The RS Sur­tees So­ci­ety heads north

Though not too far north, on this oc­ca­sion, with the Duke of Beau­fort’s coun­try host­ing the acolytes of the great Vic­to­rian sport­ing novelist

The Field - - Contents - writ­ten BY frank houghton BROWN

Frank Houghton Brown joins the So­ci­ety on its North­ern Trip

Robert Smith Sur­tees was the driv­ing force be­hind the found­ing of The Field in 1853. More than 160 years later, the Robert Smith Sur­tees So­ci­ety, as ec­cen­tric and in­domitable as their hero, re­main de­voted to the man who gave us that hi­lar­i­ous sport­ing gro­cer, Mr Jor­rocks. To cel­e­brate Sur­tees’ legacy, they or­gan­ise three commemorative events an­nu­ally, one of which is The North­ern Trip – an op­por­tu­nity to hunt with dif­fer­ent packs up and down the coun­try. At the end of this year’s ac­tion-packed week­end at Bad­minton House in Fe­bru­ary, mem­bers were ush­ered out through the front door to pose for a pho­to­graph on the steps. As we did, I couldn’t help cast­ing my mind back to the speech at the Goose and Dumpling Din­ner the night be­fore: “Given that the cur­rent Duke is a mem­ber [of the Sur­tees So­ci­ety], and is kindly al­low­ing us to go round Bad­minton, you may be re­mem­ber­ing Hilling­don Hall, where Mr Jor­rocks is in con­ver­sa­tion with the Duke of Don­key­ton:

‘Pray, Mr Jor­rocks, who was your mother?’ in­quired his Grace, af­ter he had bowed and drunk of his wine.

‘Please your Greece, my mother was a wash­er­woman.’

‘A wash­er­woman in­deed!’ ex­claimed his Grace – ‘That’s very odd – I like wash­er­women – nice, clean, whole­some peo­ple – I wish my mother had been a wash­er­woman.’

‘I vish mine had been a Duchess,’ replied Mr Jor­rocks.”

The So­ci­ety’s “North­ern Trip” was started by chair­man Rob Williams, who took over from Lady Pick­thorn in 2011. Since Sur­tees was born at Ham­ster­ley Hall, County Durham, in the Braes of Der­went hunt coun­try, the first tours were to his birth­place to meet at the house where, briefly, he ken­nelled his own pack. Last year, it moved to Sir Humphrey Wake­field’s Chilling­ham Cas­tle in the Percy hunt coun­try. Sir Humphrey, a com­mit­tee mem­ber, has one of the few pri­vate homes in Eng­land that has a sin­gle ta­ble long enough to seat the whole so­ci­ety for the Goose and Dumpling din­ner. This year, be­cause of its un­for­get­table role in the Sur­tees novel, the Cat & Cus­tard Pot Inn at Shipton Moyne in the Duke of Beau­fort’s hunt coun­try was the fo­cal point.

scene for the meet

The epony­mous pub­lic house in Sur­tees’ fa­mous novel, Han­d­ley Cross, was the scene for the meet at which Mr Jor­rocks’ hunts­man, James Pigg, is rather un­kindly made rip-roar­ingly drunk. Our pro­gramme for the week­end had on it that fa­mil­iar greet­ing: “Pigg and Ben trot­ted on with hounds, and when they reached the meet – the sign of The Cat & Cus­tard Pot on Muswell Road – they found a great as­sem­blage, some of whom greeted Pigg with the fa­mil­iar en­quiry ‘What he’d have to drink’.” Pigg was sum­mar­ily fired, leav­ing John Jor­rocks to hunt the hounds him­self. When the fox was all but lost, Pigg was seen on Cam­per­down Hill, “a Welling­ton-statue-like eques­trian with his cap in the air, wav­ing and shout­ing for hard life.” Thanks to Pigg, the hunted fox was brought to book and due to “the ec­stasy of the mo­ment” his master, Mr Jor­rocks, reem­ploys him on the spot.

Ru­pert Boswall was seated at the Fri­day evening din­ner at the Cat & Cus­tard Pot armed with an 1854 edi­tion of Han­d­ley Cross, given by the Master of the buck­hounds in 1867 from the Royal ken­nels, As­cot, in Jor­rocks coun­try. Cap­tain Ian Far­quhar, the

Se­nior Master of the host pack, the Duke of Beau­fort’s, and his wife, Pam­mie-jane, both came along for din­ner with Michael Cun­ning­ham, who was stay­ing with them from the Flint & Den­bigh. There had been a hard frost on Thurs­day night and Cap­tain Far­quhar sug­gested that it was likely the meet the next day at Easton Grey House would be de­layed un­til 12 noon and would be a one-horse day only. Hear­ing this, Johnny Sump­tion, who had brought two horses up from the Taun­ton Vale coun­try with his wife, Hen­ri­etta, of­fered Rob Williams his sec­ond horse there and then, the chair­man hav­ing lamed his a few days be­fore. Af­ter a few phone calls, Charles Stir­ling, a com­mit­tee mem­ber of the So­ci­ety and an ex-am­a­teur hunts­man him­self, agreed to bring Williams some hunt­ing kit in the morn­ing in the hope it would fit.

The Hol­ford Arms, run by the Se­nior Joint Master’s daugh­ter, Vic­to­ria Far­quhar, was the com­fort­able rest­ing place for the ma­jor­ity of Sur­teesians, but John Doble, for­mer high com­mis­sioner to Swazi­land, and his wife, Sue, were bil­let­ing with Si­mon Tom­lin­son as they were at uni­ver­sity to­gether and both Mas­ters of the Ox­ford drag hunt. Cap­tain Peter Jones-davies had trav­elled down from Hex­hamshire in Northum­ber­land with Belinda Speir and had taken over his son’s house for the week­end and com­man­deered his horses as well. Carolyn Humphrey, hound trustee and for­mer Master of the Hurs­ley Ham­ble­don in Hamp­shire, was stay­ing with Beau­fort Hunt chair­man Bobby Faber, while Alas­tair Martin, CEO of the Duchy of Corn­wall, with his wife, Esme, and daugh­ter, Poppy, had rented a cot­tage for the week­end from the High­grove es­tate.

The Cat & Cus­tard Pot pro­duced a hearty break­fast for all-com­ers on Satur­day morn­ing and the meet was post­poned as sug­gested the pre­vi­ous evening. Matt Rams­den, the new young Joint Master and am­a­teur hunts­man, brought the Beau­fort hounds to the front of Michael and Tessa Green’s Easton Grey House at 12 noon and with the frost twin­kling in the sun­light of a bright but no doubt poor scent­ing morn­ing; it looked more like an out­door ex­trav­a­ganza than a meet. Anya Par­doe, a hound trustee of the Wil­ton Hunt near Sal­is­bury, soon cadged a lift on Frank the fence-mender’s quad bike and was bet­ter po­si­tioned than any­one else all day.

The frost slowly eased its way out of the ground and the slip­pery con­di­tions un­der­foot made fol­low­ing the trail dif­fi­cult as they drew out to Pinkney and through Vi’s Bot­tom, a thick covert planted in the bot­tom of a small val­ley by Vi Kingscote, whose hus­band, Cap­tain Mau­rice Kingscote, hunted both the Beau­fort and the Meynell hounds. Mrs Caryl Cross now owns the covert and her daugh­ter, B, was ubiq­ui­tous dur­ing the week­end in many dif­fer­ent roles. Mean­while, the So­ci­ety cam­era­man, Richard Kay, who had never seen hounds be­fore but had been told to “dress to blend in”, was try­ing to stay with them in cam­ou­flage fa­tigues. This caused deep sus­pi­cion among the hunt quad bikes, on a day when an­tis had to be po­litely es­corted from Si­mon Tom­lin­son’s farm by his daugh­ter, Emma. Safely back at the Hol­ford Arms, Kay re­ported that the Beau­fort coun­try­men’s af­fec­tion for Vic­to­rian hunt­ing lit­er­a­ture was “at best luke­warm”.

est­court park

Hounds were busy in the wet­lands and from Si­mon Mur­ray Wells’ Pond Farm, and a busy day fin­ished in the beau­ti­ful sur­rounds of the his­toric Est­court Park, where the Beau­fort bitch pack fol­lowed the trail with a great cry around the grass park­land and away to­wards Tet­bury. Alas­tair Martin, who, among other things, was chair­man of the Mendip Farm­ers Hunt, com­mented af­ter­wards that Rob Williams had come “with no kit, even­tu­ally sourc­ing all from an ail­ing fox­hunter half his size and set­ting off with an aplomb that our hero, Jor­rocks, would have been proud of. In fact, the whole thing was rather Sur­teesian.”

The day­light was draw­ing out and with a late fin­ish, not much time to change into white tie and tails be­fore the Goose and Dumpling Din­ner at Chave­nage House, the Lowsley-williams’ home and set­ting for the Poldark TV se­ries, where we again found B Cross there to help. “There are two things in the world that there is sel­dom any mis­take about,” Sur­tees writes in Haw­buck

He sourced his kit from a fox­hunter half his size and set off with an aplomb Jor­rocks would have been proud of

Grange, “the smell of a fox and the smell of roast goose”.

Mr Trumper’s har­ri­ers are called “The Goose and Dumpling Hunt” be­cause they dine on goose and ap­ple pud­ding at each other’s houses af­ter the first day’s hunt­ing in each week. They had, ac­cord­ing to Sur­tees, “fully sat­is­fied them­selves that they are the finest, hearti­est cocks in the king­dom, and their hounds the best that ever were seen”.

Lord and Lady Cope of Berke­ley and lo­cal MP James Gray and his wife, Philippa, are mem­bers who just came to the din­ner, while Benoit Guerin drove down from York­shire for the fes­tiv­i­ties, be­ing about to join the master­ship of the Am­ple­forth bea­gles as they move back to the Col­lege grounds in the val­ley at Am­ple­forth af­ter an ab­sence of some years.

A late night at Chave­nage was fol­lowed by an early break­fast and a tour of the gar­dens at High­grove, ar­ranged by Alas­tair Martin. A quick turn­around and a Book of Com­mon Prayer church ser­vice at Lit­tle Bad­minton, with a visit to the Bad­minton ken­nels to fol­low. There, Cap­tain Far­quhar and Matt Rams­den played off each other like a well-re­hearsed dou­ble act as they es­poused the virtues of the Welsh out­cross. At one point, the Cap­tain men­tioned that he had not wanted too much Welsh blood in the pack. This was too much for sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian Llan­ishen so­lic­i­tor Huw James. Nor­mally the qui­etest mem­ber of the vis­it­ing Sur­teesians, he opened from the back of the pack: “And what’s wrong with too much Welsh blood?” Ken­nel hunts­man Nick Hop­kins showed us a wide spec­trum of hounds with great aplomb and, for many, this was the high­light of the trip.

A huge roast lunch at Vic­to­ria Far­quhar’s pub pre­ceded our fi­nal fling: the tour of Bad­minton House. “Only the So­ci­ety could get two canons at the side door of a ducal res­i­dence,” quipped the chair­man as the Rev­erend Canon Mul­hol­land greeted so­ci­ety mem­ber the Rev­erend Canon John Fel­lows. This was im­me­di­ately crowned by our guide, who shot back: “And these two canons have both been re­cently fired”.

Like a top hound that’s in it from the find to the fin­ish, B Cross had been our host at Vi’s Bot­tom covert, our wait­ress at Chave­nage and here she was again, help­ing the good Rev­erend show us round the house and point­ing out the room where the game of Bad­minton was in­vented when the weather was too in­clement to play games out­side.

As we sep­a­rated for an­other year to our cars and homes up and down the coun­try, I over­heard a com­ment that summed up the feel­ing: “Only the Sur­tees So­ci­ety would put sev­eral cou­ple of ex-mfhs, a serv­ing MP, Rev­erend Canons of the Church, a Sur­geon Com­man­der of the Royal Navy, the for­mer High Com­mis­sioner of Swazi­land, the CEO of the Duchy of Corn­wall, John Ma­jor’s chief whip and Cap­tain Far­quhar in the same place for a whole week­end”.

Only the So­ci­ety could get two canons at the side door of a ducal res­i­dence

Matt Rams­den, Master and hunts­man of the Duke of Beau­fort’s, who led the field for the RS Sur­tees So­ci­ety’s day

Above: hounds – with not too much Welsh blood – at the Duke of Beau­fort’s ken­nels at Bad­minton. Above right: Cap­tain Ian Far­quhar MFH show­ing the RS Sur­tees So­ci­ety round. Right: plac­ard at Bad­minton House

Above and top: at­tend­ing a ser­vice at St Michael and All An­gels, Lit­tle Bad­minton. Top right: scene of the Goose and Dumpling Din­ner. Right: the So­ci­ety with the Rev­erend Canon Mul­hol­land

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