Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 7/The Charlton Hunt

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Few of the many ardent lovers of our great national sport are aware at what an early period fox-hunting began, or that the hounds, whose jaws had been reddened by the last tributary wolf paid for by King Edgar’s wise law, were afterwards trained to the milder pursuit of the wily fox. Year after year saw the wide forests resounding to the fox-hunter’s horn; and Cavaliers and Roundheads forgot their animosities when they retired to their hunting-boxes, and became of one cloth when they met at the covert side.

Hamlets, the very site of which are now known only to the antiquary, once held a high position in the estimation of the sporting world, and it is to rescue one of the most famous of these forgotten spots from its obscurity that we have come before the public.

To the north of Goodwood racecourse, and in a low valley, embosomed by the loftiest of the South Downs, lies a little hamlet, “a tything in the parish of Singleton.” Once the Melton of England, Charlton has outlived its fame; a fame which in the reckless roystering days when the Merrie Monarch spent his country’s living after the characteristic manner described in a well-known parable, possessed spells potent enough to rivet the attractions of the Court itself, and induce the votaries of fashion to forego the ease and luxury of town for the manifold discomforts of a rural life.

To what happy circumstance Charlton owes its first selection as a hunting-place we cannot ascertain. Dalloway, the historian of Sussex, throws no light upon the subject, yet it must have attained considerable celebrity in the sixteenth century, as in 1658 we find the Duke of Monmouth installed as master, having for huntsman a Mr. Roper, well known in his day as a true sportsman.

Two things might have favoured the selection of Charlton by the duke. One was its proximity to Up Park, the property of his great friend and companion Lord Tankerville; the other, the affection displayed towards him by the citizens of Chichester, which at one time became so notorious as to incur his majesty’s serious displeasure, that it required all the eloquence of their bishop, Dr. King, to appease the royal anger. Yet, popular as the unfortunate duke was in the district, it does not appear that any great demonstration was made in favour of his claim to the crown—although there can be no doubt that the Hunt Meetings at Charlton formed a regular hotbed for the intrigues of the time; and when the duke laid claim to the throne, the principal members of the hunt rallied round their master in a far different field than that they had so often met in at the foot of Leving Down.

In consequence of the defeat and disgrace of Monmouth, the hunt, for a time, sank into oblivion, only, however, to rise again in fresh glory when King William brought peace to the troubled land; and Roper, who had found a temporary refuge in France, was unanimously recalled, and given back his old command. William, who spared no pains to suit his humour to that of every man, finding it politic to become a fox-hunter, honoured Charlton by his presence, bringing with him his guest the Grand Duke of Tuscany; and it was during this royal gathering that the Duke of Devonshire performed the feat of riding over Leving Down at full gallop, and leaping a five-barred gate at the bottom; though if the five-barred gates of those days were anything like that which now stands at the foot of the Down, our modern Nimrods would scarcely think such a performance worth a second thought.

The countenance shown to Charlton by King William appears to have roused the jealousy of the Duke of Somerset, and induced him to establish a rival pack at Petworth, then his princely seat. For a season or two open war went on. At last, victory declared in favour of the Charlton Hunt, his Grace of Somerset signed a treaty of peace, and joined packs.

Lord Tankerville for a time held the mastership of the united packs; but some dispute having arisen, he threw it up and left the hunt altogether, carrying with him half the pack, and a famous whip named Tom Johnson. Mr. Roper then ruled alone until his death, when the Duke of Bolton took the entire management, sparing neither time, trouble, nor money, in bringing the pack to perfection. Venus, however, vanquished Diana, and the voice of Lavinia Fenton (Polly Peachem) proving more seductive than that of the huntsman, his Grace threw down the reins of government.

The Duke of Richmond was then elected; but finding he could not attend so fully as was requisite to his duties (his position at the Court of George IV. requiring his frequent presence), he appointed Lord Delawar as sub-master. Not content with the accommodation at Charlton, new kennels were erected, the hounds removed to Goodwood, and finally presented to the king. Thus the glories of the Charlton hunt became a thing of the past.

Fox Hall, the temple and club of the hunt, was standing until a few years ago, when it was pulled down by the orders of the late Duke of Richmond. The origin of the name is uncertain; probably it was given in honour of the purpose for which the building was intended, and foxes’ plates, brushes, and pads, formed the ornaments of the magnificent dining-room, which was handsomely panelled and floored with marble, the design being furnished by the first Duke of Grafton, and Lord Bolingbroke, sometimes called the Vitruvius of his day. Yet although this is the simplest solution, we cannot help thinking it might have been given in sarcastic allusion to Fox Hall on the Thames, which formed a favourite lounge and resort for the fashionable world during the reign of Charles, and has no small notoriety among the intrigues, both political and domestic, of the time. On one side of the hall, and still standing, is a tall, quaintly-shaped house, with a lofty room upon the second floor, in which the Duchesses of Bolton and Richmond held assemblies. In the middle of the village stands the palace of the Duke of St. Albans. It is now used as a farm-house, though from its great size we felt inclined to pity the farmer doomed to such occupancy. Close to this house over-rose the staff and standard of the hunt—a green silk flag, with a gilt fox at full cry.

Although these are the only separate buildings now standing, and which existed in the days of the hunt, the remains of many are discernible among the cottages, rick yards, &c., having been dismantled to save the expense of bringing stone from a distance, a practice (we were nearly saying sacrilegious) to which we owe the loss of some of the most interesting relics of the past.

A few years ago two curious old documents were found in a farmhouse in the neighbourhood, one containing a list of the members of the hunt in its palmiest days; the other an account, by an eye-witness, of the memorable run which gained the championship of the sporting world for Charlton. The list of names which we subjoin speaks for itself as to the fashionable pretensions of Charlton, and the “run,” though scarcely intelligible, we fear, except to persons well acquainted with the locality, may still be interesting, especially as sportsmen from all parts of England have ridden over much the same ground from time to time with Lord Leconfield’s (Colonel Wyndham’s) hounds.

Members of the Charlton Hunt, with their weights, entered at Fox Hall, February 14th, 1703:—

Duke of Richmond, 15st.; Earl of Albemarle, 12st. 5lb.; Earl of Tankerville, 11st.; Earl of Lifford, 12st.; Major-General Honeywood, 13st. 8lb.; Lord Nassau Powlet, 13st. 13lb.; Andrew Charlton, Esq., l0st. 2lb.; Ralph Jennison, 9st. 11lb.; Phillip Meadows, Esq., 11st.; Wm. Conolly, Esq., 11st. 8lb.; Captain Hopgood, 12st.; Sir Cecil Bishhopp, Bart., 9st. 8lb.; Edward Carrol, Esq., 11st. 1lb.; Thomas Strickland, Esq., 9st. 7lb.; Gaston Orme, Esq., 11st. 11lb.; Richard Honeywood, Esq., 11st. 1lb.; Sir Thomas Prendergast, Bart., 14st. 5lb.; Earl of Sunderland, 13st. 5lb.; Sir John Lumley, 10st. 2lb.; Earl Cowper, 13st.; Col. J. Hushe, 15st. 9lb.; Mr. Loftus, 11st, 11lb.; Sir Robert Gilford, Bart., 12st. 6lb.; Lord De la Warr, 16st. 8lb.; Lord Glenorchy, 10st. 10lb.; Brigr. Churchill, 13st. 7lb.; Stephen Fox, Esq., 8st. 7lb.; Henry Fox, Esq., 11st. 13lb.; Mr. St. Paul, 13st. 7lb.; Mr. Brompton, 20st. 3lb.

From the date of the above to that of 22nd February, 1748, the following are added in the Charlton weighing book:

Lord Lovel; Thos. Miller, Esq.; W. Alsworth, Esq.; Ed. Brudenel; Mr. Kelsel; Mr. Goddard; Mich. Broughton, Esq.; Lord Dursley; Col. Hawley; Lord Harcourt; Barrington Goldsworthy, Esq.; Mr. Villers; Lord Borringdon; Dr. Disaquillers; Humphrey Brown; Lord March (24th Aug., 1738, 2st. 5lb., being only 8 years old); Hon. Th. Fielding; Lord James Cavendish; Lord Ossulston; Lord Ch. Fitzroy; Lord H. Beauclerk; Lord Harry Liddle; Sir John Miller; Thos. Horde, Esq.; Will. Fauquier; Hon. Mr. Stourton: Hon. Ch. Bentinck; Hon. Col. Legge; Hon. James Dormer; Duke of Kingston; Hon. G. Bennett; Sir Robert Smith; Thos. Strickland, Esq.; Capt. Shafton; Admiral Townsend; Capt. Carpenter; Lord Bury; the Hon. W. Keppel; Marquis of Hartington; Earl of Dalkeith; Earl of Lincoln; Earl of Kildare; Hon. Col. Waldegrave; Hon. Gen. Brudenel; Hon. John Boscawen; Sir William Corbett; Sir Mathew Fetherstone; Duke of Grafton; Percy Wyndham O’Brien, Esq.; Lord Robert Manners; Viscount Downe.

The following is a copy of the MS. found in the farm-house:—

A Full and Impartial Account of the Remarkable Chace at Charlton,—Friday, 26th of January, 1738.—It has been long a matter of controversy in the hunting world, to which particular county, or set of men, the superiority of power belonged. Prejudice and partiality have the greatest share in their disputes, and every society their proper champion to assert their pre-eminence and bring home the trophies to their own country. Even Richmond Park has its Dymack. But, on Friday, the 26th of Jan., 1738, there was a decisive engagement on the plains of Sussex, which, after ten hours’ struggle, has settled all further debates, and given the brush to the gentlemen of Charlton. Present on the morning:—The Duke of Richmond; Duchess of Richmond; Duke of St. Albans; Lord Viscount Harcourt; Lord Henry Beauclerk; Lord Ossulston; Sir Harry Liddle; Brigr. Henry Hawley; Ralph Jennison, Esq.; Edward Pauncfort, Esq.; Will. Fauquier, Esq.; Cornet Philip Honiwood; Richard Biddulph, Esq.; Charles Biddulph, Esq.; Mr. St Paul; Mr. Thompson, Mr. Rearman, and Mr. Johnson, Chichester; Tom Johnson (huntsman); Billy Ives (yeoman pricker to his Majesty’s hounds); David Briggs and Jim Ives (whips).

At a quarter before eight in the morning the fox was found in East Dean Wood, and ran an hour in that covert, then into the forest, up to Puntice Coppice, through Herring Dean to the Marlows, up to Coney Coppice, back through the Marlows to the Forest Westgate, over the fields to Nightingale Bottom, to Cobdens at Drought, up his Pine Pit Hanger (where his Grace of St. Albans got a fall). Through my Lady Tewkner’s Puttocks and missed the earth, through West Dean Wood, to the Corner of Cellars Down (where Lord Harcourt blew his first horse). Crossed the Hacking Place, down the length of Coney Coppice, through the Marlows to Herring Dean, into the Forest and Puntice Coppice, East Dean Wood, the Lower Teglease, across by Cocking course, down between Graffham and Wolavington, through Mr. Orme’s park and paddock, over the heath to Fielder’s Furzes, over Todham Heath, almost to Cowdray Park, there turned to the limekiln at the end of Cocking Causeway, through Cocking Park and Furzes, there crossed the road and up the hills between Bebton and Cocking.

Here the unfortunate Lord Harcourt’s second horse felt the effects of long legs and a sudden steep; the best thing that belonged to him was his saddle, which my lord had secured, but by bleeding and Geneva (contrary to act of Parliament) he recovered, and with some difficulty got home. And here Mr. Fauquier’s humanity claims your regard, who kindly sympathised with my lord in his misfortunes, and had not power to go beyond him.

At the bottom of Cocking Warren the hounds turned to the left across the road, by the barn near Herring Dean, then took the north gate of the Forest (here General Hawley thought it prudent to change his horse for a true blue that stayed up the hills; Billy Ives also took a horse of Sir Harry Liddle’s), went quite through the forest, and run the foil through Nightingale Bottom to Cobdens at Drought, up the Pit Hanger to Lady Lewkner’s Puttocks, through every mews she went through in the morning, through the warren above West Dean (where we dropt Sir Harry), down to Binderton Farm (here Lord Harry Beauclerk sunk), through Goodwood Park (here the Duke of Richmond chose to send three lame horses back to Charlton, and took Saucyface and Sir William, that were luckily at Goodwood; from thence at a distance Lord Harry was seen driving his horse before him to Charlton).

The hounds went out at the upper side of the park, across Stretsington road, by Sealy Coppice (where his Grace of Richmond got a summerset), through Halnaker Park, over Halnaker Hill, to Seabeach Farm.

At this point the master of the staghounds (Mr. Jennison), Cornet Honiwood, Tom Johnson, and Jim Ives, were thoroughly satisfied.

The hounds went on up Long Down, through Eartham Common Fields and Kemp’s High Wood, where Billy Ives tired his second horse, and took Sir William, and the Duke of St. Albans, having no greatcoat, returned to Charlton.

From Kemp’s High Wood the hounds took away through Gunworth Warren, Kemp’s rough piece, over Slindon Down to Madehurst Parsonage (where Billy came in with them), over Poor Down to Midhurst, then down to Haughton Forest (where his Grace of Richmond, General Hawley, and Mr. Pauncfort came in, the latter, however, to little purpose, for beyond the Ruel Hill neither he nor his horse cared to go, so returned to his impatient friends), from thence up the Ruel Hill, left Sherwood on the right hand, crossed Ofham Hill to Southwood, from thence to South 8toke, to the wall of Arundel river, where the glorious twenty-three hounds ran into their fox, and put an end to the campaign ten minutes before six. His Grace of Richmond, Billy Ives, and General Hawley, were the only persons in at the death, to the immortal honour of seventeen stone, and at least as many campaigns.

I. Fenton.