A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1959.
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Wiltshire has a number of natural physical features which have played an important part in determining the forms of sport pursued within it. The large expanse of downland, more than half the total area, is particularly suited for sports requiring much space and an unrestricted view. These were not only sports of the chase; many an 18th-century cricket match was played either upon the Marlborough Downs or on Salisbury Plain (see below, p. 377). Wiltshire, too, has been an exceptionally well-wooded county, and even in 1958 there are extensive areas of woodland providing good coverts for foxes and pheasants. Finally the many chalk rivers flowing through or round the downs furnish excellent fishing.
Besides providing first-rate ground for racing and coursing (see below, pp. 379, 382) the downs, especially Salisbury Plain, were much used for hawking. Sir Ralph Sadler, Falconer to Queen Elizabeth I, who held the manor of Everleigh, is presumed to have trained and flown falcons there. (fn. 1) In the 19th century organized hawking on the Plain was practised by the Old Hawking Club formed in 1864 with its headquarters at the Bustard Inn, Shrewton. The chief sport of the club was rook-hawking in March and April, but some members also brought peregrines for partridge-hawking or merlins for lark-hawking in August. (fn. 2) Co-operation from land-owners on the Plain was said to enable the club to establish itself so firmly that sport could be had every day, and after the removal of its headquarters to Lyndhurst (Hants) in 1914, the club continued to visit the Shrewton area for rook-hawking. (fn. 3)
Among the birds which Aubrey listed as abounding on Salisbury Plain in the 17th century were partridges and bustards. (fn. 4) Whether the Great Bustard was ever hunted on the Plain with greyhounds is not certain. (fn. 5) It was undoubtedly frequently shot. Daniel records the shooting of a bustard there in 1800 with a common fowling-piece and partridge-shot at 40 yards distance. (fn. 6) By this time, however, the bustard was becoming rare. (fn. 7) Partridges have remained plentiful in Wiltshire and there is good shooting in the well-cultivated districts in the north-west of the county. Although the slopes of the downs provide some shelter for young birds, the absence of hedgerows or other cover on the high ground makes driving difficult. Covert-shooting, broadly speaking, is confined to the well-wooded districts in the east, south, and west of the county.
Besides remarking upon the quantity of partridges and bustards on Salisbury Plain, Aubrey said that the Plain in his day abounded with hares and fallow deer. (fn. 8) The deer, if ever there, have disappeared, but hares, although their numbers have declined, have provided sportsmen with good coursing, hunting, and shooting. There have been several packs of harriers in the county; at the beginning of the century there were three, but there was none in 1957. (fn. 9) There is, however, one pack of beagles with kennels in the county at Chilmark Park. (fn. 10) Aubrey also writes of otters in the Wylye, (fn. 11) and Wiltshire has been said to have excellent facilities for otter hunting, (fn. 12) although in 1958 there is no pack of otter hounds.
Contrasting her with her western neighbour Michael Drayton described Wiltshire as
'. . . a place best pleased with that resort which spend away their time continually in sport.' (fn. 13)
This reputation she no doubt derived from her abundant uplands. No longer does she enjoy it; tank- and tractor-driver have robbed Wiltshiremen of their hereditary playground, the importance of which in any case changing fashions in sport would have lessened.
Wiltshire is unique among English counties in this respect: its three main rivers, the Thames, with its tributary the Kennet, in the north, the Bristol Avon and its tributaries in the west, and the Christchurch Avon and its tributaries in the south, flow respectively eastwards to the North Sea, westwards to the Irish Sea, and southwards to the English Channel. As these three river systems drain areas of land of very diverse geological formation, their characters, and the kinds of sport which they provide for the angler, are correspondingly varied. The Thames and all but the highest reaches of the Bristol Avon and its tributaries are mainly coarse-fishing rivers. But since three-fifths of the county consists of chalk downs, from and through which flow a number of streams, it is not surprising that the principal attraction of Wiltshire, from the point of view of the angler, is its trout fishing. In course of time, however, it may well be that, as a result of the enlightened policy of the Avon and Dorset River Board, the Christchurch Avon will also provide salmon fishing as far up as Salisbury. (fn. 14)
Of the Thames it is perhaps unnecessary to say more than that, while its source is in Gloucestershire, there is now seldom a continuous flow above Ashton Keynes where the river enters Wiltshire. From there, past Cricklade, to near Lechlade, it flows either just within the county or forms its northern boundary.
The Bristol Avon rises in the oolitic limestone of the southern Cotswolds. There are two branches, one coming from above Tetbury, the other from west of Sherston, the two branches uniting at Malmesbury. Its major tributaries in Wiltshire are the By Brook (which also originates in the oolite of the southern Cotswolds but does not join the Avon until the latter has passed into Somerset near Bath), the Brinkworth Brook, the River Marden, the Semington Brook, and the River Biss; the last four originate in the chalk of the western scarp of Salisbury Plain and its northward extension the Marlborough Downs. The Somerset Frome, which has its origins partly also in the western scarp of Salisbury Plain and partly in the carboniferous limestone of the Mendip Hills, is another tributary, which for a few miles forms the western boundary of Wiltshire. As would be expected, all these rivers and their feeder streams are alkaline, and their higher reaches are favourable to the growth of weeds and the reproduction of fly life, as in chalk streams. The upper reaches are, in fact, typical small trout streams. But the fish are smaller than in the chalk streams. A onepounder is regarded as a good fish, and a twopounder very exceptional. Of these trout-fishing tributaries, the best known is the By Brook, sometimes known as the Box Brook. From Castle Combe down to Box are twelve miles of very good fly water, mostly in private hands.
As the tributaries, and the Avon itself below Malmesbury, enter the low-lying fertile valleys, which are mostly of Oxford Clay, their character changes: they are deeper and slower; the bottom is less stable, subject to silting and scouring, so that fine weeds and invertebrate animals find life more precarious; nor, with the incidence of effluents from towns and industries, is the water so clean and well oxygenated. Trout are still to be found here and there, some of them large. For example, one of 5 lb. 11 oz. was taken at Malmesbury by spinning, in May 1955. But the waters provide sport (very good and consistent of its kind) mainly for the coarse fisher.
In the form in which we know them, the chalk streams of the Wiltshire valleys are largely the creation of man. Moreover, their characters have changed from time to time—sometimes gradually, as social conditions or methods of farming have changed— but sometimes as the result of more deliberate activities. And always the changes in the character of the rivers have been followed by changes—sometimes for the better, but sometimes for the worse—in the quality of the sport which they provide. Some of these changes are well illustrated by the history of the Kennet and the Christchurch Avon and its tributaries in recent years.
Chalk streams flow through gently sloping valleys with frequent obstructions such as mills which have modified and now help to regulate their flow. But a glance at Andrews' and Dury's map of 1773 (fn. 15) reveals the existence of numerous mills which have since disappeared. Here has been one swing of the pendulum. But mills, both corn and cloth, were not the only purposes for which dams, with controlling hatches, were constructed. Some were designed to divert water through the masonry channels of eelhouses. When the eels were migrating to the sea in the late autumn, traps were set in the channels. On the lower Wylye near Wishford there is a derelict eel-house, now (1957) standing high and dry as a result of the war-time dredging. Before that it produced an acceptable revenue. The eels of the Wylye seldom attained a weight of 2 lb., but in the museum at Salisbury there is one of 6 lb. 9 oz. This fish was taken in a water-meadow at Alderbury in 1907 while migrating to the Avon, on the first stage of its journey to the sea.
The character of the streams was also modified by the elaborate systems of channels for the irrigation of the water-meadows which, in Wiltshire, date from the opening years of the 17th century. (fn. 16) There are, however, now few places where these irrigation systems could be maintained. Their decay has taken place gradually over the past 50 or 60 years, as a result of changes in farming practice. (fn. 17) On the Wylye, the final calamity was the dredging of the river during the Second World War: first at the instance of the Army in 1940 to turn it into a tank obstacle against the possibility of a German invasion; and later by direction of the agricultural authorities, with the object of lowering the water table in the valley so that the water-meadows could be turned into arable land. So long as these irrigation systems were in use, it was important from the point of view of the fishing interests that they should be operated in a spirit of co-operation. The river keepers were therefore expected to maintain friendly relations with the 'drowners'. Indeed it was the practice of the Wilton Fly Fishing Club to give an annual dinner, followed by a convivial evening entertainment, to the 'drowners' from all the farms on its ten miles of water. These entertainments continued until within a year or two of the outbreak of the Second World War.
The decay of the water-meadow systems, and the dredging of the Wylye, has affected the fishing in several ways. (fn. 18) Many miles of side streams, or 'carriers', which were either fishable or provided spawning grounds for trout, are now dry or muddy ditches. The subsidiary channels were also prolific breeding grounds for a number of aquatic creatures on which trout feed. A further consequence of the loss of the flushing effect of the regular operation of the hatches has been the deposit of silt on the gravel of the main river, thus reducing the areas available for the breeding of trout and of the flies on which the angler depends to produce rising fish. In some cases, especially in narrow streams, the deposit of silt encouraged the growth of coarse vegetation which collected more silt. In time the choked stream became a menace to agriculture by causing uncontrollable flooding of the land. There was then an appeal to the Catchment Board for the channel to be dredged. In the past, the work of dredging was often carried out in such a way that the restored watercourse was of no value as a fishery. But, since the formation of the Avon and Dorset River Board in 1950, with its staff of fishery inspectors as well as drainage engineers, it has been found that the work of land drainage can frequently be carried out in such a way as to improve the river from the point of view of the angler.
A most striking example of what can be achieved by the active collaboration of the various interests concerned—estate management, fishing tenants, military authorities, and River Board—is provided by the work carried out since 1953 on the six miles of the upper reaches of the Christchurch Avon which are fished by the Officers' Fishing Association, formed at the beginning of the 20th century. (fn. 19) In addition to the gradual process of deterioration described above, and to the inevitable neglect of normal maintenance work during the war years, this water had suffered from a combination of purely local circumstances, all contributing to the deposit of silt and mud—some of it of a foul and poisonous character. During the spawning seasons of 1950–1 and 1951–2 very few fish were seen on even those parts of the gravel shallows which were still available, and in 1953 the take of 11-inch fish (which before the war averaged 800 and occasionally exceeded 1,000 a year) fell to 375, none of them in good condition. In that year a concerted operation to clear the river bed was begun, of which the main features were the digging of catch pits to intercept filth from the open village drains and oil-impregnated mud washed from the roads; the removal of silt and mud by driving bulldozers over the gravel shallows or, on reaches where that was not practicable, by drag-line excavator; and the removal of the beds of rushes and the mud banks which they had accumulated. It will of course be some years before the full benefit of these operations is felt in the number of trout caught, but by 1957 the transformation had been phenomenal. In place of the mud banks there were then long reaches of golden gravel on which, during the past seasons, trout have spawned freely. The river is now again full of snail and crayfish, and the trout feeding on them are strong and healthy. There has also been a phenomenal increase in fly life, particularly of the Baëtis group of duns, and the takes of trout above the 11-inch limit have increased from 375 in 1953, to 875 in 1954, 1,375 in 1955, and 1,055 in 1956.
The Wiltshire chalk streams have also suffered, in varying degrees, owing to the extraction of water from the chalk formations, in progressively increasing quantities, to serve the needs of towns. The head waters of all these streams are 'winterbournes'. In the low-water season (generally from June to December) there are often several miles of the upper parts of the valley in which, apart from the 'run off' after heavy showers, the channels are dry. Moreover, the points at which running water appears vary from year to year because the springs can only break when the saturation level in the chalk formations is at or above that of the surface of the land, (fn. 20) and, in some of these valleys, the points at which there is a permanent flow of fishable water have steadily receded downstream in the course of the past 40 or 50 years.
Of the Wiltshire rivers, the one which has suffered most severely from this exploitation is the Kennet. In 1955, 128 million gallons of water were pumped to Devizes from Shepherd's Shore near Bishop's Cannings, and no less a quantity than 486 million gallons was pumped from Whitefield near Ogbourne St. George, to serve the great population of Swindon. (fn. 21) All this water was lost to the Kennet valley. In addition there are pumping stations at and above Marlborough which serve that town and the Marlborough and Ramsbury Rural District. Most of this water also is lost to the springs which used to replenish the river above Marlborough, but some of it finds its way back into the river farther down the valley.
The effect on the fishing above Marlborough has been catastrophic. The late H. G. Maurice told (fn. 22) how on a day in 1916 he, and his younger brother, took 6½ brace of trout averaging just over 2 lb. a fish. His brother has told, elsewhere, (fn. 23) of a day in September on which he took 3 fish, all on dry fly, weighing respectively 6, 5, and 2¼ lb. These two days are cited merely as examples of the kind of sport to be had in those days on a stretch of water between Marlborough and Clatford. At that date there was a mill working at Manton, a mile above Marlborough. In 1957, even if its use had not been abandoned for economic reasons, it could not be worked owing to lack of water. For the same reason, the fishing has deteriorated. In 1956, not for the first time, the river bed was dry at Lockeridge and the flow started only about half a mile above the upper boundary of the stretch mentioned by Maurice. By August the flow in that stretch was negligible and it was practically unfishable. At the end of the month fish started dying, from lack of oxygen, and about 50 dead trout, including 3 or 4 of about 3 to 3½ lb., were taken out. It is now only in exceptional years, when the springs again break farther up the valley, that moderate sport can be had in what used to be water of a consistently high quality. Fortunately a good deal of water finds its way into the river around Marlborough, so that the fishing downstream has not suffered to anything like the same extent. Indeed, shortly below Marlborough it is still exceptionally good.
Not only do the rivers themselves, in the form in which we now know them, bear little resemblance to what they would have been if man had not moulded them to his various purposes, the fishing in them also is very largely dependent on man's constant care and attention, directed deliberately to the creation and maintenance of the conditions he wishes. The seasonal round of most river keepers includes the periodical cutting of weeds; the care of river banks, plank bridges, and stiles; the removal of mud and silt; and the rigorous control of pike, coarse fish, and grayling, which thrive in all but the higher reaches of chalk streams, and which either prey upon trout or compete for their food. Before the Second World War, the most general method of taking out unwanted fish was by netting, supplemented, in the case of pike, by other devices such as snaring. But on some fisheries netting has largely been replaced by electrical fishing machines. Of these, within the knowledge of the writer, three are in use in the county—at Ramsbury on the Kennet, on the water of the Officers' Fishing Association on the Upper Avon, and on the water of the Wilton Fly Fishing Club on the lower Wylye. It has been found by experience that these machines are much more effective than netting for the capture of pike, but not for coarse fish and grayling. For these fish, the Avon and Dorset River Board is very helpful by netting selected reaches. The coarse fish so removed are taken to other rivers in the Board's area where they are welcomed. In the autumn of 1956, a total of nearly 15,000 grayling and some 600 or 700 coarse fish were netted by the River Board bailiffs from the water of the Officers' Fishing Association. In addition to these a further 7,00 or 8,000 grayling were removed by other means. At the end of this operation, it was estimated that almost as many grayling were still left in the fishery. (fn. 24)
Since grayling afford opportunities for fly-fishing for several months after the end of the trout-fishing season, and since moreover they are edible, surprise is sometimes expressed at the fact that on most chalkstream fisheries the war on grayling is now carried on as rigorously as on coarse fish. This was not always the case. In 1685 Aubrey recorded that there was a 'rare fish called the umber in the Nadder' and that it was 'preferred before a trout'. (fn. 25) In the later years of last century, many fishery owners and tenants went to the trouble and expense of stocking their waters with grayling. For example round about the year 1890 they were introduced into the Kennet at Ramsbury, (fn. 26) into the upper Avon at Syrencot, and into the Wylye between Wilton and Steeple Langford. (fn. 27) But experience has shown that when grayling become established in a chalk stream they thrive at the expense of the trout and that, however rigorously the war on grayling is pursued, there are generally more than enough left to provide sport during the lean months of the trout-fishing season, and after it has closed.
The importance of the conscientious performance of their work by river keepers is well illustrated by the Chilton Foliat water on the Kennet and the water of the Wilton Fly Fishing Club on the Wylye. Before the former water was acquired, in 1908, by the father of the present owner, the fishing was so bad that the previous owner had preferred to fish elsewhere. But, under careful management, it improved very rapidly until it became well known. The average size of fish killed was worked up from 1½ to about 2½ lb. just before the Second World War, and the size limit was set at 2 lb. During that war the fishing suffered from the inevitable lack of attention. Pike multiplied and mud accumulated and, in spite of much hard work and the exercise of restraint in the size and number of fish taken out, the fishery has not yet recovered its full productivity. But it is well on the way to doing so. There is now again a steadily increasing stock of fish of the order of 1½ to 2 lb., with many bigger ones, and in most years since 1947 the average weight of fish killed during the may-fiy season has been 3 lb. or over. With a size limit of 2½ lb., this means that each year a number of fish of 4 and 5 lb. weight have been taken.
On the lower reaches of the Wylye, the effects of lack of attention during the war, and immediate post-war, years were catastrophically accentuated by the war-time dredging mentioned above. A report made by Messrs. Peart of Hungerford, the fishery consultants, (fn. 28) on the state of the river after this dredging, on all reaches of the river from Bishopstrow to Bemerton, illustrates this, as is shown by the following extracts, from among many that could be quoted: 'From a first class trout stream, well stocked with trout throughout its length, well preserved and keepered, the river has declined to a low level in regard to its fishery' . . . 'The removal of many shallow stretches of the river by dredging, notably below the mills which occur at intervals along the course of the river, has obliterated much of the spawning area without which trout cannot reproduce themselves. The effect of the lack of these spawning shallows is to deter the recovery of the stock of trout for a long and indefinite period.'
Even in 1951 the eight miles of the Wilton Club's water produced only 62 trout above the then size limit of 12 inches. In 1952 the number was seventy-nine. Since then, mainly as the result of good keepering, the stock of trout of all sizes, from yearlings upwards, has steadily increased. The size limit is now set at 13 inches before, and 12 inches after, the may-fly season and, in 1956, 226 fish of an average size of 1 lb. 10 oz. were taken from the six miles of water which the club has retained. Of these, 53 were over 2 lb. in weight, and 17 ranged from 3 to 5 lb.
Among the chalk streams of Wiltshire pride of place must be given to the Kennet, which has been famous from at least as early as the 17th century for the strong fighting character and edible qualities of its pink-fleshed trout. Aubrey specially commends these fish at Hungerford, Marlborough, and Ramsbury. (fn. 29) Some account of the vicissitudes that have afflicted the higher reaches of the Kennet has been given above. From Marlborough to Chilton Foliat, where the river passes from Wiltshire into Berkshire, a course of some ten miles or so, its volume and width are steadily augmented as the valley slopes more and more into the permanent saturation level of the chalk. Throughout the whole of this course, the fishing in the Kennet is of a very high order. As one proceeds downstream, past Axford, Ramsbury, and Littlecote, the river changes little in character except as regards the size and proportion of large fish (of, say, 2 lb. weight and upwards) that are taken. In all reaches of the river there are such trout, but the number of big fish, and the average size of those taken, steadily increases as the size of the river increases, the peak being reached at Littlecote and Chilton Foliat where the average weight of fish taken during the may-fly season is about 3 lb.
It is recorded (fn. 30) that in 1899 in a fishery below Marlborough, then preserved by the Marquess of Ailesbury, the average weight of fish killed was no less than 2 lb.; but such a high average could not now be maintained except at an unacceptable sacrifice in the number of fish taken. In a reach of upwards of three miles of water, running from above Axford to the upper boundary of the Ramsbury Manor water, the tenant in 1957 was able to set a size limit of 13 inches; and, of the numerous fish taken, more than half are two pounders. This is the more satisfactory since the great majority of these fish are taken on small flies for, above Ramsbury Manor, the hatches of may-fly are so sparse that the fish seldom rise to them. There are numbers of fish of 3 lb. and upwards in this water, and if there were good hatches of may-fly no doubt many more of them would be taken. The Kennet is famous not only for its great trout, but also for its prolific hatches of may-fly, and this largely accounts for the numbers of big fish that are taken at Littlecote and Chilton Foliat. There is no apparent explanation of the fact that, above Ramsbury Manor, profusion gives place to scarcity.
The Ramsbury water has the distinction of having been fished by two great angling writers—by F. M. Halford and a party of friends from 1893 to 1897, and by J. W. Hills as a frequent guest from 1902 to 1922. It is curious to contrast the recorded experiences of these two authorities. Halford wrote: (fn. 31) '. . . of the strange and hitherto unrecorded propensity of the trout in this stream to abstain from rising during the great hatches of duns or falls of spinner.' On the other hand, Hills has recorded (fn. 32) that in 1902, with a size limit of 1 lb., he took 91 trout which averaged just over 1 lb. 5 oz.—mostly on the dry fly, and he mentions various days on which the trout behaved very differently from Halford's account of them. On a day in June in 1903 the then tenant took 6 fish on may-fly weighing 19 lb. 4 oz., 5 of them over 3 lb. each. H. Plunkett Green also wrote (fn. 33) appreciatively of the Ramsbury water; and, of the Wiltshire reaches of the Kennet in general, he wrote: 'It has always treated me royally. I can never remember a day on that water, from Littlecote up, when there has not been a rise at some time, and whenever I have failed it has been through no ill-will on its part.' The present tenant of the water (1957) shares the views of Hills and Plunkett Green rather than of Halford. (fn. 34) Indeed, ever since he took the water in 1947, he has been able to maintain the rule of dry fly only, with a size limit of 1½ lb.
Like the Kennet, the Christchurch Avon has long been famous for its trout. In 1654 Evelyn recorded (fn. 35) that he 'dined at a farm of my Uncle Hungerford's called Durnford Magna, situate in a valley under the plain most sweetly watered abounding in trouts catched by spear in the night, when they came attracted by a light set in the stern of a boat.' Izaak Walton also mentions the spearing of trout by torchlight, though in Hampshire. He lived, however, at times in Salisbury (where apartments are said (fn. 36) to have been reserved for him in the house of Dr. Ward the bishop) and fished in some local water. He does not, however, specify it more definitely than 'a little river at Salisbury'. (fn. 37) The Walton Canonry in the Close was built by his son, (fn. 38) who had been Dr. Ward's chaplain. (fn. 39)
Unlike the Kennet, the Avon is not an absolutely pure chalk stream, for its head waters are formed by two small streams which traverse the upper greensand of the Pewsey Vale. But this slightly dubious parentage is insignificant. From shortly after the juncture of these two streams at Scales Bridge (Rushall), and onwards to Salisbury, the Avon receives so much additional water from springs from the chalk that it has all the characteristics of a typical chalk stream. From Upavon, southwards, the trout fishing is of a high order. Indeed, of the Wiltshire fisheries before the Second World War, the reaches of the Avon between Amesbury and Salisbury shared with the lower Wylye the reputation of ranking second only to the Kennet.
In view of what has been said above as to the size which the trout attain even in the smaller reaches of the upper Kennet, some surprise may be felt at the fact that, on the water of the Officers' Fishing Association between Upavon and Amesbury, the size limit is set so low as 11 inches. Before the war it was 12 inches. The explanation is that the management policy of an association catering for 55 members on six miles of hard-fished water must necessarily be directed to the maintenance of a substantial population of moderate-sized fish. How successful the association has been in carrying out this policy can be judged from the fact that, during the fifteen years preceding the Second World War (there is no record for the years 1939–47), and with a size limit of 12 inches, the average take was no less than 850 fish a year. After the cleaning up of the spawning shallows described above, and the construction of several miles of nursery streams, the association is confidently looking forward to even better results in the future.
On such hard-fished water it is not to be expected that great numbers of fish survive to reach the twopounder class. But the capacity of the water to produce such fish is illustrated by the fact that, between 1924 and 1935, 73 fish of 2 lb. and upwards were taken, and of these 35 were more than 3 lb. in weight. In 1935, a record year in which the total take was nearly 1,900, one of the more expert members took 148 trout of an average weight of well over the pound. (fn. 40)
Between Amesbury and Salisbury the volume of the river is considerably greater, but, at intervals, it is divided into two or more channels, which reunite and then divide again. In this section the various reaches are either retained by the owners for the enjoyment of themselves or their friends, or are let to a limited number of rods. Under these conditions it is possible for management policy to approximate more closely to that followed on the Kennet and, by the exercise of restraint, to allow the fish to grow to a greater average size and thereby to provide more exciting sport. As on the Kennet, fish of 2 lb. are numerous and rise to small flies throughout the season; but the fish of 3, 4, and occasionally 5 lb. weight are caught mainly during the may-fly season.
Like many other chalk streams, these reaches of the Avon inevitably suffered from lack of attention during the war years. In particular there were accumulations of silt which reduced the areas of gravel available for spawning. Without the resources of the War Department, which were available above Amesbury, it has not been possible for the cleaning of some of these reaches to be undertaken as radically as it has been done on the smaller waters of the Officers' Fishing Association. Nevertheless, with the active co-operation of the River Board, much work has been done in the removal of pike and coarse fish, and in clearing away silt. As a result, these fisheries are now steadily improving again though it may be some time before they fully recover their pre-war productivity.
The reaches, of course, vary in character. In one, with convenient side streams to serve as nurseries, the owner has been able to set a limit of 3 brace of 13-inch fish a day without thereby depriving the rods of adequate opportunities of catching fish of 2 lb. and upwards. In another reach of three miles or so, with adequate areas of clean gravel, it has been found that, by netting out pike and coarse fish twice a year, and by refraining from taking out any trout of less than 2 lb., the trout population is now steadily increasing without recourse to restocking. In another reach, nearer to Salisbury, however, there are insufficient areas of clean gravel to maintain a satisfactory population of native fish and, for some twenty years or so, the tenant has regularly stocked with fry in the spring, and with a substantial number of sizeable fish a fortnight after the end of the mayfly season. Of this reach, the size limit is set at 1½ lb. while the may-fly is on and 12 inches thereafter.
There are many stories of great trout that have grown fat in the waters of towns. But for few of them is there such good authority as that provided by the glass cases in the museum at Salisbury. These contain six fish, ranging in weight from 8¼ to 16¼ lb., all taken during the First World War from the short stretch of the Avon near Fisherton bridge. It seems, however, that they were not taken on fly, for in the story of the capture of at least one of them a penny bun figures prominently.
At Salisbury the volume of the Avon is augmented by the combined waters of the Wylye and the Nadder, and, for the remainder of its Wiltshire course, until it passes into Hampshire just south of Downton, it is a considerable river, with a heavy population of coarse fish. Nevertheless there are many long reaches of gravel shallows which can be easily waded. On these shallows, trout of up to 2 lb. can be taken on small flies before the may-fly appears, and again during the last six weeks or so of the season. During the may-fly season numerous fish of from 3 to 5 lb. are also regularly taken, not only on these shallows, but also on the slower, deeper, reaches where, at other times, the trout do not rise freely. As Downton is approached, although trout are still numerous, coarse fish predominate.
In its lower reaches, principally between Christchurch and Ringwood, the Avon has, for long, been a noted salmon river. But between Ringwood and Salisbury there are a number of formidable obstacles, mills and weirs, that until recently have prevented all but a relatively few fish running up into the Wiltshire reaches during the fishing season. But the urge to reach the upstream spawning grounds gives many fish the resolution to surmount these obstacles in the late autumn and considerable numbers are seen on the redds at Downton and Britford. For some six or seven years the Avon and Dorset River Board has been engaged in constructing, or requiring the construction of, fish passes to enable salmon to surmount these obstacles with less effort. In addition to encouraging a wider distribution of spawning fish so as to make the fullest possible use of suitable shallows, it is hoped that when the present programme is completed, it will enable more fish to run up into the Wiltshire reaches during the spring and summer, to provide sport as far upstream as Britford. This policy is already having some effect and, in the spring of 1957, several fish were taken between Downton and Bodenham.
Of the tributaries of the Christchurch Avon the most important, from the fishing point of view, is the Wylye. Its head waters are of special interest because there is a permanent stream above the section which is normally a winterbourne. This stream leads into a pond, near Norton Ferris, and thence flows by an underground course into the Wylye near Kingston Deverill. The Wylye becomes permanently fishable at Brixton Deverill and, from Longbridge Deverill downsteam to its junction with the Nadder at Wilton, all the reaches which are well managed and well keepered provide fishing of a high order. But there are variations in the character of the reaches. One reason for this is that there are upstream limits to the prevalence of grayling, coarse fish, and pike. For grayling, it is said (fn. 41) that in the 1880's this point was at Wishford. It is now (1957) in the neighbourhood of Heytesbury. The consequence of this is that in the upper reaches of the river the trout population is much more numerous than in the lower reaches, where it can only be maintained at a satisfactory density by constant war on the predators and competitors. Indeed in one well-known fishery in the head waters of the Wylye, trout are so numerous that the size limit is set at 10 inches, with no limit to the number that may be taken, in order to reduce the pressure on the available food-supply and so to permit a greater proportion of fish to grow to a more sport-giving size.
While the average size of trout killed in this water is about ¾ lb., fish of the order of 1–1½ lb. are numerous, and there are occasional fish of 2 lb. and upwards. These small head waters of the Wylye would be too shallow to support so many fish of such a size were it not that stretches of deeper water have been created by weirs. Some of these have been built for this specific purpose. Others are the remains of works that in earlier days served mills which, for the most part, have now disappeared. For a considerable distance above Heytesbury there are remains of these weirs at intervals of half a mile or so. The effect is to divide the river into a series of reaches at the head of which are streamy runs over clean gravel. Downstream, the flow slackens and deepens until the next obstruction is reached, and so on. The four miles or so of water downstream from the reach mentioned above also carry a numerous population of trout, and although fish of the order of 1 to 1½ lb. are not at present (1957) numerous, the owner hopes that, by careful management, their numbers will steadily increase.
From Heytesbury downstream the trout are faced with progressively increasing competition, by grayling and coarse fish, for the available food-supply. Moreover the owners of a number of the middle reaches of the river are not themselves anglers and have not been concerned to develop the potentialities of their waters. In consequence, while some of these reaches afford very interesting fishing, the general average size of the fish is on the small side. For example, a two-mile stretch of the river at Heytesbury has been described as teeming with freerising fish of 9 and 10 inches. (fn. 42) A fish of 1½ lb. is a leviathan. The experience of another angler, who for some years has fished reaches at Codford and Stockton, is similar. While the average size of fish in those reaches is rather higher, they seldom run to more than 1¼ lb. Yet in 1899 it was recorded (fn. 43) that, at Heytesbury, fish ran up to 2 and 3 lb. and that occasionally a 4-lb. fish was taken.
From rather more than a mile below Wylye to the outskirts of Wilton, the river is mainly rented by two clubs, the Wylye Club and the Wilton Fly Fishing Club, both formed in the 19th century, and it is in these lower reaches that considerable numbers of fish of well above the pound mark are again numerous. From the water of the Wylye Club, which reaches downstream to within rather less than a mile of Stapleford, and with a size limit of 11 inches, an average number of 250 to 300 trout a year are taken. These usually include about two dozen fish of over 2 lb., and an occasional fish of 3 or 4 lb.
At Stapleford the Wylye receives the waters of the Till, a small chalk stream which also contains trout and grayling. From about half a mile below Stapleford to the outskirts of Wilton are the six miles of water of the Wilton Fly Fishing Club (see above) which, having been formed in 1878 to fish water on the Kennet and Dun at Hungerford, transferred its operations to the Wylye in 1890. As may have been gathered from what has been said above, the slowerrunning, deeper waters of this reach, with less frequent areas of spawning gravel, suffered more severely from the effects of the war-time dredging than the upper and middle reaches of the river, and have taken longer to recover. Some particulars have been given above of the improvement of the fishing which had been achieved by the year 1956. As a further indication of the capacity of these lower reaches of the Wylye to produce heavy fish, it may be mentioned that, in the five years 1952–6, 92 trout, ranging in weight from 3 to 7 lb., were taken from the club's water. As would be expected, most of these big fish are taken on the may-fly, but a few are taken on small flies at other times of the year. For example, in the spring of 1953, when there were exceptionally good hatches of olive duns, several fish of up to 5 lb. in weight were taken before the may-fly appeared, and in September of that year a fish of 5¾ lb. was taken on an olive nymph. By contrast, however, with the conditions on the upper reaches of the Wylye, the hatches of the various olive duns on the lower reaches are insufficiently regular or dense to produce free-rising trout; and the hatches of B.W.O. (Blue Winged Olive) and iron blue duns, which were a regular feature of this water before 1939, have become relatively sparse.
A curious feature of the lower Wylye is that small numbers of may-fly continue to hatch throughout the season. In the water of the Wilton Club they are seldom taken by sizeable trout after the main hatch of fly in late May or early June. But in the combined waters of the Wylye and Nadder below Wilton there is frequently a definite autumn hatch of may-fly. A member of the Bemerton Club, which was formed in the 1920's, has recorded (fn. 44) that, in 1956, he took at least one sizeable trout on may-fly in each month of the fishing season.
There have been several references above to the effects of the war-time dredging of the Wylye; but the lowering of the river bed has had one compensating advantage. Like the Kennet, though not to such a great extent, the Wylye has suffered from the extraction of water from the chalk by pumping stations which serve Warminster and various villages and military establishments at the head of the valley and, more recently (1956), by a station which now provides a piped water-supply to the villages from Wylye to South Newton. But the volume of water in the main channel has not been reduced so seriously as it would have been if its dispersal into the numerous side streams had not been substantially reduced.
Unlike the catchment areas of the Avon and its other tributaries, that of the Nadder is not mainly chalk. While there are a few chalk springs, most of the water of the Nadder comes from a variety of limestones and clays, and it is not until Barford St. Martin is reached that the chalk downs close in on the valley. While therefore the angler in the Nadder has the advantage of fishing in alkaline water, he suffers the disadvantage that, after prolonged rain, his river takes considerably longer to fine down than the neighbouring chalk streams. The two small streams which form its head waters unite below Tisbury and from there to its junction with the Wylye at Wilton it affords pleasant and interesting trout fishing. The fish are smaller than those of the Wylye, a trout of 1 lb. being a good fish. Fish of 2 lb. are very occasionally taken in the deeper reaches.
Although the Nadder contributes less water than the Wylye, it gives its name to the combined river which, after Wilton, flows past Bemerton to join the Avon near Salisbury Cathedral. In these lower reaches there are good trout, though they are enormously outnumbered by grayling. It was on these lower waters of the Nadder that G. E. M. Skues, the originator and formidable protagonist of the modern style of nymph fishing, spent his declining years. He had to give up fishing in 1945. His last trout was caught at South Newton on the Wylye. (fn. 45)
The remaining two Wiltshire tributaries of the Avon, the Bourne and the Ebble, are miniature chalk streams which afford interesting fishing. Fish of considerable size run up both these streams to spawn, but most of them return to the Avon and, except in the hatch holes of the lower reaches, the trout caught are relatively small. In the Bourne this is largely a consequence of the diminution of its volume owing to the extraction of water from the chalk. This stream, which, before the Second World War, regularly yielded fish of up to 2 or 3 lb., also suffered severely from dredging in 1949. In spite of its relatively small volume, the Bourne has a longer course than the Nadder, though from its source above Collingbourne Ducis to Idmiston it is a winterbourne. The Ebble, which rises above Ebbesborne Wake, is fishable from Bishopstone to its confluence with the Avon at Bodenham. It is not now claimed that its trout are superior to those of the Wylye for culinary purposes, but there is a local legend that when Queen Elizabeth I stayed at Wilton House she was regularly supplied with trout from the Ebble for breakfast. According to Aubrey it was Charles I for whom the Earl of Pembroke provided these fish. (fn. 46)
Until the beginning of the 19th century the county was not divided, as it later became, into a number of carefully defined hunting countries. When, towards the middle of the 18th century, foxhunting began to take the place of stag and hare hunting, those landowners who kept hounds, drew the coverts on their own estates, and sometimes hunted farther afield. Until foxhunting became organized, owners of hounds had to seek their quarry far and wide. The foxhounds belonging to the dukes of Beaufort (see below), for example, hunted not only a vast country radiating from Badminton (Glos.), but in the last quarter of the 18th century they were hunting a large part of Oxfordshire as well.
By 1826 foxhunting countries with recognized boundaries were beginning to be established in Wiltshire, and at that date the county was covered roughly by four hunts. In the north-east corner the Duke of Beaufort's hounds, kennelled at Badminton, penetrated eastwards into Wiltshire nearly as far as Marlborough, and southwards roughly to an imaginary line between Rood Ashton and Urchfont. The south-western quarter of the county was hunted by the South Wilts from Sutton Veny (see below). The country of this hunt extended from the boundary of the Beaufort running between Rood Ashton and Urchfont in the north, almost to the county boundary in the south, and from the county boundary on the west to Salisbury on the east. The southeastern quarter of the county was hunted by Thomas Assheton-Smith, who lived and kept his hounds first at Andover, and after 1830 at South Tidworth. Assheton-Smith's country, which later became the country of the Tedworth Hunt, (fn. 47) extended from almost the county boundary in the south to the neighbourhood of Savernake Forest in the north, and from Salisbury in the west to well beyond the county boundary in the east. The northern tip of the county to about 4 miles south of Swindon was part of the very extensive country hunted at that time by the Old Berkshire Hunt. (fn. 48)
These four packs accounted for most of Wiltshire, although it was impossible for them to hunt their large countries thoroughly. Three other packs just touched upon the county: 'Mr. Farquharson's hounds' (J. J. Farquharson) in the south-west, (fn. 49) the New Forest Hunt in the south-east, (fn. 50) and the Craven Hunt in the north-east. (fn. 51)
The early masters of foxhounds hunted chiefly for their own pleasure and entirely at their own expense. As foxhunting grew more popular and more elaborate, it became increasingly difficult to find masters able to afford the hunting of these enormous countries, and so their subdivision began. In 1832 a diminution was made in the Old Berkshire country, and the northern tip of Wiltshire became part of the country allotted to the newly formed Vale of White Horse Hunt. (fn. 52) In 1835 the Duke of Beaufort relinquished his country in south Oxfordshire and began to concentrate his resources upon an extensive, but compact, country, of which Badminton lay roughly at the centre.
By about the middle of the 19th century most masters were guaranteed a sum towards their expenses to be raised by subscriptions from those hunting. Even so, the need to reduce the size of large countries persisted. At the same time the coming of the railways made hunting available to more people, and the demand for sport was increasing. In 1869 the South Wilts curtailed its country substantially by the surrender of the south-eastern corner to a hunt formed that year by the Earl of Radnor (see below, the Wilton), and both the Beaufort and the Tedworth were willing to lend some country to the newly formed hunt. The splitting up of the V.W.H. country into the Cirencester and Cricklade divisions (see below), which followed next, was not at the time it occurred (1886) due to the size of the country, although this would probably sooner or later have made subdivision expedient. The Beaufort withstood the economic difficulties of the later 19th century longer than the other Wiltshire hunts, but it could not survive the depression of the eighties quite unchanged. In the 1880's subscriptions were required for the first time, and a stretch of country in the south of the Wiltshire part of the Beaufort country was lent at first, temporarily, to Captain John Spicer, and later, permanently, to the Avon Vale Hunt (see below).
The next subdivision took place after the First World War when the South and West Wilts lent the northern part of its country to the Wylye Valley Hunt formed in 1919 (see below). Another hunt, the Tedworth Woodland (see below), was formed during the period between the two world wars to hunt some of the large woodlands in the north of the Tedworth and in the west of the Vine countries. This, however, unlike all the other Wiltshire hunts, with the exception of the Duke of Beaufort's, was a private pack owned and maintained by its master. In 1938 the Tedworth wished to resume the hunting of some of its woodlands, and the Tedworth Woodland was disbanded. The 20th-century history of the eastern side of the county has been largely determined by the fact that so much of it is War Department land, on which there are many restrictions. The activities of the Forestry Commission in and around Savernake have also created special difficulties. In 1942 the Tedworth, which had hunted much of this part of the country since 1826, could no longer survive military occupation and operations, and was disbanded for some years. The army was, however, responsible for the establishment of a new hunt when in 1940 the Royal Artillery, Salisbury Plain Hunt (see below), was formed to meet the special needs of officers stationed at or near Larkhill.
The Duke of Beaufort's Hunt
This hunt is one of the four great ancestral packs in England, the hounds having been in the uninterrupted possession of the dukes of Beaufort, descending from father to son. (fn. 53) No exact date can be given for the establishment of a pack of hounds kept only for foxhunting at Badminton. The early Badminton kennel books, the earliest of which is dated 1728, record packs of both staghounds and harriers, and show a tendency for the number of harriers to increase. (fn. 54) Doubtless both staghounds and harriers had been kept at Badminton from a much earlier date. Towards the end of the life of the 3rd Duke of Beaufort (1714–45) a pack of hounds is said to have been kept at Badminton specially for hunting foxes. (fn. 55) It was, however, under the 5th duke (1756–1805) that foxhunting superseded hare- and deer-hunting as the regular sport. (fn. 56) This duke hunted an extensive country lying partly in Gloucestershire and Somerset, and covering approximately the whole of the north-eastern quarter of Wiltshire. In addition, after 1770, the Badminton pack hunted most of the country in Oxfordshire now hunted by the Heythrop Hunt, the whole hunting establishment being transferred there from Badminton for some months of the season. (fn. 57)
It was under the 6th duke (1805–35) and the Badminton huntsmen Philip Payne and William Long that the foundations of the Badminton pack were laid. When Payne went to Badminton in 1802 the hounds were large and powerful but inclined to be slow. New blood, chiefly from Brocklesby and Belvoir, was introduced by both Payne and Long in order to improve quality and speed. (fn. 58) With an improved and enlarged pack the 6th duke began to hunt the country more thoroughly, but shortly before his death he decided to relinquish the Heythrop country. His successor, the 7th duke (1835– 53), made a gift of some 25 couples of Badminton hounds to the master of the newly formed Heythrop Hunt, and the duke's first whipper-in remained as huntsman. The Heythrop hunt servants continued to wear the green plush livery of the Badminton servants. (fn. 59)
As long as some months in every season were spent in the Heythrop country, it was impossible for the Badminton hounds to hunt the remainder of the Beaufort country as thoroughly as was thought necessary. Several of the large coverts were, therefore, lent to a certain Mr. Horlock to hunt with his own pack. (fn. 60) Horlock lived near Bath and his hounds appear to have gone south into the country later hunted by the Wylye Valley (see below), and north into the southern parts of the Beaufort country in Wiltshire, sometimes penetrating as far north as North Wraxall and Wootton Bassett. (fn. 61) When he abandoned the Heythrop country, the Duke of Beaufort determined to hunt his remaining country more thoroughly, and so came into conflict with Horlock. A long-drawn-out dispute followed in which Horlock claimed that he had the duke's permission for his activities, and produced witnesses to prove that the Badminton Hunt had not stopped earths in the disputed country for some twenty years. (fn. 62) The dispute was settled in 1839 when it was agreed that Horlock should cease to draw the coverts in the Beaufort country, but should continue to hunt some country south of Trowbridge. (fn. 63)
At about this time the Badminton pack comprised some 70 couples and hunted on six days a week. (fn. 64) In 1838 'Nimrod' visited Badminton and pronounced the hounds there to be second only to those of the Belvoir. He also noted that there were in the stables 34 regular hunters, and 10 others 'able to go hunting'. (fn. 65) He makes no mention of carriage horses, of which there were probably at least as many again. A hound list of 1839 shows that more than half the pack were by home sires, the remainder being chiefly by sires from the Brocklesby, Belvoir, Bicester, and Lord Lonsdale's packs. (fn. 66) To this period in the history of the Beaufort Hunt belongs the well-known 'Badminton Sweep'—a chimneysweep named Vizard of Chipping Sodbury (Glos.), who, as a reward for the enthusiasm he showed for hunting, was mounted by the duke, and hunted with the Badminton pack on many occasions. (fn. 67)
The Badminton Hunt probably reached its heyday under the 8th Duke of Beaufort (1853–99), who was master for 46 years. Some idea of the place held by hunting at Badminton at this time is perhaps conveyed by the story that the duke's children were not allowed to hunt on more than three days a week until they were five. (fn. 68) William Long, who had been huntsman since 1826, retired in 1855 shortly after the 8th duke succeeded, and for the first three seasons the duke carried the horn himself. (fn. 69) In his first season the duke hunted on 102 days, killed 123 foxes, and ran 23 to earth. (fn. 70) During the duke's mastership Belvoir blood was introduced extensively into the Badminton kennel, and other important purchases of hounds were made. (fn. 71) Hounds were hunted according to the Badminton tradition in three packs— the big dogs, the dogs and bitches, and the bitches only. (fn. 72)
Several noteworthy events in the history of the hunt occurred during the mastership of the 8th duke. In 1863 the duke took 25 couples of hounds and 18 horses to France to hunt in Poitou. (fn. 73) Lawn meets at Badminton at this time were on a magnificent scale. In 1863, for example, 5,000 people were said to have been present, and more than 1,000 to have sat down to breakfast. (fn. 74) A great gathering was also present when the Prince of Wales visited Badminton to hunt during the season 1867–8. (fn. 75)
In 1871 the hunt had a run which became one of the most outstanding runs of the 19th century. Lord Worcester was hunting the big dog pack, which comprised 17½ couples. The meet was at Swallets gate, near Christian Malford. Hounds found their fox in Grittenham Great Wood, and ran by Brinkworth Common, Somerford Common, and Bradon Lodge to Cricklade, in V.W.H. country, finally running their quarry to ground near Highworth, in the Old Berkshire country. This was a point of 14 miles and 28 miles as hounds ran. One couple of hounds was missing at the finish, but only some halfdozen members of the hunt were present. Only one member went through to the end on the horse he was riding at the beginning of the run. Hounds and horses were 35 miles from home at the finish, and returned to Badminton by train from Swindon. (fn. 76)
At this date the Duke of Beaufort was still bearing the entire expense of hunting the country, which extended some 30 miles from north to south, and about the same distance from east to west. Moreover, after the opening of the railway from Paddington to Bath in 1841, the hunt became easily accessible from London, and sport had to be provided for increasingly large fields. Hard hit by the agricultural depression of the eighties, the duke was no longer able to bear the cost of such a hunting establishment, and some changes in the organization of the hunt became imperative. An area of country extending roughly from the county boundary in the west to within four miles of Marlborough in the east, and from Chippenham in the north to Rood Ashton in the south was lent in 1888 to Captain John Spicer. (fn. 77) Hunting from Badminton was reduced from six to four days a week, and for the first time subscriptions were taken. (fn. 78)
When the 9th duke (1899–1924) succeeded he resumed for the Badminton Hunt the country lent ten years earlier to Captain Spicer. In 1904, however, the same area was lent to the South and West Wilts, and in 1912 it was finally handed over to the newly formed Avon Vale Hunt. (fn. 79) At this time there were some 90 couples of hounds at Badminton, mostly by home-bred sires although there were some important introductions of Belvoir blood. (fn. 80) Hounds met six days a week, on three of which the horn was carried by the duke, and on the other three by William Dale, his huntsman. (fn. 81)
During the First World War, as was the case with all packs, considerable reductions were made in the hunting establishment at Badminton. The Duke of Beaufort commenting upon hunting prospects in general in the Badminton Magazine for 1915 said that farmers were as friendly as ever, but the inevitable decrease in subscriptions would throw an even larger share of the financial burden upon masters of hounds. (fn. 82) In the first post-war season there were only 50 couples of hounds at Badminton, and hunting was reduced to four days a week. (fn. 83) By 1922–3 the establishment had been built up again, and there was again hunting on six days a week. (fn. 84) The season 1923–4 was a good one, and in the two weeks immediately before and immediately following Christmas there were two ten-mile and one eight-mile points. (fn. 85)
For the rest of the twenties the standard of sport, under the mastership of the 10th duke, was high. The season 1929–30 was, for example, a good one. In 202 hunting days 145 brace of foxes were killed, and 46 brace were run to ground. (fn. 86) Hunting, as is the custom with this hunt, was carried on until the fifth month of the year. For some seasons during the thirties the duke had a joint-master. In 1930 Mr. H. C. Cox held this office, and in 1935 Captain F. Spicer succeeded Mr. Cox. During the Second World War the hunting establishment had to be reduced even more than it had been between 1914 and 1918. Immediately after the war there were only some 45 couples in the kennels and hunting was limited to four, or sometimes five, days a week. (fn. 87) For the first post-war season Lord Knutsford hunted hounds alternately with the duke, and in 1951 Major Gerald Gundry, who had been secretary for thirteen seasons, joined the duke as joint-master. (fn. 88) By the season 1951–2 there was hunting on six days a week. (fn. 89) Since the war the Badminton pack has achieved an even higher standard of excellence, so that Badminton blood is regarded as one of the most important influences in hound breeding. (fn. 90)
The Duke of Beaufort's is one of the few hunts in England which does not wear scarlet for field costume. The uniform worn by members of the hunt is blue with buff facings.
The Badminton country covers some 760 square miles in Gloucestershire, Somerset, and Wiltshire. In the north it extends as far as Stroud (Glos.), in the south nearly to Bath, in the east to the edge of the Marlborough Downs, and in the west to the line of the River Frome. On the west it is bounded by the Berkeley, on the north by the Cotswold, on the east by the V.W.H. (both divisions) and the Craven, and on the south by the Avon Vale, the Tedworth, and the Wylye Valley. (fn. 91)
The South and West Wilts Hunt
The origin of this hunt is usually traced (fn. 92) to the pack of foxhounds kept by Lord Arundell of Wardour at Wardour between 1690 and 1710. (fn. 93) In 1710 a pack of hounds was lent by Lord Arundell to Sir William Goring and Edward Rooper with the proviso that should these two 'leave the pack quite off', the hounds, 'or what remained of them', should be returned to Wardour. (fn. 94) A pack is said to have been kept in the Arundell family until 1782 when it was sold to Hugo Meynell of the Quorn. (fn. 95) The first master to hunt the country regularly, however, was William Wyndham of Dinton, who did so until 1806, when he sold his pack to J. J. Farquharson, of Blandford (Dors.)—master of the whole of Dorset 1806–58. (fn. 96) For the next eighteen years there was no recognized pack in the country, but the woodlands were occasionally hunted in the spring and autumn by Farquharson.
In 1824 the South Wilts can be said to have been constituted for the first time as a distinct country. That year William Codrington married a daughter of William Wyndham, resigned the mastership of the Old Berkshire, and went to Wiltshire as master of the South Wilts. From the Old Berkshire he brought Jem Treadwell (fn. 97) as his huntsman, and he formed a pack with kennels at Sutton Veny. The country at about this time covered almost the whole of southern Wiltshire and extended from the New Forest to Devizes, and thence round by Warminster almost to Shaftesbury. It was reported to be of a 'vile nature' because of the 'enormous and overgrown woodlands'. The largest of these were Grovely, then hunted on Tuesdays, and Great Ridge hunted on Fridays. (fn. 98) In 1836 Codrington sold the pack to the Blackmore Vale Hunt for £1,000, and for the next two years hunted only the woodlands with a pack bought from the master of the South Devon. (fn. 99)
In 1838 the country began to be more regularly hunted when William Wyndham resigned from the New Forest Hunt, and returned as master of the South Wilts. William Wyndham hunted the country for two seasons almost entirely at his own expense, but his hounds were too large and heavy, and in 1848 they were sold at Tattersall's for less than £400. Frank Wyndham, William's brother, and successor as master, achieved better, but not wholly successful, results with a lighter, more active pack, and hunted the country for two days a week until 1858. That year he sold the pack, and since no master could be found, a committee was formed to hunt the country. This held its first meeting at the 'White Hart', Salisbury, under the chairmanship of the Hon. Sidney Herbert (later Lord Herbert of Lea). A pack of hounds was bought from north Wales, but it was found to be unsuitable for the hills of the South Wilts country. After only one season the committee broke up, and its secretary, P. Pain, then agreed to become master. With Joseph Obell as his huntsman, Pain formed a new, and more suitable, pack, and the country was hunted successfully until 1865. The pack was then sold for 1,000 guineas to the next master, C. B. Jarrett. During Jarrett's first season as master, 40 brace of foxes were killed. The pack was again sold in 1867 and this time fetched 1,499 guineas at Tattersall's.
The South Wilts and the West Wilts countries were united in 1871 under the mastership of John Everett of Sutton Veny. (fn. 100) Everett had become master of the West Wilts country in 1869, when he had received a guarantee of £800, and permission to hunt certain of the South Wilts coverts. He had been presented with 14 couples of hounds by the Duke of Beaufort, and the remainder of his pack of 33 couples was made up of drafts from the Garth and the South Wilts. In 1871 John Codrington, who had been joint-master with Alexander Wyndham of the South Wilts since 1867, and sole master since 1869, resigned. Everett then undertook for a guarantee of £900 to hunt the South Wilts country as well as the West Wilts for two days a week. The South Wilts country had been considerably curtailed on the resignation of John Codrington about two years earlier, when a stretch of land in the south had been lent to the hunt just then formed by Lord Radnor. (fn. 101) Everett hunted the combined South and West Wilts country from 1871 until 1883. During his mastership many improvements were made to the pack by drafts from the Tedworth, the South Oxfordshire, and the Blackmore Vale. Arrangements were made for earth stopping, and for payment to keepers. Sport improved greatly as a result of these measures, and in the season 1877–8 52 brace of foxes were killed.
Like other hunts the South and West Wilts was hard hit by the agricultural depression of the eighties, and in 1891 its master resigned because of the serious decline in subscriptions. At this time wire was also beginning to cause concern, and in 1893 certain members of the hunt registered a protest about the growing tendency for farmers to use wire for enclosing on the downs, and in some parts of the vale country. (fn. 102)
For a short time during the South African War the mastership was vested in a committee, and between 1901 and 1912 of the four masterships only one lasted for any considerable length of time. This was the mastership of Major C. Jackson, who remained with the hunt from 1902 until 1909. In 1912 the Hon. Hugh Grosvenor became master and held the position for twelve seasons. In the season before the First World War there were 45 couples of hounds. In the first season after the war there were only 25 couples, and hunting had to be reduced from three to two days a week. (fn. 103) In this season Hugh Grosvenor succeeded his father as Lord Stalbridge and when he moved to Motcombe (Dors.), the kennels were moved there from Sutton Veny. At the same time the South and West Wilts country was curtailed by the loan of some land in the north to the Wylye Valley Hunt, which was formed in 1919. (fn. 104)
The recovery of the hunt after the First World War was largely due to the work of Mr. Isaac Bell, who has, indeed, been called 'the saviour of the modern foxhound'. (fn. 105) Bell, an American, came as master to the South and West Wilts Hunt from the Kilkenny Hounds in 1925. The hounds were said to be in good condition on his arrival, but over the next three years he spent some £3,000 on new drafts. At his own cost also he had twenty loose-boxes built, and a number of artificial earths and coverts made. (fn. 106) During his mastership the country was hunted four days a week. In 1932 he was joined in the mastership by Major J. G. Morrison, and two seasons later ill health forced him to resign. He left a first-rate pack comprising 50 couples. (fn. 107) Major Morrison then became sole master and in 1958 remains master.
In 1931 the large chain of coverts between Wincanton (Som.) and Warminster were said to be well provided with rides. The downs in the middle of the country between Warminster and Tisbury were heavily stocked with sheep, and infested with hares. There was a great increase in wire, owing to lack of shepherds, and it was said that wire had wrought more serious change in this type of country than in any other, although hunt jumps were being erected to overcome this. The vale areas were reported to be good grassland, but heavily stocked, so that the bestnosed hounds were required to combat the cattle foil. The farmers at this date, as later, supported the hunt well, and a 'satisfactory' number hunted regularly. The supply of foxes was good. (fn. 108)
During the Second World War the number of hounds was again reduced to 25 couples, and the number of meets to three days a week with an occasional bye. (fn. 109) Since the master had to be absent for some of the war years, Major D. K. Wallis, secretary since 1927, acted for him. After the war the hunt continued to meet on three days a week. The season 1952–3 was a particularly successful one. There was hunting on 95 days, and more foxes were killed than in any season since 1945. (fn. 110) In 1956–7 there were about 40 couples of hounds. (fn. 111)
The country of this hunt lies within a boundary running from Shaftesbury westwards to within four miles of Wincanton (Som.), then turning northwards to Frome (Som.), eastwards to Wylye via Warminster, southwards to Broad Chalke, and from Broad Chalke returning to Shaftesbury via Berwick St. John. It is bounded on the north by the Wylye Valley Hunt, on the east by the Wilton, on the south by the Portman and the Blackmore Vale, and on the west by the Mendip Farmers.
The Wilton Hunt
This hunt (fn. 112) was formed in 1869 by the Earl of Radnor (b. 1815) at the request of certain landowners and farmers. (fn. 113) The country of the newly formed hunt comprised the area south-west of Salisbury handed over by the South Wilts (see above), some country on the outskirts of the New Forest belonging to the Tedworth, and loans from the New Forest and the Portman of country south of Salisbury. It was a country poorly supplied with foxes, and with a pack hastily assembled from drafts, the first season's hunting was poor. By the third season, however, there had been much improvement, and there was a pack comprising 45 couples of hounds. As master Lord Radnor was considered a strict disciplinarian. He resigned in 1883 and sold his pack to the Duke of Richmond, who was then re-forming the Goodwood country. (fn. 114) The country then reverted to the South and West Wilts and the New Forest Hunts for one season. In 1884 Lord Somerton became master, and the hunt, which until then had been called 'Lord Radnor's', became known as the Cranborne. The new pack of hounds was kennelled at Woodyates (Dors.). This pack was also sold on the resignation of Lord Somerton, and a new pack was bought in 1887 by the new master, Lord Pembroke. Lord Pembroke was succeeded in 1890 by Lord Radnor, son of the first master, who formed a most successful pack. This he sold on his resignation for £800. (fn. 115)
The hunt was first called the Wilton in 1897 when W. de P. Cazenove became master. It was under this master, and his successor W. H. Curtis Gallup, that the foundation of the present pack was laid and a settled policy of hound breeding introduced. (fn. 116) In 1903 Lieut.-Colonel H. A. Cartwright began his term of twenty seasons as master, thus giving the hunt a settled period in which to become well and firmly established. At the beginning of the 20th century the increasing amount of wire used in the country was causing concern, but fields were good, and foxes for the most part were plentiful, (fn. 117) although in 1907 an area around Pitton and Farley was abandoned because of the lack of foxes. (fn. 118) In 1912 the pack comprised some 36 couples of hounds kennelled at Netherhampton, and in 1913 it was reputed to be showing the quality and high courage required to hunt the thick woods and dense gorses in which the country abounded. (fn. 119) During the First World War the pack was reduced to some 23 couples, but hunting was maintained. (fn. 120)
For the last season of his mastership Colonel Cartwright had Lieut.-Colonel A. ffrench-Blake as joint-master, and when he retired in 1922, Colonel ffrench-Blake was joined by Lord Latymer. (fn. 121) Under these two masters the hounds, which had previously been the property of the master, became the property of the country. (fn. 122) From this time until the outbreak of the Second World War, the Wilton had a series of fairly short masterships. Among the masters of this period were Captain Francis Forester (1926–9), a former master of the Quorn, and Lieut.-Colonel W. Llewellyn Palmer (1933–7), a former master of the Avon Vale. The season 1935–6 was a successful one for the Wilton, when 49 brace of foxes were killed or accounted for. That season there was a joint meet with the Avon Vale, which drew a field of over 100 horsemen. (fn. 123) The season 1936–7 was also a good one. In 94 days' hunting 50 brace of foxes were accounted for, which was then a record for the Wilton country. There was also that season a record subscription list, and a record cap taken from visitors. (fn. 124) For the last season before the Second World War Colonel Palmer (see above) was succeeded by Major A. E. Phillips and Lady Radnor as joint-masters, and Major M. W. Selby-Lowndes acted as amateur huntsman. (fn. 125)
For the first two seasons of the Second World War a much reduced pack hunted from time to time, but after the season 1941–2 there was no more hunting in the Wilton country until 1944. Major Phillips (see above) was then joined by Colonel W. E. Elliot as joint-master and hunting began again. Major Phillips resigned in 1947 and between then and 1951 there were three masterships, two of one season only, and one of three seasons (1948–51), when Captain Lionel Cecil was master and huntsman. In 1951 a committee took charge with Lord Pembroke as its chairman until 1956. That year Lord Folkestone, a great-grandson of the founder of the hunt, became chairman. In 1958 there were 25 couples of hounds in kennels and the country was hunted two days a week by a professional huntsman. Excellent sport was shown during the season 1957–8. (fn. 126)
In 1956–7 the country had a fair amount of wire but was well supplied with gates and hunt jumps. The Wilton country overlaps the county boundary into Hampshire and Dorset. It extends some 30 miles from the River Wylye in the north to near Ringwood (Hants) in the south, and about 16 miles from approximately the course of the River Avon in the east to Fovant on the west. On the north it is bounded by the Wylye Valley and the Royal Artillery (Salisbury Plain) Hunts, on the east by the New Forest, on the south by the Portman, and on the west by the South and West Wilts. (fn. 127)
The Vale of White Horse Hunt (Cricklade Division)
The V.W.H. (Cricklade Division) became an independent hunt in 1886 when the V.W.H. was split into two parts—the Cirencester, later Earl Bathurst's, and the Cricklade Divisions. (fn. 128) This division was the outcome of the disagreement expressed by certain of the large covert owners with C. A. R. Hoare, the master of the V.W.H. So serious was the discontent that in 1885 Hoare moved his hounds from Cirencester to Cricklade, and after considerable difficulty a division of the country into two distinct parts was agreed upon. The country allotted to the Cricklade Division under Hoare's mastership comprised that part of the V.W.H. country south-east of a line running from Eastleach Martin (Glos.) to Brinkworth, and thus included in it was the northern tip of Wiltshire to about four miles south of Swindon. (fn. 129) The first meet of the newly formed hunt was held on 2 February 1886. The dispute which had split the V.W.H. persisted for some years. At least one landowner in the Cricklade side of the country refused to allow Hoare to draw his coverts, and Hoare made a claim against the former V.W.H. committee for the hunt subscriptions since 1881. (fn. 130) In 1888 Hoare resigned.
The next master, T. Butt-Miller, held office for twenty seasons, and under this long mastership the V.W.H. (Cricklade) was able to become firmly established as an independent hunt. In the season 1899–1900 the possibility of the reunion of the two divisions under Butt-Miller was considered. The proposal, however, was not carried out, partly because Butt-Miller wished the kennels to remain at Cricklade, and partly because the members of the Cricklade Hunt asked for a representation of threefifths on the hunt committee. (fn. 131) For the first four seasons of his mastership Butt-Miller borrowed the hounds belonging to Hoare, but in 1892 he bought this pack. (fn. 132) By judicious breeding the pack was greatly improved and Cricklade hounds began to win successes at Peterborough. (fn. 133) In 1908 there were 48 couples of hounds hunting three days a week. (fn. 134) In 1910, 62½ brace of foxes were killed. (fn. 135)
When Lieut.-Colonel W. F. Fuller succeeded Butt-Miller as master in 1910 he brought with him a considerable number of hounds, but the hunt committee decided to form a pack belonging to the country. They included some of Butt-Miller's hounds bought at the Rugby sale, and some gifts from Lord Bathurst, master of the Cirencester Division. (fn. 136) The Cricklade Division managed to carry on throughout the First World War, although the master rejoined his regiment. A deputy master, Mr. Freer Meade, was appointed, and was assisted by Joe Willis, who had been huntsman since 1908. In spite of restrictions, a good entry was bred every year of the war. (fn. 137) In the season 1918–19 there were some 45 couples of hounds hunting two days a week. (fn. 138) The season 1923–4 was reported as a good one for this hunt. There was that season one hunt with a point of over ten miles, and another when a fox found on Bassett Down was killed on the outskirts of Marlborough. (fn. 139) During the last ten seasons of his mastership Butt-Miller had a joint-master—Commander C. A. Codrington from 1921 until 1929, and Captain T. R. Colville from 1929 until 1931. (fn. 140)
Captain M. Kingscote, who succeeded Colonel Fuller in 1931, brought with him several couples of hounds, but by this time the bulk of the pack belonged to the country. (fn. 141) In 1934 new kennels were built at Meysey Hampton (Glos.) on land given by Captain S. Dennis of Down Ampney House. (fn. 142) For the season 1938–9 a small pack of Scarteen Kerry Beagles, belonging to the master, Mr. David Price, hunted in turn with the pack belonging to the country, but on the outbreak of war it was destroyed. (fn. 143) This was a good season for the hunt. There were a number of 10½-mile point hunts, and in all 57½ brace of foxes were killed. (fn. 144)
For the first season of the Second World War, Mr. Price, assisted by Major A. B. Mitchell as jointmaster, hunted hounds when on leave from his regiment. For the season 1940–1 a committee had to take over the management of the hunt, but in 1941 Mr. S. D. Player became master and succeeded in keeping the hunt going throughout the war. The difficulties of the post-war period are reflected in a series of short and multiple masterships. In 1948–9 there was a committee with Mr. John White as amateur huntsman, and Major E. P. Barker as fieldmaster. In 1949 Major Barker and Mr. White became joint-masters, and were joined by Sir William Goodenough. After the death of Sir William Goodenough (1951) his place was taken by Mr. H. C. Coriat, and in 1953 Mrs. E. P. Barker succeeded Mr. Coriat. (fn. 145)
The period following the Second World War was a difficult one for all hunts, but the V.W.H. (Cricklade) had a number of special obstacles to overcome. The country of this hunt has been very considerably changed by ploughing and the large number of airfields built in it since 1939. (fn. 146)
The country extends about 18 miles from north to south, and 14 miles from east to west, and lies in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, and Oxfordshire. On the north and west it adjoins the V.W.H. (Earl Bathurst's); on the south and west the Beaufort Hunt; on the south-east the Craven, on the east the Old Berkshire, and on the north-east the Heythrop. (fn. 147)
The Avon Vale Hunt
The origin of this hunt (fn. 148) may be traced to 1888 when the Beaufort Hunt, which was then experiencing some financial difficulties, made over part of its country to Captain John Spicer. (fn. 149) The country lent to Captain Spicer extended roughly from near Bath in the west to within about four miles of Marlborough in the east, and from Chippenham in the north to Westbury in the south. Captain Spicer had his own pack of hounds kennelled at Spye Park, and undertook to hunt the country twice a week. (fn. 150) A local newspaper reported that 'a very large assembly' was present at the opening meet. A champagne breakfast was supplied, to which tenant farmers, landowners, and other sportsmen were invited. Large numbers came in carriages 'and other conveyances', from Devizes, Chippenham, Calne, and Melksham. The field costume of the newly formed hunt was scarlet faced with buff. (fn. 151)
In 1895 Captain Spicer resigned and Brigadier G. L. Palmer accepted the mastership on condition that he was given sufficient support to hunt the country two days a week. At a meeting of supporters, Brigadier Palmer pointed out that a considerable tract of country in the Poulshot Vale had not been adequately hunted, and he insisted upon the need for new, permanent kennels, which should be the property of the hunt. (fn. 152) Brigadier Palmer provided the pack and had kennels at Semington built at his own expense. (fn. 153) Under his mastership the hunt became called the Avon Vale. Four years later, however, the Marquess of Worcester, acting for his father, the Duke of Beaufort, proposed to resume for the Beaufort Hunt the Spye Park and Bowood coverts, offering some other hill coverts in exchange. The owners of the coverts concerned, however, did not find the proposal acceptable, and Brigadier Palmer resigned the mastership. A meeting of Avon Vale followers held at Devizes passed a resolution asking the marquess to reconsider his intention, but on the death of the Duke of Beaufort some weeks later, his heir resumed all the Avon Vale country, which was described as closely fenced, and fully cultivated. (fn. 154)
The Duke of Beaufort continued to hunt the country until 1904, when it was hunted for two years by the South and West Wilts. From 1906 until 1910 it was hunted by Mr. H. Nell with his own hounds. From 1910 until 1911 it was again hunted by the South and West Wilts and from 1911 until 1912 by the same hounds under Lord Stalbridge. (fn. 155) In 1912 the Duke of Beaufort finally gave up the country and Lieut.-Colonel J. S. H. Fullerton became the first master of the newly formed Avon Vale Hunt. New stables were built at a cost of £750 subscribed by residents in the country, and the master supplied a pack comprising 35 couples of hounds. This proved to be an exceptionally valuable pack, and when Colonel Fullerton resigned in 1914, six couples were sold for 1,005 guineas, and seven couples for 1,215 guineas. Upon Colonel Fullerton's retirement the hunt committee advertised for a new master, and out of eighteen applications, Sir Walter R. Preston was appointed, and brought his own pack. (fn. 156) The new master was able to keep the country going throughout the First World War, but was succeeded in 1919 by Lieut.-Colonel Grant Morden, who had been jointmaster since 1917. For the first season under the new master Sir Walter Preston lent his hounds, but for the next season the hunt purchased this pack for 3,000 guineas, towards which the master subscribed £500. (fn. 157) The master also purchased the kennels at Semington and leased them to the hunt at a nominal rent. (fn. 158)
The Avon Vale, which had never been a country dependent upon private wealth, was now established on completely democratic lines. (fn. 159) Two short masterships followed that of Colonel Grant Morden, but in 1924 Captain the Hon. T. Holland-Hibbert became master and remained in office for nine seasons until 1933. From 1937 until 1939 Colonel H. R. Phipps, already master of the Wylye Valley, was master. In 1941 the kennels were moved to Spye Park, (fn. 160) and Captain F. Spicer became master. Captain Spicer remained as master, or acting master, until 1957, and for two of these years Sir Gerard Fuller was joint-master. In the season 1957–8 Sir Gerard Fuller and Major J. C. Bartholomew were joint-masters.
Immediately after the war the pack comprised some 22 couples of hounds, and the country was hunted on two days a week. The country was enlarged somewhat at about this time by the loan from the Beaufort Hunt of a stretch of country north of Chippenham and Calne.
The Avon Vale country covers the middle and west of Wiltshire. It adjoins the Beaufort country on the north, the Wylye Valley country on the south, the Tedworth and Craven countries on the east, and the Wylye Valley and the Mendip countries on the west. Towards its eastern boundary, between Devizes, Beckhampton, and Calne, there are some 30 square miles of downland, and between Lacock, Bradford-on-Avon, Westbury, and Market Lavington there is a stretch of vale country with grasslands devoted to dairy farming. Bowood, Spye Park, and Bowden form an important chain of coverts, and there are other large coverts near Rood Ashton. In addition to fences of all kinds, there are stone walls in the north-west of the country between Bath and Chippenham (fn. 161)
The Wylye Valley Hunt
The Wylye Valley Hunt (fn. 162) was formed in 1919 when the South and West Wilts Hunt was obliged to contract its large country. Part of this country around Warminster and Codford was lent to the newly formed hunt, while other parts were lent to the Avon Vale and Mendip Hunts. (fn. 163) From the outset the Wylye Valley was a subscription pack supported by landowners, farmers, and other residents. (fn. 164) The first mastership was shared by Major P. A. Allott and Major H. Sleigh. For the first season the pack comprised only a few couples, and was hunted one day a week. In 1921 Mr. R. H. Eden became master with a guarantee of £250, and remained master for seven seasons. During this period it was possible to increase and improve the pack. Mr. Eden was able to arrange for the loan of more country between Imber and Erlestoke and between Warminster and Frome, and so had sufficient country to hunt two days a week. In the season 1922–3 the pack comprised 20 couples, (fn. 165) and in 68 days' hunting 34½ brace of foxes were killed. The bulk of the pack belonged to the master, the remainder to the subscribers. After 1927, when Major G. A. Burgoyne became master, the whole pack, which that year comprised 25 couples, belonged to the country. The first kennels were at Codford. In 1925 they were moved to Little Sutton, near Heytesbury, and in 1927 they were moved again to Tytherington where, in 1958, they remain. (fn. 166)
From 1927 until 1934 there was a run of short masterships, but in 1934 Colonel H. R. Phipps became master, and with Mr. E. K. Collins as jointmaster for the seasons 1935–7, and Major S. H. Houston for the season 1937–8, remained in office until just before the outbreak of the Second World War. Colonel Phipps was given a guarantee of £350, and it was agreed that the kennels and stables should be maintained by the hunt committee. The following season the guarantee was raised to £500. For the season 1937–8 Colonel Phipps combined the mastership of the Wylye Valley with that of the Avon Vale, and hunted both packs himself. In 1940 Major C. H. Fowle became master of the Wylye Valley and retained the mastership for eight seasons, the longest period under one master to date (1958) in the history of this hunt. Major Fowle was able to keep the hunt in being during the war and an average of 4½ brace of foxes a season was killed during these years. Major Fowle hunted hounds himself, usually once or twice a week, although the country available for hunting was much restricted by military activities. In the season 1947–8 Major Fowle was succeeded by Sir Arthur Blakiston, who had to retire the following season. For the season 1948–9 Captain E. M. Crowder was master, but in 1950 Sir Arthur Blakiston returned as joint-master with Mr. G. R. Hammond. In the season 1951–2, 43 brace of foxes were killed, a record for the country. In 1953 the joint-masters retired and the management of the hunt was undertaken for one season by a committee with Mr. Hammond as acting master. From that date until 1958 there have been three short masterships.
Nearly all the country belonging to this hunt is undulating. On the south it is bounded by the River Wylye, which provides some coverts in the shape of withy beds. It is well wooded, particularly in the north-west. In the east it has the downland slopes of Salisbury Plain. The greater part of this area is requisitioned by the War Department, and a number of soldiers stationed on the Plain hunt with the Wylye Valley. It has been said that under army occupation, because the land is uncultivated and gorses have increased in size and number, scent on the Plain has improved and foxes have become more numerous. The chief hunting obstacles are said to be ditches, trenches, and shell-holes. (fn. 167) In the west many of the farms are owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, which supports the hunt. Most of the woodlands in this area are preserved for shooting, but their owners co-operate with the hunt. These woodlands are seldom visited before Christmas. Throughout the country much kale is grown which provides valuable coverts. An active wire committee arranges for the provision of hunt jumps. The country is bounded on the north by the Beaufort and the Avon Vale, on the east by the Royal Artillery (Salisbury Plain), on the south by the South and West Wilts and the Wilton, and on the west by the Mendip Farmers.
The Tedworth Woodland Hunt
This hunt was formed in 1923 by Mr. W. J. Yorke-Scarlett, a former master of the Tedworth and the Craven. Its object was to hunt, with the permission of the masters and committees of the Vine and the Tedworth, some of the big woodlands within the countries of those two hunts. The most important of these were Savernake, Collingbourne Wood, Harewell Forest, and Wherwell Wood. The pack comprised about 30 couples of Welsh cross hounds, with kennels at Appleshaw (Hants). The entire expense of the hunt was borne by the jointmasters. There was no subscription, but all followers, except farmers, were expected to subscribe either to the Tedworth, or to the Vine. The hunt was disbanded in 1938. (fn. 168)
The Royal Artillery (Salisbury Plain) Hunt
This is the only recognized pack of foxhounds maintained by a regiment in England. (fn. 169) It was established in 1940 as the successor to the R.A. Harriers, which were formed in 1908 to hunt the southern part of the Tedworth country. (fn. 170) The Tedworth, which was much hampered by the military occupation of the Plain, lent part of its country to the newly formed hunt. (fn. 171) The kennels of the hunt are at Larkhill, and all the hunt staff are amateurs. (fn. 172) For the first ten years of the hunt's history there was a succession of fairly short masterships. Military postings indeed make short masterships inevitable in this hunt. In 1950, however, Lieut-Colonel H. C. R. Gillman became master, and during the three years of his mastership he was able to lay the foundation of an entirely new pack. He introduced new blood, chiefly from the South and West Wilts, and dispensed with the war-time expedient of feeding swill. At the same time Sgt. Matthews became kennel huntsman, and still held this post in 1958, thus helping to make a continuous breeding policy possible.
In the season 1951–2, 22½ brace of foxes were killed and 19½ brace were run to ground. The following season 26 brace were killed and 16½ brace run to ground. There were some successful hunts that season. On one day hounds ran 13 miles from Durrington Manor into the Wylye Valley country. In 1952 the hunt became a registered pack. In 1954 Major F. B. Edmeades succeeded Colonel Gillman as master. That season some extra country was acquired by loans from the Wylye Valley and Hursley Hunts. The number of hounds was increased and there was a particularly good season. No day was blank, and a total of 30½ brace of foxes were killed. During the season there was a joint meet with the Wylye Valley at the 'Black Horse', Tilshead. Finding on the far end of the West Down, hounds ran the width of the ranges to Enford Down, south to Netheravon Down, and killed in the open on the anti-tank ranges. The hunt is said to be well supported by farmers.
The country of this hunt lies between Urchfont, Amesbury, and the Wallops (Hants). It is almost all downland, and much of it is occupied by ranges and training areas.
There appear to be fairly numerous references to cricket matches played in Wiltshire in the second half of the 18th century. The earliest are to teams apparently raised for a single occasion only and often composed of players united by a common trade, profession, or status rather than their allegiance to a particular town or village. For example, in 1768 a match is said to have been played at Upham (Aldbourne) between eleven married women and eleven single women. (fn. 173) A year later a game was played between eleven farmers and the eldest son of each. The score, as was usual at this time, was reckoned in 'notches'. (fn. 174) In 1772 players from Downton are mentioned as combining with some players from Hampshire in a game played near Ringwood (Hants). (fn. 175) The tradesmen of Marlborough played the tradesmen of Devizes in 1774 on Beckhampton Down and were victorious by 118 runs to 76, although betting had been three to one on Devizes. (fn. 176) The first mention of a team from Salisbury occurs in 1775 when Salisbury defeated Wilton on Salisbury race-course. (fn. 177) The next year Beckhampton Down again provided a pitch for matches between Devizes and Calne and Devizes and Marlborough, both games being won by Devizes. (fn. 178) The open downland often seems to have been the natural choice as the place for these early games to be played. Two matches were played on the downs near Stonehenge in 1781. For the first, 11 pairs of gloves were awarded to the winning team, for the second, the prize was a bat worth £1. (fn. 179) Stockton Down provided a pitch in 1798, (fn. 180) and high ground near Bratton Castle was the scene of a game in 1800. (fn. 181)
Westbury raised a team in 1783 when a match was played against Devizes. The fact that Westbury, the losers, were censured for 'conduct unworthy of true players', suggests that the game was by this time played in a thoroughly competitive spirit. (fn. 182) A game was played on Marlborough Common in 1787 between the married men of Marlborough and the bachelors of the town. (fn. 183) Villages unable to raise a whole team sometimes combined to make a game. In 1789 Pewsey and Netheravon beat Everleigh and North Tidworth by 55 notches. (fn. 184) Four years later at Everleigh Green 10 players from the neighbourhood of Tidworth played 22 players from Netton (in Durnford) and Pewsey. (fn. 185)
Perham Down, near Ludgershall, was probably the most important cricket pitch in Wiltshire in the 18th century. From about 1787 for approximately ten years the leading Hambledon, Surrey, and England players met there once during the season. (fn. 186)
The first mention of a cricket club in Wiltshire occurs in 1798 when eleven 'gentlemen' from Salisbury and their opponents from Stockton met at an inn at Deptford, in Wylye, to celebrate the 'institution of a club which promises to rival any of the adjacent counties'. (fn. 187) There was a club at Warminster in 1800. That year a match was played on 'Cockerall's new ground' at Warminster against a team from Salisbury, and the Warminster club provided a marquee for the occasion. (fn. 188) During the first 50 years of the 19th century cricket clubs were formed all over the county. One of the earliest of these was established at Purton in about 1820. (fn. 189) Two annual matches played against the Lansdown Club (Bath), which were played for the first time in 1834, became the most important fixtures for the Purton club. (fn. 190) E. H. Budd played for this club, and on one occasion in a match against Lansdown obtained 5 wickets in 6 balls. (fn. 191) In the 1830's clubs were formed at Bulford, 'Alton' (the White Horse Club), Chippenham, and Warminster, (fn. 192) and in 1841 at Melksham. (fn. 193) In 1848 a club was formed at Corsham by Lord Methuen. This later became one of the most successful clubs in the county. It first played against the Lansdown Club in 1865, and in 1892 it was said to be justifying its claim to have the best eleven in Wiltshire. Among its most distinguished players were H. G., L., and C. F. Spackman, S. P. Kinneir, and H. Awdry. The last three also played for the county. (fn. 194) The cricket club at Devizes was founded in 1850, and George Waylen, then Mayor of Devizes, played an important part in its formation. Cricketers from Potterne were included in the Devizes club, and for the first two seasons the club did not lose a match. At first games were played in a field near Quakers Walk, and sometimes on Roundway Down, but in 1886 the club moved to Roundway Park. In 1900 it was re-formed on the old Flower Show field on the London road where its matches were still played in 1956. (fn. 195)
Among other places producing teams early in the 19th century, some of which may in fact have been clubs, were Plaitford (1816), Whiteparish (1817), Fovant (1826), Amesbury (1826), (fn. 196) and Great Bedwyn (1828). (fn. 197) There is mention of cricket at Swindon in 1823, (fn. 198) and in 1846 the G.W.R. opened its first cricket ground there. (fn. 199) Cricket at Trowbridge, later the home of county cricket, is first referred to in 1844. (fn. 200)
The earliest mention found of a team representing Wiltshire occurs in 1798 when Wiltshire on a pitch near Devizes defeated an eleven from Bath. The return match, which was played on Claverton Down near Bath, gave rise to much ill feeling, because Bath was accused of 'hiring' a number of first-class players from neighbouring counties, including one player who had played for England. (fn. 201) In 1835 a Wiltshire team raised by Sir Frederick Bathurst played Hampshire. The result of this is unknown, but in the return match, which was played near Stonehenge, and in which the Wiltshire team included a number of players from Somerset, Hampshire was victorious. (fn. 202) The Stonehenge ground was described as 'beautiful and far-famed' two years later when the Stonehenge Club played the Lansdown Club there. (fn. 203)
The first encounter with an All England team seems to have been in 1854 when 18 players from the South Wiltshire Club, whose headquarters were at Salisbury, beat the England team by 3 runs. (fn. 204) In 1859 an All England eleven played 22 of the Devizes Cricket Club and had a three-wicket victory. (fn. 205) Another visit from an All England team occurred in 1870 when 22 players from Swindon were defeated by 4 wickets. All England teams defeated a team of 22 from Trowbridge in 1886, and a team of 18 from north Wiltshire in 1889. (fn. 206)
A Wiltshire team first played at Lords against the M.C.C. in 1874 and was victorious by an innings and 69 runs. A. S. Barton and E. W. Wallington made 105 for the first wicket. H. Awdry took 12 wickets for 47 runs. F. W. Stancomb was also a member of this team. He was later to become at various times captain, chairman, and president of the county team and played regularly for Wiltshire until 1900, and occasionally until 1923. He was captain of the Trowbridge Cricket Club from 1882 for over 50 years. (fn. 207) In 1881 the Wiltshire County Cricket Club was founded. (fn. 208) For some years home matches were played chiefly at Trowbridge, Marlborough, Swindon, and Bemerton. Later matches were played also at Chippenham and Melksham. In 1902 G. L. Palmer and C. Awdry handed over to trustees for the benefit of the club a ground at Trowbridge which they had purchased and had levelled, and on which they built a pavilion. (fn. 209) A notable match was played at Lords in 1890 when Wiltshire fielded out to an exceptionally high score made by the M.C.C., which was for some time a record.
Wiltshire first played in the minor counties competition (later called 2nd-class counties championship) in 1897 when it tied with Buckinghamshire for fourth place out of the ten counties playing. (fn. 210) Three years later, in 1900, Wiltshire beat a visiting West Indies team by an innings and 100 runs. (fn. 211) After 1897 the county continued to play every year in the minor counties championship. In 1902 Wiltshire came first of the sixteen counties taking part in the competition, and for the next three years kept within the top four places. (fn. 212) Notable Wiltshire players of this successful period were W. C. Medlicot and C. H. Ransome, who put on 310 runs together for the first wicket at Lords in 1900, and made 401 runs in 1902 again for the opening partnership. Other distinguished cricketers were A. M. Miller, who first played for Wiltshire in 1893, was captain of the team from 1896 for 25 years, and secretary for a considerable number of years; B. L. Gerrish, who was top of both bowling and batting averages in 1894; O. G. Ratcliffe, captain 1894–5; S. P. Kinneir, who later played for Warwickshire and England; C. S. Awdry, an outstanding attacking batsman, and J. E. Stevens. Four professionals also merit special mention, namely H. Mitchell, A. Newman, W. Overton, and T. Smart, who earned distinction as a change bowler, wicket-keeper, and No. 10 bat. (fn. 213)
When the 2nd-class counties championship was reorganized in 1907, Wiltshire, playing in the Midland Division, came second in that division. (fn. 214) Next year the county came first in the Southern Division, but was defeated by the winners of the Western Division in the semi-final. In 1909 for the second time Wiltshire won the 2nd-class counties championship, S. R. Nicholson, T. N. Perkins, C. S. and R. W. Awdry deserving mention as batsmen, and A. Newman and H. Mitchell as bowlers. After this triumph Wiltshire's standard of play fell and from 1910 until the outbreak of the First World War the county remained near the bottom of the championship. With the resumption of the championship in 1920 Wiltshire again took part, but in the ten years between 1920 and 1930 did not recover the high standard of the early years of the century, owing apparently to the lack of any first-rate bowlers. The most successful year was 1923 when the county came third in the competition. The best all-round player of this period was the professional, A. Newman. Mention has also to be made of R. W. Awdry, who was the secretary of the club for about ten years until 1923, its captain from 1909 until 1934, and honorary treasurer for 30 years. He was also a member of the team during the period 1904 to 1934, and in 1925 headed the batting averages.
During the period from 1930 until the outbreak of the Second World War, Wiltshire did not rank high among the 2nd-class counties, although the inclusion of J. and W. A. Smith in the team brought an improvement in the bowling. J. Smith later played for Middlesex and England. Other notable members of the team at this time were A. E. Lloyd and B. W. Hone, who had previously played for South Australia. R. A. C. Forrester succeeded R. W. Awdry as secretary in 1929 and still (1956) holds this office. From 1934 until 1954 he played for the county and was captain of the team from 1947 until 1949. The most successful season during this period was that of 1933 when the county came second in the championship, G. S. Butler, E. M. Nash, and W. Lovell-Hewitt earning credit as batsmen. W. LovellHewitt succeeded R. W. Awdry as captain in 1935. In 1936 the county took fourth place in the championship, and in 1936 played a successful match at Swindon against the West Indies which ended in a draw.
After the Second World War Wiltshire became a member of the minor counties association in 1945, but did not play in the competition until 1947. Between 1947 and 1956 it has not met with any notable successes. In 1951 a free coaching scheme for boys was introduced in the county and this brought about an improvement in the under-nineteen eleven. In 1955 the professional, A. G. Marshall, joined the team and James Hurn succeeded Sir William Becker as captain.
Wiltshire is a county with excellent natural galloping grounds and races have been run over many courses on the downs, but the only race-course in 1958 is that lying about three miles south-west of Salisbury. The first recorded race at Salisbury was run in 1585. Among those who attended it were the Earls of Cumberland, Warwick, Pembroke, and Essex, the Lords Thomas and William Howard, Sir Walter Hungerford, Sir John Danvers, Sir Thomas Wroughton, Sir William Courtney, and Sir Matthew Arundel. A golden bell worth £50 was competed for and was won by the Earl of Cumberland, who undertook to return it for the next meeting. (fn. 215) Aubrey claims that Henry, Earl of Pembroke (1570–1601), instituted the Salisbury races, (fn. 216) but this may not have been so. (fn. 217) The earl, however, appears to have given a golden bell to be competed for annually. (fn. 218) Aubrey writing towards the end of the 17th century said that there were two courses at Salisbury, one fourteen miles long, which began at Whitesheet Hill and ended on Harnham Hill, and another some four miles long. The shorter course began at the edge of the north down 'of the farm of Broad Chalk' and ended at the hare-warren belonging to the Earl of Pembroke. The longer course, he says, was very rarely used. (fn. 219) A horse called Peacock belonging to Sir Thomas Thynne could run the four-mile course in just over five minutes. (fn. 220)
Before the middle of the 17th century a cup for the winner of the races had been provided by the Mayor and Commonalty of Salisbury. In 1649, however, the city was threatening to withhold the cup until the 'gentlemen of the country' paid certain fees said to be due to the city. (fn. 221) Some light is thrown on the story behind this threat in an agreement made in 1654 between the Corporation of Salisbury and Sir Edward Baynton of Bromham, presumably representing the 'county gentlemen'. This provided for a cup to be competed for annually on the Thursday after the 4th Sunday in Lent. (fn. 222) The indenture then drawn up recites how in 1619 the golden bell given by Henry, Earl of Pembroke, and a golden snaffle given by Robert, Earl of Essex, had been sold for £43, and a sum of £244 14s. 9d. raised by subscriptions from 'divers noblemen and sundry knights and gentlemen of quality'. This money (£289 16s. 9d.) had been entrusted to the Corporation of Salisbury to hold as a fund for the encouragement of the races. In 1629 it had been agreed that the corporation should raise a voluntary contribution among the inhabitants of Salisbury to bring the total of the fund, then still £289 16s. 9d., up to £320. This was apparently done, although precisely when is not known, and in 1654 the agreement was made whereby the corporation undertook to provide annually a cup of silver-gilt worth £18. Every competitor was to pay 20s. as stakes to the corporation, who was to see that the money so collected went with the cup to the winner of the race. The corporation was further charged with the provision of scales and weights to weigh the riders before the race, and a citizen of Salisbury to act as starter, three others to fire muskets at the mile, 2-mile, and 3-mile posts, and finally two more to act as judges.
It was obviously in the interests of the city that the sport should be encouraged. In 1693 it was regretted that along with the general decline in public amusements, the races at Salisbury were being neglected, and the city took steps to attract more competitors, presumably by offering more or higher prizes. The following year the city chamberlain was instructed to pay £5 to Thomas Goddard towards the purchase of a piece of plate to be awarded for the heats run on Salisbury Plain. (fn. 223) The race course at about this time is sometimes described as being on Salisbury Plain, although according to the modern usage of the term (1958) this would be incorrect. The course was frequently called the 'race plain', a phrase still current in the 19th century.
In 1721 the races were reorganized with the consent of the representatives of the Sir Edward Baynton with whom the agreement of 1654 had been made, and who was now described as 'the original founder' of the Salisbury races. (fn. 224) A plate worth £18 was substituted for the cup to be competed for annually on the first Thursday in May. It was to be presented to the winner at the George Inn, in the High Street, this 'being chamber land'. Each horse was to carry 10 stone with bridle and saddle, and the race was to be run off in three heats. The runner-up was to be awarded the stakes. Horses were to be entered the day before the race before the head serjeant in Salisbury, and an entrance fee of 1 guinea was claimed, or 2 guineas if payment was made at the post. Just before these new arrangements were made the course had been replanned as a round course (fn. 225) on approximately the same site as it occupies in 1958, although the course is now straight.
Racing at Salisbury was given great encouragement in 1752 when George II increased the number of royal plates awarded for racing in England, and one was allotted to Salisbury. (fn. 226) By the beginning of the 19th century there was an annual meeting lasting three days. The major awards offered were His Majesty's purse of 100 guineas (later called His Majesty's, or the King's Plate) for six-year-olds, the City Plate (described as a large silver bowl) (fn. 227) for any horse carrying 10 stone, and £50 given by the Members of Parliament for the city for four-, five, and sixyear-olds. (fn. 228) By 1793 this was called the Members' Plate. (fn. 229) In 1800 £50 was offered for the first time for a race to be run by non-commissioned officers or privates in the Wiltshire Yeomanry. (fn. 230) The meeting was usually held in July or August.
During the 19th century meetings continued to be held annually and usually lasted for three days either in July or August. In 1814 a County Members' Plate was competed for as well as the plate presented by the city members, and the corporation gave a purse of 21 guineas in addition to the City Bowl. In 1826 a Handicap Plate was given by the inhabitants of Salisbury. (fn. 231) In 1899 the Bibury Club, which, since 1831, had held its meetings at Stockbridge (Hants) failed to secure a renewal of the lease of its course there, and moved to Salisbury. (fn. 232) A new grand stand was built by the club on the Salisbury course, and henceforth the Bibury Club held its meetings there in July, while the Salisbury meetings, also organized by the Bibury Club, were held in May and August. The Salisbury City Council continued to contribute £18 towards the City Bowl. (fn. 233)
Besides the course at Salisbury there were, in the 18th century, several other places in the county where racing, probably less highly organized, took place. The stretch of downland between Whitesheet Hill and Mere Down Farm (fn. 234) was used for racing in 1733, (fn. 235) and probably in other years. The meeting in 1733 lasted for three days, during which a purse of £30, a sweepstake, a plate for galloways, and a purse of £20 for hunters were run for. Competitors were entered and entrance fees paid at the Ship Inn, Mere. Among the subscribers to this meeting were Viscount Weymouth, Lord Stourton, the Earl of Castlehaven, and Henry and Richard Hoare. There was also racing on Fonthill Down about two miles north-west of Chilmark, for a racecourse is marked there on Andrews' and Dury's map of 1773. (fn. 236)
There was racing at Marlborough from at least 1730 until 1873. (fn. 237) Between 1730 and 1738 the races, which lasted for two days, were attended by Goddard Smith of Tockenham, and from his diary (fn. 238) it appears that the annual meeting was an important event in the social life of the town. Every year a ball was given and a play performed. Ordinaries were held at one or other of the town's inns, at this time frequently at the 'Angel', and neighbouring residents entertained privately in their homes. In 1764 a purse of £50 and the Town Plate worth £50 were competed for. Horses were entered at the Three Tuns Inn, where an ordinary was held on the first day of the meeting. On the second day the ordinary was at the 'Castle' and the 'assembly' was held at the Town Hall. (fn. 239) In 1771 the two main events which took place on 30 and 31 July were the Noblemen and Gentlemen's Subscription Plate of £50 and the Town Plate also of £50. Horses that year were to be entered at 'Mr. Cousin's' at the Marlborough Coffee House, where also tickets could be obtained for the stand Cousins proposed to erect upon the Downs 'for ladies and gentlemen'. The ordinary was to be held on the first day at the Castle Inn, on the second at the 'White Hart'. A ball was to be given on each night at the 'White Hart', and there was to be backsword playing 'as usual' on each day. (fn. 240) It was reported after this meeting that more 'nobility and gentry' had attended than for many years past. Among the race-goers were the Duke of Beaufort, Lord Spencer Hamilton, the Hon. James Brudenell, Sir James Long, Bt., Peter Delmé, Charles Penruddocke, Edward Popham, William Calley, and John Awdry. The assemblies each evening were described as 'brilliant' and the ball on the first night was opened by 'General Smith and Mrs. Penruddocke'. (fn. 241) In spite of this apparently satisfactory state of affairs, however, the Marlborough Council petitioned Lord Bruce in 1773 that the races, 'carried on by the country gentlemen', in fact gave little satisfaction either to those gentlemen or to the town. (fn. 242) The evening assemblies were said to have dwindled almost to nothing, and were apparently shunned by the gentry, particularly by its female members. It was, therefore, recommended that racing at Marlborough should be discontinued.
Racing did in fact cease on the Marlborough course for some years, and such local support for the sport as continued was diverted to the meetings at Burderop which were begun in 1811 (see below). In 1840, however, the Racing Calendar records racing again at Marlborough. The prizes were a plate worth £25 given by the Members of Parliament for the borough, the Savernake Forest Stakes of £10 each, the Ladies' Plate of £25, and the Town Stakes of £30 each with £20 added. (fn. 243) The next year there was also an Innkeepers' Plate worth £25. (fn. 244) When Lady Ailesbury attended the meetings she was, on leaving, driven down the course attended by outriders. (fn. 245)
The race-course at Marlborough was about a mile long and lay on Marlborough Common roughly parallel to the road to Rockley. (fn. 246) The winning-post was at the highest point of the course, so that the finish was somewhat arduous. In 1846 the race committee with the permission of the Marlborough Council built a new grand stand on the course to replace a temporary structure there. (fn. 247) The new stand was placed near the winning-post, but on the opposite side of the road. (fn. 248) By 1874 racing at Marlborough had ceased, and the owners of the grand stand wished to sell it. The council refused permission for this, but in 1876 the stand was demolished. (fn. 249)
A race-meeting was held at Burderop, near Burderop House, the home of Thomas Calley, High Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1807, a great racing enthusiast, in 1811 for the first time. (fn. 250) There were races for a handicap sweepstake of 25 guineas, a plate worth 60 guineas, a handicap plate worth 50 guineas presented by William Herbert and Thomas Goddard, Members of Parliament for Cricklade, and a silver cup presented by Thomas Calley, steward of the course. Race-meetings continued to be held on this course until 1831. After the first year meetings lasted for two days and a gold cup was run for on the first day. T. Goddard of the Lawn, Swindon, won four of these cups. (fn. 251) Among those who presented plates or money prizes were the Marquess of Ailesbury, Lord Andover, Lord Bruce, the Corporation of Marlborough, and the Members of Parliament for Cricklade. Among the stewards of the course were Robert Gordon, M.P. for Cricklade, the Hon. H. St. John, and Ambrose Goddard. A race was usually run for the horses of non-commissioned officers and men of the Wiltshire Yeomanry. In 1817 a Savernake Forest Stakes was competed for, and in 1825 there was a race for the Swindon Stakes. (fn. 252) The course had a small wooden grand stand about 15 feet long which was later moved and used as a farm-building at Burderop Farm. (fn. 253) Ordinaries appear to have been held occasionally at the 'Goddard Arms', or the Bell Inn, Swindon, and in 1819 there was also a ball and supper at the 'Goddard Arms'. (fn. 254)
There was racing at Chippenham between 1808 and 1816. Among the prizes awarded was a plate worth £50 presented by the Members of Parliament for the borough. (fn. 255) For three years, between 1814 and 1818, there was racing at Cricklade. In 1814 the meeting lasted two days, and a prize of £50 and a sweepstake of 10 guineas were competed for. In 1816 the Members of Parliament for the borough added a prize of £50. (fn. 256) The exact position of the Cricklade course is not known, but it is thought to have been about 2½ miles north of Cricklade near Down Ampney House (Glos.). (fn. 257) Between 1835 and 1838 there was racing at Devizes, on Roundway Down. At the first meeting the Members of Parliament of the county contributed £25 towards the County Stakes, and a Town Cup was presented by the members for the borough. Other prizes competed for at these meetings were the Claret Stakes, the Beckhampton Inn Stakes, and the Devizes Stakes. (fn. 258) Horses were entered at the Bear Inn, Devizes. (fn. 259) There was apparently another meeting held for some years at a later date on Roundway Down. It was reported in 1906 that some years before a committee of sportsmen had organized race-meetings there, which although moderately successful had not been sufficiently well supported by trainers and owners, and had been discontinued. The funds remaining from this enterprise were distributed among various charitable causes in Devizes. (fn. 260)
Although Salisbury is the only race-course in Wiltshire in 1958, the downs, particularly those around Marlborough, are extensively used for the training of race-horses. In 1952 (fn. 261) there were about 25 training establishments in the county, and that year a Wiltshire trainer, Noel Murless, of Beckhampton House, took fifth place in the list of winning trainers in England, the first four places going to Newmarket trainers. More than half the remaining 30 places on the list were held by Wiltshire and Berkshire trainers. The high reputation of Beckhampton House was built up under Fred Darling between 1913 and 1947. During this time the establishment produced nineteen winners of Classic races, including the winner of the Derby on seven occasions and of the St. Leger on three occasions. Jockeys employed to ride horses trained at Beckhampton included S. Wood, Steve Donoghue, Sir Gordon Richards, and, for a short time, H. Wragg. Horses belonging to many successful owners were trained at Beckhampton, including horses leased to King George VI from the National Stud. In 1947 the Beckhampton stable was purchased by Mr. John A. Dewar, and Noel Murless took over its management. In 1950 the stable was sold to Mr. H. H. G. Blagrove, who let the stables and a part of the gallops to Sir Gordon Richards, and another part of the gallops to Mr. Jeremy Tree. (fn. 262) In 1956 Sir Gordon Richards moved his establishment to Ogbourne Maizey. (fn. 263)
Manton House, also near Marlborough, is another well-known training stable. This was built in 1870 by Alec Taylor, who between that date and 1894 won ten Classic races with horses trained at Manton, including the Derby in 1878 and the St. Leger in 1875. He was succeeded at Manton in 1902 by his son, also Alec, who between 1902 and 1921 trained 21 Classic winners, including three winners of the Derby, eight winners of the Oaks, and five winners of the St. Leger. Alec Taylor, the younger, headed the annual list of winning trainers twelve times and was known in racing circles as the 'Wizard of Manton'. Taylor was succeeded at Manton in 1927 by Joe Lawson, and in 1947 the stable was taken over by George Todd.
During the first 30 years of the 20th century the training stable presided over by the Hon. Aubrey Hastings at Wroughton produced several winners of the Grand National.
Wiltshire with its large area of open downland was naturally a country where coursing could be successfully pursued. Coursing the hare with greyhounds was possibly the sport most widely practised until, towards the end of the 18th century, foxhunting began to gain in popularity. John Evelyn in 1654 witnessed a two-mile course from the harewarren belonging to the Earl of Pembroke, which was near Salisbury race-course (fn. 264) Aubrey writing towards the end of the same century says there were then hare-warrens at Everleigh, and Bishopstone, near Downton, and another at West Lavington made by the Earl of Abingdon in 1682. (fn. 265) The hare-warren at Everleigh is, in fact, marked on a map of 1773 about a mile south of the village. (fn. 266) Aubrey also mentions a coney-warren at Albourne, (fn. 267) and from early times rabbits were also hunted with greyhounds.
Until the end of the 18th century coursing was not an organized sport, but matches were arranged privately by owners of greyhounds. The first coursing club to be formed in England was the Swaffham (Norf.) Club which was established in 1776. (fn. 268) No club was formed in Wiltshire until some 50 years later, but between 1799 and 1804 the Ashdown (Berks.) Club held meetings in Wiltshire at Barton Farm, Marlborough, and Rockley. (fn. 269) The first Wiltshire club was the Deptford Inn Club, (fn. 270) formed in 1819. Members met at this inn in Wylye on the first open Monday in December and coursing began next morning on the downs near Fisherton de la Mere. John Davis, who cultivated the land adjoining these downs, was said to farm it in a way 'most conducive to sport', so that hares were always plentiful. The first ties were run off on the downs near Tilshead Lodge and the final matches were run on Codford Down, on land belonging to Harry Biggs of Stockton House, a keen supporter of coursing. The three prizes competed for were a cup worth 30 guineas, and two stakes of £3 each, called the Derby and the Oaks. Coursing at this meeting was considered to be as good as anywhere in England.
The next coursing club to be formed in Wiltshire was the Amesbury Club, (fn. 271) established in 1822. Sir Edward Antrobus, Bt., who had recently acquired Amesbury Manor, was said to be more interested in foxhunting, but nevertheless preserved hares on his estate and helped to promote coursing. This club held one meeting in November and another soon after Christmas. On the first day coursing took place near Stonehenge, on the next two days the club coursed either at North Tidworth or Figheldean, and the last day was spent near Amesbury. This region was recognized as being ideal for the sport. There was an abundance of hares of great 'stoutness', and in such open country they frequently outstripped the greyhounds without being bent from their courses. (fn. 272) In 1864 the most important of all coursing clubs, the Altcar (Lancs.) Club, held a meeting at Amesbury. (fn. 273) This meeting, which attracted much attention among those interested in coursing, lasted for seven days, and 49 courses were run. On the second day the judge reported that he had that day witnessed the finest coursing he had ever seen. The catering for the sportsmen gathered in Amesbury throughout the week was done by the George Hotel. (fn. 274) A peculiarity of the sport as pursued at Amesbury was that the 'slipper' was mounted and controlled the dogs with a white stick. (fn. 275)
Four years after the formation of the Amesbury Club a third club was established in Wiltshire. This was the Deptford Union Meeting (fn. 276) which originated in a private coursing party given by Harry Biggs at Stockton House. This was intended as a club to unite members from distant clubs who might wish to bring their greyhounds to Wiltshire for coursing. The gold cup offered as a prize at this meeting was said at that time to be the only gold cup competed for by greyhounds.
About the middle of the 19th century coursing organized by clubs was reaching the peak of its popularity, and in 1858 the National Coursing Club was established. Great impetus was given to the sport by the coming of the railways, which made it easier to transport dogs to the regular open meetings then being held. (fn. 277) In Wiltshire in 1841 there were local meetings at Aldbourne and Netheravon, (fn. 278) and in 1857 there was an Everleigh Union Club. (fn. 279) In 1879 the Vale of Avon and Farmers' Coursing Club was formed. (fn. 280) This club held its draw for matches at the Bull Hotel; Downton, and coursing took place over the Whitsbury and Rockbourne Downs in Hampshire. Later meetings were held near Downton on the Longford Castle estate. The club enjoyed successful coursing for about fifteen years.
After the Ground Game Act of 1880, which gave the tenant equal right with his landlord to the hares and rabbits on his land, coursing began to decline. Meetings in enclosed spaces began to be held rather than meetings at which the coursing was over open country, (fn. 281) and Wiltshire thus lost some of its natural advantage as a coursing county. The increase in the use of wire on the downs was also given as a reason for the decline of the sport. (fn. 282) In 1884 it was 'a matter for regret' that in recent years meetings at Amesbury had 'dwindled to proportions unworthy of the splendid facilities afforded'. (fn. 283) Nevertheless, coursing continued in Wiltshire, and in 1895 there were meetings at 'Collingbourne', Everleigh, and North Tidworth. (fn. 284) At this time the South of England Club occasionally held meetings at Amesbury, although in 1893–4 these meetings were said to be not well attended. (fn. 285) At the beginning of the 20th century only one club remained in Wiltshire. This was the Everleigh Club which was one of the largest clubs in the south of England. (fn. 286) This club, however, did not survive the First World War. The South of England Club continued to meet in Wiltshire and in 1952 meetings were held at Druid's Lodge, near Salisbury. (fn. 287) In 1958 there was a coursing club at Warminster. (fn. 288)
Football, in some form or other, has doubtless been played in Wiltshire, as elsewhere, from very early times. An early reference to it in an apparently organized from comes from John Aubrey (1626–97), who says that while George Ferebe was Vicar of Bishop's Cannings (1593–1613) the parish would have challenged all England for music, football, and bell-ringing. (fn. 289) A folk-song sung in Wiltshire in the early 19th century speaks of a football match played by six players on Salisbury Plain. (fn. 290)
Perhaps the oldest organized football club in the county is that of Holt. Records of the Football Association show that the club was formed on association football rules in 1864, and recognized by the Football Association from about 1868, and from that date submitted its reports to the Association. (fn. 291) The Wiltshire County Football Association was founded in 1884. (fn. 292) The first recorded winners of the W.C.F.A. Senior Challenge Cup were Swindon Town, who won it every year between 1886 and 1892. (fn. 293) The first recorded winner of the Junior Challenge Cup was the Ramsbury Burdett team which won it in 1908–9. (fn. 294) By 1900 five leagues had become affiliated to the W.C.F.A. These were the Swindon and District Football League in 1891, the Salisbury and District Football League in 1892, the Wiltshire Football League in 1894, the Trowbridge and District League in 1898, and the Chippenham and District Football League in 1898. (fn. 295) In 1954–5 there were 34 league and cup competitions, and about 180 senior and 15 junior clubs affiliated to the association. (fn. 296)
The chief of the affiliated leagues, the Wiltshire League, was divided in 1904–5 into a senior and a junior division. The first champions of the senior division, or Division I, were Corsham in 1894–5. (fn. 297) The first recorded champions of Division II were Calne Town in 1904–5. (fn. 298)
Of the amateur clubs in Wiltshire that with the most outstanding record is Swindon Victoria. This club was first formed in 1900 as the Swindon Baptist Juniors, but changed its name in 1910–11 to Swindon Victoria. (fn. 299) The club first played in the Wiltshire League in 1919–20. In 1920–1 it won through to the final of the Football Association Amateur Cup but was defeated by Bishop Auckland. In 1912–13, 1919–20, 1920–1, 1922–3, 1923–4, 1952–3 (fn. 300) the club won the Wiltshire League, Division I, cup, and were joint holders in 1930–1. In 1920–1 the club provided six players for the Wiltshire team in the final of the Southern Counties Championship, and in this championship Wiltshire were joint holders of the cup with Oxfordshire.
Of the professional clubs playing in Wiltshire the best known is Swindon Town Football Club. (fn. 301) The first fully professional Swindon club was formed in 1895, the first team playing in the Southern Football League, and the reserve team in the Swindon and District League. (fn. 302) Games were played on the Croft, now the site of St. Margaret's Road, until 1895–6 when the County Ground was opened. (fn. 303) In 1897 the club was taken over by a limited liability company. (fn. 304) Four years later, in 1901, S. Allen became secretary of the club, and served the club in this capacity until shortly before his death in 1946. (fn. 305)
Swindon Town first came into prominence in the season 1907–8. (fn. 306) That year Harold Fleming, (fn. 307) the most outstanding player Swindon has so far had, joined the club. Officially an inside right, he also occasionally played on the left wing and during his last season appeared regularly as centre forward. He played for England on thirteen occasions and frequently represented the Southern League. Harold Fleming remained with the Swindon team until his resignation in 1924. Jock Walker, (fn. 308) another outstanding player, also joined the club in 1907, and played full-back for Swindon until he was transferred in 1913 to Middlesbrough. He was capped on nine occasions for Scotland. His partnership with Harry Kay, another Swindon player, who joined the club as right full-back in 1908, has been called one of the greatest of club partnerships in the history of football. (fn. 309)
The match that may be said to mark the turningpoint in the history of the club was the replay in 1907–8 between Swindon Town and Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, Sheffield, in the first round of the F.A. Cup. (fn. 310) After extra time, and in spite of injury to Walker, Swindon won the match by 3 goals to 2. They were, however, beaten in the third round by Wolverhampton Wanderers, who that year won the cup.
In 1909–10 Swindon, after defeating Manchester City at Swindon, reached the semi-final of the F.A. Cup for the first time. (fn. 311) Drawn against Newcastle United, Swindon was, however, beaten on the Spurs ground at White Hart Lane. At the end of the season Swindon, one of the defeated teams in the semifinal, and Barnsley, the defeated team in the final, were invited to play in Paris. (fn. 312) Swindon, as the winning team on this occasion, brought back the Dubonnet Cup.
In 1911–12 Swindon, after beating Everton at the County Ground, Swindon, was again in the semifinal of the F.A. Cup. (fn. 313) On this occasion their opponents were Barnsley. This match, in which Harold Fleming was seriously injured, resulted in a draw, and in the replay at Stamford Bridge, in which Harold Fleming could not play, Swindon were defeated. In the close-season of this year Swindon accepted an invitation to visit Argentina (fn. 314) and there played eight matches, none of which they lost.
Swindon Town were twice champions of the Southern League. In 1910–11 and 1913–14 they came top of this League, and in 1910–11 they were also winners of the Southern Charity Cup. (fn. 315)
In 1920–1 Swindon played their first match in the Football League, Division III. (fn. 316) Their opponents on this occasion were Luton. In 1926 D. H. Morris came to Swindon from Swansea Town and played for Swindon Town with great distinction until he transferred in 1933 to Clapton Orient. (fn. 317) The season 1928–9 was a particularly successful one in cup matches. (fn. 318) In 1948–9 Swindon won through to fourth place in the Football League, Division III (South).
In 1930–1 the financial difficulties of the club were great and a Supporters' Club was formed to raise funds for wages. (fn. 319) As the financial position improved, the income provided by this club was diverted to provide amenities. In 1932–3 a shelter on the south side of the ground was built, and during the summer of 1938 a stand was erected at the west end. (fn. 320) When, after the Second World War, football was resumed in Swindon in 1945–6, Mr. L. A. Page became manager of Swindon Town Football Club, and was appointed secretary-manager on the death of S. Allen. Houses were acquired for players, and improvements made to the ground by providing concrete terracing under the South Stand and on Stratton Bank. During the close-season turfing and reseeding of the pitch was undertaken and improvements were made to the dressing-rooms. (fn. 321)
In 1946–7 Swindon reserve team took part for the first time in the Football Combination, and a third team, the Colts, was also formed. (fn. 322) This third team obtained a ground in Broome Manor Lane, and entered the Western League, Division II. In 1950 a Swindon Town Junior team for boys under 17 was formed to enter the Borough League, Division III. (fn. 323)
Besides Swindon Town there are (1955) four other professional clubs in Wiltshire: Chippenham Town, and Chippenham United, Trowbridge Town, and Salisbury. Chippenham Town was first formed as an amateur club in 1873, and turned professional in the season 1948–9. In the season 1951–2 the club reached the first round of the F.A. Cup, and that season also won the Western League. (fn. 324) Chippenham United Football Club was founded in 1947, and became a professional club in 1948 when it entered the Western League, Division II. The same year by winning the final of this league it was promoted to Division I, and in 1950 the club reached the final of the Wilts Professional Shield. (fn. 325)
The Trowbridge Town Football Club was founded in 1880. The club was a founder member of the Western Football League and in 1892–3 was runner-up to Warmley in the league championship. Games were at first played on a site later occupied by the Palmer Gardens at the top of Timbrell Street. Moves were made subsequently to the High School ground, Wingfield Road, the old Flower Show Field, a ground in Bythesea Road, and finally to Frome Road. The season 1898–9 was the first professional one for the club, but in 1900 it reverted to amateur status. It became a professional team again in 1935. The following victories are among the club's successes: the Wilts Senior Cup has been won six times (1895, 1898, 1922, 1934, 1936, and 1938), the Western League six times (1928, 1930, 1939, 1940, 1947, and 1948), the Wiltshire League, Division I, once (1912), and the Wiltshire Professional Shield three times (1946, 1947, and 1950). (fn. 326)
Salisbury Football Club was formed as an amateur club during the 1946–7 season, and was admitted to the Western Football League, Division II. There had previously been an amateur club in Salisbury called Salisbury City Club. Between August 1947 and March 1948, Salisbury Football Club won all nineteen games played, and won the league from Weymouth. In the season 1948–9 the club was promoted to the Western League, Division I, and won through to the first round proper of the Amateur Cup. During this season a reserve team was entered in the Hampshire League, Division III, and won promotion to Division II. During the season of 1950–1 the club won through the preliminary rounds of the F.A. Cup, losing to Gloucester City in the last qualifying round. In 1953–4 the first professionals played for the club, and as a result the club was promoted to the Hampshire League, Division I. The season of 1954–5 was the first fully professional one and that season the team finished fifth in the Western League championship, and the second team won the Hampshire League, Division I. In the seasons 1953–4 and 1954–5 the club was represented in the final of the Wiltshire Professional Shield, but lost to Swindon Town. (fn. 327)