hunted. But he could not be depended on to come 
out more than about once a fortnight if he had had 
anything like a hard day. On the other hand, I have 
known small horses that would do a fair day's work 
twice a week and seem none the worse for it. 

Even in Leicestershire, for a man who does not 
mean to ride quite in front but who wishes to see a 
great deal of sport with a small stud, smaller horses 
will enable him to go out more often in proportion 
to the size of his stud than big ones. This question 
is to a certain extent independent of weight, for I 
notice that first-flight men and women, even though 
comparatively light weights, ride as a rule big, well- 
bred horses up to about fourteen stone to look at. 
Mr. Tailby is a noted instance of a light weight who 
always rode big horses, and most of my Leicestershire 



HORSE FOR GRASS COUNTRIES 247 

readers will note that big upstanding horses find 
favour with some of the most brilliant of the ladies 
who ride to hounds in the grass countries. If, how- 
ever, a man or woman hunting in the Shires does not 
mean to take the country as it comes, but to make 
a way over it by a gate here, a gap there, or a jump 
when the fences are of ordinary compass, then a small, 
quick, handy horse will be at once the pleasantest and 
the most effective mount. 

As we grow heavier we shall find out that a horse's 
power of carrying weight is by no means in proportion 
to his inches. But there is one thing that seems to 
me to be quite clear, and this is that, big or little, 
the horses should be as good as possible. While I 
do not for a moment question the fact that bargains 
have been picked up and that good horses have been 
bought for little money, I do not think that in these 
days of great demand and moderate supply, horses 
with anything like the power and quality for Leicester- 
shire can often be bought cheaply. The majority of 
people have only a certain sum available for the pur- 
chase of horses, and this will bring more pleasure and 
satisfaction if it is laid out on a few really good horses 
than on a larger number of indifferent ones. It is 
better surely to hunt more seldom, but to have a 
reasonable chance of seeing the sport, than to go out 
every day and seldom see a moderate hunt to our 
satisfaction and never a good one at all except from a 
back seat. 

Quality rather than quantity must be the motto of 
the man who would enjoy his season in the Shires. In 
the same way it is wise for the ordinary man to keep 
a good horse when he has one. " I will give you 400 
guineas for your horse," said a rich man and a good 
judge to a younger one who had been well carried. 



248 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

" Thank you," was the answer, " but if he is worth 
400 to buy, he is worth keeping to ride." There are 
men who are obhged to sell when they have the chance, 
but it is not the best plan, even for the fine riders. 
Of course if a man uses his pluck and skill in horse- 
manship to diminish his expenses, there is nothing to 
be said. But the ordinary person will not make much 
money, and is very likely to lame his horses and to 
break at least his collar-bone if he pursues the will-o'- 
the-wisp of coping in the hunting field. The sport, 
as much sport as possible and nothing else, should be 
the standard set before himself by the man who would 
really enjoy his hunting. When we consider the 
charm of the sport and the comparatively small 
amount of it that we can enjoy in an ordinary lifetime, 
it seems hardly worth while to waste our energies 
on buying and selling horses, at which game the pro- 
fessional will always beat us. I cannot think that a 
certain noble duke was wise when he said, " I will 
buy no more made horses. I am young enough to 
make my own, and I will do so." There is, no doubt, 
a pleasure in making horses, but there are very many 
who can ride a made horse creditably who only spoil 
their horses and their own riding when they try to 
school hunters for themselves. 

I do not deny that there is a great pleasure in 
making a hunter out of a raw four-year-old, and a 
still greater in riding one that we have schooled our- 
selves, but this is not for the majority, at least until 
horsemanship, as compared with fair riding, is much 
commoner than it is at the present time. Many men 
never climb into a saddle between one hunting season 
and another, and first-rate riding is one of those things 
that need constant practice. Nowadays, it is true, 
the game of polo does much to raise the average of 



HORSE FOR GRASS COUNTRIES 249 

horsemanship, especially among the younger men. 
The game perfects the balance, gives freedom to the 
body, teaches us (sometimes) to have a light hand, 
and makes a man sit close yet easily in his saddle. 
As Dick Christian said, it " makes them set at liberty 
on a horse. A man's body should be all loose but he 
should be firm in his thigh. You shouldn't be able 
to see under 'em when you're behind 'em." There is 
the polo and the hunting seat in a nutshell ! 



CHAPTER X 

THE HORSE FOR THE GRASS COUNTRIES {continued) 

Performance and Pedigree — Shape — Mares — Necessary Qualities 
for Leicestershire — Fences — Where to Buy — The Right Breed 
— Yorkshire — Cheshire — Leicestershire — Arabs — Dealers — 
Judging a Horse — Prices — Care in Choosing. 

II 

There are two considerations of importance in choosing 
a horse on which to ride across Leicestershire that I 
should put before anything else. First, the animal's 
own performances, for you are naturally not coming 
to Melton or Harborough to ride unmade horses ; and 
secondly, if you have to buy a horse without seeing 
him in the field or having a trial, do not take one that 
has not a pedigree with some racing or hunting names 
in it. But supposing that you see a horse that you 
like in the summer, when the opportunities of trying 
him over a country are limited — never mind about 
trials over made-up fences, I have known many bad 
hunters to perform exceedingly well over artificial 
jumps — the best test is to take a horse on to a ridge 
and furrow pasture on a hill side and walk, trot and 
canter him up and down the crossway of the furrows. 
This ought to tell you a great deal about him, more 
indeed than any other one test can possibly do. 

If I were asked to buy a horse from one point only, 
or perhaps it would be more sensible to say, were I 




Front a photograph by T. Prichard, Newport. 
A TYPICAL HORSE 




A BRILLIANT PERFORM LR 



Plate XIII 



HORSE FOR GRASS COUNTRIES 251 

asked which point of a horse I consider indispensable 
to a Leicestershire hunter, I should answer the way 
the head and neck are put on to the shoulders. I 
have seldom known a first-rate horse without the 
long neck well set on, springing elegantly (there is no 
better word) from the shoulders and joining grace- 
fully to the throat ; and if to this a long, lean, sensible 
head is attached, the chances are you have a good 
horse. As to shoulders, the only safe thing to say is 
that you can know nothing about them till you sit 
behind them and know whether the horse can use 
them or not. Indeed, with the exception of the neck 
and head, we have only to think of other points, and a 
cloud of exceptions will rise up before the mind of 
horses apparently defective yet really excellent. 

There are, in fact, many things, to which we should 
object in the show ring, which are ensured by and 
compensated for by other excellences. For example, 
there is the old question of large or small feet, yet one 
of the best mares that I ever rode had notably small 
feet. In regard to this point, it may be said that in 
Leicestershire, and especially High Leicestershire, in 
most years we are going on the top of the ground. 
Then I like mares, and, though some people have a 
prejudice against them, I think they are mistaken 
unless they themselves or their grooms have a pain 
in their tempers. Mares will not stand knocking about, 
either in or out of the stable ; but gentle, kindly 
usage is absolutely necessary in their case as it is, 
of course, advisable with all horses. But, as I look 
back over the past and the memory pictures of the 
favourites of those times stand out, the majority of 
them are mares. There was the chestnut mare, never 
sick or sorrow, that carried an undergraduate with the 
Bicester and the Heythrop, never turned her honest 



252 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

head from a fence, and never seemed weary or un- 
willing when hounds ran. There was the first polo 
pony that never refused to go into a scrimmage or to 
go up to the ball ; could run leader or tandem ; do a 
day with hounds ; or win a galloway race as required ; 
and was a hack that trod on air. There was a stolid 
mare from Ireland, that never made but one mistake, 
never jumped an inch higher than need be nor wasted 
her strength, but whom no double in the Vale of 
Aylesbury could daunt. There was the Irish cob, who 
hunted on a plough country every Monday for a season, 
was never far from hounds, and seldom had less than 
sixteen miles home at night. There was Grey Miranda, 
sweetest of polo ponies and keenest of leaders in a 
tandem. At her own pace, a hard canter, which 
people said was a gallop, she was hard to beat as a 
leader. Many more there are, which I have almost 
forgotten, but which did their work honestly and 
passed away. It was and is, however, the mares that 
leave the brightest recollections of past pleasures with 
them. Nor do I doubt that this passage will stir up 
many a memory in the minds of readers of this book. 
Now we have arrived at this point that, while to 
describe a Leicestershire hunter is impossible, as any 
one will see who goes to a meet and notes the variety 
of horses assembled there, there are certain qualities 
without which a horse is useless in that country. In 
the first place, he must be fast. This is a pitfall into 
which many of us have fallen in the past, and which 
will entrap many more men in the future, for people 
do not realise how fast hounds travel on the grass 
with an even moderate scent nor how very much 
faster they go than in countries where the average 
pace is reduced at not infrequent intervals by ploughed 
fields. That the hounds in Leicestershire are better 



HORSE FOR GRASS COUNTRIES 253 

than elsewhere, putting aside such famous packs as 
the Belvoir and the Warwickshire, I should not like 
to say, nor that they are faster ; but still the fact 
that they are on grass makes the average of pace 
much faster, and a horse is kept much more on the 
stretch. Thus a Leicestershire hunter is required not 
only to gallop, but to gallop on. Let me take an 
instance. Suppose we have a fair scenting day and a 
good fox in a provincial country, and hounds run for 
half-an-hour. We have a start and are with the pack, 
but the little checks and pauses will come often and, 
although the huntsman may never need to cast his 
hounds from start to finish, we shall have many a 
chance to pull back into a canter, or even a trot, or to 
slip through a gate without losing our place and thus 
in a multitude of ways to save the horse while we have 
been with hounds all the time. But now, let us 
suppose that we have started with the pack from 
Barkby Holt, or Kibworth Sticks or Sheepthorns. In 
each case the line will probably be over a perfectly 
rideable country. There is a scent ; fox and hounds 
race away. Well, the chances are that for twenty 
minutes we shall scarcely have a chance even to take 
a pull, for we must ride straight or we shall lose hounds 
altogether. Hounds can beat horses, and thus the 
pack often has so long a start that all the hovers 
and momentary checks and casts are no advantage to 
the horse, save to enable us to stay with hounds. 
There is no chance to have a pull, for the horse is 
galloping and jumping all the time. This is what 
finds out the useful provincial hunter, " a very good 
horse at the pace he can go," and I am sure that 
an experience of my own will be confirmed by that of 
many others. With two horses that had done well 
in a by no means easy country, I came to Leicester- 



254 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

shire after an absence of many years. The horses 
were hunters and the fences they could manage, but 
it was the pace that beat them. They fell not because 
the fences were too big, but because the pace was too 
fast for them. 

A horse, then, must be able to stay, and to do this 
he must have condition. It is, however, a mistake to 
condemn a new purchase too hastily because he stops 
in a hard and fast run. I have heard or read some- 
where of a purchaser giving ;^20 to a dealer to take 
back a horse that had stopped under him, when in 
fact the horse was only short of condition. We have 
in very many cases to make our horses fit after we 
buy them. Irish horses are seldom fit to go over 
Leicestershire when they first come over the Channel, 
and the same is true of horses bought in the provinces 
and from dealers. In buying horses, we want to look 
ahead and to remember that a horse takes time to be 
equal to the strain of a fast gallop over the ridge and 
furrow and undulating lands of the Shires. 

Then a horse should be temperate and go up to his 
fences collectedly not only because one that rushes 
is dangerous, but also because he is sure to beat him- 
self. In the crowds that cannot be avoided in Leicester- 
shire a violent horse is dangerous, but here again it is 
wise not to condemn a new horse too hastily. I have 
known horses, which had been perfectly temperate 
and easy to ride in their own country, become so 
excited in a crowded field as to be almost useless. 
But if this is merely the nervousness of a high-strung 
horse in unfamiliar conditions, then patience and 
perseverance will usually work a cure. We all re- 
member how Mr. Assheton Smith sent one horse home 
for this fault several times. Some horses are very 
violent unless they can see hounds, but once indulge 



HORSE FOR GRASS COUNTRIES 255 

them with a sight of their friends and they sober 
down. Whether it is pleasure at the sight of a 
pack of hounds, or whether it is prudence arising from 
the suggestion to the horse's brain of hard work to 
come, I cannot say. " Too much foresight for a 
horse " it may be objected to the latter. Well, we 
know he has a wonderful memory ; so why should 
he not be able to look forward a little ? Horses do 
know when it is a hunting morning. At all events one 
horse I have in my mind did so. Violent enough at 
other times, he was perfectly quiet when he saw hounds. 
In any case, whatever the cause that makes a horse 
pull, it is necessary to be able to control him, and I 
know nothing better after all in ordinary cases than a 
long-cheeked curb with the lower rein passed through 
the rings of a running martingale, a gag where it is 
required, and one of Mr. Stokes's bits (made by Clarke 
and Son of Market Harborough) for more difficult 
cases. In all these instances we can regulate the 
pressure according to the necessity. But I am not 
going to discuss the problem of the pulling horse, 
except to say that if you can master him, well and 
good ; if you cannot, Leicestershire is no place for a re- 
solute, self-willed, pig-headed puller. Multum in Parvo, 
on one of his going days, would have killed some one 
to a certainty and very likely broken his own neck. 

We have seen too that a horse must be, or at least 
should be, fairly sensible and intelligent, which a certain 
class of puller seldom is. A horse may catch hold 
because he is keen, or excitable, or sometimes because 
his teeth or mouth hurt him, or because he is un- 
suitably bitted ; but a pig-headed puller is intolerable, 
and so is a stupid horse. I have known a horse that 
was really an idiot and could not take care of himself. 
He might rise at a fence, or he might not. On the 



256 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

other hand, some horses will watch hounds and follow 
their movements, turning as they turn, and I well 
remember a very keen and clever little horse which 
jumped a stiffish fence with a friend of mine and, 
finding that hounds were running on the side he had 
left, insisted on jumping back again, not altogether 
to the satisfaction of the rider. 

If you have an intelligent horse, as has already 
been said, it is worth while to try to cultivate and keep 
his mental faculties bright and clear. 

A horse should, of course, be able to jump timber, 
and one that will not do this is no use in Leicester- 
shire. Rails are not infrequent and sometimes they 
are the easiest, and often the only, way out of a field. 
True, timber is not quite so frequently leaped since 
people gave up jumping gates. Most people prefer 
hedges to gates nowadays, but it is said, I think in 
Mr. Cuthbert Bradley's " Reminiscences of Frank 
Gillard," that the late Duke of Rutland used often 
to jump five or six in a day's hunting. In Nimrod's 
time a horse was expected as a matter of course to 
jump a gate if required. Once, when the famous 
writer lived at Bilton Hall, he was pursued by bailiffs. 
The story goes that he met one of these gentlemen 
in a lane and putting the young horse he was riding at 
a high gate cleared it, and then turning in his saddle 
observed pleasantly to the bailiff, " Was not that well 
done for a young one ? " But if gates are nowadays 
more often opened than leaped, rails and stiles are as 
stiff as ever and are not more often shirked, so that 
a Leicestershire horse must be able to jump them. 

Having made up our minds what we want, and 
determined to buy our horses more for what they are 
and what they can do than for what they look like, 
where shall we get them from ? By far the majority 



HORSE FOR GRASS COUNTRIES 257 

of hunters come from Ireland, or are said to do so ; 
some from Yorkshire, others from Lincolnshire. Com- 
paratively few are bred in the last-named county- 
nowadays. There are, and always have been, some 
good horses bred in Shropshire, and I have been 
told that there are worse mounts than a Herefordshire- 
bred horse that has been schooled over that country. 
I have seen a few good ones out of Devon, and I hope 
that I shall not be accused of riding a hobby too 
hard if I say that in these wilder countries it is 
the admixture of pony blood that makes the horses 
what they are. I think this was pointed out by G. S. L. 
in some admirable papers on hunter breeding in 
the Field. I did not then, I am sorry to say, bind 
my Fields as I do now, so I cannot refer to them. 
But for any one with access to a file of that journal, 
the papers are well worth reading. 

Of course the question arises, " How should a horse 
be bred for the Shires ? " Probably the best horse 
of all would be a thoroughbred horse, and there have 
undoubtedly been some excellent hunters of that 
class. But they are very few, and when such horses 
are found they command very high prices. The 
ordinary light, rather weedy blood horse is not a 
favourite. He is rather apt not to rise at his fences, 
and he has not the weight to crash through a thorn 
fence, and his delicate skin makes him rather shy 
of thorns. He is sometimes fretful and uncertain in 
his temper. Nevertheless I can remember one good 
one. He was bought for a small sum as a three 
year-old out of a selling race, in which he ran fourth. 
Falling into judicious hands, he was made quiet and 
reasonable by careful hacking and steady light work 
about a farm. In the course of his daily rides he 
learned the rudiments of fencing and, when five years 

R 



258 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

old, he saw hounds in the cub-hunting season. His 
rider had the luck to drop into a nice little early 
gallop, starting alongside a musical pack and riding 
with them over a very practicable line of country 
for fifteen or twenty minutes. The little horse — 
he was only about 15.2 — caught hold of his bridle 
and entered heartily into the fun of the thing ; and 
there was henceforth no trouble in making a hunter 
of him. He was a most sensible little horse, never 
very fast, but quick and full of sense, and one of the 
readiest horses possible at getting himself out of a 
difficulty. Yet, on the whole, thoroughbred horses 
of the right stamp are not sufficiently often met with 
to be taken into consideration. 

The commonest and best type of hunter for general 
purposes is the well-bred horse by a thoroughbred 
sire known to have jumping blood, out of a hunting 
mare. This is how most Irish horses are bred ; so 
are most of the excellent horses which have come 
from the Holderness country. These are among the 
best that Yorkshire sends, and they generally reach 
us through the medium of a dealer. The famous 
prize-winner Gendarme was bred in Yorkshire. I 
have seen and judged some good horses in Cheshire 
too, but a proportion of these at all events come from 
Ireland. Leicestershire has had a few good ones, 
the prize-winner St. Donats being foaled within three 
miles of Market Harborough ; and Mr. Fernie's 
Barbarian has sired some good stock, notably Stella, 
an excellent stamp of hunting mare, the property 
of Mr. Roe of Cranoe. Visitors to the Melton and 
Market Harborough Shows will be sure to see some 
excellent young stock. 

I have also known some capital hunters sired 
by Arabs. These are notable for their endurance, 



HORSE FOR GRASS COUNTRIES 259 

the corky way they come home after a hard day, 
and the rapidity with which they come round again 
after hard work. I have had two in my time, and 
both were excellent and up to a great deal more 
weight than they appeared to be. Half-bred Arabs 
are a little inclined to rush at their fences if they are 
allowed to do so ; but they are amenable to gentle 
handling and are very clever at putting their feet 
down. You never see them blundering into the 
debris of a broken gate or hurdle, and they are de- 
lightfully springy. They have, I think, a very unusual 
amount of sense in those long, lean, intelligent heads 
of theirs. There are, naturally, not very many of 
them, but there is a good deal more Arab blood about 
than is usually suspected ; and those who have known 
the Arab at home will not fail to recognise his char- 
acteristics when they appear. The Arab is a very 
prepotent race, and his descendants throw back in 
a remarkable way to their Eastern ancestors. 

The next question that naturally arises is as to the 
choice of where the horses are to be bought. The 
visitor will do well to buy horses that know the 
country, and, making up his mind to pay a fair price, 
will find that certain well-known dealers will be able 
to supply him with what he wants. Mr. Hames of 
Leicester, Mr. Stokes of Market Harborough, Mr. 
Drage of Daventry, are all men of note in their busi- 
ness, and the two last named are most successful ex- 
hibitors of hunting stock. All thoroughly understand 
what a Leicestershire hunter ought to be, and their 
advice may be sought and followed with confidence. 
Then there are Mr. P. V. Beatty of Market Harborough 
and Mr. Cowley of Braybrooke. Both these gentle- 
men ride hard and well over a country, and are quite 
able to estimate both the wants and the capacities 



26o FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

of a man in search of a horse. Mr. Ansell, of Leaming- 
ton, too, bears a name which is well known in India. 
Several of these gentlemen will supplement a weak 
stable with a hireling that is likely to be quite as 
good as anything that we have in our own boxes, and 
that is, at three guineas a day, a by no means expen- 
sive ride. But if the visitor is a man of judgment, 
or thinks that he is, there is an alternative method 
of mounting himself. There are the repositories of 
Tattersall, and of Messrs. Warner, Sheppard and 
Wade at Leicester. The gathering at the latter 
place on a Saturday, when the hunting season is at 
its height and one or two good studs are to be sold, 
is worth seeing, and there at different times, when 
some famous stud is to be dispersed, the leading 
masters of hounds and the riders of Melton, Harborough 
and Rugby, the Quorn, the Cottesmore, Mr. Fernie's 
and the Pytchley meet on common ground. To 
make the scene complete, the horses may be sold from 
the rostrum by the secretary of a famous hunt or by 
the master and huntsman of a well-known pack, 
whose voice cheers on the slack bidder, as in other 
scenes it rouses to keenness his own beautiful hounds. 
Altogether the Leicester repository is a very pleasant 
place if you do not happen to be hunting on Saturday. 
Also it is an excellent place to buy a horse. You will 
often have the chance of buying horses with a char- 
acter from a stable of established reputation. If you 
have any doubts as to soundness, you can have ex- 
cellent advice from Mr. Simpkin, the hard-riding 
veterinary surgeon of Harborough, who always attends 
there. Such horses are seldom cheap, even if you 
buy them at the end of the season and keep them until 
the next. Every really first-rate horse is known, even 
the good roarers or whistlers being marked down. 



HORSE FOR GRASS COUNTRIES 261 

The risk of failure is, of course, greater at the repository 
than if you buy of a first-rate dealer. You cannot 
have a trial, for one thing, nor can you have the long 
experience and judgment of the dealer, which in the 
case of those I have mentioned above is well worth 
buying. Nevertheless, if any one were to tell me that 
some pleasure is lost by not choosing your own horses, 
I should agree ; and I may point out that to be a judge 
of a horse is to a great extent a matter of practice and 
experience. Without seeking the one or undergoing 
the other, we can never acquire the gift. For a man 
who means to make hunting his amusement each suc- 
cessive winter, it will be well worth while to acquire 
the necessary knowledge of horse-flesh. For the ex- 
perience and the knowledge he will have to pay, no 
doubt. The amateur, and the professional too for 
the matter of that, will continue to make mistakes to 
the end of the chapter, and he is the best judge and 
will lose least money over his horses who makes the 
smallest number. 

At this point, I have no doubt the reader will ask 
what price he ought to pay for his horses. This is a 
difficult question to answer, since the reply depends 
on many circumstances. The best way for those who 
have the space and the means to keep them is to buy a 
suitable horse whenever they see him in the spring and 
summer, and to make acquaintance with their pur- 
chases before hunting begins. Those that do not suit 
should be rigidly weeded out, our object being sport 
not profit. It will then probably be found that by 
the beginning of the hunting season the six or seven 
horses which are retained will have averaged about 
200 guineas apiece. If the horses are not bought till 
the autumn, you must add another fifty to the average 
at least. The price of hunters for Leicestershire 



262 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

ranges from 150 guineas up to 450, Anything above 
that is a fancy price for an exceptionally gifted animal, 
or at least one that has a reputation of the highest 
class, or combines quality and weight-carrying power 
in an unusual degree. If the horses are bought from 
dealers or at repositories, as you find the opportunity, 
from 150 to 250 or 300 is about a fair price for a fourteen- 
stone horse practically sound and suitable for the 
country. Light-weight horses and those with certain 
failings can be bought for less money, and I have 
known from personal experience a stableful of brilliant 
and useful crocks to average ninety-six guineas at 
the end of October. Such horses we may buy be- 
cause our purse compels us, but no one would choose 
them deliberately. Yet they are probably the best 
for those who cannot afford to buy the well-bred, 
accomplished hunter which is most suitable for the 
Shires. Three or four such have I known which had 
each their good times. One was a raking thorough- 
bred that could fly his fences and beat most horses for 
twenty minutes, but needed a fifty-acre field to turn 
in. Another had a complicated buck ; while a third, 
a thoroughbred mare, made a noise that literally " did 
not stop her," but then no bit would do so either ; 
while the fourth was a nervous horse in a crowd, but 
a wonderful galloper and fencer that no human being 
could hold for ten minutes or so. When he had, so 
to speak, blown off the steam, he became a pleasant, 
safe, and much-enduring mount. But his owner has 
confessed to me that the anticipation of riding him 
until the critical ten minutes were over was not an 
additional cause of appetite at breakfast. No one 
who is not obliged should ride horses like this. The 
way of the screw-driver, like that of transgressors, is 
hard. Many of us have to follow it, but its diffi- 



HORSE FOR GRASS COUNTRIES 263 

culties increase as time goes on. Yet I frankly confess 
after many years of horses of all kinds (except the 
best), that to ride such horses is very much better than 
not to hunt at all, and greatly intensifies the pleasure 
of occasional rides on the perfect animals that some- 
times come one's way. But all the more do I dissuade 
the beginner from such practices, and regard as some- 
thing less than wise the man who does not mount 
himself as well as he can afford to, and chooses his 
horses with less thought than he gives to his cigars 
or his wines. I do not think Leicestershire is the 
place for the man who wants to hunt cheaply, unless 
he is an unusually fine horseman and a very brave man. 
Of course, in a book like this one can only deal 
with general principles, and therefore I should not be 
moved from this conviction by any number of ex- 
ceptions that might be brought forward. They are 
exceptions, and most of us are not. Every one who 
makes up his mind to hunt comfortably in the Shires 
must put £1000 in his pocket to spend on his horses, 
and, allowing for casualties and depreciation, they 
should be worth three-fourths of that sum at any 
given moment when they were sent up for sale. They 
might of course be worth less or more, but that I think 
will be found a fair average calculation of the outlay 
on horseflesh and rather under than over the mark as 
an estimate. 



CHAPTER XI 

SPORT IN THE SHIRES 

Impression of the Newcomer — The Horses — The Hounds — A 
Bitch Pack — Businesslike Procedure — A Find and a Kill — 
Another Typical Run — Home. 

The reader who has not been in the Shires before will 
necessarily wish to know what kind of sport to expect. 
He will find plenty of descriptions of brilliant runs 
and wonderful gallops in the newspapers. It is 
natural perhaps for the writers to magnify their office, 
but still I think it may be said that in the leading 
papers the stories of the hunts, as they are written 
season by season, are very excellent contemporary 
pictures of hunting. The runs are described in most 
cases by men who have a lifelong experience of the 
sport and have taken a more or less active part in 
the scenes which they endeavour to depict. 

Perhaps the first impression that a meet in Leicester- 
shire would make on the newcomer would be rather 
the businesslike character of the men and the horses 
than the splendour of the scene. Crowds as great 
may be seen elsewhere ; quite as many people, for 
instance, in Cheshire and nearly as great a gathering 
to meet the Duke of Beaufort's hounds. Nor will 
the turn-out of the establishment and its followers 
be different from anything that you will see in any 
well-conducted hunt. Everything is for work and 

not for show. 

264 



SPORT IN THE SHIRES 265 

It has already been noted that a Leicestershire horse 
may or may not be handsome, but he must be some- 
thing more than useful, and he must be thoroughly 
fit to go, neither above himself for want of work nor 
stale from too much of it. Many of the horses are 
splendid specimens of weight carriers, for most men 
who can afford it like to have horses up to rather 
more than the rider's weight. The perfection of 
Leicestershire condition is to have a horse a little 
high in flesh with a thoroughly solid substratum 
of muscle. It may be taken as a general principle 
that a horse high in flesh will carry more weight 
than one which works fine. This is the point where 
the skill of the first-rate Melton trained groom comes 
in. It will be seen in the case of the hunt horses 
which, in spite of all their work, generally have a 
bloom on them. You could not indeed do better 
than look over such horses as Mr. Fernie finds for 
Charles Isaacs or Mr. Hanbury for Arthur Thatcher, 
and then keep the type in your mind for future 
reference. 

The hounds, however, cannot fail to attract your 
attention. With a beautiful bloom on their coats, 
and in the perfect condition which is the first neces- 
sity for a pack in the Shires, they look like speed 
and staying. But it is not till you gaze closely at 
them that you note this latter quality, for the grace 
and elegance of their build gives them an appearance 
of lightness. Yet, with a careful examination, you 
will see the bone and muscle, and, should you at any 
time pay a visit to the kennel and have the opportunity 
of passing your hand over them, you will find out 
what substance a modem fox-hound has. The bitches 
look lighter than the dogs, but they have in proportion 
as much bone as their brothers. The extreme wisdom 



266 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

and solemnity of the expression of the dog pack 
give them an appearance of size and solidity even 
out of proportion to their inches, while the keen 
and wistful look of the bitches, with their lighter 
heads, suggests rather the idea of grace and speed 
than strength. 

One of the most perfect things in the whole of 
the sport of fox-hunting is to see a well-bred pack 
of bitches after their fox when the scent is sufficient 
to enable them to hunt, but not strong enough for 
them to race. There are days, but they are rare 
here as everywhere, when hounds simply tear along 
straining, as if the scent was so delicious they could 
not have enough of it. Then the foxchase becomes 
a steeplechase, in which the thoroughbred horses 
and the light weights come to the front. There are 
perhaps twenty men in the front rank riding almost 
in line and taking each fence as it comes. One falls ; 
another refuses, or his horse does ; a horse stops for 
want of condition, or is outpaced ; and, perhaps 
of the twenty, twelve are actually there to see the 
hounds run into their fox at the end of five-and- 
twenty minutes. It is a hard and brutal fact that 
of the three hundred people who started, two hundred 
and eighty have never seen the hounds at all till 
they dribble up into the field where the huntsman 
is breaking up his fox. This is not the most enjoy- 
able phase of hunting. That comes to the majority 
with a more ordinary scent. It is something like 
this. You trot down the street of a long straggling 
village with one of the ugliest of modern churches on 
your left. Just where the road turns over the bridge 
there spreads out before your eyes a panorama of 
wide grass fields. On your right is a sloping hill 
crowned by a most conspicuous clump of trees. In 



SPORT IN THE SHIRES 267 

front of you is a lovely valley, and blue and grey, 
in the distance to the left, lie a line of wooded hills. 
The hounds turn up to the right through a white 
gate, and the master leads his followers all into one 
field where they congregate as near as possible to 
a hand gate that leads into a small square covert 
of thick thorn bushes. This covert cannot be more 
than two or three acres in extent, and it looks like 
a tiny patch of dark green as you pass it by the road. 
No one would guess that it was one of the most 
famous coverts in Leicestershire. 

There is very little talking ; most people have left 
off smoking ; and there is about the gathering an 
air of expectation. From hence the start may be 
a quick one. If you could see round the covert, 
you would find that there was a knot of foot people 
on every point of vantage. Half a mile away along 
the ridge towards which we are facing is a road, and 
that too is full of bicyclists and foot people. We 
will hope there are no horsemen trying to skirt for 
a start, which such people generally lose in two fields 
after they have fallen in with hounds. If you could 
see everything and everybody, you would imagine 
that no fox could go away without being headed. 
Indeed that is what happens now. No side of this 
covert is bad for sport, but one is less good than the 
others, for a couple of miles away is a hilly fastness 
with several coverts in its recesses between which 
foxes are wont to play hide-and-seek, and where 
hounds may spend half a day. It is one of those 
places where, if you are at the bottom, you wish 
you were at the top, and when you have climbed the 
steep sides, you wonder why you were ever such a 
fool as to leave the bottom. 

On that side the fox breaks, but he runs up against 



268 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

half the village in the road. As it is hereditary in 
Leicestershire men to holloa when they see a fox — 
they have done it for a hundred and fifty years and 
more and cannot help it — so it is hereditary in Leicester- 
shire foxes not to mind. I should suppose that all 
the foxes that feared the howls of men and boys had 
long since been driven into the jaws of the pack and 
killed. It is such an obvious advantage in the struggle 
for existence to a race of foxes to have the courage 
to fly from the real danger — the hounds — and to dis- 
regard imaginary perils, that no doubt most foxes do 
actually make their point in spite of holloas. But on 
this occasion he meets a sheep-dog. Though the dog 
probably would not tackle a fox if he came to close 
quarters, yet the fox cannot be expected to know 
this and he turns back. Every one has rushed to 
obtain a sight of the hunt, and consequently when the 
fox peeps out on the other side of the thorns there is 
a clear course before him and a well-known covert, 
nay two, not very far away. Quick as the fox has 
been, a whipper-in is round quicker still, so, as the fox 
slips away, as he thinks, unseen, George's eye marks 
his flight up lengthwise of the ridge and furrow. But 
wisely the whipper-in says nothing, for away on the 
vantage ground under the clump of trees he sees a 
little knot of men and if he attracts their attention he 
knows that they will " holloa." Swiftly and silently 
two of the bitches cast themselves into the field ; two 
or three more come out and join them and with a 
self-satisfied little whimper scour away. The hunts- 
man has by a sort of instinct made his way round. 
His keen eye lights on the hounds and he gallops away 
with the leading couples, blowing his horn for the 
rest. The field in the meantime have a good start 
and are galloping a hundred yards to the right of the 



SPORT IN THE SHIRES 269 

pack. Some one has caught sight of the leading hounds, 
knows that they don't say much, squares his shoulders, 
catches his horse by the head, and races away up the 
field. Presently a loud chorus of shouts from the 
road marks the passage of the fox across it. 

Up to this point the chase might or might not have 
grown into a first-rate run, but at the top of the hill 
the body of the pack are off the line and swing them- 
selves away to the right in their endeavour to pick 
it up. Alas, two jealous silent little bitches have 
held on into the next valley. Some one tells the 
huntsman, and he holds the main body of the pack 
over the road which runs right along the top of the 
ridge, and, as they reach the descent beyond, the 
hounds acknowledge the line. But with two hounds 
ahead it can never be more than a hunt now. In the 
meantime the fields have reached the first fence, a 
stiff blackthorn mended here and there with rails ; 
and some crash through it, some clear the rails, one 
man breaks the top bar and the less adventurous choke 
the place in a moment. 

By the time we are over the ridge the hounds are 
down in the valley and the field has assumed the 
shape of a cone, at the apex of which is the huntsman 
and master, two well-known polo players, and other 
members of the hunt, each by this time settled into his 
usual place. At some farm buildings in the hollow 
comes a check, and there we pick up the two skirters 
that were by themselves. Now the reunited pack 
hunt prettily up the fields, opening out like a fan 
and closing again as they touch the line. There is 
neither dwelling nor pausing ; everything is done at 
a gallop. The huntsman watches quietly, for he knows 
quite weU that he cannot do more for them than they 
are doing for themselves. But they are silent, and 



270 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

one beautiful bitch is working well, putting them right 
neariy every time, but, alas ! she is like a famous 
hound a M. F. H. once pointed out to me in his pack. 
" Do you see that bitch ? Well, she is too useful to 
draft ; she is never wrong ; but I have to tell a man 
off never to lose sight of her, for she is as mute as a 
mouse." She ought to have been drafted relentlessly 
all the same, as indeed all hounds should be that slip 
away silently, however good they are in other ways. 
They mar, in fact, more sport than they make. 

But to return to our run. We are now working up 
with one well-known covert in front and another to 
the right, and at a hedgerow hounds check. The 
huntsman casts along the hedge and over the road and 
touches a feeble line. Then we give it up and go to 
draw elsewhere. The fox had run up to the hedgerow 
and, turned by a horse and cart in the turnpike, he 
had run a little way along it and then crossed it. 
Look round now. Every one is here because it is 
the sort of run that suits that proportion of men and 
horses in every field who are very good at the pace 
they can go. As the day begins, so it ends. We 
have several similar hunts and find ourselves at the 
close of the day not two miles from where we started. 
That is an ordinary everyday Leicestershire hunt, and 
very pleasant it is. The line was quite jumpable 
almost everywhere, and where a too upstanding fence 
has stretched across our path, why, there has been 
time to go round by the " open door." We jog home 
feeling that all is for the best in the best of all possible 
hunts. That is the prose of hunting. Now let me 
see its poetry, drawn like the former from nature. 

We will suppose that we are present at one of the 
red-letter days of the season. A fine old dog-fox was 
taking his rest in a warm corner near the boundary 



SPORT IN THE SHIRES 271 

fence of a famous covert in the Quorn, one of those 
haunts of foxes which has been the starting-point for 
runs for three generations of sportsmen, for I have 
heard my grandfather talk of it when we children 
used to beg for a tale of his hunting experiences which 
he was as delighted to tell as we were to hear. There 
was an inkstand made out of the hoof of the horse 
that carried him so well, which was the text of the 
story. His father before him had hunted over the 
same classic ground and now we, in our day, are 
taking our best pleasure there too. But to return. 
If that fox had reasoned, as perhaps he did, he would 
have thought himself secure, for the covert had been 
drawn three weeks in succession and might therefore 
have been safe. Many of the field reasoned that a 
find was unlikely and lunched comfortably on the 
up-wind side of the covert, to their undoing. The 
false security of the fox perhaps and the absence of the 
greater part of the field certainly made for a quick start. 
He was on his legs and away in a moment, for there 
was no time to linger. Hounds never paused or 
wavered, but settled to run at once. Now is the 
time when quickness may save a run. Catch hold of 
the horse and drive him along, for at the pace the 
hounds are going a stern chase would beat the best 
horse living. It will only be by luck and judgment 
that we can hope to see the finish ; every pause, 
every turn must be used to help us. A fox that goes 
away in such bold fashion in the springtime has 
most likely a far-away point. And for full five miles 
he runs almost straight. The horse enters into the 
fun of it. With his ears forward, his neck and head 
carried at a beautiful angle, he makes no mistake 
till he hits on a bad take-off at the brook and barely 
saves a fall. Sit still, sit back, and leave his head 



272 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

alone ; and with a peck forward, a desperate re- 
covery, and another blunder we are going again. 
There is a tuft of grass on the toe of the off boot, one 
curb rein over his ears, one stirrup hanging loose ; 
and, as he breasts the hill, we take a pull. The horse 
loses ground by this, but he must be steadied, for 
such a mischance takes half a mile or more of staying 
power from him. Now we see the wires of the tele- 
graph ahead and hope for a much-needed check. 

We jump over this low stile into the road and trot 
steadily on the hard surface for the level crossing. 
Once over the rail, we hear the music of the pack 
ringing the changes, as first one hound and then 
another takes up the story and tells it to his fellows. 
They are turning towards us, and now we can see, 
as they pass close in front, one of the prettiest sights 
in the world, a pack running on a serving scent. What 
intensity of concentration ; what resolution ! They 
are no longer the domestic hound cribbed, cabined 
and confined in a kennel, but they are enjoying all 
the fierce delights of the wild red dogs, the sone kuttc 
of the jungles. But we must be quick. Like a torrent 
they rush past. As a dream they will have vanished. 
Oh, the good fortune of that pull, for now up-hill we 
are toiling, and after five miles of such pace and over 
some stiff country even good horses falter. Then 
there is the down-hill gallop in our favour. 

Who was it that cautioned riders against galloping 
hard down hill ? Put the horse's head straight, pull 
him right back on his quarters, and he will hardly be 
doing more than if he was standing still. But now, 
again, there is one of the steepest declivities in 
Leicestershire before us. Hounds are hunting steadily, 
and over a beautiful line of country, where the grass 
is firm and the fences clean and fair, the pack works 



SPORT IN THE SHIRES 273 

its way. There is time to treat ourselves and the 
horse to a gate or two. Now faster, now slower the 
chase goes on. The first wild joy has gone out of it ; 
only there remains the stern resolution to see the end. 
We are some ten miles from the starting-point and 
have covered a distance half as long again ; but the 
fox is beaten, and when we see the roofs of one of the 
three chief towns of the smallest, but the best, hunting 
county in England, we know the end is near. The 
hounds are raging up and down the hedgerows as, 
in the last despairing effort for life, the fox turns 
ever shorter and more sharply. Whowhoop ! A 
gallant fox has paid his share of the ransom due for 
the existence of his race. We have seen the run of 
the season. A pail of warm gruel or chilled water 
and a few mouthfuls of hay for the horse ; a pull at 
the flask for ourselves ; and, with a cigar well alight 
we climb stiffly into the saddle, glad to find that the 
horse can step out for the nine mile trot back to 
Melton. Now ride on the crown of the road and dis- 
mount at the hills. Then after dinner the report 
from the stable will be, " Little or none the worse, sir. 
Eat up every oat ! " 



CHAPTER XII 

LADIES IN THE SHIRES 

The Old time Hunting Woman — And the New — Ladies' Dress in 
the Field — The Right Sort of Hunter — Proper Side-saddles — 
Famous Lady Riders — The Late Empress of Austria — Hunt- 
ing Manners — Expense of a Season in the Shires — Trying a 
Lady's Horse — Melton the best Centre for Women — Society 
at Melton and Leamington. 

One of the most notable features of hunting in 
grass countries is the number of women in the field. 
Nor is the way in which they cross the country less 
remarkable. Of women who hunt a larger proportion 
ride at the top of the hunt than of men. Many indeed 
have a pilot, whom they follow, but others are quite 
capable of taking a line of their own and do so when- 
ever hounds run hard. Times have very much changed 
with the Diana Vemons of to-day. Whereas in old 
times the woman who hunted was treated with courtesy, 
but was made to feel herself present on sufferance ; 
now she has attained in the hunting field the much 
talked-of equality with man. No one would dream 
nowadays of treating the question of whether women 
should hunt at all as an open one. The only discussion 
that ever arises is whether women should hunt four 
days or six in a week. Yet it is evident that Whyte- 
Melville had his doubts on the point, as those may 
note who read " Kate Coventry." That heroine was 
expected to give up hunting on her marriage as a 



LADIES IN THE SHIRES 275 

matter of course. For some time indeed women have 
retained certain privileges. They were exempt from 
subscriptions, were given the first chance at gates and 
gaps, and were permitted unrebuked to do things 
that were forbidden to men. But now all this has 
changed. Women are expected to subscribe. The 
cap is collected from them as from any one else in hunts 
where they are strangers or visitors. They take their 
turn at gates or gaps ; and the only possible privi- 
lege that remains to them is to ride perhaps a shade 
closer to their leader and to give him a little less 
room at a fence than a man would be expected to do 
under similar circumstances. No one who goes to 
Melton for the first time can possibly fail to note the 
admirable riding and turn-out of the ladies whom he 
will see there. Everything is plain, practical and 
neat. The cut and fit of the habits is for the most 
part perfect. A serviceable grey cloth is the most 
common with an apron, a useful long-skirted coat and 
a neatly tied hunting scarf with a plain gold safety- 
pin. No jewellery, of course ; no fluttering ends. The 
whole is crowned with a tall hat or a well-fitting round 
one. A stout serviceable hunting whip (of course 
with a thong), stout enough to catch and hold a 
gate, is always carried. Many women wear a spur, 
but that should only be permitted to those who 
are really horsewomen of the first class. We 
shall see that the horses they ride are strong and 
useful animals, often up to fourteen stone and well- 
bred hunters, but not thoroughbred as a rule. The 
clean-bred horse is generally too uncertain a con- 
veyance over a stiff country to be safe or suitable for 
a lady. I should say that the majority of ladies' 
hunters came from Ireland. I know of several ladies 
who keep large studs whose horses are carefully 



276 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

selected for them in that country. Irish hunters, as 
we all know, are well bred but seldom or never thorough- 
bred. For the matter of that, as I have noted else- 
where, whatever may be our theory, in practice there 
are very few thoroughbred horses in the Shires. In 
selecting ladies' horses the inevitable disadvantage at 
which a woman's seat on horseback places her must 
be borne in mind. Even with all our modern im- 
provements in saddles, the handicap is against the 
woman in the hunting field, and therefore her horse 
should have manners in a crowd, and should be a really 
well-schooled hunter. I would rather have manners 
and cleverness than pace. In the long run, this applies 
to the needs of many men as well. A very well- 
mannered horse that is clever withal will show you 
more sport in grass countries than an apparently 
faster, but less tractable, animal. It is, however, a 
fact that in the course of a season women hunting 
in the Shires, in proportion to their relative numbers, 
have fewer and less serious falls than do men. The 
reason of this is threefold. First, that women, from 
the nature of their seat, are obliged to give a horse 
more rope at his fences and are less able to interfere 
with him. Then, they generally ride horses more 
than up to the weight to be carried. Lastly, women 
who do not ride up to a fairly high standard retire 
early from the fray with shattered nerves as the 
result of a serious fall. A man can ride moderately 
badly for many years over a country without serious 
results, but the chances are against an inferior horse- 
woman. Naturally, when she falls, it is more likely 
to be a dangerous affair than is a tumble to a man. 
But, whatever their disadvantages, there can be no 
doubt that women take a very leading part in the game 
nowadays, and that when hounds run hard over a 



LADIES IN THE SHIRES 277 

stiff country, a large porportion of habits will be in 
the front rank. It is usual to say that women cannot 
take their own line over a country. Of the majority 
this is doubtless true, but, so far as I can see, it is 
equally true of the majority of men. But there are 
some ladies who ride with the fashionable packs, whose 
names are well known to aU who hunt in the Shires, 
who can and do take their own line with all the judg- 
ment and more than the coolness and tact of any 
man. It was an experienced man who once said that 
one reason why women ride so well to hounds is 
because they pay more attention than men to what 
is going on. Women have a greater capacity for 
taking pains than men have, especially in the small 
matters on which so much success in all matters of 
sport depends. But let us turn back for a moment 
to the past and trace the coming of ladies to share 
the sport of hunting and see what their influence has 
been and is on its fortunes. In the first half of the 
last century the ladies who hunted were few. As I 
have elsewhere pointed out, it was difficult, if not 
impossible, for them to foUow hounds with any degree 
of comfort and safety on the old-fashioned saddle. 
The wonder is not that there were so many, but that 
there were any at all. Yet here and there in the old 
writers we find allusions to ladies who hunted and 
took a forward place. There were, for example, Lady 
Cleveland and Lady Augusta Milbanke, who must 
have made a brave show in their scarlet habits. They 
hunted three times a fortnight and had been used to 
hunting from the time when they were children, but 
the general opinion of the day is reflected in Nimrod's 
remark, " Yet it would be difficult to produce two 
more amiable or accomplished persons." Then in 1841 
came Miss Nellie Holmes, " Topping the fences like a 



278 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

bird, to the admiration of all." Then the Misses 
Loraine Smith, " who rode in scarlet bodices and grey 
skirts," and Lady Eleanor Lowther, who used to be 
piloted with the Quorn and Cottesmore by Dick 
Christian.* I know no more thrilling touch in all 
the famous hunting lectures than Dick's account of 
their ride up Burrough Hill, one of the steepest of 
the many acclivities of Leicestershire. " Near the top 
if I didn't think she and the horse would come back- 
wards. I says, ' Do, my lady, catch hold of the horse's 
mane and lean forwards more,' so we gets up safe, and 
my word the gentlemen did stare when they see us." 
I suggest that the moral of that story is that a mane 
on a horse is very convenient sometimes, and indeed 
big horses should never be hogged. Then there was 
Miss Manners of Goadby, who was sure " papa would 
be very angry if she went home without seeing the 
end of the run " ; and the brilliant Frenchwoman, 
Mrs. Shakerley, who went well over Warwickshire and 
Leicestershire on her famous chestnut horse Golden 
Ball. But it was not till the 'seventies that ladies 
began to take a regular part in hunting. There was 
Mrs. Arthur of Desborough hunting with the Pytchley. 
She had an eye like a hawk, a nerve like a lion, and 
was always ready to lend the huntsman a hand. Mrs. 
Arthur was one of those ladies, of whom we see many 
nowadays, who understand hunting as well as riding, 
and doubled her fun by taking an interest in the work- 
ing of the hounds. A little later came those two 
brilliant sisters, the ex-queen of Naples and the late 
Empress of Austria. They were, as was perhaps 
natural, most fond of the riding aspect of hunting, 
but the story of their riding over a country has been 
told so well by Mr. Elliott, the good sportsman who 

* " Fifty Years Fox-hunting," by T. E. Elliott. 



LADIES IN THE SHIRES 279 

wrote a delightful book, " Fifty Years Fox-hunting," 
that I will not repeat it here. Mr. Elliott was the 
chosen pilot of both the ex-Queen and the late Em- 
press. One advantage the ladies who rode to hounds 
thirty years ago certainly had : no one went out 
except for pleasure. A woman who hunted had to 
overcome some difficulties and withstand a certain 
amount of disapproval. Now, hunting is fashionable, 
and is regarded sometimes perhaps as one method of 
rising in the social scale. Nevertheless, though there 
may be something of this in the present day, there 
is certainly not much. At this point I may turn 
aside for a moment to give a word of caution to those 
whose knowledge of hunting, and especially hunting 
in the Shires, is derived from books and newspapers. 
Many of the writers have no more than a theoretical 
acquaintance with hunting, and are full of fancies very 
wide of the truth. It may be taken as a general rule 
that the majority of hunting people are not different 
in any way from the ordinary well-dressed, well- 
mannered Englishman or Englishwoman of their class. 
There is nothing particularly remarkable about hunt- 
ing society, and hunting women are much like other 
English ladies. The sport is only one side of their 
lives, and they have their other interests, domestic, 
social, literary, just like everybody else. One dis- 
tinguished author has said that they are coarse, but 
that is a libel born of ignorance and a priori reasoning. 
If your knowledge of hunting dates not later than 
Squire Western, or even than the writings of Nimrod, 
you necessarily have quite an erroneous idea of what 
hunting is at the present and what hunting society is 
like. There is no doubt at all that the presence of 
ladies in the hunting field has greatly softened the 
manners of the followers of chase ; and it is a fact 



28o FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

which no one who has a personal acquaintance with 
hunting in grass countries, or indeed anywhere else, 
would deny that a lady or a clergyman can share in 
the sport to-day without the faintest possibility of 
offence to the most delicate susceptibilities. I apolo- 
gise to those who know for stating truisms, but there 
are very different, and certainly undeserved, pictures 
drawn of life and society in fashionable hunts. Of 
course, there are faults and blots. Freedom here and 
there degenerates into licence ; liberal expenditure 
into extravagance. But that is only to say that 
hunting society is human. If, as has been said, there 
is sometimes " a mixture of outrageous lavishness and 
meanness," that is only a characteristic common to 
the ignoble side of modern society. The cure of 
these evils is to a great extent in the hands of the 
best of the ladies who hunt. They can make selfish- 
ness and meanness unfashionable, and politeness and 
courtesy the proper thing. It ought not to be pos- 
sible to speak in their hearing of the residents as 
" cursed locals." Readily I acknowledge that there 
are many ladies who do try their best, and success- 
fully, to bring about a tone of feeling more worthy 
of gentlefolk. No names of living people have been 
or will be mentioned in this chapter, but it is as I 
have said, and there are many houses in Leicestershire 
and Northamptonshire tenanted in the hunting season 
by those whose presence adds to the happiness and 
well-being of the neighbourhood. Of one thing we 
may be quite certain, that in these days fashionable 
hunts could not long exist if they were centres of 
corruption. The lady of a house has, moreover, much 
power, and, if she will take trouble, can render many 
services to sport. It is not so much any active mis- 
doing as idleness and self-indulgence which cause 



LADIES IN THE SHIRES 281 

people to forget to direct their expenditure into the 
proper channels and make them overlook the duties 
(for such they are) of courtesy and kindness. 

Enough, however, of such reflections ! Let us turn 
back to the practical side of hunting in the Shires. 
Suppose that the family authorities have decided on 
a season in Leicestershire — then there is much to be 
thought of — a new habit or two, a covert coat, and 
all the details of a hunting outfit, every portion of 
which should be of the best. It is not necessary to 
have many things if your purse is limited, but it is 
necessary to have them of the best in both cut and 
material. It is needful that everything should fit and 
that there should be no possibility of discomfort. 
Above all, the saddle should be perfectly suitable to 
the rider. Important for a man, this is absolutely 
indispensable for a woman ; and then, too, you must 
have the horse you can ride. If shoulders in a hunter 
are, as Lord Willoughby de Broke said, a luxury for 
the rich man, they are a necessity for any woman. 
But do not take the opinion of any one or trust the 
judgment of your own eye as to a horse's shoulders 
when standing on the ground alongside him. Order 
your saddle to be put on, and see that it is placed in 
the right place behind, and not on the top of, the 
withers. Then get up and trot down hill over ridge 
and furrow if you can find a field near at hand. If 
there seems to be plenty in front of you, if the horse 
takes out a long rein and gives you a feeling of con- 
fidence, moving easily and smoothly, he can use 
his shoulders and he will do. But if you feel as if you 
were sitting on the edge of a precipice, have nothing 
to do with him. You cannot ride over Leicestershire in 
safety in a side-saddle on a bad-shouldered horse. A 
moderate-sized horse is to be preferred to a taU, flat- 



282 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

sided, leggy horse. There have been some wonderful 
ponies too. I can recall no less than six ponies that 
have carried ladies brilliantly over the Shires within 
a space of but a few years. 

Of all the hunting centres mentioned most women 
would, I think, like Melton, both socially and as a 
place to hunt from, better than any other, unless 
indeed, they prefer altogether a life away from towns 
in some of the " Halls," " Lodges," and " Granges " 
which are scattered all over the country. But if in 
Leicestershire you choose to live in the country, 
which you may do, from choice or from motives of 
economy, you must make up your mind to a quiet 
winter. I have already written about expenses, and 
of course it is true that people should not try to hunt 
in Leicestershire cheaply. But there will be some 
also who can manage necessary expenditure on the 
stable by care and economy in the house. That 
this is the case in the Shires any ordinary observer 
can perceive if he notes the number of small dwellings 
with extensive, and even splendid, ranges of stabling. 
These are to be seen in the village streets, and on the 
outskirts they are converted cottages and farm- 
houses. But there is, of course, a limit to the stable 
accommodation, good as it is, and also to the stable 
staff. Now, in Leicestershire it is impossible in 
most cases to drive in from one village to another 
without opening (and, I hope, shutting also) several 
gates. This makes it quite impracticable to go out 
without a man. If there are ladies only in a brougham, 
and the night is wet, they want a footman as well. 
But work in a hunting stable is hard, and many of 
us stay at home because it is really difficult and ex- 
pensive to traverse the two or three miles of gated 
road which divide us from our nearest neighbours. 



LADIES IN THE SHIRES 283 

Even if you are not yourself hampered by these 
considerations, your neighbours will be unwilling to 
go out at night, and therefore we are, if in the country, 
restricted to our family circle for the evenings. A 
great many people do not care to go out after hunt- 
ing. Therefore if you are a sociable soul, then Melton 
or Leamington will suit you better according to 
your means and social position, than any of the other 
centres or than all the villages of which I have 
written. 



CHAPTER XIII 

DRESS AND EQUIPMENT 

Nimrod — The Essentials — Dress for the Horse — Second Horse- 
man — Smoking in the Field— Lunch — Drinks — Importance 
of Keeping Fit— Well-made Clothes Necessary — Saddles — 
Straining the Muscles — The Ethics of Spurs — Whyte-Melville's 
"Riding Recollections" — Often Necessary — Value of School 
Training — Arguments in Favour of Spurs. 

This will not be a long chapter, because there is really 
very little to be said. If the reader has no views 
on the subject, then I think he cannot do better than 
put himself into the hands of a first-rate tailor and 
bootmaker and leave the matter to them. The only 
peculiarity about dress for hunting in Leicestershire 
is that if you are particularly well-dressed no one 
will notice it, and if you prefer mufti, no one will 
mind. I do not think masters as a rule in the Shires 
are much disturbed if their followers do not come 
out in pink. They have many other things to think of, 
and, provided you do not ride over the hounds and 
do no more damage than you can help, they do not 
care how you clothe yourself. 

It was not always so, but then hunting society, like 
every other, was much smaller, and the first historian 
of hunting, Nimrod, was a dressy man and a bit 
of a dandy. Besides, there is no great difference 
nowadays between the dress of a Melton man and 

that of a well turned out man in the provinces, 

284 



DRESS AND EQUIPMENT 285 

and Mr. Sawyer certainly would not appear at the 
covertside an3rwhere in a cap, nor could a stranger 
be detected by his boots. As long as you wear 
a tall hat or a respectable bowler, have a thong 
to your whip, and don't put your spurs on upside 
down, do not wear a coloured tie, or in any other 
way outrage the reasonable prejudices of society, no 
one will care how you are dressed. The crowds are 
so large that no individual is of much consequence. 
You will find, or make, your own friends according 
to what you are and have. The way you ride and the 
quality of your horses are of infinitely more importance 
than anything to do with yourself or your attire. 

The outfit of the horse is quite another matter. 
That should be of the best. Need I say that plain- 
flapped saddles are at once the most comfortable and 
the most usual, that nobody nowadays puts a breast- 
plate on, and that reins are always sewn, not buckled, 
to the bit. If you have a second horseman, he carries 
your luncheon on his back ; if not, you carry it in a 
neat canteen on the D's of your saddle. This is pre- 
ferable to the hunting horn flask, which is nevertheless 
not uncommon. I have never seen any one smoking 
a pipe in the hunting field, but cigarettes and cigars 
are usual. It adds greatly to your comfort to carry 
vesuvians in your match-case, unless you are very 
clever at lighting a cigar or a cigarette from an 
ordinary match in the open air, which apparently 
very few men can do. 

People differ theoretically about lunch, but in 
practice most men enjoy it. I do not believe a big 
meal is good for riding, any more than for shooting. 
Two sandwiches in the middle of the day and a small 
slice of cake to eat on the way home are quite enough 
for health. As to the contents of the flask, that is 



286 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

not a matter to dogmatise about. Mr. Meynell, we 
know, carried tincture of rhubarb, and I have known 
a flask to hold extract of meat or beef tea of some 
kind. Most people, I think, carry whisky and water ; 
a few whisky and soda. I have heard of, but never 
seen, cherry brandy or sloe gin, and for my own part 
I think a light, sound port is the best and most sus- 
taining liquid : a few sips in the middle of the day, 
and the rest to encourage you to smoke on your way 
home. I believe that almost every one is better for 
something to eat and drink in the middle of the day, 
and I think that both the Goodalls shortened their 
lives by their habit of not taking lunch. 

It is most important for a man who wishes to enjoy 
sport in the grass countries to the full to keep fit. 
Without going into any rigours of training, the 
strictest moderation and early hours are desirable. 
Many horses are beaten because their riders are so 
done that they cannot sit still in the saddle, and 
many falls are occasioned by the unsteadiness of a 
rider who is more than half blown when he has been 
galloping for a quarter of an hour. There is not the 
smallest doubt either that loss of condition is followed 
rapidly by loss of nerve. A man who, after his first 
youth is past, would keep his place in the front rank 
must live to a certain extent by rule. 

There are, no doubt, as we shall be told, exceptions 
to this, and indeed, so far as we are able to judge of 
other men's lives, we see those who seem to ride as 
well as ever, yet who, as the phrase goes, " do them- 
selves well." This means not great excess, but a little 
too much of everything. A little too much wine, 
just a cigar more than is wise, or a little too much 
food. If we are to trust the records of the past, our 
forefathers drank a great deal of wine and yet rode 



DRESS AND EQUIPMENT 287 

very hard, but I think I have read somewhere that 
strict temperance was the rule of the Old Club at 
Melton, and that one bottle of wine after dinner was 
the limit. But we must recollect that our fore- 
fathers did not smoke long cigars or short cigarettes 
as we do. Looking back over the men I have known 
who were hard riders and that have kept their nerve, 
it appears to me that they all exercised much care 
and self-denial. There are two forms of indulgence 
that would destroy the strongest nerves in time. 
Tobacco in the form of cigars or cigarettes in large 
quantities — a pipe does not seem to have the same 
effect, and late hours. 

It is of importance to have your clothes well made, 
because they cannot otherwise be comfortable, and 
comfort is a matter of great moment in hunting. 
We ought to be at our ease, and not to be reminded 
of our dress by untimely wrinkles or pinches. We 
require also to have the free use of our arms and legs, 
and, above all, we need comfortable boots, and this 
is barely compatible with a smart boot on the leg 
of a man who has ruined its proportions from a boot- 
maker's point of view by riding a bicycle, walking 
over the moors, or running with otter-hounds. It 
is only the very greatest artists in boots who fit us 
nicely, and even for them it is no easy task. But, 
at whatever cost, the boot must be comfortable. To 
ride really well to a flying pack on the grass needs 
that we should have absolute control of our limbs 
and all our faculties undistracted. Thus every detail 
of the hunting kit deserves the greatest attention 
from this point of view. The shirt, the tie, the 
gloves and even such minor articles as the collar 
studs, which no manufacturer will ever make reason- 
ably long in the shank, all should be of such ex- 



288 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

cellence as to be effective, yet never for a moment 
obtrusive. 

In the same way the saddles should be made to fit 
the rider, the stirrup leathers should be flexible, and 
the saddle must also suit the horse. Perhaps the 
best plan is to have a saddle made which is of the 
right length — I find many saddles too short for com- 
fort — and with the cut that suits your seat, since 
each man necessarily differs in this respect from every 
other, and then to have one stuffed, and of course 
restuffed as time goes on, to fit each horse in the 
stable. In this way each hunter will go at ease in 
a saddle that fits him, and that enables his rider to 
sit in the right place. There is no doubt that a 
saddle makes all the difference between comfort and 
safety and the reverse, and it is a matter on which 
it is impossible to spend too much care and attention 
at first. There is of course no doubt, especially if 
we have not been riding much during the summer, 
that the seat will alter a little in the course of the 
season, but altering and shortening the stirrups will 
give all the change we require. A saddle should 
always be roomy, for there is absolutely nothing to 
be gained by trying to save weight in the saddle, and, 
on the contrary, a saddle too small for the rider tires 
a horse. A badly fitting saddle is a fruitful source 
of riders' strain, so are stiff stirrup leathers, and so 
too is a big jumping horse. If you buy a horse from 
a man, say, a couple of stones heavier than yourself, 
you should look out for this. The horse will spring 
as he has been accustomed to do under the heavy 
weight, and the effort will of course not meet with 
the usual resistance. It is this spring, the twist of 
powerful hind-quarters expecting, as it were, to have 
to hoist a heavy man over a fence, that strains us. 



DRESS AND EQUIPMENT 289 

This kind of strain will be rather painful in the evening 
of the day in which we suffered it, but it will be agony- 
next day. I remember hunting after a bad strain 
and being just on the point of going home. " Where 
are you off to ? " said a friend. " Oh, I've strained 
the rider's muscle and I can't ride, so I'm off." " But 
you'll never come right if you lie up. The right 
thing to do is to ride and jump ; and the more it 
hurts, the better." And so it proved. If pain was 
a sign of the cure working, there was no doubt about 
the efficacy of the prescription, but the strain got well 
in due time and I lost no hunting. 

It is astonishing how common this strain of the 
rider's muscle is. A great many people suffer from 
it. The causes are, I imagine, first and foremost, 
want of condition. When I lived on the northern 
frontier of India, where everybody rode and played 
polo or racquets in the cold weather, and in the summer 
all who could get leave went to Kashmir for shooting, 
I never heard of such a thing as rider's strain, nor 
in many years in the saddle on horses of all sorts and 
shapes have I ever suffered from it before. But I 
am sure that my friend was in the right. The only 
thing to do is to go on riding as best one can till the 
muscles regain their tone. Nevertheless it is a most 
unpleasant experience, and the strain can be pre- 
vented, I am sure, to some extent by care in the 
matter of saddles and by " setting more at liberty " 
on a big jumping horse. 

There is another article of our equipment for the 
hunting field, the value of which is much discussed 
nowadays. I refer to the spur. So far as I know, 
until comparatively recently, the spur was regarded 
as a necessary part of the horseman's outfit. But 
there have been a good many writers who have 

T 



290 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

advocated its disuse, of whom the chief was Whyte- 
Melville. He devotes a whole chapter in his " Riding 
Recollections " to the " abuse of the spur." We may 
infer from this title that Major Whyte-Melville 
would not have objected to the proper use of spurs, 
but we also gather from the chapter in question 
that he was rather doubtful as to when the use of 
spurs was legitimate. I think that the question is 
one which lends itself admirably to argument, but 
is really decided in practice in favour of spurs. 
Very few men would ride over Leicestershire without 
them. 

Nor is this merely because spurs are no doubt 
an admirable decoration to a well hung boot, but 
because they have a real use on the road and in the 
field, and should not be disused because they are 
only for occasional use. A stimulus, like a stimu- 
lant, is all the more effective if used but seldom. A 
sudden touch with the spurs will often decide a 
horse to jump when he has doubts about refusing. 
Taken by surprise, he will often spring, and if at 
the same time we catch hold of his head, a touch of 
the spurs has the effect of making him bring his hind 
legs well under him as he takes off. Many horses 
will neither gallop nor jump at all freely if the rider 
has no spurs on. One horse I knew was admirable 
with spurs if he knew they were on his rider's heels, 
but without them he was impossible. It was not 
necessary often to use them, if on first mounting, or 
on the first sign of recalcitrance he was touched 
behind the girth with the rowels. That was enough, 
and he would go freely and well all day. Leave the 
spurs at home, and you could hardly induce him to 
go decently on the road. There are very many 
horses like this, and every one can recall similar 



DRESS AND EQUIPMENT 291 

instances of horses that without spurs were refusers, 
but with them were useful hunters. 

The use of spurs is another argument for the value 
of judicious school training for both the horse and his 
rider. The first learns to understand the indications 
of the spur, and the latter to apply it in the right 
manner, at the right time, and on the proper spot. 
It may be freely admitted that some men would be 
safer without spurs, but the same argument would 
apply to the bridle wrongly used. That too is a 
source of pain to the horse and danger to the rider. 
Such riders as have not learned, or will not be taught, 
to use a spur properly must do the best they can 
without, and if the horse requires correction they 
must use a whip. But there is the greatest objection 
to the latter in the hunting field. If you strike a 
horse he never forgets it, and every time your right 
arm goes up he will look to see whether it means a 
blow instead of looking where he is going. The hunter 
needs to keep an undivided attention on what he 
is doing. Therefore it is well worth while to learn 
to use spurs properly. The touch of the steel comes 
as a sudden, unexpected stimulus, and in most cases 
causes a horse to make a sudden spring forward. It 
is thus often useful when a horse is playing the 
fool in an awkward place, bucking or rearing. The 
prick of the rowels will cause him to spring forward 
and catch hold of his bit, when he is far more easy 
to manage. 

In nine cases out of ten a horse that means mischief 
begins by refusing to go up to his bit. Very often 
it is not necessary to do more than squeeze him with 
the legs, and possibly draw the feet back a little. If 
he has been properly schooled he knows what that 
means, and at once from the force of habit catches 



292 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

hold of his bit and goes forward, when he is under 
control again. I would never ride a strange horse 
without spurs unless told expressly that they were 
unnecessary. But of course the question will be 
asked : What of the man who spurs a horse without 
knowing it ? Well, he must, I suppose, take his 
chance without spurs, or at all events be content 
with spurs without rowels. Or, again, it may be 
asked : How about the involuntary spurring of the 
horse even by good riders whose legs may be dragged 
back by binders as they crash through some ragged 
fence and the spur is thus forced against the horse ? 

Well, to this I reply that the chance seems remote, 
because if you look at the horses of most of the best 
men across country in the Shires, you will seldom 
or never see them touched at all, even after a hard 
run. In any case it is for the horse one of the chances 
of war. 

But it is not only in the chase that the spurs will 
be found useful. During the long and weary jog home, 
if the curb rein be lightly drawn through the fingers 
and the spur delicately used, a horse will trot more 
collectedly and safely. Some very excellent hunters, 
moreover, are such shocking bad hacks that we need 
all the aids we can call to our assistance to keep them 
on their legs when they are trotting along the road. 
Again, it may be said that dummy spurs are quite 
as useful as sharp ones. Putting aside the fact that 
the punishment they inflict is often nearly, if not 
quite, as severe as the armed ones, I should not say 
they were unless the horse has been thoroughly 
trained to the use of sharp spurs. With most horses 
who have been so schooled, the spur without rowels 
is most useful. A touch of the cold steel will be all 
that is required. As a rule, for my own part, I always 



DRESS AND EQUIPMENT 293 

hack in sharp spurs and hunt in blunt ones. Never- 
theless there are horses that need sharp spurs at all 
times. It may be a question whether the modern 
long, straight spur is not more useful as a decoration 
than valuable for its own particular purpose. The 
short spur with the slight downward curve, which 
was for many years the usual shape, appears to have 
all the advantages and fewer of the disadvantages of 
spurs than the long, straight, rather murderous- 
looking weapons that are now the fashion. 

It will, I think, be found that nearly, if not quite, 
all the men and women who really ride hard over the 
grass countries ride in spurs. Indeed, I should say they 
were absolutely necessary in Leicestershire and de- 
sirable anywhere. But the proper use of the spur 
does not come by nature, and though, like many 
other habits of horsemanship, we have forgotten when 
we did not know it, yet to riders lacking in experience 
it will be sound advice that if they do not know how 
to use spurs they should learn as soon as possible. 



CHAPTER XIV 

EXPENSES 

Difficulty of laying down Actual Expenses — Melton the Most 
Expensive Centre — Wages of Grooms — And of Helpers — 
Forage — Purchase from the Farmer where Practicable — 
Danger of Friction — Avoid Foreign Produce — Local Trades- 
men often to Blame — Subscriptions. 

This is a difficult chapter to write, and those who 
turn to it under the impression that they will find 
an exact estimate of the cost of a season's hunting 
in the Midlands will be disappointed. All calcu- 
lations of this kind must be misleading, for everything 
depends on the tastes of the individual man or woman. 
A season or two at Melton, or Market Harborough, 
will certainly cost more than it will to hunt from 
home, but not, I think, more than it would to spend 
a season in a fashionable provincial country like 
the Duke of Beaufort's or the Bicester. Then again 
the cost would vary with the locality chosen. No one 
would choose Melton if economy were an object. I 
have no doubt that there, as elsewhere, things may 
be done cheaply, but one would not choose such a 
place if it were desired to keep the expenses as low 
as possible. 

Everywhere one hunts from, whether Shires or 
provinces, horses' meat and grooms' wages have to 
be paid. My object, then, will be to indicate in what 



•EXPENSES 295 

points in my opinion it will be necessary to make 
a greater outlay in the fashionable countries than 
elsewhere. Speaking roughly, however, it will be 
found that, of the centres I have named, Melton 
would be the most expensive, for the very simple 
reason that more people desire to go there, and they 
are those who either have money or spend it. I do 
not think that two important items, wages and forage, 
are higher there than elsewhere. A working stud 
groom would have from 24s. to 30s. a week, and in 
special cases I have known 40s. to be paid, but of 
course I have nothing to do now with special wages 
such as these. If a stud groom in charge of a large 
stud of horses is honest and capable, it is difficult 
to assess his value. A Melton stud groom, whose 
master hunts six days a week during the season and 
seldom sees his horses from March to November, or 
only goes into his stable on Sunday afternoons, has 
a great responsibility. Not only has he the charge 
of much valuable property in horseflesh and the 
practical control of a large expenditure, but on the 
conscientious way in which he discharges his duty 
depends to a great degree the safety of his master. I 
readily acknowledge that many of these men are 
remarkable both for integrity and ability, and they 
are then worth any reasonable salary that can be paid 
them. The first-rate men are as rare in the stable 
as elsewhere. 

Of such men, however, I am not writing, but of 
the ordinary working hunting groom who does his 
duty under his master's eye, and in his turn sees that 
his helpers do theirs. His wages would be as above, 
with an extra lodging allowance of 4s. a week when 
he is away from home if no cottage is supplied. This 
sum is what I have paid, and it was the usual allow- 



296 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

ance at the Ranelagh Club, but I am told that 5s. 
allowance for lodging is paid by some officers when in 
garrison towns. Helpers, as a rule, in Leicestershire 
receive i8s. a week, and one to about every three 
horses is a fair average staff for the stable. Thus with 
seven horses and a pony and cart I should say that 
a working stud groom and two helpers was sufficient. 
I am bound, however, to say that in some stables a 
man to every two horses is the rule, though I fail 
to see that anything is gained by this. In small 
establishments the head groom or one of the helpers 
often acts as second horseman, but it is of course 
more usual to have a second horseman who makes 
that his principal duty, and his wages I should put 
down at 22s. per week, though I have known a man 
complain that he could not live on this sum. The 
stud groom and the second horseman are generally 
permanent servants, the helpers being local men 
who are taken on as required. There always seems 
to be a supply of them, and I have often wondered 
what they do in the summer. 

Forage is an item which is variable, but I think 
that prices are somewhat higher in the Midlands 
than elsewhere. This is not a district that produces 
a great deal of hay or corn, and most of its supplies 
therefore are drawn from elsewhere. If, however, 
the prices are high, the quality is excellent ; and I 
never had better forage than from the leading dealers 
at Melton and Harborough. When I first went to 
dwell in a certain hunt in Leicestershire, I inquired 
of the secretary where he would like the forage bought, 
and he advised me to go to the corn-dealer of the 
place. We hear a great deal, it is true, about buying 
hay and com from farmers, but my experience is 
that the comparatively small quantities that are 



EXPENSES 297 

required and the irregular times at which they are 
wanted in private stables do not suit the farmer. 
Then there is the question of credit. No doubt 
ready money is best for both buyer and seller ; but 
it is not always possible to conduct our business on 
this excellent system, as every one knows, and it 
does not always suit the farmer to give credit, nor is 
it fair to ask him to do so. 

I doubt, therefore, whether the direct purchase 
of forage from the farmer is practicable as a general 
rule, or even desirable in the interests of hunting 
and of farmers. Every case must be decided on its 
merits, and at all events certain ideas must be rooted 
out from the minds of both the buyer and seller. 
The man who buys hay and corn from farmers ought 
to pay the market price or a little over, and to pay 
ready money. To suppose that he is to pay less than 
in the case of purchases from a dealer, and to take 
credit as well, is to mistake the conditions of the 
forage market and to do more harm than good by his 
purchases. If a hunting man finds that it is desirable 
to buy from farmers, he does so because he thinks 
it is in the interests of hunting and not for the sake 
of his pocket or convenience. It will, as a matter 
of fact, neither save the one nor suit the other, though 
there are a good many people in the world who want 
to do good actions and " make a bit " at the same 
time. If a hunting man is willing and able to buy 
hay or com, particularly the former, from his neighbours 
when they want to sell, and will put his hand in his 
pocket and pay a good price there and then, no doubt 
he will make hunting more popular. But if he is to 
haggle and try to obtain discount, if he keeps the 
farmer waiting and ignores requests for money, and 
above all if his groom is not moderate in his demands 



298 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

for commission, I venture to say he will do far more 
harm than good. 

The fact is, however, that the real benefit to agri- 
culture from hunting is derived from the general 
demand for high-class forage and the consequent 
steady market and fair average of price that is main- 
tained. It is not in the power of all hunting people 
to deal with farmers. Theoretically, and judging by 
what some writers say, you would suppose that people 
who hunt always had command of money as a matter 
of course. But not only do incomes vary greatly, but 
their sources are sometimes more or less uncertain, 
and credit always has been and always will be a 
necessary factor in the dealings between buyer and 
seller, customer and tradesman, whether in hunting 
countries or elsewhere. 

There is yet another obstacle to buying forage of 
farmers in a hunting country, and that is the danger 
of a quarrel. I have found that, whereas in London 
and other large towns any objection to the quality 
of goods supplied is taken as a matter of business, 
to complain in the country is regarded as a personal 
offence. The seller in the village and the smaller 
tradesman have a certain feeling of resentment if 
you do not like what they have to sell. The farmer 
often takes offence if you complain of the quality of 
the forage he sells you. The offence too, is often 
deep in proportion as he is sensible of the justice of 
your complaint. I have known a quarrel over a load 
of hay to cause the wire on a farm to remain up all 
through the season. If, however, farmers would 
combine and open a central forage store in hunting 
towns, they might pocket the profits of the middle- 
man. But, the conditions of things being what they 
are, the failings of human nature being taken into 



EXPENSES 299 

consideration, and the friction caused by dealings 
with money of whatever sort remembered, my advice 
to the ordinary man, in the interests of both himself 
and hunting would be, that he should buy his forage 
from the local corn-dealer, who, after all, must have 
procured it from a farmer somewhere. 

This one rule, however, every hunting man ought 
to make, that under no circumstances and on no 
pretext will he buy foreign produce for the hunting 
stable. That gives offence, and just offence, to farmers, 
who have a right to expect support and favour in 
every possible way for the agricultural interest from 
the people who ride over their land. Russian oats 
and Canadian hay should be rigidly barred. There 
is a very infinitesimal present saving to be made by 
using these articles, and horses fed on them are never 
within many pounds as fit as those foraged on old 
oats and old English hay well saved. No foreign 
stuff should ever come into the stables on any plea 
whatever. Its exclusion is a simple duty we owe 
to the farmers. 

Another vexed question is that of dealing with local 
tradesmen, and with the friendliest feelings towards 
this class I feel that we are not the only people to 
blame if a great deal of custom goes away from the 
town in or near which we live and is absorbed by big 
shops and stores in large towns. It is well known 
that many of these huge retail stores lay themselves 
out for country custom and that they have profited 
largely by doing this. In dealing with them it is 
not, however, nearly so much a question of price 
as the fact that country tradesmen will not or cannot 
give people what they want. I have known a whole 
family's custom taken away from a country grocer, 
because nothing would induce him to supply certain 



300 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

matches for the household. Reasonably or unreason- 
ably, the customer fancied these particular matches, 
but if a few packets came, as it were under protest, 
from the grocer, the unspeakable foreign matches 
were sure to reappear. As it manifestly is not worth 
while to send to London for matches only, the result 
may be imagined. I think that this unwillingness 
to supply what is wanted is a survival from the old 
days when the country tradesman expected his 
customers to help him to clear off his stock, and they 
took as a matter of course what he had to sell. In 
a certain small town dialogues like the following 
were not unknown. " I do not like this cheese, Mr. 

Mr. ." "Well, m'm, I'm sorry, but I can't cut 

another till that is finished," and he didn't, though 
his customer was housekeeper to a large family. But 
then there were no stores, no great shops, no parcel 
post, and London was much farther off then from 
the Midlands than it is now. 

Yet I think that visitors to a hunting district are 
morally bound to deal where they hunt. How can 
we expect people to appreciate the benefits of the 
expenditure on hunting if none of it comes their way ? 
Indirect benefits may be very considerable, but they 
do not affect the imagination. It must also be re- 
collected that in various ways the farmers are directly 
affected by the expenditure in the towns. They have 
relations with the business people and often have 
relatives engaged in the trade of a market town. Yet 
it cannot be denied that country tradespeople might 
do more to attract their customers, and especially 
those smaller residents to be found in the Midlands, 
who spend from £500 to £1000 a year, are obliged 
to consider economy and are sometimes alienated 
by want of consideration and a tendency, which has 



EXPENSES 301 

been noted, to take as much and give as little in 
return as possible in the matter of prices. 

It has more than once happened to me that when 
I have recommended a town I have been met with 
the observation, " Oh, but it is such an expensive place, 
isn't it ? " In some cases, no doubt the reputation 
for high charges lives on after the people who made 
them, yet it is none the less good for trade that such 
an impression should be removed. Nevertheless I 
am quite clear that it is a duty which those owe to 
the country in which they hunt, and especially if they 
come from a distance, as far as possible to deal in the 
place where they find their pleasure. There must 
not be in this any more than in anything else a divorce 
between the interests of the inhabitants of a district 
and the hunt. I have dwelt long on this topic, 
because it is of great importance to the future of 
hunting, and also on the other side, to the prosperity 
of country towns. I believe too that the continuance 
of the well-being of country tradespeople is a matter 
of national importance. If they must at last in- 
evitably be absorbed by the great stores and mighty 
shops, let us at least put off the evil day as long as 
possible, and neither as customers nor sellers hasten 
it by selfishness or greed. 

But as these considerations affect the expenditure 
of hunting folk, I think it may be said that our ex- 
penses must in the nature of things be higher than 
they would be at our homes, or in London or Brighton. 
We must be prepared for this, then, for while we ask 
for and expect the best quality, yet we must remember 
that business in the country neither occupies so large 
a capital nor has so rapid a turnover as in London 
or other great cities, and that therefore slightly higher 
charges are admissible. On our side, we have not 



302 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

to pay carriage or to cart our parcels up from the 
station, and the advantage of this ought not to and 
cannot remain without a balance to the seller. The 
tradesman is entitled to charge for the expenses of 
distribution. 

Another item in our expenditure in the Midlands, 
which must be a large one, is the subscription to 
the hunt. Nor ought this to be the only subscrip- 
tion we pay, seeing that the charities and the amuse- 
ments of the district have a claim on us which must 
not be put on one side. These are as much a part 
of the expense of hunting as our stable bills or the 
wages of our servants. People have no moral right 
to come into a neighbourhood to hunt and leave the 
place no better or happier for it. We ought on every 
ground to try to make people feel that the hunt 
brightens the whole life of the neighbourhood and 
adds to its resources for the relief of suffering and 
distress. It would be futile and useless to lay down 
rules or to estimate the sums to be so expended, but 
a wise and kindly liberality will be our best guide in 
such matters. 

As to the subscription to the hunt, that is a much 
misunderstood duty. If in the past every one had 
tried to give as much, and not as little, as they decently 
could, we should not now have so many difficulties 
to contend with. But at all events things have 
not been as they should be in this respect, and hunt 
committees have been forced to fix minimum sub- 
scriptions. Elsewhere I have discussed some of the 
problems of hunt finance, but now I take things as 
they are. Thus it will be found that the subscriptions 
will vary a little in different centres. From Melton 
the Quorn asks for £40 from those who hunt regularly 
with them. The Cottesmore £2$, and the Belvoir 



EXPENSES 303 

a total of £25 for the season, not a great deal for 
the sport provided. But to this must be added another 
£50 for other funds connected with the hunt, of which 
£20 or so, distributed as a well-earned Christmas gift 
among the hunt servants of the different hunts, will 
occur to every one as in no way extravagant. A 
man hunting from Market Harborough would probably 
subscribe to but two hunts, and £100 for the season 
would suffice for everything. But those who have 
a large number of horses would be expected to give 
more, and should do so cheerfully. A rich man should 
not be taxed indeed because he is rich, but he should 
pay more because he has a larger share of the sport 
to which all contribute. 

In practice, however, very few people pay much 
more than the minimum. The poor sportsman who 
drags his " pony " out of a shallow purse and goes 
without something in order to find it does not grudge 
the money, but he does feel a little aggrieved that 
when money is wanted no more is to be obtained 
from the owner of ten horses than from the master 
of one. If a certain sum constitutes membership of 
the hunt, as it does in most cases, it is difficult to 
enforce a larger payment, yet there is no doubt the 
payments in such cases are disproportionate. To 
this we can only respond that it is a universal law 
that the poor man's pleasures are more " costly " 
than those of the rich. " If he can't afford it, he 
ought not to have it," says Dives. But if Lazarus 
were to give up hunting, the sport would very soon 
come to an end. The genteel " beggar on horse- 
back " is the backbone of most hunts. Perhaps if 
we knew everything, the " pauper of the Pytchley " 
is not the only one of his class who has hunted in 
the Shires. 



304 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

It is possible of course, to hunt in the Shires and 
pay much less than the sums I have named, for if 
a visitor chooses Rugby £^o will make him free 
of three hunts ; the minimum of the Atherstone, 
the Warwickshire and the North Warwickshire being 
a modest £io ; and the other subscriptions and 
expenses would be reduced in proportion. Another 
£10 might be enough to satisfy conscience, if not 
quite all that a liberal soul would desire to give. 
Thus a man who hunted with only one of these packs 
might expend no more than £15 for some of the best 
sport in England. 

If we take the Midlands through we shall find that 
the difference in the sport depends not on fashion, not 
even on the country, so much as on the foxes, the 
hounds and the huntsman. I do not think I should 
be wrong in saying that the last three may be ranked 
in the order named, and they will all three be found 
as good in less as in more fashionable countries. I 
think experience will show that, granted that we are 
to hunt away from home, the additional expenses 
are considerably greater in the Midlands than else- 
where in one important particular, and that is the 
price of our horses. I should put down the additional 
expense in purchasing horses in a stable of six at 
from £500 to £y^o more than would be required for 
that purpose in a good provincial country, but I have 
dealt with the all-important question of horses else- 
where. This is money out of pocket at the time, 
but horses well bought, well kept, and well ridden 
are always worth a proportion of their original cost 
if you desire to sell them. 

If we say, then, that the additional cost of a season 
in the Midlands beyond our ordinary expenditure, 
doing things in a fairly comfortable way but without 



EXPENSES 305 

extravagance, would amount to £1000, I do not 
think the estimate excessive. Some people spend 
a great deal more, but, on the other hand, many 
undoubtedly spend less. The actual expenses of 
hunting proper have, however, little to do with the 
large expenditure, though, unless for special reasons, 
be it always remembered, no one would pick out 
the Midlands for experiments in economy in sport. 

To those who live in the grass countries more or 
less all the year hunting is not much more expensive 
than elsewhere. The higher rates of subscription, as 
we have seen, make the sport more costly in the neigh- 
bourhoods of Melton and Market Harborough, and of 
course the horse required is much dearer to buy. 
But if you live in the country, and are neither forced 
to buy in the autumn nor to sell in the spring, this 
additional cost may be reduced to a minimum. One 
of the results of polo is, curiously enough, to increase 
in a slight degree the expense of hunting. For the 
hunters are sold in the spring to make way for polo 
ponies, and the ponies go to Tattersall's in the autumn 
to make way for hunters. This is to buy in a rising 
and sell in a falling market, and is consequently ex- 
pensive. 

After all it is impossible to lay down rules for ex- 
penditure. So much depends on method, economy and 
care that very little more than the hints offered above 
could be of any general service. Questions about ex- 
penses must answer themselves in practice. I notice 
that Ladies' Papers are very fond of spending other 
peoples' incomes for them on paper, but I should 
doubt if anybody ever arranged their expenditure on 
any of the ingenious plans suggested. I am quite 
sure that in many cases if this were attempted there 
would be a serious deficit in the balance at the end 



3o6 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

of the year. I am certainly not going to attempt 
one of these domestic budget estimates for a hunting 
season. If two men start in November with the same 
stud, the same estabhshment and an equal outfit, we 
know very well that one may easily spend many 
hundreds more than the other in the course of the 
season, and have but the same, or even a less, amount 
of sport to show for it. 



CHAPTER XV 

THE PROSPECTS OF HUNTING IN GRASS COUNTRIES 

Farmers and Hunting — Masters and the Crowd — Grass Countries 
— Hunting Strengthens the Farmer's Position — Its growing 
Importance to him — Hunting a Sport without Vested Rights 
—"Borderers" and Capping — Dangers to the Popularity of 
Hunting — Wire — Poultry Funds. 

Hunting rests ultimately on the public opinion of a 
district in its favour. No one can deny that in the 
Shires this opinion is on the whole strongly in favour 
of hunting. So much is this the case that the dis- 
affected are often silenced and sometimes obliged to 
give a reluctant consent and support to hunting. But 
this secret dislike to hunting, which I shall have to 
write of later, is not as a rule to be found among the 
farmers. On the whole, hunting is undoubtedly a 
benefit to farmers as a class. I say as a class, because 
I do not think that in grass countries farmers as 
individuals make much, if any, direct profit out of 
hunting. I was once trying to point out the benefits 
of hunting to a farmer who would not take down his 
wire. " I don't see where I come in," he said. " I 
grow no corn ; I cut no hay ; and you surely won't 
tell me that the hunt coming over my land makes 
much difference in the price of beasts." I endeavoured 
nevertheless to point out to him that this was the 

case ; that the class of people who made up the hunt 

307 



3o8 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

were precisely those who created the demand for the 
choice beasts he fatted ; and that if they were not 
allowed to hunt neither Leicestershire nor England 
would keep them in the winter time. Then he fell 
back on the damage done by three or four hundred 
horsemen sweeping over his farm — the hoof-marks 
in the grass, the breaches in the fences, the gates 
left open, horses and cattle wandering over the fields 
or down the roads. But I pointed out that the grass 
countries had been ridden over by crowds not much 
less than those of to-day for at least a century, and 
that they were still exactly what they always were, 
some of the best and most profitable grazing lands in 
England. To which he urged that the crowds were 
strangers from all parts of England and from all parts 
of the world. The answer was that this was at least 
nothing new ; that the Quorn out of twenty-four 
masters had had but two who were local men ; out 
of twenty-seven masters the Pytchley had had sixteen 
strangers ; that most of the men whose names are 
bound up with the history of hunting in the Shires 
and made the fame of its most splendid periods were 
from distant counties, drawn to Melton or Leicester 
or Market Harborough or Grantham by the fame 
of the hounds, the charm of the district as a riding 
ground, and possibly in some degree by the social 
attractiveness which these gatherings of so-called 
strangers gave to the district. 

Leicestershire and Northamptonshire feed just as 
fine beasts as ever, for if the grass is no better, it is 
certainly no worse for the hunting. In grass countries, 
if the damage fund is carefully and liberally adminis- 
tered, I think in the matter of direct profit or loss 
hunting leaves the farmer very much as it found him. 
On the other hand, this sport is the natural recreation 



HUNTING IN GRASS COUNTRIES 309 

of the farmer, and, if he or his sons are horsemen, 
can be made to lit into the work of the farm without 
much expense. Many farmers do hunt even now in 
grass countries, and when better times come to the 
land, as come they certainly must, most of them 
will doubtless find their recreation as of old in the 
hunting field. 

But there are other reasons why the farmers as a 
class support hunting. The farmer is by his business 
an observant man, though not as a rule free with his 
tongue, so he cannot fail to note that hunting gives 
to farmers a very different and much more powerful 
weight in the social scale than they would have with- 
out it. It is possible, though not likely, that in some 
countries the farmers might make a little more indi- 
vidually out of their farms if there was no hunting. 
But I think that, though for obvious reasons farmers 
— who as a class have the wisdom of silence — do not 
say much they see clearly enough how in many ways 
their position is strengthened socially and politically 
by the popularity of hunting. First of all, as long as 
hunting lasts the farmer has something to give which 
his fellow-men desire to have — the privilege of riding 
over his land. He has, in fact, under his absolute 
power and control a valuable piece of patronage. 
Whatever may have been the case once, we all recognise 
this now, and a man who offends the farmers in his 
neighbourhood is regarded rather as a nuisance to the 
hunt. Every one who is interested in the hunt is 
grateful for the privilege generously extended ; and if 
we can do anything for those who grant it we are glad 
to be able to do it. Each man who hunts is the 
farmer's friend, and I think every one will agree with 
me that the goodwill often takes a practical form. 
But it is its existence which is the point. While 



310 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

hunting lasts, the farmer is a man of influence out of 
proportion to his wealth. Without hunting he would 
be nobody, of less importance socially than the well- 
to-do tradesman, of smaller influence politically than 
the labourers who work in his fields. This is not the 
place to discuss politics, but at all events the particular 
class of politicians who gird at sport are not the least 
likely to be of the smallest use to the farmer in any- 
thing he wants. The farmers have an instinctive feeling 
that from his sympathy with country life a sports- 
man is their best representative. " I shall always 

vote for Mr. L while he rides as straight as he 

do," was the view of a farmer, who perhaps only dimly 
perceived the very real connection between the value 
of his vote and the existence of sport. 

Hunting is more important now to the farmer even 
than it was thirty or forty years ago, because then 
the great majority of country gentlemen were resident 
on their estates and the farmer was naturally on friendly 
and neighbourly terms with them, and thus exercised 
his influence through them and found sympathetic 
counsellors and advocates in men whose interests were 
identical with his own. The country gentlemen rested 
their influence on the farmers, who in their turn could 
make their opinions felt through the " country party," 
then powerful in Parliament. But when in course 
of time the country gentlemen decayed in wealth 
and influence, the link between the farmer and the 
governing classes was broken, and we constantly see 
how Governments, Tory or Radical, feel that they 
can afford to neglect the wishes and interests of 
agricultural folk. 

To a very great extent hunting, particularly in the 
grass countries, has been a compensation to the farmers 
for this loss of power. Sometimes they complain that 



HUNTING IN GRASS COUNTRIES 311 

the people who ride over their land are strangers and 
not the neighbours they know. If they would only 
consider it, that is the very best thing possible for 
them. There is a continual stream of members of 
both Houses of Parliament, men of business, lawyers, 
financiers, authors, journalists, fairly well-to-do men 
of every class in fact, flowing into the fashionable 
countries. Masters of hounds, secretaries of hunts 
and committee men are always dinning into the ears 
of these visitors the fact that hunting is not a right, 
but a privilege for which we have to thank the farmers. 
Thus large classes of people, who would never have 
come in contact with the agricultural classes, are 
taught to know and to respect them. To know the 
English farmer is not only to respect but to like him, 
and thus to every part of England Leicestershire 
hunting fields send out a number of well-wishers and 
earnest advocates of the farmer's interests. In my 
opinion hunting is the farmer's best instrument of 
power, and indeed stands between him and social and 
political insignificance, and I think my readers will 
agree with me that the farmers have used their power 
not only kindly and well, but judiciously. They have 
protested, and rightly, when hunting men have shown 
a disposition to disregard their rights, but they have 
never taken any steps seriously to injure the sport. 
Farmers know well that if once they stopped hunting 
in any district, they might not find it restarted again. 
It must be evident too that in hunting countries 
farmers who oppose hunting are not popular with the 
classes above and below them and have not the general 
sympathy of their own fellows. The farmer who 
keeps up his wire in a hunting district is naturally 
not a favourite with the business people, for he drives 
away custom, nor with the labourers, whose sympathies 



312 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

are always with a bit of spo-ort. He is regarded as a 
selfish person by his neighbours, because he drives 
the hunt on to other people's land so that they get 
more than their share of people riding over their grass. 
Then I believe that the farmers have a genuinely 
patriotic interest in supporting hunting. They believe 
that it is the training of the hunting field which 
helps to make our soldiers and yeomen what they are, 
and they feel with a just pride that England owed 
much in our late war as of old to a class of men — her 
farmers — whom of late years she has neglected and 
even flouted. The farmers see that the war, though 
not in the old way of high prices yet in a very real 
sense, has increased their importance to the national 
life, and they know that without the great national 
sport of hunting they could not have done what 
they have. 

Perhaps some day, when the question of our horse 
supply is really seriously considered, our yeomen will 
be assisted by Government to keep their horses and 
to hunt with their country packs. This would solve 
the questions of half the men's training and all the 
difficulties of horse supply as well. I cannot imagine 
a more efficient troop horse than one which has had 
the discipline of some training in the ranks of a 
squadron, combined with the schooling of its intelli- 
gence in the hunting field. 

But with the decreased resources of the landed 
classes at the present day and the increasing wealth 
of those who hunt, it is evident that it ought to be a 
point of honour with hunting people to make the 
expenses fall as lightly as possible on the farmer. 
This necessitates a very large expenditure nowadays. 
Nevertheless if everybody who hunted paid moderately 
for their sport, sufficient money could be collected 



HUNTING IN GRASS COUNTRIES 313 

to meet all just demands. There should be a minimum 
subscription, which might be fixed at £10 for a man 
who took out one horse a day and £20 for two. There 
is no greater mistake than to fix a minimum which is 
not within the power of every man who can hunt at 
all to pay. For if you refuse to take less under any 
circumstances, people will either come out without 
paying, or you must be rude to them and make enemies. 
The remedy is the cap of £2, say some people, and this 
is probably true where the subscription is £10, but 
when that is combined with a minimum of £2$ there 
is an obvious opening for the cry that hunting is the 
sport of the rich. " So it ought to be," say some 
people ; yet I am convinced that the raising of that 
cry will be fatal to hunting. Those who fail to see 
this take short views and have never realised what 
hunting depends on for its existence. 

It rests, as we have said, on prescription and on its 
own popularity. The right of hunting is not a thing 
that can be bought and sold. The hunt has no 
definite right to offer, because the thing people wish 
to do is to ride over another person's land. But this 
privilege is in no sense the property of the hunt, and 
can neither be given to an individual to whom the 
farmers objected nor taken away from one to whom 
they are willing to grant it. It is wise, then, to see 
that rules as to subscription and capping are applied 
impartially to those who ought to be made to pay. 
But they must not be considered so sacred as to admit 
of no exception. The people to whom they chiefly 
apply are those who come into the country and take 
houses or stables for the purpose of hunting. Such 
people have no particular interest or loyalty for the 
country side, apart from the sport it affords, and 
are no more to be considered " residents " than a 



314 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

man who rents a house at a watering-place for the 
season. 

In practice this class gives very little trouble. 
Before they come into the country they generally find 
out what is expected of them. Indeed they are 
generally anxious to be regarded as members of the 
hunt and willing to pay for the honour. It is true 
of course that such people may not always give quite 
as much as they ought to do, but if they did they 
would not perhaps be as rich as they are. 

There are two classes of people who must be con- 
sidered. First the " borderers," the men who have 
the bad luck to live near the border of one hunt and 
find it convenient to hunt over the limit line with a 
neighbouring pack once or twice a week. These 
men probably subscribe to the hunt of the district 
in which they live. But this is no reason why they 
should hunt for nothing with a neighbouring pack. 
A cap or special rate of subscription seems to apply 
to this class and meet their case. But a class which 
requires much more tact is the class of permanent 
residents in the district. The men who have as 
many hundreds to spend as the visitors have thousands, 
the men who have other occupations and to whom 
hunting is purely a delightful recreation or an un- 
rivalled means of health or pleasure. These men, 
too, should give what they can. But there might 
be an attempt made — I am not sure that it has not 
been done already — to make subscriptions so heavy 
as practically to exclude all but the wealthy from 
this sport. I repeat that I have no doubt what- 
ever, and I do not think any man who has really 
studied the subject carefully can doubt that such 
an attempt, if successful, would bring about the 
speedy downfall of hunting. What bad times and 



HUNTING IN GRASS COUNTRIES 315 

wire and mange have failed to do in a score of years, 
selfishness and pride of purse would succeed in doing 
in a few months. 

The privilege of hunting with a pack in a man's 
native or adopted country rests on precisely the 
same basis as hunting itself — on long custom and 
common consent. Who are the people whom per- 
haps it is sought to exclude, and who certainly are 
sometimes even now made to feel unwelcome ? They 
are the smaller gentry, whom love for the land has 
brought back to settle in the country, and the pro- 
fessional men and business folk of the market towns. 
All these are men of local importance. They have 
business connections and sometimes ties of relation- 
ship with the farmers. They will as a rule be liberal 
according to their means, which are not large. But, 
whether they are generous or the reverse, they are 
most valuable supporters of hunting. A hunt which 
has these people on its side is fortunate, for there 
will be so many centres of influence working for it. 
If they were indifferent or hostile, the effect would 
be felt at once. The prospects of hunting are good 
now ; never indeed were better ; and I have given 
some reasons for thinking that the interests of the 
farmers are inextricably bound up with those of 
hunting. But the chief — I had almost written the 
only — danger is from within. A hunt's worst enemies 
are arrogance, pride of pocket, selfishness, want of 
imagination or of sympathy in its rules and their 
administration. Turn back to the history of the 
past and note that when a master, or secretary, or 
even a leading member of the hunt is unpopular 
how foxes decrease and wire grows in length. What 
can we suppose would happen if the unpopular 
people in a hunt were multiplied by twenty ? It 



3i6 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

is sometimes said that people want to hunt cheaply 
and that strangers to a country are a great evil. To 
the first we reply that of all the ways of supporting 
a hunt money is, though indispensable, the least 
important. A hunt does not at all rest on its wealth, 
or we should find that the hunts with the largest 
subscriptions would have the fewest difficulties in 
their way, whereas we know that they are not in 
the least exempt from wire or hostility. 

The real danger to hunting arises from three 
causes, of which I will write frankly. First of all, 
there is a certain arrogance — what we used at Oxford 
in our possibly pedantic but not inexpressive phrase 
to call " hubris " — on the part of a certain class. 
Then there is carelessness about the duties and 
courtesies of hunting ; there are gates left open and 
fences broken down. Thirdly, the cloud of second 
horsemen, who are a real source of irritation, and 
worst of all the long trail of people behind the hunt, 
who ride on enjoying themselves but breaking down 
fences and doing mischief. At this point I may 
say that, while we may legitimately jump at a fence 
and possibly smash it in so doing, it is at the present 
day absolutely inexcusable to dismount and de- 
liberately break down a fence in order to make a 
passage through it. If fences were only injured 
by those who jumped them fairly, I believe that there 
would be far less wire than there is. The sting of a 
hunt, like that of a scorpion, is in its tail. 

Now, I am not saying that the farmer is faultless. 
He has the failing of all the English middle class, 
" tetchiness," and often does himself and the hunt 
harm by keeping up wire on account of some quite 
imaginary wrong that no one but himself has ever 
thought of. But he, like other people, feels and 



HUNTING IN GRASS COUNTRIES 317 

resents the defect common to all English society, 
which has been defined as caused by " the superior 
manners of inferior people and the inferior manners 
of superior people." 

But is there no hostility to hunting ? I think 
there is some, though it is kept in check by the 
genuine popularity of the sport. It exists, how- 
ever, and is sufficient to be a danger. There are 
those who conscientiously believe all sport to be 
morally wrong. There are a few people who dis- 
like everything that gives pleasure to others ; some 
who cannot see why people should like what they 
themselves do not care for. There are some again 
who really think that the passage of the hunt over 
their farms does more damage than can possibly 
be recompensed to them by anything that the hunt 
can do for them. There are the owners of prize- 
bred fowls who put down every loss to the foxes. 
Many of these people are mistaken, but if they do 
not think so and cannot be brought to see it, the 
danger is the same. Then there is a class of 
politicians who believe that English love of sport 
is a real hindrance to the spread of liberal opinions. 

So long as public opinion and the common interest 
keep these in check — well. But if ever hunting 
people give them a really taking cry, such as that 
hunting is " the sport of the rich," and if the mal- 
contents are strengthened by the resentment of 
those who have been driven from the hunting field 
when they believe, and perhaps with justice, that 
they have as much right as any one else and can rally 
to themselves the class jealousies which seethe under 
the surface of our rural life, it will be all over with 
hunting, and indeed with sport of all kind in Eng- 
land. I do not say that the danger is now imminent, 



3i8 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

but it is there, and should be carefully considered 
by those who have the most influence, the masters, 
the secretaries, and the hunt committees. Nothing 
would be more fatal now than to take short views. 

There is one point already alluded to, and that is 
the question of poultry funds, but as a matter of 
fact there can be very little wanting in that matter 
in the Shires, for the sums paid show that hunt 
secretaries and committees, in the Shires at least, 
have thoroughly grasped the increased value of 
poultry and the importance of it as a cottage in- 
dustry. 

On the whole there is perhaps not more opposition 
to hunting than there has always been, but in these 
days the opponents are neither so silent nor so iso- 
lated as they were, and they can and do combine to 
a certain extent. The remedy is in our own hands 
by close alliance with and support of the farmers, 
and even more by the thousand and one courtesies 
and acts of neighbourly kindness which go far to 
make up the charm of country life. 



CHAPTER XVI 

PRINCIPAL FIXTURES WITHIN TEN MILES OF THE 
CHIEF HUNTING CENTRES 

Hacking to the Meet— Often good for the Horse — Fixtures from 
Melton with the Quorn, Cottesmore and Belvoir — From 
Market Harborough with the Cottesmore, Mr. Fernie's, 
Woodland Pytchley and Pytchley — From Rugby with the 
Pytchley, Atherstone, North Warwickshire and Warwickshire 
■ — From Leicester with Mr. Fernie's, the Atherstone and 
Quorn — From Oakham with the Belvoir, Quorn, Cottesmore, 
Mr. Fernie's, Woodland Pytchley and Fitzwilliam — From 
Leamington with the North Warwickshire and Warwickshire. 

The following list of the fixtures of the hunts named 
in this book which are within hacking distance of 
the principal centres should be of use to the new- 
comer to the neighbourhood, and may even be an 
occasional help to the older residents. The out- 
side radius is ten miles as the crow flies, and while 
most of the fixtures given are well within this, a few 
will be found to be just outside. Ten or twelve 
miles is not too much even for one horse to be hacked 
on to the place of meeting ; and if we have two out, 
the first horse might even go farther. It has been 
an opinion held by many men of experience that a 
hunter is all the better for a steady trot of anything 
under a dozen miles before hunting ; most people 
find the ride to covert delightful, and though, as time 
goes on, we should not be sorry to drive home again, 



320 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 

yet I think many men would acknowledge that they 
would be very sorry to give up the morning ride, 
and that they go all the better and are on better 
terms with their horse after it. The fixtures named 
may sometimes be altered, but the neighbourhood 
drawn on any particular day will remain the same 
and the distances consequently do not vary much. 
The list may help any one who is doubtful as to where 
he shall cast his winter lot in comparing the different 
advantages of the various centres, 

MELTON 



QUORN — 

Widmerpool 

Upper Broughton 

Ab Kettleby 

Grimston 

Willoughby 

Wymeswold 

Prestwold 

Sixhills 

Thrussington 

Rearsby 

Ratcliffe-on-Wreake 

Kirby Gate 

Great Dalby 

Twyford 

Lowesby 

Billesdon 

Ashby Folville 

Gaddesby Hall 

Baggrave 

Hungarton 

Quenby 

Keyham 

Scraptoft 

Brooksby 

Queniborough 



QuORN {continued) — 
Syston 
Barkby 
Beeby 
Barsby 

Cottesmore — 
Stapleford 
Wymondham 
Market Overton 
Cottesmore 
Ashwell 
Burley 
Oakham 
Brooke 
Whissendine 
Braunston 
Coles Lodge 
Launde 

Loddington Hall 
Tilton Wood 
Owston 
Knossington 
Cold Overton 
Somerby 
Pickwell 



CHIEF HUNTING CENTRES 



321 



MELTON {contifmed) 



Cottesmore {continued)- 
Leesthorpe 
Wylds Lodge 

Belvoir — 

Langar 
Plungar 
Belvoir 
Three Queens 
Buckminster 



Belvoir {continucd)- 
Harby 
Hose 

Piper Hole 
Goadby 
Croxton Park 
Waltham 
Stonesby 
Holwell Mouth 



MARKET HARBOROUGH 



Cottesmore — 
Tilton 
Loddington 
Belton 
Wardley Wood 

Mr. Fernie's. The whole of 
the country except — 
Thurnby 
Countesthorpe 
Blaby Wharf 

Woodland Pytchley— 
Dingley 
Ashley 
Wilbarston 
Rockingham 
Corby 
Giddington 
Boughton 
Weekley 
Rushton 
Dob Hall 
Pipwell 



Pytchley — 

Loddington 
Cransley 
Faxton 
Scaldwell 
Lamport 
Maidwell 
Foxhall 
Harrington 
Kelmarsh 
Arthingworth 
Great Oxendon 
Clipston 
Haselbeech 
Cottesbrooke 
Guilsborough 
Thornby 
Cold Ashby 
Naseby 
Winwick 
Stanford 
Hemplow 
Welford 
South Kilworth 
North Kilworth 
X 



322 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 



RUGBY 



Pytchley— 

Lutterworth 

North Kilworth 

South Kilworth 

Welford 

Cold Ashby 

Winwick 

West Haddon 

Long Buckby 

Watford 

Norton 

Daventry 

Welton 

Braunston 

Ashby St. Ledgers 

Crick 

Yelvertoft 

Lilbourne 

Cattthorpe 

Swinford 

Stanford Park 

Atherstone — 
Bitteswell 
Ullesthorp 
Smockington 
Shilton Station 
Binley 
Combe 



Atherstone {continued)- 
Brinklow 
Newbold Revel 
Newnham Paddox 
Brownsover 
Coton House 

North Warwickshire— 
Clifton 
Hillmorton 
Dunchurch 
Bilton Hall 
Frankton 
Ofifchurch 
Weston 
Cubbington 
Stoneleigh 
Bagginton 

North Warwickshire- 
Bubbenhall 
Stretton 
Wolston 

Warwickshire — 
Ufton Wood 
Lower Shuckburgh 
Long Itchington 
Birdingbury 



LEICESTER 



Mr. Fernie's — 
Thurnby 
Houghton 
Billesdon 
Rolleston 
Tur Langton 
Kibworth 



Mr. Fernie's {coniinued)- 
Saddington 
Mowsley 
Bruntingthorpe 
Shearsby 
Arnesby 
Kilby 



CHIEF HUNTING CENTRES 



323 



LEICESTER {continued) 



Mr. Fernie's (continued)- 
Countesthorp 
Wistovv 
Oadby 
Stretton 
Great Glen 
Burton Overy 
Norton 
lUston 

ATHERSTONE — 

Stapleton 
Kerkly 
Peckleton 
Newbold Verdun 
Ratly Burrows 



QUORN- 



Blaby Station 
Kirkby Muxloe 
Markfield 
Copt Oak Wood 
Five Dale Trees 
Nanpantan 



QUORN {continued)^ 
Beaumanoir 
Quorn 

Woodhouse Eaves 
Swithland 
Rothley House 
Old John Bradgate Park 
Anstey 

Ratcliffe on Wreake 
Rearsby 
Syston 

Queniborough 
Brooksby 
Barkby 
Gaddesby 
Ashby Folville 
Twyford 
Loseby 
Quenby 
Scraptoft 
Keyham 
Hungarton 
Baggrave 
Beeby 



OAKHAM 

Commands the whole of the Cottesmore country within a 
ten mile radius, also all Mr. Fernie's Saturday and a 
part of his Friday country. 



The Belvoir — 

Buckminster 

Stonesby 

Waltham 

The Quorn — 
Quenby 

The Coplow (just over 
the limit) 



The Quorn {continued)- 
Hungarton 
Baggrave 
Ashby Folville 
Gaddesby Hall 
Great Dalby 
Kirby Gate 
Twyford 
Lowesby 



324 FOX-HUNTING IN THE SHIRES 



OAKHAM 



The Cottesmore— 

The Bull Witham 

Holywell 

Tickencote 

Empingham 

Witchley Warren 

North Lufifenham 

Morcott 

Uppingham 

Hambleton 

Burley 

Exton 

Normanton 

Langham 

Ashwell 

Market Overton 

Stapleford 

Whissendine 

Wylds Lodge 

Leesthorpe 

Pickwell 

Somerby 

Knossington 

Owston Wood 

Braunston 

Brooke 

Launde Abbey 

Coles Lodge 

Whadborough 

Tilton Wood 

Loddington Hall 

Belton 

Ridlington 

Wardley Wood 

Preston 

Stoke End 

Beamont Chase 



QUORN— 

Kirby Gate 
Great Dalby 
Twyford 
Lowesby 
Quenby 
Baggrave 
Ashby Folville 
Hungerton 
Billesdon Coplow 

Belvoir— 

Melton Mowbray 
Waltham 
Stonesby 
Buckminster 

Mr. Fernie's Thursday— 
Billesden Village 
RoUeston 
Goadby 

Keythorpe Hall 
Skeffington 
Hallaton 

Friday or Saturday — 
Allexton 
Horninghold 
Stockerston 
Blaston 
Horninghold 

Woodland Pytchley and 

FiTZWILLIAM — 

Laxton Hall 



CHIEF HUNTING CENTRES 



325 



LEAMINGTON 



North Warwickshire. Prac- 
tically the whole country ex- 
cept a few meets on the 
Birmingham (Saturday) and 
Worcestershire side 

Warwickshire — 

Birdingbury 

Long Itchington 

Ufton Wood 

Shuckburgh is a little be- 
yond the ten mile radius, 
but easily reached 

Ladbrooke 

Fenny Compton 

Burton Dassett 

Kineton 

Ettington 



Warwickshire {continued)- 
Goldicote 
Stratford-on-Avon 
Smithfield 
Burford 
Hampton Lucy 
Charlecote 
Wellesbourne 
Compton Verney 
Walton Hall 
Chadshunt 
Gaydon 
Light Thorne 
Newbold Pacey 
Itchington Holt 
Tachbrook 
Harbury 



INDEX 



Albrighton, the, 176 

Alford, Lord, 165 

Aiken, 212 

AUexton, 93 

Althorp, Lord, 161, 168 

Alvanley, Lord, 5, 65, 142, 198, 

207 
Annaly, Lord, 170 
Anson, Lord, 174, 175 
Apperley, 86. See also Nimrod 
Arabs as sires, 258 
Arbury, 176 
Arkwright, Mr., 189 
Arthingworth, 92 
Arthur, Mrs., 146, 378 
Asfordby, 62 
Ashby Pastures, 57, 60 
Ashby-de-la-Zouche, 174 
Ashlands Valley, 73 
Aswarby, in, 112, 115 
Atherstone, The, i, 76, 99, 102, 

152, 170, 172-177, 178, 184, 

304 
Austria, the late Empress of, 27S 
Avon, River, 82 
Aylesbury, Vale of, 70, 252 
Aylesford, Lord, 36 

Badby Wood, 108 

Badminton, 139 

"Badminton Library," the, 187 

Baggrave, 55 

Baillie, Colonel, 147 

"Baily's Magazine," 152, 185 

Baird, Mr., 134 

Baker, Mr., 183, 184 

Banbury, 80 

Barclay, Mr, H. T., 117 



Bardon Hill, 108 
Barnard, Sir Andrew, 156 
Barrow, Will, 180, 182 
Barrow-upon-Soar, 107 
Bayzand, Dicky, 243 
Beagles, 200 
Beaters, 86 

Beatty, Mr. Philip, 90, gi 
Beaufort's, Duke of, 2, 69, 171, 

294 
Beaumont Chase, 60 
Beckford, Peter, 7 
Belton, 60 
Belvoir, the, i, 4, 22, 27, 46, 49, 

62, no. Ill, 112, 118, 121, 125, 

132, 134, 135-144, 154, 165, 

169, 171, 197, 228, 229, 302, 

321, 323, 324 
Belvoir Vale, 32, 33, 34, 35, 44, 

45, 47, 50, 60, 113 
Bentinck, Lord Charles, w'] 
Bentinck, Lord Henry, 169 
Berkshire, 170 
Bescaby Oaks, 46, 122, 137 
Bethune, Major, 147 
Betsy (hound), 160 
Bicester, the, 2, 18, 155, 294 
Billesdon, 62, 69, 76, 144, 145, 

146, 147 
Billesdon Coplow, 128, 159, 180 
lailton, 102, 256 
Birmingham, loi, 183 
Bishopp, Tom, 131 
Bitteswell, 103 
Blaby Wharf, 78 
Blankney, the, no, 171 
Blaston Spinneys, 93 
Blue Ruin (horse), 160 



326 



INDEX 



327 



Boothby, 113 
Boots, 287 
"Borderers," 314 
Borrowes, Mr., 133 
Bosworth Gorse, 3, 75 
Bosworth Hall, 92 
Botany Bay, 3, 54, 156, 196 
Boughton Hall. 155 
Boughton House, 155 
Bradgate Park, 108 
Bradley, Mr. Cuthbert, 256 
Brailes Hill, 186 
Brampton (horse), 244 
Brant, River, 113, 114 
Brentingby Covert, 45 
Brigstock, no, 155, 171 
Brixworth, no, 165 
Brocklesby, the, no, 140, 141, 

228 
Brooks, 43, 46, 47, 92, loi, n7, 

151 
Brooksby (quoted), 26, 32, 62, 

91,99, n9, 131, 177 
Brownsover, 103 
Brummell, Beau, 141 
Bruneti^re, M. (quoted), 168 
Buckminster, 118, 143 
Buller, Mr., 155 
" Bullfinches," 45 
Bunny Park, 36, 107 
Burbidge's Covert, 47 
Burleigh House, 225 
Burley Woods, 49 
Burns- Hartopp, Captain, 107, 

131 

Burrough Hill^ 278 
Burton, Dick, 107, 162 
Burton Flats, 34, 44 
Burton Overy, 68, 85, 147, 219 
Burton, the, no 
Butter, James, 1 56 

Calcot, 186 

Canadian hay, 299 

Canals, 70, 74 

Cannon Ball (horse), 241 

Capell, 140, 143 

Carlton Clump, 89 

Carlton Curlieu, 68, 192, 219 

Carr, Tom, 184 



Carrington, Mr., 216 
Carter, J., 229 
Casthorpe, 47 
Castleman, George, 175 
Catmose, Vale of, 48, 221 
Cave, Mr. Otway, 155 
Cavendish, Lord George, 142 
Cazenove, Mr., 171 
Champion (hound), 140 
Charlecote, 179 
Charnvvood, 107 
Chesham, Lord, 2 
Cheshire, 37, 25S, 264 
Chesterfield, Lord, 162, 163, 210, 

213 
Chesterton, 179 
Cheverel Manor, 176 
Christian, Dick, 15, 206, 210, 

233, 249 

Churchill, Lord, 90 

Chute, Mr., 210 

Clawson Thorns, 35 

Clerk, Captain Mildmay, 166 

Cleveland, Lady, 277 

Clipston, 71, 91 

Cloutsham Ball, 34 

Cold Ashby, 79 

Cold Newton, 156 

Cold Overton, 44 

Combe, 176 

Cook, Colonel, 181 

Cooper, 140 

Coplow, the, 40, 43, 54, 89, 194 

Copton House, 181 

Corbet, Mr., 180, 181, 182, 213, 
214 

Cory, Mr., 244 

Coston Covert, 46, iiy 

Coton, 103 

Cottesmore, the, i, 9, 22, 34, 
37, 38) 39, 43, 44, 45, 46, 48, 
49, 5°. Sh 52, 60, 62, 71, 76, 
78,84,90, n7, 125, 131, 132- 
135, i45> 146, 147, 152, 176 
193, 195, 221, 223, 224, 225, 
226, 227, 228, 260, 278, 302. 
320, 321, 324 

Cottesmore Wood, 49 

Countesthorpe, 76 

Coupland, Mr., 131, 146 



528 



INDEX 



Coventry, 174 
Coverts, 36 
Cranoe, 98 
Cranwell, 1 13 
Craven, Berkeley, 142 
Craven, Lord, 176 
Craven, the, 258 
Cream Corse, 60 
Crick, 71, 78, 81 
Crowds, 78, 80, 83, 106 
Croxton Park, 4, 44, 46, 136 
Cunard, Sir Bache, 148 
Curate's Corse, 35 

Davenport, Mr. Bromley, 43 

Daventry, 108 

Denbigh, Lord, 176 

Derry, Will, 162 

Devon, horses bred in, 257 

Dingley Warren, "]"] 

Ditches, 180 

Dogs, shepherds', 124 

Douglass, Mr. J. H., 146 

Douglass, Mrs., 147 

Dress, 29, 284, 285, 286 

Druid, the, 203 

Ducie, Lord, 163 

Dunchurch, 184 

Dysart, Lord, 117 

Edgehill, 180 

Edmonthorpe, 118 

Eliot, George, 176 

Elkington, 82 

Ellars Corse, 35, 36 

Elliott, Mr. T. E., 278 

Epwell Hunt Poem, the, 105, 

182 
Essex Hounds, 52, 69 
Eton, 17, 200 
Exeter, Marquis of, 225, 227, 

228 
Expenses, 294-306 
Eye Brook, 92, 93 

Fane, Colonel, 113 
Farmers and hunting, 31 1 
Farndon, 91, 94 

Fences, 34, 41, 54, 55, 9i, "4, 
182, 211, 217 



Fens, the, 113 

Ferneley's Portraits, 11, 112 

Fernie's, Mr., i, 4, 26, 42, 48, 
50, 52, 62, 68, 69, 72, 73, 77, 
78, 79, 84, 88, 89, 92, 93, 97, 
98, 99, 107, 121, 135, 144-152, 
194, 195, 225, 228, 258, 260. 
265, 321, 322, 323, 324 

Ferryman (horse), 240 

Firr, Tom, 54, 56, 57, 106, 122, 
126, 130, 131, 169, 185, 208 

Fishponds, the, 44 

Fitzhardinge, Lord, 134 

Fitzwilliam, the, 93, 224, 225, 
228, 229, 324 

Fixtures, 320-325 

Foley, Lord, 129 

Folkingham, 112, 117 

Forester, Lord, 44, 65, 141, 142, 
208, 209 

Forester, Mr. Cecil, 128, 142 

Forfeit, Robert, 156 

Foster, Mr. Carnaby, 152 

Foxhall, 92 

Foxton, 68, 69, 72, 75, 76, 158, 

193 
Freeby Wood, 46, 122 
Frisby, 156 

Frost, hounds stopped by, 1 10 
Fulbeck, 114 

Gainsborough, Lord, 132 
Gale, Mr. 117 
Gambler (hound), 143 
Gardner, Lord, 19, 43, 85, 216, 

217 
Gates, 212 

Gendarme (horse), 244, 258 
Geydon, 179 
Giles, Mr. G. D., 55 
Gillard, Frank, 112, 117, 119, 

125, 140, 141, 143, 150, 169, 

197 
Gillson, 134 
Gilmorton, 75 

Gilmour, Mr. Little, 209, 217 
Glen Corse, 85, 86, 87, 122 
Glen Oaks, 43 
Glooston, 84, 85, 89, 122, 145, 

194, 195, 219 



INDEX 



329 



Goadby, 46, 76, 225, 278 
Golden Ball (horse), 278 
Goodall, Frank, 83, 1 12, 140, 141 
Goodall, Stephen, 129, 155 
Goodall, Will, 44, 112, 114, 122, 

126, 140, 141, 142, 167, 169 
Goodricke, Sir Francis, 164 
Goodricke, Sir Harry, 207 
Goosey, 133, 140, 141, 142 
Gopsall, 173 

Goulburn, Serjeant, 105, 182 
Gower, Lord, 132 
Grafton, the, 2, 108, 132 
Graham, Sir Bellingham, 161, 

174 
Granby, The Marquis of, 139, 

Grant, Sir Francis, 141 

Grantham, i, 109-119 

Grass Countries, 5, 40, 193, 213, 

231-263 
Great Bowden, T], 144, 156, 160 
Greaves, Mr. Henley, 133 
Greenall, Sir Gilbert, 140, 143 
Greene, Mr., 90, 205 
Grey Miranda (pony), 252 
Grooms, 295 
Grosvenor, General, 133 
Gumley, 76, 156, 157 

Haggerstone, Sir Carnaby, 

142 
Hall, Squire, 17 
Hampshire, 2, 170, 199 
Hanbury, Mr. Evan, 134, 265 
Harborough. See Market Har- 

borough 
Hardy, Mr. Gerald, 176 
Harrington, 92 
Harrington, Lord, 36 
Hemplow, the, 82 
Hertfordshire, the, 112 
Heythrop, the, 17, 251 
Hillmorton, 81, 100 
Hoby Vale, 32 
Holderness, 258 
Holmes, Miss Nellie, 277 
Hook Norton, 178 
Hopetoun, Lord, 147 
Horse-dealers, 259 



Horsemanship, 187-220 
Horses for Grass Countries, 231- 

263 
Hotels and Inns, 28, 68, 69, 85, 

105, 109 
Hothorpe, 74, 92 
Hound-breeding, 100, no, 125, 

134, 139, 141, 142, 152, 171, 

181, 229 
Howth, Lord, 245 
Hutchinson, Messrs., iig 

ILMINGTON Hills, 186 
Inns. See Hotels 
Ireland, 245, 252 
Irish hunters, 276 

Jane Ball (covert), 75, 76 
John Ball (covert), 3, 75, 76 
John O'Gaunt, 3, 42, 56, 70, 78 
Johnstone, Sir Frederick, 217 
Jumping, 18, 19, 58, 65, 75, 206 

" Kate Coventry," 274 

Kelmarsh, 92 

Kent, 2 

Kesteven, Lord, 133, 134 

Key ham, 54, 157 

Keythorpe, 76, 85, 90, 194, 219, 

225 
Kibworth, 69, 71, 72, ^(.^ 79, 156, 

220 
Kibworth Sticks, 3, 75, 253 
Kinch, 152 
King, Charles, 161 
Kinoulton, 36 
Kinsky, Count, 5 
Kirby Gate, 33, 34 
Knightley, Sir Charles, 161 
Knossington, 13, 41, 44, 196 

Ladbrook, 179 

Ladies in the hunting field, 

147, 274-283 
Lady Wood, 42 
Lambert, 133 
Lambton, Mr., 142 
Lamport, 71 

Langham, Sir Herbert, 169 
Langham Pastures, 49 



330 



INDEX 



Langton, 72 

Langton Cauldwell, 84 

Langton Hall, 144 

Larische, Count, 5 

Laughton, 74, 76, 92, 156, 158 

Launde, 38, 39, 42, 49, 135, 195 

Laxton Park, 228 

Leadenham, 112, 113 

Leamington, 64, 80, 104, 183, 
184, 260, 283, 325 

" Leaves from a Hunting Diary," 
61, 62 

Ledbury, the, 152 

Leesthorpe, 34, 43 

Legard, Rev. Cecil, 185 

Leicester, 63, 78, 83, 85, 105, 
108, 172, 259, 260, 322, 323 

Leicestershire, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9 
II, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22 
24, 26, 27,38, 42, 51, 52, 53 
54, 57, 61, 62, 65, 73, 74, 79 
83, S7, 89, 90, 100, loi, 103, 
124, 131, 135, 145, 151, 173^ 
176, 177, 178, 180, 189, 190 
192, 194, 195, 196, 197, 198 
199, 201, 202, 203, 204, 205 
207, 209, 212, 213, 215, 222 
224, 228, 231, 235, 242, 243, 
245, 246, 247, 251, 252, 253 
255, 256, 258, 261, 264, 265 
267, 270, 272, 280, 281, 282 
296, 308 

Lenton, 117 

Lexicon (hound), 134 

Lichfield, Lord, 174 

Lilbourne, 71, 78, 81, 82 

Lincolnshire, 2, 4, 5, 115, 116, 
179, 216, 223, 224, 257 ■ 

Lloyd, Griff, 2 

Loatland Wood, 92 

Loddington, 39, 41, I35 

Longhold, 82, 92 

Lonsdale, Lord, 42, 54, 56, 57, 
146, 147, 171 

Lowesby Hall, 56 

Lowndes, Mr. Selby, 183 

Lowth, Mr., 180 

Lowther, Lady Eleanor, 278 

Lowther, Sir William, 132 

Lubenham, 68, 74 



Lucy, Mr., 185 

Ludlow, 243 

Lutterworth, 62, 71, yT)^ 74, 156, 

174 
Lyddington, 93 

Macclesfield, Lord, 17 

Mackenzie, Mr. Austin, 171 

Maher, Mr., 217 

Manners, Lord Edward, 118, 123 

Manners, Miss, 278 

Manton Gorse, 49, 219 

Manton Valley, 93 

Marefield, 42 

Market Harborough, i, 3, 4, 5, 
9, 12,22,26, 37,62, 64-95,97, 
98, 104, 128, 144, 146, 148, 
156, 160, 172, 231, 250, 255, 
258, 259, 260, 294, 296, 303, 
305, 308, 321 

Market Overton, 118, 145 

Marston Hills, 76 

Marston Trussells, 74 

Marston Wood, 156, 158 

Masters, Mr., 131, 161, 164 

Matusciewitz, Count, 5 

Maxse, Mr., 209 

Medbourne, 68, 93, 152 

" Meet," 33 

Melton, I, 3,4, 5, 12, 13, 22, 25- 
63, 65, 67, 71, 72, 80, 83, 8s, 
98, 104, III, 115, 116, 118, 

128, 135, 141, 146, 196, 218, 
222, 227, 231, 250, 258, 260, 
265, 273, 275, 282, 283, 284, 
287, 294, 295, 296, 302, 305, 
30S, 320, 321 

Meynell, Mr., 27, loi, 127, 128, 

129, 142, 154, 157, 210, 286 
Micklethwaite, Captain, 116 
Middleton, Lord, 182 
Midlands, the, 6, 9, 11, 20, 21, 

23, 25, 29, 30, 50, 127, 231, 

207, 300, 302, 304 
Milbanke, Lady Augusta, 277 
Milton, 229 
Misterton, 8I;, 82 
M'Neill,!Mr. C, 152 
Moor Hill Spinneys, 90 
Morant, Mr., 208 



INDEX 



331 



Mostyn, 2 

Motor cars, 13, 14, 191 

Mowsley, 3, 75 

Munro, Mr. J. C, 176 

Murietta, Messrs., 146 

Mytton's Hounds, Mr., 175 

Naples, Ex-Queen of, 279 
Naseby, 82 
Naseby Woolleys, 35 
Naylor, Mr., 152, 153, 166 
Neal, 134 

Nethercote, Mr., 152, 170 
Nevill Holt, 93, 148 
Newdegate, Mr., 176 
Newman, 140 

Newnham I'addox, 103, 176, 17S 
Newton Toll Bar, 113 
" Nimrod/ 5, 27, 36, 43, 52, 65, 
73, 86, 87, 90, 102, 114, 129, 

131, I5i> I75> 178, 179, 187, 

203, 204, 208, 209, 211, 215, 

241, 243 
"Nim South," 65 
Nobottle Wood, 164 
Noel, Mr., 132 
Northampton, JJ, 105, 109 
Northamptonshire, 2, 22, 79, 80, 

83,94, 124, 128, 143, 177, 178, 

180, 240, 308 
North Pytchley, the, 77 
North Stafford, the, :i7 
North Warwickshire, the, 101, 

185, 304,322,325 
Norton, 159 
Norton Brook, 151 
Norton Gorse, 151 
Noseley, 89, 90, 193, 196 
"Notitia Venatica," 183 
Nottingham, 128 
Nottinghamshire, 36, 148 

Oadby, 85, 106 

Oakham, i, 37, 48, 98, 221-230, 

323, 324 
Oakley, Mr., 175 
Oldacre, 75 
Old Sporting' Magazine, the, 

145 
Orton Park Wood, 44 



Orvis. Charles, 185 

Osbaldeston, Squire, 73, 86, 90, 
98, 122, 129, 130, 145, 153, 
161, 162, 164, 172, 173, 174, 
199, 200, 210, 241 

Otter hounds, 200 

Owston Wood, 38, 39, 41, 42 

Owthorpe, 36 

Oxendon, 68, 91 

"Oxers," 45, 180 

Oxford, 17 

Oxfordshire, 178, 179 

Packe, Sir Hussey, 36 

Papillon's Hall, 147 

Payn, Charles, 165, 167, 217 

Payne, Mr. George, 161, 162, 
163, 165 

Peatling, 76 

Peel, Mr., 175 

Pennell-Elmhirst, Captain, 171 

Pennington, Mr. Alan, 146 

Perceval, Mr., 142 

Peterborough, 229 

Pillager (hound), 165 

Pilot (horse), 200 

Piper's Hole, 47 

Pitt, 141 

Plymouth, Lord, 36 

Polo, 96, 184, I9V 

Powell, Mr. "Timber," 41 

Prestwold, 36 

Price of horses, 262 

Priesthill Coppice, 193 

Prince of Wales' Gorse, 56 

Prior's Coppice, 45, 49 

Puckeridge, the, 112 

Punchbowl, the, 44, 146 

Pytchley, the, i, 3, 4, 5, 9, 22, 
26, 35, 38, 64, 68, 69, 71, 72, 
73, 7A, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 
81, 82, 91, 92, 97, 98, 99, 100, 

lOI, 103, 104, 108, no, 121, 

125, I52-I7I, 172, 173, 174, 

178, 179, 184, 195, 201, 210, 

213, 217, 224, 260, 278, 303, 
308, 321, 322 

Quaker's Spinney, 93 
Quenby Hall, 55 



332 



INDEX 



Quorndon, 128, 133 

Quorn, the, i, 4, 22, 31, 32, 33, 
35, 36, 45,47, 48, so, 5i, 54, 
57, 59, 62, 73, 85, 89, 99, 104, 
106, 107, 108, 121, 127-132, 

133, 135, 144, 145, 146, 148, 
154, 155, 156, 159, 160, 162, 
169, 174, 176, 200, 205, 209, 
211, 222, 226, 227, 246, 278, 
302, 308, 320, 323, 324 

Ragdale, 32 

Railway facilities, 26, 70, 71, 97, 
102, 109, no, 179, 221 

Rallywood (hound), 140 

Rams Head, 90 

Rancliffe, Lord, 36 

Ranelagh Club, 296 

Ranksborough, 43, 44, 146 

Raven, Jack, 128, 129, 154 

Red Cloud (horse), 244 

Reeves, Colonel, 112 

" Reminiscences of Frank Gil- 
lard," 256 

Rents, 67 

Reynardson, Mr. Birch, 207 

"Riding Recollections," 17, 201, 
218, 290 

Ridlington, 49, 60 

Robin-a-Tiptoes, 78 

Rockingham, 78, 94, 171 

Rolleston, 83, 89, 90, 193, 225 

Rouen, 155 

Rugby, I, 5, 22, 26, 71, 96-105, 
172, 184, 260, 304, 322 

Rumbold, Sir Horace, 36 

Russell, Lord Charles, 170 

Russian oats, 299 

Rudand, 2, 26 

Rutland, Duke of, 44, in, 119, 
132, 136, 139, 143, 195> 223, 
256 

Saddington, 156 
Saddles, 288 
Sampson, 157 
Saxelby, 34, 35 
Scalford, 45 
Schoby Scholes, 33 
Scotch foxes, 131 



Scraptoft, 53, 54, 55, 106 

Seabrooke, Mr., 1 17 

Seaman (hound), 134 

Seaton, 78 

Sebright, 229, 230 

Second horses, 21 1 

Sefton, Lord, 128, 129 

Shakerley, Mrs., 278 

Shangton Holt, 73, 89, 122, 130 

Shaw, 140 

Sheepthorns, 77, 85, 89, 220, 253 

Shepston, 179 

Sherbrooke's Covert, 35, 47 

Shirley, Jim, 162 

Shirley, Mr., 183 

Shropshire, 257 

Shuckburgh, 99, 178, 186 

Sibbertoft, 74, 92 

Six Hills, 13, 32 

Skeffington, 38, 39, 40, 41, 84, 

135, 145, 147, 193. 225 
" Skirters," 167, 214 
Slacke, 133 

Slawston, 73, 89, 90, 196 
Slug, the (horse), 245 
Smite, the, 47, 245 
Smeeton Gorse, 76 
Smith, Mr. Assheton, 15, 56, 7^,, 

84, 122, 129, 141, 145, 157, 

158, 163, 175, 199, 204, 210, 

254 
Smith, Mr. T., 162, 163, 164, 

199, 210 
Smoking, 287 
Solihull, 183 
Solyman (hound), 156 
Somerby, 51, 62 
Sondes, Lord, 161 
Songstress (hound), 140 
Southam, loi, 179 
Southampton, Lord, 171 
Southwold, the, 1 10 
Sparkler (hound), 186 
Spencer, Lord, 70, 128, 154, 155, 

164, 165, 166, 167, 168, 169, 

170. 171 
" Sport and Anecdotes," 207 
" Sporting Review, The," 243/«. 
" Sportsman's Library, The," 

ibb/.n. 



INDEX 



333 



Sproxton Thorns. 46 

Spurs, 275, 289, 290 

Squires, 153 

Stainless (hound), 134, 143 

Stamford, 227, 228 

Stamford, Lord, 205 

Stanford, 156 

Stella (mare), 258 

Stevens, Jack, 162 

Stocken Hall, 49 

Stockerston, 93 

Stoke, 226 

Stoke Albany, IT, 93 

Stoke Dry, 60 

Stoke End, 93 

Stokes's Harriers, Mr., 'j'j 

Stonton, 84, 89, 151 

Stoughton, 85, 87, 156 

Stowe Wood, 17 

Stratford-on-Avon, 174, 179, 181, 

215 
Stretton, 156 
Stubbs, Mr., 215, 216 
Subscriptions, 29 
Sudbury, 173 
Sulby, 92, 162, 163, 165 
Surrey, 2 

Surrey Union, the, 69, 235 
Sutton, Sir Richard, 32, 133, 142, 

145, 190 
Swinford, 82 

Sywell Wood, 163, 164 

Tailby, Mr., 43, 48, 69, 90, 145, 

146, 147, 196, 246 
Tattersall's, 260, 305 
Tedworth Hunt, the, 210 
Termagant (hound), 134 
Thatcher, Arthur, 39, 49, 56, 134, 

152, 194, 265 
Theddingworth, 92, 1 56 
Thomson, Colonel Anstruther, 

165, 166, 169, 170, 175, 217 
Thornby, 82 

Thornton, Mr. Thomas, 142 
Thorpe Langton, 72 
Thorpe Satchville, 60, 62 
Thorpe Trussels, 57 
Thrussington Wolds, 35, 36 
Thurlow, Robert, 175 



Thurnby, 85, 88 

Tilton, 9, 37, 39, 40, 41, 56, 71, 

84, 151, 160 
Topper (hound), 140 
Trafford, Sir Humphrey de, 244 
Trautmansdorf, Count, 3 
Trinity Beagles, 200 
Tronstone, 34, 35 
Tugby, 38, 135 
Tur Langton, 72 
Twyford, 57, 60 

Uffington, 132 
Umberslade, 183 
United Counties Hunt Ball, 92 

Vale of White Horse, 2 
Valentia, Lord, 2, 18 
Vernon, Lord, 173 
Vickerman, Mr., 52, 53, 61, 62, 

115, 145 
Vine Hunt, the, 210 
Vowes Gorse, 90 
Vyner, Mr., 183 

Wages, 295 
Waltham Thorns, 36 
Walton, 3, 75, 76, loi 
Warde, Mr. John, 155, 156, 157, 

161, 207 
Warde, .Sir Henry, 156, 159 
Wardley Wood, 60, 93, 94, 103, 

226 
Wartnaby, 34 
Warwickshire, 2, 65, 100, 176, 

180, 208, 213, 214 
Warwickshire, the, i, 99, 100, 

loi, 108, 109, 179-186, 229, 

253,. 304, 322, 324 
Warwickshire Hunt Club, the, 

173, 174, 179, 181 
Waterford, Lord, 56, 216 
Watergall, loi 
Waterloo Gorse, 41, 91, 92 
Watson, Mr. G. L., 171 
Watson's Gorse, 93 
Weathergage (hound), 140, 143 
Webster, Dick, 15 
Weedon, 108, 109 



334 



INDEX 



Weever's Lodge, 113 

Welby Fishponds, 34 

Welford, 4, 71 

Welham Flats, 3, 9 

Welland, the, 77 

West Haddon, 82 

West Langton, 72 

Whichcote, Sir T., 11, 114, 115, 

119, 169 
Whissendine, the, 43 
Whyte-Melville, Major, 12, 15, 

17, 60, 64, 81, 87, 172, 187, 

203, 217, 218, 274, 290 
Widmerpool, 32, 33 
Wilbarston, 93 
Wildrake, paintings of, 212 
Wilkins, Mr., 162 
Willoughby de Broke, Lord, 100, 

183, 185, 186, 236, 237, 281 
Willoughby Gorses, 35 



Willoughby Waterless, 76 
Wilton, Lord, 122, 208, 209 
Winwick, 82 
Wire, 5, 7, 21, 45, 72, 90 
Wistow, 3, 4, 76, 156 
Witherley, 103 

Woodland Pytchley, i, 'j'j, 93, 

155, 166,171-172,228,321,324 

Woodwell Head, 46, 49, 117, 118, 

143 
Woore, 37 
Wormleighton, 179 
Worrall, Robert, 185 
Wreake, the river, 27, 36, 51 
Wroughton, Mr., 125, 168, 170, 

171 

Yelvertoft, 71, 210 
Yerburgh, Mr , 61 
Yorkshire, no 



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