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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As has been mentioned, shooting in Middlesex, owing to the absence of any large estates and the small amount of game preservation, is not of sufficient importance to require a detailed notice. An exception must, however, be made in the case of one form of this sport with respect to which the county, though not the originating centre, has long occupied a prominent position, namely, pigeon shooting.
In the early days of pigeon shooting, which came into vogue about 1790, (fn. 1) 'The Old Hatte,' at Ealing-an inn three centuries old- (fn. 2) appears to have been the chief rendezvous for the sport in Middlesex. (fn. 3) Its head quarters, however, till the middle of the last century, were at the Red House Club at Battersea, which was frequented among others by Lord Winchilsea, Lord Huntingfield, Sir Richard Sutton, Mr. Osbaldeston and Captain Ross, who won the club cup, value 200 guineas, in 1828 and in 1829. As late as 1840 it is described in Colburn's Kalendar of Amusements as taking 'the lead in the quantity and quality of this sport.' (fn. 4)
The system of handicapping appears, however, to have been then unknown and it was not until 1856, six years after the closing of the Red House Club, that it was introduced by Mr. Frank Heathcote, in order to place good and bad shots on something like an equality. (fn. 5) It was adopted in some matches shot at Purdey's grounds at Willesden, the handicap running from 30 to 24 yds., and subsequently at the Old Hornsey Wood House. (fn. 6) Among the most noted shots of those days was General Bullock Hall, of Six Mile Bottom near Newmarket. He then commanded the 1st Life Guards, among whose officers were Lord Leconfield, Mr. R. de Winton, Captain (now General) Bateson, and several other shots almost equally good. A match for a large sum of money, shot at Hornsey Wood during this period, between General Bateson and Sir F. Mullock, at twenty-five birds each, 25 yds. rise, and won by the former, attracted an immense attendance, over twenty coaches being on the ground. (fn. 7)
A fresh impetus was given to the sport by the foundation in 1860, by Lord Stormont and other well-known shots, of the Gun Club, where many of the most important developments in the science of gun-making have been tested. Among the most celebrated matches at the club were those between Dr. Carver, the well-known American shot, and Lord Walsingham, and between the former and Mr. Heygate, and those in which Capt. Bogardus, another famous American marksman, shot against Mr. Dudley Ward and against Captain Shelley. (fn. 8)
A few years after the establishment of the Gun Club the spread of London northward obliged Mr. Frank Heathcote to abandon the Old Hornsey Wood House, and in 1867 he rented the Hurlingham Estate at Fulham for £700 a year. This action was followed shortly afterwards by the formation of the Hurlingham Club, which purchased the property for £20,000. It achieved such success under the management of the Hon. D. J. Monson that for several years prior to 1891 it had its full complement of 1,500 members under the presidency of his late Majesty, King Edward, then Prince of Wales. Of these, however, only 200 were shooting members, many of whom took no part in pigeon shooting. The sport therefore gradually ceased to be carried on under the favourable conditions it had enjoyed at Hornsey Wood and the Gun Club, and owing to the greater popularity of polo, it has now been driven from the scene where it may be said to have attained its zenith.
The best shots at Hurlingham and the Gun Club during recent years have been Lord Hill, Lord de Grey, Captain Shelley, Mr. Berkeley Lucy, Mr. Dudley Ward, Mr. Aubrey Coventry, Captain Aubrey Pullen, Mr. H. J. Roberts, and Lord de Clifford. (fn. 9)