OUR HISTORY

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About the NCH

The North Cotswold Hunt has been described as ‘one of the most notable of the smaller Hunts’. The earliest record of foxhunting in the North Cotswolds dates back to 1772, when the area was part of the vast hunting ground of the Earls of Berkeley. A link to this period survives in the distinctive primrose collar worn by Hunt members. In 1868 the North Cotswold Hunt was established with the Earl of Coventry maintaining the pack at his own expense. In 1867 it had finally been agreed that the North of the Cotswold country needed a separate pack in order to hunt it efficiently. The Earl of Coventry was the first Master, and as such the source of the coronet on the Hunt button. In 1873 when Lord Coventry stepped down local landowners and businessman agreed to continue and thereby created the subscription pack which remains to this day.

The hunt’s country, which is centred on the town of Broadway, covers some 250 square miles of the northern end of Gloucestershire and the southern corner of Worcestershire. The North Cotswold country, which includes the beautiful rolling hills around Guiting and Kineton, is typical of the Cotswolds’ light land, while heavier pasture predominates in the Vale of Evesham.

Steeped in tradition

The whole North Cotswold area is steeped in hunting tradition and hunting is a major contributor to the local economy. In response to the Hunting Act 2004 the Hunt’s constitution has been amended. Our objectives are now to work for the reintroduction of lawful hunting and to continue breeding foxhounds in order to retain their bloodlines. We will also continue to foster the very biodiversity that we have helped create and conserve for almost 150 years in our small part of the beautiful Cotswold countryside.

Visitors who wish to hunt on a horse are most welcome and should make prior arrangements with the hunt Hon. Secretary

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Read all about our heritage

The North Cotswold Hounds have an illustrious history. The present pack was founded in 1807 by Lord Fitzhardinge (Colonel Berkeley), one of the great names in the history of Hound-breeding: “Fitzhardinge blood” is famous to the present day.

The motto of the Berkeley kennel has always been “breed for WORK rather than LOOKS”, and though at one time all sorts of markings were seen, from lemon, blue pie, to the more orthodox Belvoir tan, yet for performance in the field nothing could surpass the products of this famous establishment. Harry Ayris, who was Lord Fitzhardinge’s huntsman for over forty years, was largely responsible for the excellence of the pack. Berkeley Cromwell, bred by him in 1855, was one of the most noted stallion hounds of his time, and his name comes into many of the pedigrees of the present day. In forming his pack, Lord Fitzhardinge went to the kennels of the Duke of Beaufort, Lord Yarnborough, Lord Fitzwilliam and the Duke of Rutland, these being the four great “family packs” on which the breed of the Foxhound rests; but in his selection of sires he insisted first on honest workers, with plenty of music.

Of Ayris, who joined the staff in 1826, it was said that ‘In this office he has distinguished himself as a most skilful artist, and a determined enemy to a fox; he adopts that sensible and truly hunting idea of Beckford’s of “not intruding his own opinion till the sagacity of the hound is at fault.” If a fox continues above ground, he must be a wonderful good one to beat Harry Ayris and the Berkeley Hounds.’

The fortunes of pack were assured when in 1868 Lord Coventry took the northern part of the Cotswold country, and the North Cotswold Hunt came into being. In Lord Coventry we find a figure in the hunting world almost as notable as Lord Fitzhardinge himself, for the Earl was one of the greatest Hound-breeders of his time. When he re-established the Croome in 1874, which Hunt bore his name during his Mastership, its kennel had the highest reputation. Lord Coventry’s Rambler (1873) was one of the outstanding sires of his time, the blood being much sought after. Here again we come back to Lord Fitzhardinge, for Rambler was by his Collier (1866) out of Lord Henry Bentinck’s Ransom (1868), who was by Mr Henry Chaplin’s Regulus. Thus we have the Berkeley blood combined with that of the Old Bourton, going back to Lord Monson’s sort; and stouter breeding cannot well be imagined. It will suffice to say that at a later date Lord Willoughby de Broke built up the Warwickshire kennel to a very great extent on bitches by Lord Coventry’s Rambler.

On Lord Coventry’s departure to the Croome in 1874, accompanied by his hounds, his successor, Mr Algernon Rushout, had to set about getting a fresh pack together. This he did with the help of Lord Fitzhardinge, the Blankney also supplying some of his needs as did Lord Coventry himself. On resigning the Mastership 23 years later, in 1896, Mr Rushout sold the hounds to his successor, Captain Cyril Stacey.

 

They were sold again in 1901 to Mr Charles McNeill, whose Mastership is particularly notable for the excellence of the hounds he bred at Broadway. Mr McNeill retained only the bitches and sold the dog hounds to Lord Portman. He then set himself to build a pack of the highest standard, both in field and kennel. Deciding to hunt a bitch pack only, he purchased a further twenty-five couple from the Atherstone, Quorn, Pytchley, Duke of Beaufort’s and Mr Fernie’s. For sires he went principally to Belvoir, and the results in the case of the Atherstone bitches proved the most successful. The well-known authority, Mr Cuthbert Bradley, in his book, The Foxhound of the XXth Century, writes of the North Cotswold at this time: ‘Such was the pack – twenty-five couple of bitches matched in type and colouring, Belvoir in character and outline and remarkable for muscular backs, strong quarters and well-sprung ribs. In chase they were as deep-noted as dog-hounds, and, with nothing older than a five-season hunter, they presented the zenith of beauty and vigour. In the field they were a determined lot of ladies that meant catching their fox at the finish; for a faster era of sport, Mr McNeill carrying the horn, had a Leicestershire air about it, thought the scene was the North Cotswold stone wall country.’ The reference to Leicestershire is particularly apt, for Mr McNeill had previously hunted in the Shires, and had studied the methods of Tom Firr with the Quorn.

Dan Reid, the kennel huntsman at this time, must be given his share of the success of the kennel. Many successes were gained on the flags at Peterborough at this time, the most notable being that of Pilgirm (’05), by Belvoir Handel out of Atherstone Pitiful. When shown at Peterborough by Sir John Hume Campbell and MR C T Scott (Joint Masters), Mr McNeill’s successors, Pilgrim was awarded the Championship for bitches.

On his accession in 1906, Sir John purchased 42 couple of bitches from Mr McNeill for the sum of £3,600. After Sir John’s departure in 1910, Mr Scott carried on alone, hunting hounds himself, having Jack Hewitt as kennel huntsman. Two packs were kept in kennel, small and big bitches, for the hill and vale country respectively, with a few dog-hounds. These were made up of some of Mr McNeill’s old sort, some from the Holderness and a few from Lord Fitzhardinge. In the meantime, Sir John had taken his bitch pack into Berwickshire, but on his giving up the Mastership in 1912 his pack was dispersed, and Mr Scott purchased some and brought them back to Broadway. A lighter type of Hound was now aimed at, standing shorter in the leg than formerly and well ribbed-up; more suitable, in fact for the country.

By 1924 the North Cotswold was under the Mastership of one of the finest amateur huntsmen in the country, Mr Hilton Green. J Thompson was his kennel huntsman at this time. In hound breeding, he used sires from the Duke of Beaufort’s and the Berkeley, which blood he had used previously with great success in the Mendip kennel.