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History of the Dartmoor Hunt

Hunt staff of the Dartmoor Hunt riding through an Dartmoor, Devon village while Hunting with Foxhounds

There have been hounds kept on Dartmoor continuously since the 18th century. Mr. Waltham Savery had hounds in the 1740’s and Mr Paul Ourry Treeby remembers that his father “kept a pack of very good hounds and that John Roberts hunted them. My father gave them to John Bulteel esq. of Flete who died in 1801.” Mr John Spurrell Pode of Slade also had John Roberts as huntsman, until 1827. John Crocker Bulteel of Lyneham then bought the hounds and remained as Master until 1843. He was very keen on producing the best possible pack; so he, with John Roberts, travelled the country in search of the best hounds to buy, sending them back to the kennels by post-chaise. The resulting pack gained a reputation for their “cry” and bold spirit, well-suited to the rough moorland country.

John Roberts was a colourful character in the West Country, always carrying his large curved horn by way of badge-of-office. With a cork in one end, this also served as a drinking cup. On Mr Bulteel’s death, his widow Lady Elizabeth gave the hounds to their friend Charles Trelawney, who established kennels at Woodlands, Ivybridge [where they remained until 1988 ] He hunted the country at his own expense for the next 30 years. He was also a well-known breeder of race-horses and hunters, using a Dartmoor pony-thoroughbred cross. In 1842 he owned the favourite for the Derby, a horse called Coldrenick. But the horse was “nobbled” in the stables the night before the race, and Squire Trelawney gave up the Turf in disgust. His huntsman for 20 years was Thomas “Limpetty” Lavers, followed by Will Boxall. A pathetic story is told that, shortly before his death in 1883, Squire Trelawney asked to see the hounds one more time. They were brought by whipper-in Dick Yeo into Bedford Street, Plymouth, where Trelawney was living at the time; and he gazed down with tears in his eyes from his bedroom window.

On Trelawney’s retirement the pack started to be funded by subscription, and the new Master, for 3 seasons, Mr A Munro was given a guarantee. An Irishman, from Kilkenny, he went on to a successful career as an actor.
 

Foxhounds of the Dartmoor Hunt, out Drag Hunting on Dartmoor Devon.

Admiral Parker then took on for the next 13 years, with Boxall [who was considered one of the finest horsemen in England, having perfect hands and a beautiful seat] and later Dick Yeo as huntsmen. The Admiral handed over the reins to his son-in-law William Coryton. He hunted hounds himself, with Higman as his whipper-in for the 27 seasons that he was Master. Mr Coryton’s record as a huntsman was a long one, starting in 1866 with a pack of Beagles in Hampshire, which he brought to Cornwall, changing them three years later to Harriers until 1873; after which, he hunted the East Cornwall foxhounds for 15 seasons. He had a noted eye for a hound, judging at Peterborough [the premier hound show] on several occasions. He retired in 1916.

Arguably the heyday of the Dartmoor Hunt was the Mastership of Commander C.H. Davey, R.N., O.B.E. from 1919 to 1939. A wealthy bachelor, he re-rebuilt the Hunt to its pre WW I status. He increased the area hunted with the Merrivale country, on loan from the Lamerton; and he ran the hunt on a lavish scale, providing sport to large Fields. His stalwart kennel-huntsman for the time was Sidney Piper Sadly this was all to end when his ship HMS Campeador hit a mine on 22nd June 1940, and he was killed. For the remainder of the war a much reduced establishment continued their fox-control role for the farmers under the acting-mastership of Mr Henn-Genys for the committee.

The job of setting-up again after WW II fell on the shoulders of Mrs. Mary Douglas-Pennant, from the well-known Williams family of Four Barrow FH in Cornwall, with Hon Mrs Peek initially as Joint Master. From 1949 Mary D-P continued alone, hunting hounds herself with Arthur Piper [Sidney’s son] as whipper-in. He tragically died as a result of a fall out hunting, and was replaced by Charlie Pengelly, who had previously served under Commander Davey.

In 1955 Captain Michael Howard M.C. and Mr John Dix took on the Joint Mastership, each hunting hounds two days a week. Mr Dix resigned in 1958, and Major Howard was joined by Capt Bill Peek, Mr Murray Smith and Lt Col W.G. Clarke. Maj Howard was steeped in Dartmoor hunting history, being the grand-son of William Coryton, and the great-grandson of Admiral Parker. This mastership ended in 1961, when Mr Murray-Smith continued for two years with Danny O’Sullivan as huntsman.