History of Mid Devon Foxhounds
The Mid Devon country today runs from Meldon Reservoir in the West with the old A30 as its northern boundary. Through Okehampton towards the villages of Sticklepath, South Tawton and onward towards Langtree Cross and then up the main North Tawton road to the railway line and then along the railway line to Colebrooke passing Bowbeer and Hillerton cross on route. The boundary turns south then east at Binneford before arriving in Cheriton Bishop. From here we drop into Dunsford before turning back towards Doccombe and Moreton. From here the boundary keeps to the right of the main road all the way to Postbridge. From Postbridge the East Dart river forms the boundary as it rises to the High Moor and its source at Darthead. The country can be neatly divided into two. In the north the country is divided into small farms rearing mainly sheep and cattle, although as we travel further north there are large tracts of arable land. To the south the country runs across Dartmoor from Meldon in the West to Postbridge in the East.
Much of the Mid-Devon history dates from 1793 although records held by the Bragg family dating back to 1604 were destroyed in a fire at Furlong. In 1793 George Bragg hunted hounds and continued to do so for a further 29 seasons. In 1822 Mr Bragg handed control of the pack to the Reverend William Clack. Hounds were kennelled at his Rectory in Moretonhampstead and for two seasons he hunted hounds himself.
In 1825 Mr Clack was joined in the mastership by Colonel Stevenson and their joint mastership continued without rancour for some 32 seasons. However in 1857 a disagreement arose between the two and the pack disbanded and hounds sold.
The following season Mr Thomas Westlake brought his pack of Harriers to Sandy Park and continued to hunt both hare and fox for a number of seasons before moving his kennels to Moreton. Mr Westlake was by all accounts partly deaf but still managed to show fine sport. He was also famed for the long distances he would hack after a day’s hunting. He was the owner of a number of small holdings which were scattered around the country and on his way home he would make detours to collect rent due often going miles out of his way.
In 1865 Mr Westlake gave up the Mid Devon country and moved his hounds to the South Devon country near Newton Abbot. When left the Mid Devon Messrs W.N and G.A Bragg son’s of the previous Master decided to start a private pack. This was accomplished and for four seasons excellent sport was shown. However ill fortune struck the Mastership and two outbreaks of rabies broke out in 1878 and again later when the pack was replaced. On the second occasion the pack was replaced by thirteen and half couple of hounds from Ireland.
In 1889 the Masters presented the hounds to the Committee of the Mid Devon Hunt. In that year Mr Lowndes Norton took the Mastership and built the kennels at Chagford. Richard Yeo hunted hounds. Upon his retirement Mr Norton was succeeded by Mr Salisbury Thomas who previously hunted a pack in South Devon. The hounds were hunted by Mr Thomas with Herbert Sanders as Kennel Hunstman. Mr Thomas subsequently left for the Radnor and West Hereford and then to the United Foxhounds. In 1892 Mr Norton returned to the Mastership with Mr George Hayter-Hames, George Bailey being taken on as Huntsman. The next season Mr Windham Holly joined the Mastership which lasted until 1894. George Bailey was retained as Huntsman and Herbert Sanders as whipper-in.
In 1894 Mr John Byres-Lake took over as Master and stayed for three seasons until 1897 when the hounds were taken over by Mr Gilbert Spiller who hunted hounds himself until 1902. In 1902 Mr Loraine Bell took hounds but at the end of his second season moved to Ireland to take the East Galway. Mr Spiller offered to hunt the country again but was anything but satisfied with the hounds left by Bell. The Committee attempted to sell the hounds but no offers were forthcoming so all but three and a half couple were put down. In a very short time Mr Spiller put together a useful pack showing excellent sport hunting the hounds himself with Tom Parsons coming from the Lamerton as kennel huntsmen. Mr Spiller continued until 1908 when the Committee took on the hounds for one season.
Mr L. T Newberry took the hounds for one season before Col Carter began his four year tenure with twenty three couple of hounds in the kennel and hunting two days a week. Upon his retirement in 1914 Col Carter was succeeded by Captain C G Huntress before he rejoined his regiment with the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. From this time until 1936 when Major Bert Arden came along and wanted to start up the Mid Devon once again, the Hunt remained dormant. However there were a number of obstacles not least that part of the country ‘Bert’ Arden wanted to hunt was subject to a loan agreement between the Mid and South Devon which had come to an end in 1917. This caused mounting tensions between the two Hunts and led to many acrimonious meetings. The matter was referred to the MFHA and resolved in April 1937. The deal agreed that the boundary to the east would be the main Moreton to Princetown road which remains until this day.
After the war the Hunt began to prosper and Major Arden carried the horn until 1952, he returned again to the Mastership between 1964 to 1971. Between 1952 and 1964 Charles Hooley and Mrs Joan Pope became Masters with Charles Hooley hunting hounds. In 1958 Bernard Parker arrived at kennels and became Kennel Huntsmen and later Huntsmen until 1999 when he retired. During his time Bernard Parker served under a succession of Masters including Mr David Allen 1971 – 1976, Major ‘Jock’ Mclean 1976 – 1980, Mr Chris Godfrey 1980 – 1986, Mr Mike Hickmott and Mr Jim Vickers 1987 – 1988, Mr and Mrs Hickmott 1988 – 1991, Mr Hickmott and Dr Richard Keith who were later joined by Mr Graham Pope until 1999 when Mr Hugo de Ferranti joined the Mastership. This year, 1999 saw the retirement as Huntsmen of Bernard Parker after 40 years with the Hunt and the arrival of Huntsman Guy Allman from the Golden Valley and previously the Heythrop.
This coincided with a number of changes to the Mastership with Mr Robert Barkwell, Mr George Lyon-Smith, Mr Graham Pope and Mr Hugo de Ferranti continuing until 2003 when Mr Graham Pope left to live in France. The three remaining Masters ensured the Hunt continued to thrive through the ban and beyond with some great sport.
In 2007 Mr Robert Barkwell resigned from the Mastership and was replaced by Mr Paul Ridgers. The Masters were joined by Mr Anthony Jervoise in 2009.
In 2011 our Masters Messrs George Lyon-Smith, Hugo de Ferranti, Paul Ridgers and Anthony Jervoise and our Huntsman Guy Allman left the Mid Devon Hunt and were replaced by Charlie Shirley-Beavan who as Master hunted the hounds with John Tulloch, Kennel Huntsman. Both Charlie and John were previously at the Haydon Hunt in Northumberland.
With the departure of Charlie Shirley-Beavan after one season only a new Mastership for the 2012/13 season was formed. George Lyon-Smith, and Hugo de Ferranti returned to the Mastership with George hunting the Mid Devon Hounds for the first time. Simon Kenny formerly Huntsman with the Braes of Derwent came as Kennel Huntsman.
At the end of the 2015/16 season George Lyon-Smith and his kennel huntsman resigned and Duncan Hume came to kennels as the new Master with John Lightfoot who remained in post. Duncan brought many years of kennel, hound and hunting experience to our hunt, previous to Duncan’s hunt service he had been for seven years a riding instructor in the household calvary.