A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 2, General; Ashford, East Bedfont With Hatton, Feltham, Hampton With Hampton Wick, Hanworth, Laleham, Littleton. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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The place of honour as regards antiquity among the staghounds of Middlesex must be assigned to the Lord Mayor's hounds, which may be regarded as a development of the ancient privileges with respect to hunting of the citizens of London which were confirmed by Henry I in the charter already referred to. (fn. 1)
It is evident from references to 'The Common Hunt,' or huntsman of the corporation, contained in the Liber Albus, that these hounds were a recognized institution in the fifteenth century, when John Courtenay was elected to the post; (fn. 2) and in later times, according to tradition, its meets were frequently held in Lincoln's Inn Fields, St. James's, and Mayfair. (fn. 3) According to an account given of the chief officers of the City by Maitland in his History of London, written in 1756, the chief business of the Common Hunt
is to take care of the Pack of Hounds belonging to the Mayor and Citizens, and to attend them in Hunting when they please. This Officer's House allowed him is in Finsbury Fields. He has a yearly Allowance besides Perquisites. He is to attend the Lord Mayor on set days. This officer is Michael Lally, Esquire. (fn. 4)
Behind the Lord Mayor stands the 'Common Hunt,' an officer in a sporting costume with a jockey cap, all that is left of the old privileges of the citizens granted to them by Henry I to hunt in Middlesex and Surrey and as far away as the Chiltern Hills. (fn. 5)
In the reign of George I, 'riding on horseback and hunting with my Lord Mayor's hounds when the Common Hunt goes out' was, according to Strype, one of the favourite amusements of Londoners. At the close of this reign and for some years in the succeeding one the Common Hunt was Mr. Cruttenden, appointed to the office in September 1723. Among those who hunted with the pack was Sir Francis Child, who is described by Mr. Hore in his History of the Royal Buckhounds as 'fairly rivalling' in the hunting field Alderman Humphrey Parsons, the most notable of the metropolitan patrons of the Royal Hunt, whose reputation as an intrepid rider 'extended to every part of Europe wherever hunting men might chance to congregate.' (fn. 6) Sir Francis Child, as may be inferred from this description, also hunted sometimes with the Royal Buckhounds, and during the reigns of the first two Georges the Lord Mayor's hounds must have suffered in popularity from the predilection shown for the former by
merchant princes of the City, the lawyers, the doctors, the clergy, and the rich, though humble, bagman, mounted on the now obsolete 'nag' on which he travelled on business thoughts intent throughout the land. (fn. 7)
They were moreover gradually driven from Middlesex by the extension of London, and Epping Forest, formerly only occasionally visited, eventually became the only country hunted by them. (fn. 8)
In addition to the Lord Mayor's hounds, Middlesex has at different dates possessed two other packs of staghounds, both of which were formed by the enterprise of well-known sportsmen. One of these, the kennels of which were at Cranford, was formed in 1824 by the Hon. George Grantley Berkeley, who was for a time assisted by Mr. Wombwell. The hounds consisted of thirty couple, almost all bred at Berkeley Castle, and among them were two given to Mr. Grantley Berkeley by Mr. Villebois-Batchelor and Blunder-the portrait of the latter of which by Cooper appeared in the New Sporting Magazine. (fn. 9) The deer were sent from Berkeley Castle and from Hampstead Lodge by Lord Craven, and at the close of the hunting season all that survived were sent back again to Berkeley Castle, where five months amongst their fellows undid the effects of artificial maintenance and restored their running. They were thus, in Mr. Grantley Berkeley's opinion, superior to the generality of those from the Royal kennels, which were from season to season kept in a paddock. (fn. 10)
Mr. Berkeley's hounds hunted twice a week, (fn. 11) the central portion of the country hunted being the Harrow Weald, and amongst those who regularly attended the meets were Lord Cardigan, Col. Thomas Wood and Col. Standen, both of the Guards, Mr. Smith of Hanwell, Mr. Peyton, Mr. Charles Tollemache, Col. Parker of the Life Guards, and Lord Alvanley. (fn. 12)
Owing to the proximity of London the runs were sometimes attended with amusing incidents, such as one in which the stag eventually headed for Hounslow, Isleworth, Twickenham, and Brentford. Of this run Lord Alvanley is said to have given the following description:
Devilish good run; but the asparagus beds went awfully heavy and the grass all through was up to one's hocks; the only thing wanted was a landing net, for the deer got into the Thames and Berkeley had not the means to get him ashore. (fn. 13)
On another occasion the stag was run to bay in Lady Mary Hussey's drawing-room at Hillingdon; and on a third it entered the kitchen of a house, the wrathful owner of which said in reply to Grantley Berkeley's apologies:
Your stag, sir, not content with walking through every office has been here, sir, here in my drawing room, sir, whence he proceeded upstairs to the nursery, and damn me, sir, he's now in Mrs. --'s boudoir. (fn. 14)
One of the oddest scenes, however, caused by the vagaries of the stag, occurred when, after entering London by Regent's Park, a fine one covered with foam and stained with blood, and followed by two couple of hounds, one morning ran up the steps of No. 1 Montague Street, Russell Square. The efforts of Grantley Berkeley to persuade two young ladies who were looking out of the window to allow the stag to enter the hall in order to ensure his capture were rudely interrupted by their father, who, to the amusement of the other members of the hunt and the large crowd that had assembled, told him that if he did not instantly take 'his animal away' he would 'send for the beadle.' The stag was eventually captured by the aid of some friendly butcher boys. (fn. 15)
Mr. Grantley Berkeley maintained the sport for twelve years, but the difficulty of doing so was materially increased towards the close of this period by the number of men that hunted with him, the populous character of the country, and the opposition of the farmers, whose principal crop, hay, suffered considerably from the damage done by the hunt. (fn. 16)
Inclosure after inclosure went on, heath and common vanished, villas sprang up where gravel pits used to be . . . and babies cries were heard on sites that in my remembrance were only waked by the prettier whistle of the plover. (fn. 17)
An action brought against him by a farmer named Barker, who was represented by Scarlett as counsel, ended, in spite of his defence by Brougham, in a verdict for the plaintiff for £100 damages; and this, coupled with an offer at this time of the mastership of the Oakley Hunt, determined Mr. Grantley Berkeley to give up his pack in 1836.
In 1885 Col.Sir Alfred Plantagenet Frederick Charles Somerset, K.C.B., on relinquishing the mastership of the Hertford Foxhounds, started a pack of staghounds at Enfield, the kennels of which were at his seat of Enfield Court. In commemoration of the fact that the Enfield country had not been hunted since the days of Queen Elizabeth they were named the Enfield Chase Staghounds, and the dress adopted was that of the Elizabethan era -namely, a red coat with blue lapels and gold buttons, yellow vest and cap.
Sir Alfred Somerset retained the mastership till 1899, when he was obliged by ill-health to relinquish it. The kennels were then removed by his successor, Mr. Hartridge, to Barnet. On the retirement of Mr. Hartridge the increase of building led to their transfer to High Canons, near Shenley in Hertfordshire, the residence of the next master, Mr. W. Walker. In 1910 Mr. D. D. Bulger became master; and hounds were kennelled at Pursley near Shenley. The hunt can therefore no longer be regarded as being in Middlesex, though a portion of the county-round Potters Bar and on to Enfield-is occasionally hunted. (fn. 18)
There are 23 couples of hounds. The hunting days are Tuesday and (usually) Saturday, the most convenient places for attending the meets being Hatfield, St. Albans, and Barnet. The master is also secretary of the hunt, the whipper-in of which is C. Strickland.