Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Dukeries and Fox Hunting.

Above: Charles William Sydney Pierrepont, 4th Earl Manvers (1854 – 1926) was Master of the Rufford Hounds. Pictured here with his huntsman outside Thoresby Hall as everyone indulges in a well-fuelled hunt breakfast.

Fox hunting, as one would recognise it today, really began in the 18th century. Previous to that, deer had been the hunter’s choice of animal, but this started to change after the first of the Inclosure Acts in 1750 which resulted in open lands being sectioned into farmable fields and the deer population going into decline. At that point foxes and hare became the target. Fox hunting was never truly about the cull. As any gamekeeper will tell you a fox is a creature of exacting habits, taking the same routes every night at almost exactly the same times. So, if you do have a problem with a fox, it would be very easy to locate and shoot. No indeed, fox hunting was all about pomp and circumstance, an excuse for the Dukes and Lords to don their bright red finery, mount their thoroughbred horses, and follow their equally well bred packs of hounds across their vast estates, exhibiting as they did so just how wealthy and powerful they were. In the evening there would be an equally lavish ball, a banquet with tables well stocked with game from the Duke’s estate.

It is for this very reason, wanting to impress and display one’s wealth and social position, that the hunt became a favoured subject when commissioning artworks. Such paintings would have pride of place within the great halls, and on occasion hung in notable galleries in London. To reach an even wider audience, engravings would be made from the original artwork and mass produced for circulation. One such example is the above print from Tilleman’s painting of 1725, depicting the 2nd Duke of Kingston, with the original Thoresby Hall and his impressive estate in the background. (See the painting itself on THIS LINK).

Another fine painting (below) which was shown in the Academy of 1789, is F. Wheatley’s “Portrait of a Nobleman returning from Shooting". It depicts Henry Pelham Clinton, 2nd Duke of Newcastle, and his shooting party, with the Clumber spaniels and, beyond the bridge, Clumber House in the background. Painted in 1788 it received the mass-produced engraving treatment in 1803.

Above: The Guy Marson painting of a 1959 hunt gathering outside Thoresby Hall, also received the mass-production treatment. I well remember a colour print of this hanging in our family home when I lived on Thoresby Estate. The original hangs today (2017) in Perlethorpe Social Club. (For more on Guy Marson see THIS LINK).

Above: “Black Prince”, inside the stables at Thoresby Courtyard, Thoresby Hall. This was a favoured horse of Sydney William Herbert Pierrepont, 3rd Earl Manvers (1826 - 1900), himself a onetime Captain in the South Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Cavalry.

Today: In November 2004 a free vote in the House of Commons made "hunting wild mammals with a dog" unlawful in England and Wales from February 2005. Since The Hunting Act 2004 was passed several previous hunt organizations have gone on to perform displays of jumping and cross country riding with hounds within the Dukeries area. It remains a controversial subject.

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