Archibald Hamilton.

The red deer of Exmoor, with notes on those who hunted them, from Robert D'Auberville, 1070, to Robert Arthur Sanders, 1906 online

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Online LibraryArchibald HamiltonThe red deer of Exmoor, with notes on those who hunted them, from Robert D'Auberville, 1070, to Robert Arthur Sanders, 1906 → online text (page 14 of 22)
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ing out the duty of preserving the vert and venison ;
one or, perhaps two. Masters of Game for the same
districts having general supervision over all the
packs of hounds ; the hereditary Master of the
Buckhounds, and usually two Masters of Harthounds
bearing the formidable title of " Magister canum
regis pro cervis capiendis." The Masters of all
three packs received \2d. per day and certain
Hveries, and records of some of these payments are
preserved in the accounts of the Royal Household.
Under each Master was a huntsman whose pay
varied from A^d. to ^\d. a day. It may be noticed,
as showing the estimation in which various sports
were held, that the Foxhunter and Otter-hunter


received each 2d. a day. Under each of the
huntsmen were two berners, the berners on foot
drawing \\d. a day and those " at Horse " A^d. Their
duties partook of those of both huntsman and whip,
each being responsible for six couple of raches or
running hounds which they led in a hardele. The
lymerer, who led the lime hound and assisted the
huntsman in the important work of harboring the
deer, received "zd. a day. There was also a fewterer
or leader of greyhounds, with three couple of grey-
hounds, and a berceletar or man in charge of a
bercellet or shooting dog ; he was armed with a
crossbow, and his duties seem to have included the
shooting of deer, which were then run down by
greyhounds, and also, perhaps, the shooting of a
hunted stag at bay. In addition to these there were
a number of " cache-chiens " and underlings of
various kinds, mostly rated at an obol, or halfpenny
a day. Last but not least, there was the larderer
at 2d. a day, who took charge of and " cured " the
venison for the larder.

Such was the establishment over which we find
William de Baliolo in charge in 1336. The close
Rolls of that year (6 & 7 Edward II.) tell us that
John Lovell was " King's Yeoman " at Hunter's
Manor — probably a cousin of Margaret Lovell, wife
of Sir Thomas Borhunte, who at that time was the
hereditary Master. John Lovell was probably hunts-
man. William de Baliolo was Master of the Hart-
hounds and Robert Le Squier of the Harriers. They


received orders to go about the country hunting in
the Royal forests. Sometimes the harriers seem to
have accompained the buckhounds, sometimes the
harthounds ; but apparently all hunted red and fallow
deer indiscriminately, and with small regard for
season. The directions are sometimes by counties ;
sometimes the particular forests are mentioned, with
the number of deer expected from each. We find
John Lovell ordered to hunt in Somerset on
December 30th in 1336, but in what forest or how
many deer were to be killed, is not stated. The
general orders as to staghunting seem to have been
issued about July, judging from some dated July 14th
and 15th, 1315, which are preserved. These give a
complete list of the deer to be killed " in the fat
season " in the various forests. We find the total
amounted to 322 harts, 302 bucks, and 20 does, while
the quota demanded from the county of Somerset
was — Exmore, 20 harts ; Pederton, 20 bucks ;
Selwood, 12 bucks; Munedep, 12 harts and 20 bucks.
Nothing was demanded from Neroche, which was
probably included under Pederton.

How the Master of Game expected three packs,
counting the harriers as one, to account for 648 deer
in the short staghunting season is not explained.
That only a very trifling proportion of them can
have been fairly killed by hunting at force is obvious
— probably the majority were wounded by the
berceletar, and run down by the greyhounds ; but
even then it is difficult to believe that the number


can have been completed without a considerable
amount of local assistance.

The burden of the payment of wages and the
provision of food for the men, forage for the horses,
and " puture " for the hounds, fell upon the sheriff
of the county, as did also in most cases the provision
of salt and barrels, and the means of transport to the
Royal larder. The Prior of Taunton had to perform
this service when the Royal hounds hunted at

In some of the long journeys horse litters were
provided for transporting the hounds, and wagons
where the roads were sufficiently good.

Our ancestors were very skilful in curing meat,
and had much practice in the art, as we know that
the *' beeves " were in most households killed in the
autumn for use during the rest of the year. Ginger
seems to have been used with the salt. They do
not seem, if we may judge from the elaborate direc-
tions as to the "unlacing," or cutting up, of a hunted
stag and the rewarding of the raches, lime hound,
huntsmen, and harbourer, to have made any attempt
to preserve any parts except the haunches. In a
little sixteenth-century document, " The Craft of
Venerie," among the Lansdowne MSS. in the
British Museum, we find it laid down as follows : —

" When the harte is taken you shall give the
hallowe to the houndes — that is the necke, the hed,
the shoulders, and the syde, and the loin shall dwell
to the kitchen."


Shakespeare alludes to the process as " powder-
ing " in the First Part of King Henry IV., Act 4,
Scene 4, where the Prince of Wales, spying Falstaff
shamming dead, says : —

Death hath not struck so fat a deer to-day,
Though many dearer, in this bloody fray,
EmbowU'd will I see thee by and by :
Till then in blood by noble Percy lie. {Exit.)

Falstaff (Rising up). Embowelled ! If thou embowel me to-day,
I'll give you leave to powder me and eat me too to-morrow.

Allowing for the utmost skill on the part of the
larderers, most people would prefer not to be called
on to dine on a haunch killed after a hard run in
August on Exmoor, and then salted and barrelled
and jolted about in the sun by pack-horse and
wagon to Windsor, and there stored till required.
Even Chicago tinned meat would be preferable.

Such appears to have been an outline of the
practice during the fourteenth century, but after
that time there is a dearth of authorities, and during
the turbulent times when the Houses of York and
Lancaster were contending for the mastery, it is
impossible to believe that this system can have been
regularly adhered to ; and as we have no record of
the enforcement of forest law by the courts, the
conclusion is almost forced upon us that outlying
and distant forests, such as Exmoor and Dartmoor,
must have been left practically at the mercy of local
sportsmen, who no doubt made the most of their


We can, it is true, trace, as will be presently shown,
the holders of the office of forester in fee of Exmoor
without a break till the moor itself became vested in
the Sovereign, and the office of forester in fee
became extinct, but we cannot find much trace of
the exercise of any sporting rights in the district by
the Crown, or bv anyone acting for the Crown.

Staghunting at force was carried out by these
packs when Royalty was present, and by the packs
maintained by those great nobles who, like the
Mohuns of Dunster, held sporting rights over
sufficiently large areas, according to all the precise
rules and with all the ceremonial which prevailed in
France. Without going deeply into the manv books
written on the subject, we are fortunate enough to
possess in " The Master of Game " a complete
account of every detail.

"The Master of Game" is a translation by
Edward, Duke of York, for the instruction of Henry,
Prince of Wales, afterwards Henry V., of " La Livre
de Chasse," by Gaston III., Count de Foix et Beam,
commonly known as Gaston Phoebus, who died in
1 39 1. This great French classic is the foundation
on which every subsequent book on hunting is built,
except, perhaps, " La Chasse," by Charles IX.
There are many MS. copies, some of which are
beautifully illuminated. Edw^ard, Duke of York, was
Master of Game and Forester-in-Chief south of the
Trent ; he made his translation between 1406 and
1413, changing a few passages of the original and


adding others to make the text consonant with
EngHsh usage. This Duke of York must have
known all about hunting on Exmoor, seeing that he
was Lord of the Manor of Cutcombe, which came to
him in right of his wife, Philippa Mohun, one of the
three daughters of Joan Mohun, who sold the castle
and honour of Dunster to Sir Hugh Luttrell.

It is evident, from reading the additions to
Gaston's work made by the Duke of York, that he
was a very keen staghunter, with a great contempt
for any kind of hunting except the proper and
legitimate one of hunting at force. This is some-
what to be wondered at, since he was a very fat, heavy
man. His extreme weight, coupled with his indomi-
table spirit, caused his death, for he insisted on
leading the English knights in the onslaught at
Agincourt ; falling, he was unable to rise owing to
the weight of his armour, and died of suffocation
under the throng of combatants.

A beautiful edition of "The Master of Game"
has been edited and reduced to readable English by
Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Baillie Grohman, and to the
text thus rendered accessible, for it was only in MS.
before, and to the learned notes the writer is indebted
for much information as to mediaeval hunting.

We are told in the quaintest of terms how, when
the King or a great lord has determined on a day's
hunting, the huntsmen should come together the day
before, and each make his suggestions as to where
to meet and where to draw. The Master then makes


choice between their various propositions and con-
fides the all-important task of harbouring to one of
the huntsmen, who forthwith departs with his lymerer
to consult the forester of that particular " walk" and
visit the feeding grounds. The meeting place is
fixed, and the sergeant of the office is to warn all the
berners and other officials to be there early. The
hunter and lymerer then proceed to harbour the
stag, much as we do at the present day, save that
we do not use a hound. So great importance is
attached to scientific harbouring that " The Master of
Game " devotes seven chapters to it, giving elaborate
directions for harbouring in high spires or woods, in
coppices and "young springs," and when stags are
belling. No detail is too small to be explained.

Next morning early the berners and other officers
of the household are directed to go to the place of
assembly and make ready : —

" All they that come from home, and all the officers
that come from home, should bring thither all that
they need — everyone in his office well and plenteously.
They should lay towells and board cloths all about
upon the green grass and set divers meets upon a
great platter after the lord's power. And some should
eat sitting, and some standing, and some leaning upon
their elbows, and some should drink, some laugh and
some jangle, some joke and some play — in short do
all manner of desport and gladness." Can one not
see here the precursor of the mighty picnics yearly
taking place at Cloutsham and Haddon ? — picnics


which twenty years ago were held at every meet till
more expeditious methods of tufting brought them to

In one of the MS. copies of "The Master of
Game" is a most amusing illustration, beautifully
reproduced in Mr. Baillie Grohman's edition.

The Lord and two friends are seated at a low table
covered with a cloth ; a screen of canvas, supported
by sticks, is drawn round the whole party. At cloths
spread on the ground the various retainers eat, and
they afford a useful study of table manners without
knives and forks : two men are skilfully dismember-
ing a fowl, while others are drinking from the same
pattern barrel that a haymaker carries his cider in to
the present day. The wines for the high table are in
silver flagons and in a long-necked pottery jar with a
curious movable handle like that to a " crock," such
as one sees in a farmhouse chimney. The use of
this is obvious, for they are all cooling in a running

In the middle of the festivity the huntsman arrives,

having harboured a stag. To use the words of

Gascoigne in "The Blazon of the Hunte " —

Low I crouche before the Lordings all,

Out of my home the fewmets let I fall,

And other signs and tokens do I tell

To make hope the Harte may like them well.

Then they command that I the wine should taste,

So bids mine Arte and so my throat I baste.

In the picture he has not only let the fewmets or
droppings fall, but spread them broadcast over the


Lord's table, while one of the guests of high degree,
with a sample in the palm of his hand, explains its
peculiar virtues to the Lord.

The " hunte " also produced the scantillon or bit
of stick with which he had measured the slot of the

" And everyone shall say, ' Lo, here is a great hart,
and is a deer of high meating and pasturing, go we
and move him.' "

After a mighty consultation of the learned, the
Lord or Master of Game gives the order to go and
rouse the hart. The procedure at this point differs
somewhat in detail, but not in principle, from the
practice at the present day. The Master will deter-
mine which hounds shall be finders, that is, go with
the hunte and lymerer to rouse the hart, which shall
be in the first relay or vanchase, which in the middle
relay, and which shall be parfiteurs, and they are
then sent to fixed points '' by the advice of them
that know the country and the flight of the deer."
" And then shall the Lord and the Master of Game,
if it liketh him better to be at the finding than at a
relay, go thither where the deer is harboured." They
were to be accompanied by the finders in a hardele
in charge of a berner. In the picture they are
advancing through fairly open timber, made gay with
plentiful foxgloves. The hunte is to set the lymer
in the fues or track where the deer entered the
covert, and "then shall the Lord, if he can blow,
blow three notes, and after him the Master of Game


and after the hunters as they be greatest in office
that be at the finding and then the Hmerer."

There seems to have been some doubt of the
Lord's capacity to blow a horn, but none as to the

A mote appears to have been a long loud

" And after if the lymer shall sue boldly and
lustily " (which after all this noisy hornblowing
would be rather wonderful) " the lymerer shall say
to him loud ' Ho moy, ho moy, hole, hole, hole, and
ever take good heed to his feet and look well about
him, and so oft as he findeth the fues, or if it be in
thick spires, boughs or branches broken where the
deer hath walked, he should say aloud ' gy va, 9y va,
9y va,' and always should the yeoman berner the
which is ordained to be the finder follow the lymer
and be as near him as he might with the raches that
he leadeth for the finding." Then follow elaborate
directions for recovering the line if the lymer be at
fault. " The lymerer is to cheer him by name, Loyer
or Beaumont, or whatever he is named, and when he
recovers the fues say " 9y va " and " rally."

Though this style of tufting would be very effective
in an open forest with big trees, it would be extremely
difficult to run the lymer on a Ham, which was 20 ft.
long of tanned horse hide, through the thick oak
scrub in Haddon or the Barle Valley, but to follow
with three couple of hounds in a hardele would be
utterly impossible.


Hounds In a hardele are at no time very manage-
able, as anyone will realise who ever saw the second
horseman In the Blackmore Vale In Mr. Merthyr
Guest's time taking home such puppies as were
thought to have done enough.

The nature of the ground would drive the Master
of Game to have recourse to the modern system of
tufting, of which he expresses disapproval save as a
last resort :

" Nevertheless I have seen when a lymer sueth
long and could not so soon move him as men would "
(we notice that impatience of a long draw then as
now was a characteristic of the field) "that they
have taken up the lymer and uncoupled one or two
hounds to have him sooner found, but this truly no
skilful hunter ought to do unless the lymer cannot
put it forth " or unless It be getting late.

" When the lymer hath moved him and thelymerer
can see him that It Is the right deer, he shall blow a
note and recheat."

A recheat, of which more hereafter, was a rather
complicated combination of long and short notes.
If the deer is alone the berner Is to uncouple the
raches, but if he is not alone, then two hounds were
considered suflficlent till he should be separated.
If the lymerer does not see the hart, but judges by
the lair and the fues and other signs that it Is the
deer which was harboured, " he should blow a recheat
without a long mote, for the mote should never be blown
before recheatlngunless a man seethwhat he hunteth."


226 the; red deer of exmoor.

When the raches or running hounds are laid on
the lymerer is to take up his lymer and foot it the
best way he can. All this is in reality nothing more
than tufting adapted to a different country. In a
wild country, where there is nowhere to kennel the
pack, the system of relays seems almost imperative
— and indeed is, in a modified form, constantly
practised on Exmoor in the hindhunting.

The directions laid down for the berners and the
rest of the field during the run are not what a modern
Master would approve — except perhaps for one
berner ; indeed, they inculcate a course of conduct
to which a modern field is only too prone, and one
which is sorely trying to the temper both of the
huntsman and the Master.

"And the berners also and every horseman go
that can go, so that they come not into the fues or
in front of the hounds, and shape as often as they
can to meet him ; and as often as a man can see him
he should go to the fues and blow a mote and recheat
and holloa to the hounds, and then speed him in the
manner that I have said to meet with him again. '^
The berner in charge of the first relay that the hart
runs by is cautioned not to " vaunt lay " — that is,
not to lay on his hounds till the others are all up.
A very wise precaution, but if there is a chance of
change the berner is directed to take up any tail
hounds. In the case of a beaten deer the last relay
may, we are told, be put close on him to bring him
the sooner to bay. If hounds come to a check, or,


as it is called, a " stynt," the hunters on horseback
and on foot, in order of right, are to blow the " stynt."

If the hart is " in great danger" — that is to say,
if there is a great chance of the pack changing on to
fresh deer — it is recommended that they should be
stopped, and the lymer sent for to run the true line
till they be past the danger. This play has been
tried in a modified form with the Devon and Somerset,
but the result was not as a rule a success ; the
pressure on the stag was relaxed, and he at once
joined other deer, or had time to betake him to
water and give a lot of trouble. At a check, when
the lymer even is in fault, " Every hunter that is
there ought to go some deal abroad, and see if he
can find the rights by vestying thereof, and everyone
that findeth it before the lymer had fallen it, should
recheat in the rights and blow a mote for the lymer.'*
One sees this constantly done at the present day,
only a halloa or the whistle — by those privileged to
carry one — is used to call up huntsman and hounds,
and many an occasion will come to the memory of
old staghunters when the sharp eyes of Miles, of
Mr. Froude Hancock, Mr. John Bawden, Mr. Charles
Glass, Mr. Clatworthy, and others have saved the
situation. Only in 1906 one of the best runs was
saved in this way by the whip finding the slot in the
road where the stag had turned on the hard road by
Lype, leaving hounds to change on to a hind which
was in his company.

In the last resort is to be done what we do first,

Q 2


make a cast with the pack. " And if the hunters
hear that the hounds run well and put it forth lustily,
they should rout and jopey to them lustily and often
and recheat also."

After all the relays are laid on and the hart has
been chased and rechased through all his " ruses,"
he comes to water, and after beating the water in
vain he stands to bay. '' And then as far as it may
be heard every man draweth thither, and the knowing
therof is which hunter cometh first, and which
hunter after the other, they halloa all together and
blow a note and recheat all at once." This is the
only occasion when they are to blow all together.
It would be too much to expect a man with a horn
and able to blow it not to do so when the stag is at
bay and as to halloaing they seem to have been as
fond of doing so then as now. " I know also that it
is impossible for those who see a course to avoid
holloaing without advice being given for it, since it
would almost make a dumb person speak, as is related
of the son of Croesus." There is, however, comfort
in the thought that one cannot do much harm by
halloaing when the stag is at bay, though it is far
otherwise earlier in the run. Truly the troubles of a
huntsman were much the same then as now, and the
Master of Game recommends that if, when hounds
are at a check, anyone is heard halloaing at a
distance someone should be sent to see what it is
he is halloaing. No doubt it has frequently happened
then as now that an excited man knew really nothing


about the deer he had seen, but was always quite
sure it was a "tremendous great stag." Many will
remember an occasion on the Quantocks when there
being a halloa in the road under Lydiard Hill hounds
were taken there, though it seemed an unlikely line ;
a large party of people in a carriage described the
great stag they had seen with detail, if somewhat
excitedly, and were quite certain he had a large
pair of antlers. As they had every appearance of
sanity, the pack was laid on and hunted slowly over
a fallow field towards BishpooL There was a slot in
the dusty fallow at which both Anthony and Tucker
shook their heads, and not long afterwards hounds
ran up to a fine hind. It is wonderful what a lot of
people cannot tell the difference between a stag and
a hind when they are excited ; therefore the hunts-
man of to-day, like his predecessor of five hundred
years ago, places small reliance on strange halloas.

The Master of Game advises that the stag should
be induced to break his bay as often as possible so
that he shall not hurt hounds, and any relays not yet
laid on may come up before the stag is taken.

When a hunter is lost he should blow the " for-
long," another complicated blast, to show that he is
lost, and anyone in the rights is to blow the " perfect."
" for by that shall he be brought to readiness and
comfort who before that did not know where the
game or any of his fellows were."

When the bay has lasted long enough the Master
of Game, or chief person up, orders someone to go


in and spay the deer, stabbing with a short sword
behind the shoulder, forward to the heart, the lymer
being let go at him in front to divert his attention.
" And when the deer is dead and lieth on his side,
then first it is time to blow * the death.' "

At a time when deer were esteemed almost more
for the venison than for the sport, it was not won-
derful that great stress should be laid on the proper
way of cutting up the dead stag, rewarding the
hounds, and distributing the venison — to use the
techical term, "undoing him." To cut up a deer
otherwise than with all the orthodox ceremonies
was considered an outrage unworthy of a good

The " Minnesanger " Gottfried von Strasbourg
relates that when Tristan was wrecked on the coast of
Cornwall he found King Mark's huntsman, who had
just killed a stag, about to slit it down the back and
divide it into four pieces. Tristan interfered, and
instructed him how the work should be done secundum
arteni, and accompanied the King home to feast on
the venison, which Is the introduction on which the
whole romance is based. To kill the stag properly
was accounted a great feat, and was duly rewarded
by the gift of the head and skin : —

What shall he have who killed the deer }
The leathern hide and horns to wear.

Even when the deer was taken as in the present
day, it was for a long time customary to hand the

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Online LibraryArchibald HamiltonThe red deer of Exmoor, with notes on those who hunted them, from Robert D'Auberville, 1070, to Robert Arthur Sanders, 1906 → online text (page 14 of 22)