Page:Highways and Byways in Sussex.djvu/72
THE CHARLTON HUNT
him better—"It has an air of snug concealment in which a disposition like mine feels itself peculiarly gratified; whereas now I see from every window woods like forests and hills like mountains—a wilderness, in short, that rather increases my natural melancholy.... Accordingly, I have not looked out for a house in Sussex, nor shall."
The simplest road from Chichester to the Downs is the railway. The little train climbs laboriously to Singleton, and then descends to Cocking and Midhurst. By leaving it at Singleton one is quickly in the heart of this vast district of wooded hills, sometimes wholly forested, sometimes, as in West Dean park, curiously studded with circular clumps of trees.
The most interesting spot to the east of the line is Charlton, once so famous among sporting men, but now, alas, unknown. For Charlton was of old a southern Melton Mowbray, the very centre of the aristocratic hunting county. The Charlton Hunt had two palmy periods: before the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion, and after the accession of William III. Monmouth and Lord Grey kept two packs, the Master being Squire Roper. With the fall of Monmouth Roper fled to France, to hunt at Chantilly, but on the accession of William III. he returned to Sussex, the hounds resumed their old condition, and the Charlton pack became the most famous in the world. On the death of Mr. Roper—in the hunting field, in 1715, at the age of eighty-four—the Duke of Bolton took the Mastership, which he held until the charms of Miss Fenton the actress (the Polly Peachum of The Beggars' Opera) lured him to the tents of the women. Then came the glorious reign of the second Duke of Richmond, when sport with the Charlton was at its height. The Charlton Hunt declined upon his death, in 1750, became known as the Goodwood Hunt, and wholly ceased to be at the beginning of the last century.
The crowning glory of the Charlton Hunt was the run of Friday, January 26, 1738, which is thus described in an old manuscript:—