The Middleton Hunt

About the Hunt


The early history of foxhunting in the Middleton country is closely bound up with that of the adjoining Holderness, and in fact the two were hardly separate countries. As far back as 1726, Squire Draper of Beswick formed a pack with the help of Sir Mark Constable. Having but £600 a year, and eleven sons and three daughters, he was necessarily frugal in his habits. Never-theless, his hounds had a great reputation for the sport they showed over the wild, uncultivated wolds, which were 'worth 2s. 6d. an acre and hard work to pay at that."

Another name that crops up about this time is that of Sir Thomas Gascoigne, who is also mentioned in connection with the Bramham Moor. During the 1780's Lord Mexborough, Mr. Bumper Saville and Sir Walter Vavasour all hunted the wolds, and the Duke of Devonshire kept a pack at Londesborough. At this time the East Yorkshire Hunt Club was formed at Driffield. Jn 1788 a triumvirate consisting of Lord Carlisle, Mr. Compton, and Mr. Willoughby (afterwards Lord Middleton) were hunting the Middleton country, the hounds being kennelled at Castle Howard. Mr. Darley, of Darley Arabian fame, had previously kept hounds at Aldby Park, and these he sold to Earl Spencer. In 1799 the whole of the East Riding was hunted by Mr. Duncombe (later Lord Feversham) from Fangfoss.

From this somewhat tangled skein we emerge in 1804, for in that year the Sykes of Sledmere make their appearance on the scene. In that year Sir Mark Masterman Sykes, and his brother Mr. Tatton Sykes, bought Lord Feversham's hounds and established kennels at Eddlethorpe. Two years later there was a Committee consisting of Sir Mark Sykes, Mr. Watt, and Mr. Digby Legard, the pack being known as the Confederate Hounds. They hunted an enormous territory from Coxwold to Spurn Point, including a lot of York and Ainsty country, who acceded to the western side when that Hunt was formed in 1815. Mr. Legard then took over the Holderness side, and Sir Mark continued to hunt the Middleton country till his death in 1823.

Sir Tatton Sykes then took over, and hunted the country for the next fifty years. No greater Yorkshire sportsman ever lived. Foxhunting, agriculture, bloodstock breeding, and racing formed his whole life. The two Carters, father and son, were bis huntsmen. The foundation of his kennel was the Warwick-shire Trojan blood, and when Lord Middleton gave up the Warwickshire in 1822 be made a further present of ten couple. Lord Middleton purchased the Sykes hounds in 1822 and hunted the country from Birdsall for two seasons, after which Sir Tatton repurchased the pack. At the age of 78 Sir Tatton never missed a day, hacking on to covert, and holding his place with men half his age when hounds were running hard over the wolds. He gave up his hounds in 1853, and died ten years later, at the age of 91.

On Sir Tatton's resignation the Hon. H. Willoughby bought the hounds and built the Birdsall kennels, and for the next seventy years the hounds were known as Lord Middleton's, under the eighth and ninth Barons. It was the eighth Baron who laid the foundations of a pack that were to become famous under his successor, breeding consistently to Milton and Bentinck. He himself was a fine amateur huntsman, quiet in his handling of hounds, quick in his decisions, with a beautiful voice and note on the horn. The Birdsall kennels were a model in their lay-out, and were the prototype for many other establishments

Lord Middleton died in 1877, and was succeeded by his son, the ninth Baron, whose Mastership lasted forty-three seasons. It was the latter's genius as a hound breeder that put the Bird-sall kennel right in the front rank. Owing to an old injury, Lord Middleton was never able to hunt hounds himself, and could in fact do little more than ride out on his cob to see them draw. His two brothers acted as Field Masters, but it was Lord Middleton himself who attended to every detail of the Hunt, and who did the hound breeding. The Hunt staff were always beautifully mounted on horses of his lordship's own breeding. His huntsmen were, in succession, Will Burton, Will Grant, and George Leaf, from the Pytchley. In 1907, Leaf went to the Quorn in place of Tom Bishop, who came to Birdsall.

Lord Middleton died in 1921, and the Hunt thenceforward has been known as the Middleton. Lord Grimthorpe and Lieut.-Colonel Malcolm Borwick now took the joint Master-ship, the latter hunting the East side with a separate pack. From 1923 to 1925, Lord Grimthorpe hunted the East side with amateur assistance, after which Captain T. L. Wickham-Boynton hunted this side of the country with 20 couple from the Birdsall kennel. Mr. R. W. Lund continued as Hunt Secretary for the whole area, till succeeded by Colonel A. E. J. Wilson. In 1934 the Middleton East became a separate Hunt, with Captain Wickham-Boynton as Master, Mr. Adrian Scrope as Chairman, and Mr. Eric C. Dee as Secretary. Ken-nels were provided by Sir Richard Sykes at Sledmere. Mean-while Lord Grimthorpe resigned temporarily from the joint Mastership, Colonel Borwick continuing to hunt the Middleton country four days a week, till his resignation in 1931. There were few men who knew more about hound breeding, and the results of his work at Birdsall were - and still are-there for all to see. It may be said that under his management the hounds attained their zenith, and on leaving the country for the Pytchley, he left behind him a beautifully bred pack. All the old Middleton lines had been resuscitated, while skilful use was made of such outside sires as the Cleveland Ranger and South and West Wilts Godfrey.

In 1932 there began the popular and successful joint Master-ship of Lord Halifax and Lord Grimthorpe. The latter hunted the dog-hounds two days a week, while the professional hunted the bitch pack on the other two. Lord Halifax, though much involved with his public duties, did great work in the southern end of the courltry, looking after the farmers and getting down the wire, while Lord Grimthorpe worked up the Friday and Monday country, having much assistance from Colonel Deakin and others.

Meanwhile, in the East country Captain Wickham-Boynton was joined in the Mastership by Sir Richard Sykes who, how-ever, went on active service on the outbreak of war. Captain Wickham-Boynton died in November 1942, at the age of 7 l; thus passed a great sportsman, active to the last in the cause of fox-hunting, and one of the great bloodstock breeders of his time, at his Buruton Agnes Stud. Mrs. Wickham-Boynton then carried on as Master till her death in 1947.

In 1943 the Sledmere kennels were required for agricultural purposes, and Langtofi Mill was purchased with money sub-scribed by farmers. It had been arranged that Major T. H. J. Gillam should undertake the Mastership following the death of Mrs. Wickham-Boynton, but he was killed in an accident before the season started. His place was taken by Miss Cynthia Gillam (Mrs. Murray Wells), with Fred I'avitt as huntsman. In 1949, Mr. E. W. Wrigley succeeded Miss Gillam, and continued as Master till the country was reunited in 1953, under its present title of the Middleton and Middleton Fast.

Meanwhile, to return to the Middleton country, Lord Halifax, on becoming Foreign Secretary in 1938, retired from the joint Mastership, his place being taken by his son, the Hon. Charles Wood, afterwards Lord Irwin. On the outbreak of war, both joint Masters rejoined their regiments, and a Com-mittee, under Colonel A. J. Wilson, took charge. Joe Wright hunting hounds, and the pack being reduced to about 25 couple.

At the conclusion of hostilities Lord Halifax and Lord Irwin resumed their joint Mastership. When the two sides of the country were reunited in 1953, Mr. Wrigley came in as third Master of the Middleton and Middleton East. Lord Irwin made a tremendous success of hunting hounds in the Wednes-day and Saturday country, and D. Sturgeon hunted hounds on Mondays and Fridays. Mr. W. D. Pinkney came in as fourth joint Master in 1958, but at the end of the 1959-60 season Mr. Wrigley retired from the Mastership and Miss Anne Brotherton joined Lord Halifax, formerly Lord Irwin, and Mr. Pinkney. Lord Halifax and Dennis Sturgeon hunt the hounds. Mr. Eric Dee continues as Hunt Secretary on the Wold side, while Brigadier I. Watson acts in a similar capacity on the Malton side. All hounds are once more kennelled at Birdsall.

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