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 17 of 22)
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when it would otherwise have died out.

It was a great loss to the country when they were
sold in 1825 to go abroad, where it is believed that
their descendants, crossed with all manner of foreign
dogs, still pursue their old game.

From the time when the old pack went abroad the
stag has been hunted by draft foxhounds, and the
staghound as a breed has been utterly extinct in
England. During the troublous times prior to the
Mastership of Mr. M. Fenwick Bisset, in 1856, who
laid the foundation for the present prosperous
condition of stag-hunting, various packs of draft
foxhounds took the field and several Masters
accustomed to hunt the carted deer " up the
country " brought their hounds down to try
conclusions with the wild deer, the result being as a
rule to show how much more difficult the wild animal
is to hunt than the tame one, but all these packs
were essentially foxhounds by breeding.

Mr. Bisset had no other source to go to though he


had the advantage of a few couple of entered hounds
from the Royal pack. With infinite skill and labour
he collected a pack whose work in the field was all
that could be desired, and whose looks on the flags
would have been a credit to any pack in the country.
Suddenly twenty years of labour was brought to
nought, for rabies appeared among them, and after
fruitless efforts to stamp out the disease by means of
segregating all those hounds which were supposed
to have been exposed to contagion, a work of no
small risk to those carrying it out, the determination
was reluctantly arrived at that the pack must be
destroyed. This was carried out to the great grief
of all concerned, the only survivor being a young
hound, Wellington, who had been away at
Bagborough in consequence of an accident.

The courage and perseverance which had enabled
Mr. Bisset to overcome the obstacles which had
seemed well-nigh insuperable when he took the
hounds originally, enabled him to get together in an
extraordinary short time a new pack with which he
hunted in 1878. There were, it is true, troubles
arising from riot, and particularly from sheep, but
Arthur Heal, at that time in his prime, was very
capable of dealing with trouble of this kind, for he
was by nature one of those men whom hounds instinc-
tively obey, and he had a marvellous knack of always
being at the exact spot where his active intervention
was required. The pack which Mr. Bisset handed
over to the committee, after twenty-six years of


successful mastership, was in every way worthy of
the sport and of the countr}'. Mr. Bisset was
succeeded by Viscount Ebrington, and he in turn
by Mr Basset, each of whom held office for six
seasons ; Colonel Hornby, who was at the head of
affairs for two years ; and Mr. R. A. Sanders, whose
term of twelve years has been marked by a very
high average of sport. All of these have adhered to
the practice of relying on big draft foxhounds drawn
from all the best packs in the country. The standard
is 24^ inches for puppies on entry. This gives a
standard for second season hounds and upwards of
25 inches, or rather more. The maintenance of this
standard has two special advantages. Firstly, the
larger hounds have an undoubted advantage over
their smaller brethren in deep heather and in hunting
the water ; and, secondly, Masters of Foxhounds
naturally refuse to part with puppies of tlie highest
quality which are not too big for foxhound packs.
Were it not for the size we should not find on the
benches at Exford, as we do now, puppies out of
the same litters that have achieved honours at
Peterborough, and made for themselves reputations
for good work in the best packs in the country.
Mr. Sanders has, however, recently introduced a
few large bitches into the pack in the hope of
improving the cry, in which they have been to a
certain extent successful, and a few puppies have
been bred with promising results, two home-bred
puppies being in I9o6among the speediest in the pack.


The quality and appearance of the pack
undoubtedly depend to a great extent on their
size. " How on earth do you get them this size
and looking so much alike ? " is a question one often
hears asked ; and indeed none but a trained hound
man would ever detect that they are a draft pack.
The answer is that it is due to the knowledge,
industry, and judicious liberality of the Master.
The work is indeed a heavy one : nearly twenty
couple of puppies have to be entered every year, and
the Master spends a good deal of his short close
time of three months in looking at puppies. At one
time the most ridiculous looking brutes used to be
submitted for inspection, simply on account of their
size, but the requirements of the hunt are now so
well understood by Masters and huntsmen alike that
the process is much simplified. To many Masters
and their servants thanks are due for the friendly
interest they display in the matter, and the care and
trouble they take when they have a puppy likely to
suit the Devon and Somerset.

The first thing that strikes one on looking at the
pack is the obvious preponderance of the Belvoir
type of hound ; this is due to two causes. For
several years Mr. Sanders has secured the whole
of the Belvoir draft, subsequently disposing of such
as were not up to the standard ; secondly, the
remainder of the- pack is to a great extent drawn
from kennels like the Warwickshire, the York and
Ainsty, Mr. Fernie's, and the Quorn which have


freely used Belvoir sires. A look over the old books
goes to show in what a great proportion of instances
the introduction of a cross of Belvoir blood has
produced puppies of the size and quality required.
Twenty years ago one noticed the same effect
produced by crossing the sires of the late Lord
Portsmouth's breeding.

As with all hounds, big bone, true shaped joints,
and good feet are indispensable, the latter being from
the nature of the ground more essential than with
other packs. The stony tracts on Croydon and
Dunkery and the constant clambering about on the
rocks in the streams and the sea shore making havoc
with their toes.

The work is very severe on hounds, and although
the huntsmen of old exaggerated the ill-effects of
cold water in the winter, it cannot be denied that
a certain number of hounds do get laid up with
kidney trouble and various forms of rheumatism.

Sidney Tucker, the present huntsman, is an
extremely clever kennel man, and by unremitting
attention, especially to prevent hounds lying on the
flags in the sun, no easy matter when the pack is
hunting four days a week in hot weather, has made
kennel lameness almost unknown.

Hounds do not, as a rule, stand many seasons'
work with the Devon and Somerset ; they have
many perils to encounter, not the, least of which is
being trodden on or kicked by the horses of the
field. This is occasionally almost unavoidable, for


these hounds are very keen, and when a stag is
running the water will dash with the utmost reckless-
ness through a mass of horses crowded in a narrow
path ; but the majority of cases might be saved by
the exercise of a little care on the part of riders.
Injuries sustained from stags at bay incapacitate and
occasionally even kill hounds almost every year,
heart weakness accounts for some — poor old Tele-
gram, who led the pack for several seasons, dropped
dead in his tracks when coursing a beaten hind
in view across the open — but injuries to the feet
resulting in "toes down," is probably the most
frequent cause of drafting. A kill up and down the
water close to a village is generally productive of
much trouble, since the villagers always throw all
their broken crockery into the stream, and if the water
is low hounds' feet get cut to pieces. In excep-
tionally dry seasons sore feet give a certain amount
of temporary trouble, but the pack is never allowed
to get really out of condition, and Tucker puts in
such an amount of work, not only on the moor but
on the roads in the summer, that the trouble from
this cause is reduced to a minimum. Many hours
are spent in exercise on the moor for the education
of the young entry, particularly in the matter of
sheep. During the greater part of the staghunting
season the moor is covered with sheep which scatter
themselves about among the bracken and all sorts
of unlikely places. Jumping up right under hounds'
noses and scouring away with almost the speed of a


deer, they must form a strong temptation, infinitely
stronger than that to which foxhounds are subjected
by the heavier, slower moving sheep in enclosed
countries. Especially is this the case when, as is
frequently inevitable, there is no one near enough to
stop them. A few sheep seem always to live in the
big coverts like Horner Wood and the Barle Valley,
and these are a severe test of the discipline of young
hounds who find themselves off the line and freed
from all control. So carefully, however, are hounds
broken that it is the rarest thing for one to transgress,
and if he does he never comes out again. In a
country so dependent on mutton and wool, and so
full of sheep, the slightest suspicion of unsteadiness
would cause more ill-will than anything else one can
imagine ; as it is, the farmers have every confidence
in the hounds and are always pleased to see them.
This happy result is only arrived at by infinite trouble
in the early stages of education, for which the hunts-
man and his asistants deserve the utmost credit.



The heavy hart, the blowing buck,

The rascal and the pricket.
Are now among the yeoman's pease,

And leave the fearful thicket.

Beaumont and Fletcher.

James I., who was a devoted sportsman, attempted
to revive the old forest jurisdiction all over England,
though apparently with but small success. He
must, however, have held some forest courts on
Exmoor, though the records of them are lost,
because an Act was passed in 1641 summarily
disafforesting all those forests in which courts had
not been held within the last sixty years. Under
this Act a very great number of forest rights
disappeared for ever in various parts of the country,
but' Exmoor Forest survived.

James I., following the example of Henry VIIL,
settled Exmoor on his Oueen, Anne of Denmark,
after .whose death in 1619 it reverted to the King.
She seems to have leased her rights to the
Earl of Pembroke, who appears to have sublet
to various deputies, locally termed "foresters."



Thus we find from various legal proceedings that,
in addition to Roger Sydenham, mentioned above,
Mr. Stawley, Mr. Thomas Sydenham, "one John
Glasse," and Mr. Webber, of Luxborough, were
foresters. In 1599 Mr. William Pyncombe, of
North Molton, came into possession, and he held
till 1 61 3, when he was succeeded by John Pearce of
the same place.

From some very interesting legal proceedings
which took place in 1621 concerning the wrongful
impounding of some sheep, it is clear that pasturage,
and not hunting, was the thing chiefly held in
consideration. But from the evidence it is clearly
established that staghunting did take place at that
time. It is also clear that the so-called foresters, or
farmers of the forest as they are also called, were not
the Masters. Whether the Earl of Pembroke, who
was Forester in Chief till the time of Charles I.,
either kept hounds himself, or, as is more probable,
authorised Hugh Pollard to do so, is nowhere stated.

John Pearce, the acting forester, fell foul of one
John Slowley, of Eastcott Farm, Porlock, concerning
the agistment of sheep, and brought a suit in
Chancery against him, which was not proceeded
with, though the feud continued. Eastcott Farm is
the farmhouse just below Whitestone, between
Birchanger and Westcott. Pearce complained that
Slowley kept more sheep than his farm would carry,
and fed them on the forest, where he had no right.
Slowley complained that Pearce, as soon as he


became farmer of the forest, began to act very
oppressively " by agisting and taking into the said
forest great multitudes of many thousands of sheepe,
cattle, horsebeasts, and piggs, which, besydes their
feeding in the said forrest, range into, eat up, devour
and spoyle the wasts as well of the Manor of Porlock
as of other wasts and commons." Slowley also
complained that Pearce demanded and obtained
from the tenants new and unaccustomed payments.

This ill-will seems to have come to a head four
years afterwards, when John Pearce is alleged to
have conspired with John Pearce, of Withypool,
yeoman ; Robert Wylliams, of Exford, brother-in-
law or near kinsman of the said forester ; William
Kitner, of Exford aforesaid, labourer ; William
Waterhouse, of Withypool aforesaid, husbandman
(he was also the keeper of the forester's pound at
Withypool) ; Henry Sawnders and John Kingdon,
who met at the house of Williams, and sallied forth
to seek revenge on John Slowley. How they did so
is best told in the words of Andrew Stone,
husbandman, of Kytnor, i.e.^ Culbone. He says :
^' Aboute fortnighte before Michaelmas last past he,
thii deponent, goinge into the forest of Exmore to
seek some cattle of John Olliver's, this deponent's
master, and passinge over the common of Porlock
towards the saide forest, he mett John Kingdon and
William Kitner, two of the defendants, uppon the
saide common of Porlock, and this deponent
departinge from them he saw the saide Kingdon

T 2


and Kitner rydinge further in uppon the salde
common towards a company of the complainant's
sheepe, to the number of fyftie or thereabouts as he
thinketh, quiethe depasturing uppon the saide
common aboue halfe a myle from the neerest bounds
of the saide Forest which sheepe weare used nightUe
to be folded by the complainant in his ingrownds
parcell of his coppihold tenement in Porlock and
when they came neere the saide sheepe they made
a staye and the saide sheepe ran togeather towards
the bounds of the saide Forest and this deponent
further sayth that he goinge further towards the
saide forest to seeke the saide cattle saw John
Pearce one other of the defendants and William
Waterhouse, nowe deceased, lying in Blackborowe,
being a noted bounde betweene the saide common of
Porlock and the said Forest of Exmore, and there
horses grassing by them theare."

After this, in a high-handed manner, they drove
Slowlev's sheep from Porlock Common, where they
had a right to be, on to the forest, where they had no
business. Pearce' s men then drove them off to
Withypool and put them in the forester's pound
there, and Pearce declined to let them go again ;
hence the action. Evidence was given that the
same Kingdon, wiio was a servant of Pearce, was,
on another occasion, found driving rother beasts —
that is, horned cattle — from Porlock Common
towards the forest, and of his violent and abusive
language when stopped. We also learn that Robert


Williams had been servant to three foresters —
— deputies presumably — in succession : Mr. Pearce,
Mr. Pincombe, and Mr. Webber. The latter was a
Luxborough yeoman, as we learn elsewhere from
proceedings in the Star Chamber. Robert Phelps,
yeoman, of Porlock, and Walter Dollen, of Stoke
Pero, gave evidence on behalf of John Slowley in
support of the plea that the forest rights on Exmoor
had become obsolete.

Phelps said : " He verelie believeth that there are
verie few redd deere within the Forest or Chase of
Exmore, and that few or none are bred theare and
he sayth theare are not any woods or copses within
the bounds of the said Forest nor any other shelter
nor harbor for deere within the saide Forest other than
heath or fearne or such like. But he further sayth
that he hath seene some fewe redd deere lyinge and
standinge within the bounds of the said Forest and
some others hunted or chased into the said Forest
but not often."

Dollen corroborated, and said : " That there are
no woods nor copses other than one oake called Kite
Oake and a few thornes growinge here and there
within the saide Forest nor any other shelter for deere
other than sedgbusshes, rushbusshyes, fearnes,
heath, or such like."

Manwood, in his " Forest Laws," lays down that it
is essential to the existence of a forest that there shall
be deer and covert for them. The suggestion that
Pearce had no rights because there was no legal


forest, which this evidence was produced to support,
savours rather of the ingenuity of pleading to be
found in and around Lincoln's Inn. Pearce in his
affidavit sets out his tenancy from the Crown, and
no mention is made of the deer. The affidavits on
both sides are very voluminous, and they throw an
interesting light on the relations between the
foresters or their deputies, on the one side, and the
farmers on the other. The foresters seem to have
agisted more beasts than the moor would properly
carry, and to have, with the aid of the free suitors of
Withypool, extorted all the payments they could get.
A much fuller account of this interesting case is
contained in Mr. Chadwyck Healey's " History of
Part of West Somerset." What was the final result
of the litigation is not recorded.

Charles I. granted a fresh lease to the Earl of
Pembroke for 22^ years of the " Forest and Chace
of Exmore " and of the "Manor of Exmore " for
14 years. What is meant by the " Manor of
Exmore " is difficult to understand ; the whole of
Exmoor was royal demesne, and the term " manor '^
does not seem applicable to it. Probably it was a
mistake of the draughtsman, anxious to include
everything, but, if so, why a different term of years
was appointed needs explanation. It was by this
lease that leave was given to build a lodge at
Simonsbath, and enclose 100 acres of land.

Charles I., anxious always to raise money, turned
his attention, as his father had done before him, to


the question of reclaiming waste lands, and there is
a document at the Record Office dated 1630, which
sets out his intentions. After reciting that there are
immense moors in Devon, Somerset, and Cornwall,
the property of the Crown, it goes on :

" His Ma''^' intendments are to drawe all such
unnecessary Forests and Waste Lands to improve-
ment, whereof many are lately accomplished. And
it is without question, that out of theis three
Counties, there may in short space be raised in p-sent
money, to his Ma*'" use, at least ;^ 100,000 in Fines,
and a great yearly Rent, reserved to the Crown. . .

" If some great person were authorised by his
Ma*'^ to undergo the weight of it, the business would
proceed happily ; but without such assitant, those
works are not to be dealt in."

It was rather a sanguine view of the value, but a
" great person," name suppressed, but from the
description an " ambassador," came forward with an
offer for the forest of Exmoor, if the King would
grant a commission to disafforest, to get the work
put through and pay a rent of 4^. an acre for 60
years for such part as should be allotted to the

This would have worked out at a rental of about
;i^2oo a year, and the commissioners in 1651 valued
the whole forest at £\']'^ \%s., so it seems a very
fair offer. Charles accepted the offer, and ordered
Mr Attorney or Mr. Solicitor to draw up the
necessary Commission, and lease.


Luckily for us in these days nothing further seems
to have been done in the matter, but the threatened
disafforestation may have been the reason for the
Earl of Pembroke abandoning his lease, which he
seems to have done before 1634, for in that year, 9
Car. I., Exmoor was granted to Sir John Poyntz for
the lives of himself, his wife Elizabeth, and his
daughter, who became Lady Thurles. Presumably,
this was the son of the Sir John Poyntz who
previously was forester ; he only held the grant for a
year, apparently dying at once, for in 10 Car. Lady
Thurles assigned her interest to Sir Lewes Pollard,
who subsequently assigned it to trustees for his
creditors, in whose hands it was found to be in 1657,
when the Commonwealth took stock of the lands of
the King. Lady Thurles was then said to be 72
years of age, and the Commissioners gave her six
weeks' notice to prove she was alive ; as she failed
to do so they reported the property to be in "' hand."

Previous to this, however, Mr. Endymion Porter,
a gentleman of the bedchamber, had in 1637 offered
the King, with whom he was a great favourite, to
give him double the rent of £\6 133-. \d. if he was
given a grant in fee with liberty to disafforest. A
poor oi^er compared with the previous one.

That the sporting rights on Exmoor were not a
dead letter even in those troubled times is shown
by a warrant in the year 1637, addressed to the
Ranger of Exmoor, directing him to deliver a fat
stag to Mr. Windam. How the stag was to be


killed Is not specified. Sir John Wyndham, of
Orchard Wyndham, may have had some hounds, and
his son may have desired to have a day's hunting
on the forest of Exmoor.

During the Civil War, Somerset, and Devon were
the scene of much strife, and hunting was most
probably completely in abeyance.

Save for the perambulation and the valuation
made in 1651, we have little information relating to
Exmoor until the Restoration, though we know that
the hand of the Lord Protector was heavy on the
district round.

We gather, however, from a petition presented to
Charles II. by his " Ma"''' subjects inhabiting near
Exmore in the Counties of Devon and Somersett,"
that the Commonwealth authorities, with that utter
disregard of existing rights which is so characteristic
of a certain class of politician when he comes to
deal with other people's property, had professed to
make a sale of the forest to one James Bovey, of
Braunton, and to extinguish all rights over it. The

Sheweth —

That whereas your petitioners, and their predecess''^ inhabitants
as aforesaid, having for this many hundred yeares past, injoyed
many privileges, and immunities in the said Forrest of Exmore, as
the pasturing of sheepe, horses, and other Cattle, at certaine
customary yearely rates, which for some time past they have been
deprived off, by one INI- James Bovey, pretending that he had
purchased the same as a Chace of the late usurpers : and hath
much vexed and troubled your poore petitioners, by impounding


their Cattle, arresting some of their persons, and maintaining many
long, and tedious sutes in Lawe against them, onely for their
claiming their just rights, and privileges, to their great losse and

The petition goes on to pray for a restitution of
the old rights as previously enjoyed. This throws
a clear liorht on the wonderful chancre which had
taken place in the mangement of the forest, and in
the way in which forest rights were regarded by the
very men whose predecessors, in many cases their
direct ancestors, had extorted from the Plantagenet
Kings the charters of disafforestation.

Hunting must, indeed, have been at a low ebb.
Dunster, Nettlecombe, Holnicote, and other places
where hounds might have been kept in Somerset,
besides the whole Devon border, were for years in
the hands of Cromwell's troops, who, we may safely
conjecture, were no respecters of game laws.

So severely did the herds of deer suffer throughout
the country, that one of the earliest acts of Charles 1 1 .
was to decree that no one should kill a wild deer on
any of the royal forests for five years. This wise
enactment probably prevented the deer from
becoming extinct.

Exmoor was granted on a lease from Lady-day,
1661, to James Butler, Marquis of Ormonde, for
thirty-one years, being part of the rewards given him
for his loyal adherence to the Crown, a loyalty which
had cost him close on a million sterling. This
nobleman lived mostly in Ireland, and no record
seems to exist as to who acted as his deputy or


ranger ; nor is there any information as to stag-

It is impossible to leave this period without saying
a few words as to the much-debated question whether
or no the Doones ever existed on Exmoor, for if they
ever did exist, this period, when the Marquis of
Ormonde was lessee of the forest, was the time.

So charming, and so full of "corroborative detail"
is Mr, Blackmore's most fascinating romance, that
the suggestion that it is pure fiction comes as a

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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 17 of 22)