The history of the Wilton Hunt

Longford Castle, home of the 9th Earl of Radnor and President of the Wilton Hunt

In 1869 the 4th Earl of Radnor was petitioned by local farmers and landowners to establish a pack of foxhounds. This he did, hunting land which had previously been hunted on occasion by the Tedworth and the South and West Wilts. In 1884 Lord Somerton took over the mastership and during his three seasons it became the Cranborne. He was succeeded by the Earl of Pembroke followed by the 5th Earl of Radnor who hunted hounds himself and during his seven seasons bred a high quality pack the best known of which was Besom’96.


In 1897 Mr Walter de P. Cazenove became Master, hounds moved to their present kennels on the edge of Wilton Park and the hunt’s name was changed to the Wilton. Previously out going masters had dispersed their hounds elsewhere, but the pack now remained at Netherhampton. Passing next to Mr Curtis Gallop and then in 1903 to Lt Col Cartwright who remained in office for 19 years. Maurice Sweetman was his huntsman and continued to hunt hounds during the 1WW despite both whippers–in and the Master being away on military service. During the economic depression of the 1920’s and 30’s, a poor scenting country with few natural jumps like the Wilton was fortunate to have a succession of wealthy masters to preserve it.


In the late 1930s Col. Phillips and the Countess of Radnor formed a popular Mastership. She had previously hunted her own pack of harriers kennelled at the family seat Longford Castle. In 1926 Tim Tillbrook became huntsman and was later succeeded by his son Tom; they helped Col. Phillips maintain a basic pack through the 2WW.


In 1959 after an unsettled period the late Earl of Radnor commenced his long Mastership, with Douglas Mann as Chairman. In 1967 Willie Poole the celebrated sporting writer took over as Master and huntsman for four seasons. During the 1970’s there was a reliance on drafts and sadly the old blood lines that had been maintained since the hunt’s formation were lost.


In 1978 it was the turn of local farmer Angus Mann. With his family connections (his father and two of his uncles had been distinguished masters); he was able to start re-establishing the pack. This work was continued by James Bouskell and his wife Jenny. The next nine years saw an increase in the Wilton’s profile, with larger fields, a concerted jump building program and a good rapport with the shooting community.

 

 

James Bouskell

1935 - 2010

Obituary taken from the October 2012 newsletter

 

Early memories for me of James was of a very well turned out Sportsman, who, when his mind was made up, was awfully difficult to persuade otherwise! Sportsmen countrywide have benefited from this single-minded approach to all things Rural. In my view he personally did more to promote a love of country pursuits in the younger generation than anyone else I’ve known.

 

His love of the chase spilled over when still at Marlborough College when he and Nick Wykes, in 1952, started the Marlborough College Beagles. They hunted the hounds themselves and kept the hounds in a disused lawnmower shed on the school playing fields! This entrepreneurial spirit was the lodestar of James’s life, which gave the “drive” and determination to see things through to his satisfaction.

 

Generations of Marlborough school boys got the hunting “Bug” as part of their “education” and many went on to become MFH’s and guide the fondness of hunting that so many of us still enjoy.Whilst benefiting from James’s early leadership I only got to know him through my involvement with the Wilton Hunt. As a Farmer and Shoot owner at West Park he became a friend and councillor with the tortuous demands of Hunting and Shooting. West Park was a small family-run shoot - much advertised as such by the Game Conservancy.

 

I learnt a lot from James on the etiquette of the two sports and how to appreciate the other man’s point of view. Equally, one knew immediately that you were talking to a man of his word. I certainly tried hard to keep my part of the bargain during these years! 

 

In 1983, at a meet of the Lockyers I noticed James with Dick Hill, who of course had head hunted him as a prospective master! He was at that time District Commissioner of the Wilton Pony Club and  those involved were very reluctant to see their DC whisked away as a MFH albeit of the Wilton. There was one unknown factor for James in his appointment of MFH, since he had only limited riding experience. Typically he tackled this omission head-on, put himself in Tina Yarrow’s hands, and in no time at all looked as though he had been riding all his life.

 

His Mastership for nearly a decade, latterly joined by Jenny, was essentially a family affair. No one can hold office for long without enormous back up from wife and family, and this James had in full measure. A constant supply of lovely horses, a farm in the country and a detailed knowledge of all shooting calendars plus a loyal hunt staff enabled the master to spend time doing what he became so renowned namely MFH diplomacy. No stone was left unturned to ensure hounds and shooting men got the best deal, day after day. We all became bewitched by his requests and, whatever was said, you always ended up giving much, much more than one had intended! He did have a short spell hunting the hounds, wringing the utmost enjoyment from his position. His fixture list, after exhaustive research of shooting dates, is still used as a basis for todays hunting.  

 

There were many speaking appointments requested which I know James fulfilled eloquently on behalf of hunting, shooting and the Game Conservancy. In 1992 Jenny carried on the good work and James stood back to concentrate on the estate, his beloved Marlborough beagles and the creation of dozens of lakes and ponds for his annual pond days. Again turning a hobby into a consultancy business. An invitation to one of these days was not to be missed. Every rural business man was there exhibiting or taking part and as usual the Master had an encouraging word for everyone.

 

His second mastership of the beagles and subsequent chairmanship from 1995 – 2010 was a particularly challenging time in acting as a go between the School authorities and Hunt Supporters. He used his considerable negotiating skills to obtain fundraising for a part-time kennel huntsman and re-locating the pack to the Tedworth Hunt Kennels. The subsequent amalgamation of hunt-countries with the Palmer Beagles has been a great success and is still staffed by the college boys.

 

A serious heart operation was a mere inconvenience in the early ‘90’s. He showed us all how to press on with life, enhancing many, exhausting others! The Marlborough Beagles Mastership in 1995 – 1997, Africa, Jazz Festivals, Pond Consultancy all gave us the rich embroidery that was James’s life.To Jenny, Louisa and Henry heartfelt condolences in the knowledge they had seen and been part of a life well lived.

 

Angus Mann

 

Throughout the Mastership of James Bouskell and for many seasons before Dick Hill was the Hon Sec and he was joined by Helen Randall in 1997. Following James Bouskell The Wilton had a number of hard working Joint Masters and in 1998 Mark Hankinson came from Shropshire to hunt hounds. He was joined over the years by Lady Traill, Mrs Bouskell, Lady Cobham, Major Snodgrass, Oliver Coward, Malcolm Batters and Min Lockyer. Dick Hill completed 28 years as Hon Sec before he retires and Mark Hankinson retired in 2012. Former whip, Josh Cameron, hunted hounds from 2013 to 2016. Hounds are now hunted by Freddie Morby (new for 2016/7 season)  with Masters Richard James, Min Lockyer, Helen Nash-Steer and Russell Lucas-Rowe as joint Masters. Our kennel huntsman remains James Marshall who has cared so well for hounds over many years.