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Stag Hunts at Wickhamford in 1865 and 1868

Hunting is a controversial subject nowadays, but it was  a part of country life for many centuries.  The accounts below from the 1860s are taken from newspapers of the time and the terminology used is that found in those reports.

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Duke d'Aumale
Duke d'Aumale.

The Worcester Chronicle of 5th April 1865 gave a report of stag hunt that commenced at Wickhamford the previous day.  The Duke and Duchess of d’Aumale had a chateau at Woodnorton, near Evesham, and they had a great interest in hunting.  On Tuesday, 4th April, their third stag hunt took place and it started at the Sandys Arms, Wickhamford.  The meet began at the Northwick Arms, Evesham, where several hundreds of ladies and gentlemen from Worcester, Gloucester, Tewkesbury, Cheltenham, Stratford-upon-Avon and neighbouring villages assembled.   Amongst the riders were the Duke and Duchess d'Aumale, the Prince de Joinville, the Prince de Conde and the Duke de Chartres.  The weather was beautifully fine and the exact spot for uncarting the deer was not generally known, but a move was made towards the Broadway Hills.  At a field near the Sandys Arms the “antlered tenant of the glen” was liberated from his bondage and he bounded off in the direction of the hills.  After running some distance he changed direction and took off through Pebworth to Stratford.  The hounds were eventually called in near Oldminster, near Stratford, when the stag gained his liberty and was not afterwards found.

1871 sketch of a de-horned stag being released for a hunt.

The Worcester Journal of 12th December 1868 reported in greater detail on a hunt that took place on the 10th December.  A splendid pack of the Surrey Stag Hounds had been brought to Evesham from Epsom, by the Duke d’Aumale, and they stayed the night at Woodnorton.  The following day, a luncheon was served for the hunting party at the Northwick Arms.  The Crown Prince of Prussia had been visiting at Witley Court and it was rumoured that he would be present for the hunt, but this was not the case.  

A splendid stud of hunters were sent to Evesham from Woodnorton stables to await the arrival of the Royal party.   At 11.00, the Duke and his brothers arrived, together with the Earl of Coventry. Mr Heathcote, the master of the hounds arrived in a waggonette and pair.  Shortly afterwards others arrived – the Duchess d’Aumale, Countess of Coventy, Countess de Clinchamps, the Count of Paris. Prince de Joinville, Duke of Chartres and the Duke de Guise.  As they proceeded to the luncheon room the box containing the stag arrived and everyone was eager to know where the hunt would begin.   Wickhamford was suggested by the spectators, as that was where the previous hunt had begun.

Eventually, the stag-box was driven out of the yard of the Northwick Arms, towards the bridge and then turned onto the road to Wickhamford.  As the cortege proceeded along the Wickhamford Road it presented a truly imposing appearance.   The line of carriages and pairs with postilions and waggonettes containing gaily dressed ladies stretched further than the eye could see, together with 300 or 400 horsemen, and a great many ladies on horseback.  Every available space between them was occupied by pedestrians, so the whole appeared as a massive moving body.

At Wickhamford, there was a vast assembly of the inhabitants of all the surrounding villages, anxious to obtain a glimpse of the royal party and the stag.  The stag-box passed by the meadow by the Sandys Arms, where it was expected that the stag would be loosed, and some disappointment was felt.  It was drawn on until it arrived at Willersey-lane where a halt was made and the door of the box was unfastened.

Immediately, a remarkably fine stag, with head erect, walked slowly out.   He stood for a few seconds, took a survey all around him, and then, apparently having satisfied himself, quickly trotted across the field in the direction of Willersey.   After about five minutes the pack of hounds arrived, attended by Mr Colstock.   In the first field, the hounds did not take up the scent strongly, but on crossing the road, it was taken up keenly and away they went in full cry.   The hounds were stopped in Willersey, to give the stag a longer start, and they then set off in the direction of Broadway.  The chase went up into the hill by Broadway Tower, past Middle Hall, residence of Sir Thomas Phillips, then to Springhilll and Blockley.  It crossed the railway at Blockley Station with the hounds in hot pursuit, then on to Lord Redesdale’s residence at Batsford Park and away to Aston Magna.   The stag was safely taken after a run of three hours.

During the run, falls were numerous and several accidents took place with injuries to both horses and riders, one London gentleman fracturing his thigh.  Only a fraction of the horsemen were still present at the finish as most dropped off and made there way back to Evesham in twos and threes.  It was late in the evening before the hounds and royal party returned to Woodnorton after a splendid day’s sport.

Wickhamford hunters ?

At the time of these hunts, Wickhamford Manor was still owned by the Sandys Family, but they lived in their main residence, Ombersley Court.  The 4th Baron Sandys, Augustus Frederick Arthur, had been born in 1840, so was in his twenties at this time and may well have participated in the hunts.   The Manor was rented to John Nind in the 1860s and, as he was born around 1830, he may have ridden.  The Elms, was occupied by Francis Taylor. He was born in about 1828, and if he was a horseman he might have been involved.  Pitchers Hill Farm was in the tenancy of William Smith, but he was possibly too old to have taken part, being born in about 1813.  Robert Taylor, of Field Farm was born in about 1828, so may have ridden.  George Smith, son of the miller, Samuel Smith, was in his twenties, so of the right age to hunt, if he was a horseman.  At the Sandys Arms, there were no potential riders, but the blacksmith, Charles New, may have been busy replacing lost horseshoes.

Tom Locke – August 2022