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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SPORT ANCIENT AND MODERN
Though Middlesex still occupies a prominent position with respect to pastimes such as rowing, cricket, football, polo, tennis, and archery-the last-named three of which originated in it-the higher forms of sport formerly pursued in the county may be said to have now become, practically, subjects of archaeological interest.
As in other counties, the pursuit of 'the nobler beasts of venery, such as the stag, the wolf, and the boar,' which, to quote a wellknown writer of the last century, 'gradually faded away upon the increase of population and the advancement of agriculture,' (fn. 1) was for a time replaced by 'the noble science' of fox-hunting, which was introduced into Middlesex very soon after its first adoption as a popular form of sport in England. The increase of population and the advancement of agriculture were both, however, from the first materially accelerated by the fact that Middlesex is not only the smallest county in England, except Rutland, but also the original seat of the English capital, and, owing to the recent rapid expansion within its limits of the largest city in the world, both foxhunting and covert shooting have now shared the fate of the older forms of the chase. At the beginning of the nineteenth century Middlesex was a purely agricultural county. (fn. 2) In 1801 it was possible to walk from Hadley through Enfield Chase, Epping and Hainault Forests without leaving the turf or losing sight of forest scenery; and, in addition to a wide extent of pasture land which rendered it eminently suitable for a hunting country, (fn. 3) the county comprised Hounslow Heath and Finchley Common; Harrow Weald Common and eight other commons in the parish of Harrow; Uxbridge Moor and five other commons in the parishes of Uxbridge and Hillingdon; Ruislip, Sunbury, and Hanwell Commons, and Wormwood Scrubbs. (fn. 4) In the present year of grace Hadley Woods, Hadley Common, and the 'Rough Lot' in Trent Park are the only remains of Enfield Chase, and such of the few commons as remain have been reduced to insignificant dimensions. At the census of 1901 the population, which in 1801 was only 70,000, had increased to 798,736, or over eleven-fold during the century, the increase during the last decade being 45.8 per cent.; (fn. 5) and of the total extent of 149,668 statute acres within the county 88,105 acres are comprised in urban districts. (fn. 6) Of the twelve principal estates within the rural districts there is only one of 1,000 acres-Trent Park, belonging to Mr. A. F. Benson-and one of 500 acres -Osterley Park, belonging to the Earl of Jersey; while of the remaining ten, eight are between 100 and 300 acres, and the other two are under 100 acres in extent. Covert shooting has thus ceased to be of any practical importance, (fn. 7) and though a small fringe of country on its northern border is still occasionally hunted from adjacent counties, Middlesex no longer possesses any hunt of its own. It was, however, not till the middle of the last century that these inevitable results of the growth of London began to make themselves seriously felt; and, owing probably to the fact that Middlesex has never possessed any towns of importance, its woodlands, commons, and pastures continued for many centuries prior to that date to afford to its inhabitants ample facilities for sport.
It is stated by Fitz Stephen, a monk of Canterbury, who in the reign of Henry II wrote a description of London and its environs, (fn. 8) that 'many citizens do take delight in birds, as sparrow-hawks, gos-hawks, &c., and in dogs to sport in the woody coverts, for they were privileged to hunt in Middlesex, in Hertfordshire, in all the Chilterns, and in Kent as low down as Crag Water'; and also that beyond the open meadows and pasture lands on the north side of the city was a great forest 'in whose woody coverts lurked the stag, the hind, the wild boar, and the bull.' (fn. 9) These animals were hunted with hounds on horseback or stalked on foot, and shot with the bow, but the term 'hunting' also included coursing with greyhounds and hawking. (fn. 10)
The citizens of London appear to have possessed this privilege from the earliest times, for, in a charter obtained from him early in the twelfth century, Henry I grants 'to my citizens of London to hold Middlesex to farm for three hundred pounds upon accompt to them and their heirs,' and that they 'may have their chases to hunt as well and truly as their ancestors have had, that is to say in Chiltre, in Middlesex, and in Surrey.' (fn. 11) This charter was confirmed by that of Henry II, granted probably some twenty years (fn. 12) later; by the first charter of Richard I, dated 23 April 1194; (fn. 13) the first charter of King John, dated 17 June 1199; (fn. 14) and by the fourth charter of Henry III, dated 16 May 1227, which expressly states that 'we do grant them that they may have hunting wheresoever they had in the time of King Henry our grandfather and King Henry our great-grandfather.' (fn. 15) In the same year Henry III still further augmented these rights of hunting by a charter of 18 August granting 'to all men in the county of Middlesex that the Warren of Stanes shall be no more a warren [dewarrenata], and shall be disafforested' (fn. 16) - a concession which, while throwing open the warren for purposes of agriculture to such as were disposed to 'cultivate their lands and assart their woods therein,' provided a new hunting ground for the public, who had the right of hunting animals ferae naturae in all uninclosed lands except those subject to the forest laws or to some restriction upon hunting arising from a royal grant. (fn. 17)
There is no evidence with respect to the extent of the Warren of Staines, but as a grant of 11 Henry III to the prior and brethren of St. John of Jerusalem, apparently made just before it was disafforested, (fn. 18) shows that it included the manor of Hampton, and as Hampton itself then formed part of Hounslow Heath, (fn. 19) it must have comprised the greater portion of the south-western extremity of Middlesex.
Though styled a 'warren' it differed from ordinary warrens in being subject to the forest laws-a fact which would seem to imply that it must have contained 'beasts of forest'-the red and the fallow deer, the roe, and the wild boar-in addition to 'beasts and fowls of warren'-the hare, the coney, the fox, the pheasant, and the partridge-and that it must practically therefore have been a forest. (fn. 20) The 'great forest' to the north of London mentioned in the description of the City by Fitz Stephen, alluded to above, probably extended as far as the royal forests of Essex on the east, and the woodlands of Herts and Bucks on the north and west; but it was not in the thirteenth century a forest in the strict legal sense of the term, which denoted a definite tract of land within which a particular body of law was enforced, having for its object the perservation of certain animals ferae naturae. (fn. 21) Though certain portions of these lands were from time to time aliened to subjects by various sovereigns, most of them were the property of the Crown, and it is stated by the learned editor of the Select Pleas of the Forest that, with the exception of the Warren of Staines, 'there was certainly no forest in Middlesex in the thirteenth, and probably none in the twelfth century.' (fn. 22)
There were numerous manors in Middlesex (fn. 23) -there were as many as six manors in the parish of Edmonton (fn. 24) and the same number in that of Enfield (fn. 25) -which during this period must have been well stocked with game. The lords of several of these manors enjoyed the right of free warren, the grant of which prohibited any person from entering the lands of the grantee, or hunting or taking any beasts or fowls of warren, 'without his licence or will,' though it did not entitle him to prevent other people from entering his warren in pursuit of deer. (fn. 26) It is curious to find among grants of this description-the right conveyed by which was not appurtenant to the land, and was usually limited by the king to the demesne lands of his subjects (fn. 27) -one made by Edward I in 1291 'to Richard Bishop of London and his successors of free warren in all his lands of Stebenhythe (Stepney) and Hackney.' (fn. 28) Another made by Henry III on 22 March 1245 to Hamo Papelowe confers a similar right with respect to 'the demesne lands of the manors of Barve (Barron) in Suffolk and Newton (Stoke Newington) in Middlesex'; (fn. 29) and after the change of ownership of the latter manor a fresh grant of free warren in it was made by Edward I on 10 May 1286 to the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. (fn. 30) Free warren in the manor of 'Acton under the wood,' the lesser of the two manors in Acton parish, was granted to the dean and chapter of St. Paul's by Edward II in 1316; (fn. 31) and the calendar of Charter Rolls contains similar grants in the manor of Edelmeton (Edmonton) to William de Say in 1245, (fn. 32) to Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, in the manors of Eggeware (Edgware) Cowele (Cowley) in 1294; (fn. 33) to Bartholomew Peche in the last-named manor and that of Ikenham (Ickenham) in 1252; (fn. 34) and in the same year to the Abbot of Bec in the manor of Risselip (Ruislip), (fn. 35) and James de Aldethelly in that of 'Halewyke.' (fn. 36)
The confirmation, on 8 June 1280, of a charter of Henry III, granting to the Order of St. John of Jerusalem free warren in the demesne lands of the manor of Hampton (fn. 37) shows that the proprietary rights attaching to it remained unaffected by the disafforesting of the Warren of Staines. In the early part of the sixteenth century it was acquired by Cardinal Wolsey, who, after the completion of Hampton Court Palace, hunted there with Henry VIII; (fn. 38) and after the king had taken possession of it this part of the warren became a royal hunting preserve.
The manor, the boundaries of which were conterminous with those of the parish, was about 3,000 acres in extent, and originally consisted of the Home Park, lying to the east, and Bushey Park, lying to the north of the Kingston Road. (fn. 39)
Henry VIII, who was devoted to shooting, hawking, and all other kinds of sport, caused these two parks to be well stocked with deer and other game, and subdivided Bushey Park by brick walls into three equal divisions-the Hare Warren on the east, the Upper Park on the west, and the Middle Park between them-and the Home Park into The Course, adjoining the Kingston Road, and the Home Park proper, which was bounded on the west and south by the Thames. (fn. 40) These inclosures, however, though well adapted for coursing or shooting, did not afford the king sufficient scope for his favourite sport of stag-hunting, and he therefore acquired by purchase or exchange the manors of Hanworth, Kempton, Feltham, and Teddington in Middlesex, together with those of East and West Molesey and some ten others on the Surrey side of the Thames, (fn. 41) and by an Act of Parliament passed in 1509 (fn. 42) erected them into an honour or seignory of several manors under a single lord paramount. Of this honour it was provided that 'the manor of Hampton Court shall henceforth be the chief capital place or part.' (fn. 43) Its creation by statute gave it an importance and dignity superior to that attaching to an ordinary feudal manor, (fn. 44) and with the exception of a brief interval during the Interregnum it continued to be a favourite hunting seat of the Crown until the end of the eighteenth century.
Queen Elizabeth, who inherited her father's love of stag-hunting, frequently hunted at Hampton Court and shot the deer with her own bow. (fn. 45) James I, who was an equally ardent but more timorous sportsman, was a still more constant visitor, and shared the sport with his consort Anne of Denmark, who by a random shot on one occasion killed one of the king's favourite hounds-an accident which greatly excited his anger till he learnt who had caused it, when he is said to have immediately pardoned the royal offender. (fn. 46) He so improved the parks and stocked them so well with deer that a visit to Hampton Court came to be recognized as one of the duties of all travellers, and especially amongst foreigners of distinction. (fn. 47) Its reputation in this respect must, however, for a time have been somewhat impaired by the results of the Civil War, since in a Parliamentary Survey of 1653 that was made just before its sale, in which the total area of the property irrespective of the ground occupied by the palace and gardens is stated as 1,607 acres, the number of deer is returned as 228, which were valued at £1 per head. (fn. 48) That it was not entirely denuded of game is, however, evident from an entry of 4 January 1657-8 in the Middlesex County Records with respect to a charge against John Hare, husbandman, Hugh Clerke, fisherman, and John Durdin, victualler of 'Tuddington,' of taking and destroying seventy hares, with cordes and other instruments; nigh unto the hare warren of the Lord Protector within the Honour of Hampton Court in the said County. (fn. 49)
It was probably restocked after the Restoration, though neither Charles II nor his brother James seems to have been much addicted to the chase, and the absence of any references to the higher forms of sport in the diaries both of Pepys and Evelyn seems to justify the supposition that these were somewhat out of fashion during their reigns. After the Restoration, however, we find William III frequently pursuing his favourite pastime of coursing, then still called 'hunting,' at Hampton Court up to within a short period of his death; and on one occasion he writes to Portland that he had two days before 'taken a stag to forest with the Prince of Denmark's pack,' and 'had a pretty good run as far as this villainous country will permit.' (fn. 50) Queen Anne, who seems to have been as fond of hunting as she was of racing, (fn. 51) also constantly hunted there, following the chase, according to a description in Swift's journal to Stella, in a chaise with one horse 'which she drives herself and drives furiously like Jehu.' On another occasion she is said by the dean to have hunted the stag till four o'clock in the afternoon, and to have covered no less than forty miles in her chaise. (fn. 52) Both of her immediate successors fully maintained the traditions of the honour of Hampton Court, and George II was so fond of stag-hunting and coursing that he did not relinquish them even in summer, and it was only when the palace ceased to be a royal residence that sport in the parks was finally abandoned. (fn. 53)
Somewhat similar, though of a less eventful character, is the history of another notable royal hunting domain which was of much greater extent than the honour of Hampton Court. Enfield Chase, one of the earliest references to which is in a record of 1236, (fn. 54) is stated by Camden to have been 'an extensive tract of land formerly covered with trees' and 'famous for deer hunting,' which had passed from the possession of the Mandevilles to the Bohuns and then to the Duchy of Lancaster. (fn. 55)
Queen Elizabeth, who for a time resided at Enfield House, hunted in Enfield Chase. That her subjects sometimes endeavoured to follow her example without her permission is shown by the conviction on 23 May 1574 of William Padye, 'gentleman,' of Hadley, and a 'husbandman' and a 'yeoman' of South Mimms for breaking into the Chase and killing 'unam damam' (fn. 56); on 27 July of the same year Henry Lawrence of Hadley was found guilty of a similar offence. (fn. 57) The inclosure of 500 acres of the Chase in Theobalds Park was made by James I. That Theobalds continued, however, for some years after to be regarded as still part of the Chase is shown by a true bill returned 4 August 1845 against three yeomen of Enfield for
entering with bows and arrows and other apparatus for hunting, and without licence, the King's park . . . used for the preservation of deer and commonly called Theobalds Parke in Enfield
and 'killing and taking away two stags worth £5.' (fn. 58) Fond as he was of Theobalds, James I frequently hunted in Enfield Chase- as he is represented as doing in Sir Walter Scott's Fortunes of Nigel-and, as in the case of Hampton Court Honour, he took care that it should be abundantly stocked with deer. (fn. 59) In his reign we find Philip Hammond of London, 'gentleman,' charged on 6 March 1610 with 'shootynge in a piece on His Majesty's Chase,' (fn. 60) and in 1649, the year before the Parliamentary Survey, there are two convictions, on 15 and 18 July, recorded for entering the Chase and killing deer 'with guns charged with gunpowder and bullets.' (fn. 61) The later history of the Chase cannot be narrated here, but some reference to it will be found in the article on Forestry.
In addition to the Chase in the northeastern and the honour of Hampton in the south-eastern extremity of the county, Middlesex possessed an exceptional number of parks -inclosed tracts of land for the creation of which by a subject a licence, though unnecessary during the Plantagenet reigns, was always required under the Tudor and Stuart dynasties. The beasts ferae naturae, almost exclusively deer, contained in them were the private property of the owner. Some reference to the more important of these parks will be found elsewhere in these volumes; but it may be noted that they comprised Hyde Park, though there was probably little or no hunting in it after the Restoration, as we find Pepys and Evelyn both alluding to the park as famous for horse, and foot, and coach races. (fn. 62) That deer were maintained there during the seventeenth century is, however, evident from a report of the Surveyor-General of Woods to the Lords of the Treasury on 11 June 1695, with respect to repairs in Hyde Park costing £425 19s. 2½d., and £200 for hay for the deer and for the salaries of the under-keepers, (fn. 63) and there appear to have been still some remaining there in the early part of the nineteenth century. (fn. 64)
It is noteworthy, having regard to the number and extent of the royal preserves, that the cases dealing with 'breaking into and entering' mentioned in the Middlesex County Records, which extend from the accession of Queen Elizabeth to the Restoration, are so few; and also that, with the exception of an offence in 1576 at Osterley Park, the object of which seems to have been firewood rather than game, (fn. 65) they should all relate to royal parks. During the whole of this period there appear to be only two records with respect to similar offences in connexion with the property of private individuals. One of these is in 1569, when Mathew Vincent of Ickenham, 'not having lands, tenements or rents or service to value of 40s.,' is convicted of 'keeping and using dogs for coursing, nets, ferrets, and dogs for chasing by scent,' and, 'in company with others, breaking into the free warren of the earl of Darbie at Hillington, county Middlesex, and hunting the rabbits of the said earl.' (fn. 66) The other case, dated 29 December 1613, records the acceptance of recognizances of the total value of £60 from 'Alexander Cottrell of London, merchant taylor,' and two others for his appearance at the next sessions of the peace 'to answer for breaking into my Lord of London's grounds at Fulham within his moat nere his dwelling house there to kill and take his conies.' (fn. 67) It is rather curious that these two cases, and that with respect to Hampton Court during the Interregnum already mentioned, (fn. 68) are the only three that deal with rabbits in the whole series.
Not less notable is the entire absence of any cases relating to deer-stealing or poaching in the Middlesex County Records throughout the reigns of Charles II and his brother James. This may perhaps in a measure be accounted for by the very large number of cases with respect to treason, recusancy, and non-attendance at public worship that these records contain, which can have left the justices little leisure for dealing with offences of any other description. It is also, doubtless, partly due to the fact that-with the exception of 'the sons or heirs apparent of an esquire or other person of higher degree, and the owners or keepers of forests, parks, chases, or warrens, being stocked with deer or conies for their necessary use'-it was illegal for any person 'to have or keep for himself or any other person any guns, bows, greyhounds, setting dogs, ferrets, nets, gins, snares, or any other engines for the taking of game,' unless he was possessed of landed property of the clear yearly value of £100 a year, or leases for ninety-nine years or more of the clear yearly value of £150 a year. (fn. 69) At the close of the seventeenth century all the royal parks of Middlesex, with the exception of the two in Hampton Court Honour and Hyde Park, which had ceased to be used for hunting, had, as has been shown, been disparked. During the next hundred years the bulk of the manors to which the right of free warren had attached began one by one to disappear before the advance of London, and in spite of the Game Laws, which continued in force till the reign of William IV, the area available for sport became gradually restricted to the northern portions of the county. Its impending disappearance in the first quarter of the nineteenth century is indicated by the Reminiscences of a Huntsman by the Hon. George Grantley Berkeley, who, with his brother Moreton, preserved the game at the family seat at Cranford during the years 1824-36. 'For the size of the covers and estate,' he says
no place had such a stock of pheasants and hares. It is but 1,000 acres in all, on the outside of which Brentford, Isleworth, Twickenham and indeed London furnished a certified set of marauders to destroy all living things that did not return home to our covers before 1 September. At break of day on 1 September for an hour there was a running fire, indeed,
'A squadron's charge each tenant's heart dismayed, On every cover fired a bold brigade.'
To remedy this evil, we drove the outskirts in so soon as the gathering of the corn would permit us; and the 1 September I always went forth and began to bag every hare and partridge I could get near at break of day. (fn. 70)
According to a parliamentary return of the number of convictions under the Game Laws in separate counties of England and Wales for the year 1869 issued on 7 March 1870, which appears to be the last published on the subject, 131 out of a total of 10,335 were in Middlesex, as against 90 in Surrey, 260 in Kent, 302 in Herts, and 310 in Essex. (fn. 71) Of these 131 convictions, however, only four were for night poaching and the remaining 127 for trespassing in the day time in pursuit of game; and this total must therefore presumably be regarded rather as a criterion of the number and audacity of the poaching fraternity in London and the suburbs than of the extent of preservation or the supply of game.