Devon and Somerset Staghounds

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Prosperity to Staghunting, badge of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds

The deer of Exmoor have been hunted since Norman times, when Exmoor was declared a Royal Forest. Collyns stated the earliest actual record of a pack of staghounds on Exmoor was 1598. In 1803 the "North Devon Staghounds" became a subscription pack. In 1824/5 30 couples of hounds, the last of the true staghounds, were sold to a baron in Germany.[1] Today, the Devon and Somerset is one of three staghounds packs in the UK, the others being the Quantock Staghounds and the Tiverton Staghounds. All packs hunt within Devon and Somerset.


The approximate dates of the hunting season are:

  • Hind hunting: 1 November-28 February
  • Stag hunting:
    • Autumn: August to third week in October ; formerly 12 August to 8 October, according to Collyns.[2]
    • Spring: last week of March, continues about three weeks.[3]

List of Masters[edit]

Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, 7th Baronet (1723–1785) painted in 1767 by Sir Joshua Reynolds, National Trust, Saltram House Collection, Devon
  • to 1770 Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, 7th Baronet (1722–1785), of Holnicote, kept his own pack of staghounds. He became forester or ranger of Exmoor under grant from the Crown and "hunted the country in almost princely style. Respected and beloved by all the countryside, he was solicited at the same time to allow himself to be returned as member of Parliament for the counties of Devon and Somerset. He preferred, however, the duties and pleasures of life in the country, where he bore without abuse the grand old name of gentleman" (Collyns, p. 9)

North Devon Staghounds[edit]

  • 1775-1784 "Colonel Basset".[4] The identity of this master is unclear. In 1796 the Devon topographer Rev. John Swete painted a view of Heanton Court, Heanton Punchardon, near Barnstaple, which he described as the seat of "Col. Basset".[5] There are at least two possible candidates, both sharing common ancestry:
    • Francis Basset, 1st Baron de Dunstanville and Basset (1757–1835), who is stated by his History of Parliament biography to have been Lieutenant-Colonel of the North Devon Militia from 1779.[6] He would however have been only 18 years old in 1775, when this mastership was said to have started, and was known to have attended King's College, Cambridge in 1775 and then to have gone on the Grand Tour. He served as MP for Penryn, Cornwall, between 1780 and 1796. He was created a baronet in 1779 and a baron in 1796. He died without male issue.
    • Francis Basset Esq. (c.1740-1802), MP for Barnstaple 1780-84, of Heanton Court, Heanton Punchardon, near Barnstaple, and of Umberleigh House, Umberleigh. He is not however stated in his History of Parliament biography [7] to have been a colonel, or a military man in any capacity, yet was termed "Col. Bassett" by John Swete. He was the second but only surviving son of John Francis Basset (1714–1757) by his wife Eleanor Courtenay, daughter of Sir William Courtenay, 2nd Baronet and de jure 6th Earl of Devon. He died unmarried, being the last in the male line of the Heanton branch. His heir was his nephew Joseph Davie (1764-1846) of Orleigh Court, near Bideford, who took the name Basset in lieu of his patronymic and built Watermouth Castle, near Lynmouth.He was the son of John Davie of Orleigh by his wife Eleanora Bassett, sister of Col. Bassett (d.1802). Joseph's grand-daughter and eventual heiress was Harriet Mary Bassett (d.1920), who married Charles Henry Williams, who assumed the surname Bassett as a condition of inheriting his wife's property, and became master 1887-93 (see below). The Basset family is an ancient West Country family, which originated either in the manor of Tehidy, Cornwall or at Whitechapel Manor in the parish of Bishops Nympton, Devon.
  • August 1802- Hugh Fortescue, 1st Earl Fortescue (1753–1841) [8]
  • 1824 Pack sold to Germany

Chichester's Hounds[edit]

Devon and Somerset Staghounds[edit]

"The General". Mordaunt Fenwick-Bisset, MP, (1825–1884), Master 1855-1881, as caricatured by Spy in Vanity Fair, December 1881. He built the present kennels in Exford in 1876 and donated them to the Committee
Portrait of Mordaunt Fenwick-Bisset, MSH, on his favourite hunter Chanticleer, with a stag at bay in Badgworthy Water, Exmoor, by Samuel John Carter, 1871
Viscount Ebrington, from 1905 Hugh Fortescue, 4th Earl Fortescue (1854–1932). Engraving by Joseph Brown from a photograph by John Mayall. He acquired the whole of the former Royal Forest of Exmoor after the death of Frederick Winn Knight in 1897
"The Devon and Somerset", caricature of Viscount Ebrington by Ape, Vanity Fair 19th February 1887
  • 1837-1841 Charles Palk Collyns (1793–1864) formed a new pack, named "Devon and Somerset Subscription Staghounds".[9] Collyns, a doctor living at Bilbao House, Dulverton, was the youngest son of William Collyns, a surgeon of Kenton, near Exeter, Devon.[10] He was possibly related to the family of the Palk baronets of Haldon House, in the Haldon Hills, near Kenton. His hunting diaries and subsription lists are held by Somerset Archives.[11] He wrote the standard work on west-country Stag-hunting "Chase of the Wild Red Deer", 1862. His inscribed grave stone, next to that of his son, survives against the external eastern wall of Dulverton Church, the only two stones in that position, clearly one of some honour.
  • 1842-1847 Hon. Newton Fellowes (1772-Jan.1854), of Eggesford, brother-in-law of Hugh Fortescue, 2nd Earl Fortescue. He was the second son of John Wallop, 2nd Earl of Portsmouth (d.1797) by his wife Urania Fellowes, heiress of Eggesford. Newton received from his mother the Eggesford estate, his elder brother having inherited in 1797 the earldom and his paternal lands in Hampshire. Newton demolished the old Eggesford House next to Eggesford Church and rebuilt it on the opposite side of the hill on the site of the former Heywood House. This house was in ruins in 1995, but was shortly thereafter restored. He was a keen 4-in-hand carriage driver and improved many of the roads near Eggesford to facilitate his driving. He built the present bridge over the River Taw across which the A377 "scenic route" was built in about 1830 as a toll road. He married in 1820 as his second wife Lady Catherine Fortescue (1787-20/5/1854), a daughter of Hugh Fortescue, 1st Earl Fortescue (1753–1841) of Castle Hill, Filleigh. He became 4th Earl of Portsmouth in the last year of his life, following the death of his elder brother John Wallop, 3rd Earl of Portsmouth in 1853, the latter having had only one daughter and having been declared insane since 1809.[12]
  • 1855-1881 Mordaunt Fenwick-Bisset (1825–1884). "Restored the sport and put it on the footing from whence the present flourishing state of things has come", (Everard, 1902, p. 366). He reintroduced red deer to the Quantock Hills and built kennels at Bagborough House, a few miles north-west of Taunton.[13] He lived at Pixton Park, Dulverton, which he rented from Lord Carnarvon, and kennelled the hounds at Jury, at the bottom of Pixton Drive.[14] In January 1879 the pack was destroyed due to rabies. He sat as MP for West Somerset from 1880 until his resignation in 1883.
  • 1880/81-1887 Hugh Fortescue, Viscount Ebrington (1854–1932), 4th Earl Fortescue from 1905. After 1879 he acquired the reversion of the whole of the former Royal Forest of Exmoor after the death of Frederick Winn Knight, which occurred in 1897.
Charles Henry Basset, MSH 1887-1893. Baily's Magazine of Sports and Pastimes, no. 380, October 1891, vol. 56
  • 1887-1893 Charles Henry Basset, Esq.,(1834–1908), (born Williams) of Watermouth Castle, near Lynmouth, JP, DL and MP for Barnstaple (1868–1874). Born November 16, 1834, being the fourth surviving son of Sir William Williams, 1st Baronet (1791–1870), MFH,[15] of Tregullow, Cornwall, by his wife Caroline Eales, younger daughter of Richard Eales of Eastdon, Lieutenant RN. Aged 13 he entered the Navy as cadet on HMS Southampton. He served during the Crimean War in the Black Sea, and Sea of Azof, and was a Major in the Royal North Devon Yeomanry (or Hussars). In 1873 he lost his left arm in an accident whilst working a steam engine at Barnstaple.[16] He married on 7 January 1878, Harriet Mary Basset (d.1920), only daughter and sole heiress of Arthur Davie Basset, Esq., of Watermouth Castle (son of Joseph Davie Bassett (1764-1846)), and sister and co-heiress of Reverend Arthur Crawfurth Davie Basset, (1830–1880) JP and MA, also of Watermouth. As a condition of his inheritance he assumed for himself his wife and their progeny by Royal License dated 11 October 1880 the surname of Basset in lieu of his patronymic, with the arms of Basset.[17] Armorial bearings: Barry wavy of six or and gules in the centre chief point a cross crosslet of the last Crest: on a wreath of the colours, a unicorn's head couped argent,the mane, beard, and horn or, on the neck two bars indented gules, and charged for distinction with a cross crosslet also gules. Motto: Bene agere ac Laetari. His estates were at Pilton House, Barnstaple; Westaway, his model farm in the parish of Pilton; Umberleigh House, Atherington; Watermouth Castle, Berrynarbor, all in Devon.

[18][19][20] Introduced Spring staghunting.

  • 1893-1895 Colonel F. Hornby, who had previously been Field Master of the Queen's Staghounds. Entered office July 1893[21] and resigned in Spring 1895[22] and went on in 1895 to be Master of the Essex Union foxhounds.[23]
Robert Arthur Sanders MSH 1895-1907 (Baron Bayford from 1929). Portrait from Baily's Magazine of Sports and Pastimes, no 475, September 1899, vol. 72
  • 1895-1907 Robert Arthur Sanders (1867–1940) (Baron Bayford from 1929). Took on the mastership on Colonel F. Hornby's resignation in the spring of 1895, and increased the hunting days from three to four each week, being the first master to hunt the hounds himself, which he did one day per week, Viscount Ebrington then acting as Field Master.[24] He married Miss Lucy Halliday, of Glenthorne, near Lynton, at Oare Church in July 1893.[25] Mr. Sanders contested the Eastern division of Bristol at the General Election of 1900, and considerably lowered the previous Liberal majority. In 1901 he became an alderman of the Somerset County Council.[24] He was the son of Arthur Sanders, of Fernhill, Isle of Wight, and was born in Paddington, London, and educated at Harrow, where he was head boy,[26] and Balliol College, Oxford where he graduated with 1st class honours in Law. He became a barrister at the Inner Temple in 1891. Following his resignation of the mastership he became a Conservative Member of Parliament for Bridgwater, Somerset from 1910 until 1923. From 1911 to 1917 he was Lieutenant-Colonel of the Royal North Devon Yeomanry and served at Gallipoli, and in Egypt and Palestine. He was appointed a deputy lieutenant of Somerset in 1912.[27] He was Treasurer of the Household (Government Deputy Chief Whip in the House of Commons), 1918–1919, and a junior Lord of the Treasury from 1919 until 1921. He then held ministerial office as Under-Secretary of State for War from 1921 to 1922 and Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries from 1922 to 1924. He was created a baronet in the 1920 New Year Honours[28] and appointed to the Privy Council in 1922. He was MP for Wells in Somerset from 1924 to 1929, when he was raised to the peerage as Baron Bayford, of Stoke Trister in the County of Somerset.[29] He married Lucy Sophia, daughter of William Halliday, in 1893. They had one son and two daughters. As his only son committed suicide in 1920, the title became extinct on Bayford's death in February 1940, aged 72. Lady Bayford died in September 1957.[30]
  • 1907-c.1909 Edmund Arthur Vesey Stanley (1879–1941), from May 1907 following Mr Sanders' retirement. He was the son of Mr Edward James Stanley (d.1907),[31] of Quantock Lodge, Over StoweyMP for Bridgwater and a large landowner, by his wife Hon. Mary Dorothy Labouchere (1843–1920), a daughter of Henry Labouchere, 1st Baron Taunton (1798–1869), the prominent Liberal politician, MP for Taunton 1830-59 and Cabinet Minister. Labouchere purchased the manor of Over Stowey in 1833, and was created Baron Taunton in 1859. He built the Gothic revival castle known as Quantock Lodge, which later became Quantock School[32] E.J. Stanley offered Mr Sanders to maintain a separate pack to hunt the Quantocks deer. The Committee and Master agreed and made over the country on permanent loan. His son, Edmund Stanley, then aged 22 performed the duty of huntsman. On his acceptance of the mastership of the D&S the Quantocks pack was discontinued.[33] His sister became Mrs Heathcote-Amory, which family was associated with the Tiverton Staghounds, whilst his eldest brother, Lt. H.T. Stanley was killed in the Boer War.
  • c.1909-c.1911 Captain Adkins [34]
Morland John Greig (d.1915), Master of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, bust-length portrait, pastel drawing 11 1/8" * 10 1/8" by Olivia Mary Bryden of Eastbourne and sold at auction by Bonhams Knightsbridge, 27 Jul 2005, Sporting Pictures, sale no. 11639, lot 69
  • 1911/12-1914 Major Morland John Greig, of Edgcott House, Exford. Killed in action at Gallipoli in October 1915[34][35] fighting with the 1st Royal North Devon Yeomanry.[36] Dick Lloyd, President of the D&SSH, spoke in 2001 as follows about Morland Greig:[37] "They never had a fixed house. They shuffled from one to another in an amazing way. They lived at Edgcott and Yealscombe, and Kings, Withypool... The Greigs were tremendously part of Exmoor in those days. Grandfather Greig, Morland Greig, was master of the Devon and Somerset when the first war started. When the war started on the 3rd of August and on the 4th or 5th they took the hounds to the meet, he says in his diary that he went in mufti and the staff in uniform. They sang 'God save the King', and he sent the hounds home. He went straight off to his regiment, which was the Royal North Devon Yeomanry. In due course he went to Gallipoli and was killed. He was aged 53 (in fact 50[38]). How many people of 43 or even 33, do you know who went to the last war? It was amazing fortitude. They wouldn't have let him go now. He was killed commanding the squadron in Gallipoli". His memorial tablet exists in St. Mary Magdalene Church, Exford. He was the son of John Peter Morland Greig and Annie Lydia Greig and married Kate Greig, of Edgcott, Exford, Somerset. He is buried at I.I.16. HILL 10 CEMETERY. A bust-length watercolour portrait of him 11 1/8" * 10 1/8" was painted by Olivia Mary Bryden (1883–1951) of Eastbourne and sold at auction by Bonhams Knightsbridge, 27 Jul 2005, Sporting Pictures, sale no. 11639, lot 69.[39]
  • 1915-c.1917 Committee
  • c.1917-1919/20 William Badco (1864–1921) of Cardiff,[34] tramp-ship owner. He was a stranger to Exmoor, and was on holiday in Minehead when he heard of the problems which were starting to arise due to the absence of deer control due to the death of the last master. At this time of war sporting considerations were secondary. He offered to undertake the mastership at his own expense without any funding guaranteed, and continued until the 1919-20 season when he retired to Badminton.[40] MacDermot wrote of him: "Staghunters and the country in general owe a very deep debt of gratitude to his memory for keeping the hunt going, largely at his own expense, through a most difficult time". He was a shipowner and changed his name from "Badcock" to "Badco" by deed-poll dated 11 March 1916,[41] who lived "formerly" at St Ives, Cornwall, but who was living in 1916 at Cathedral Street, Cardiff. He was from St Ives and started his career as a clerk with a Mr Haines. In 1900 he floated the Polurrian Steamship Co. Ltd., to raise funds for the purchase of the steamer of that name then being built at Blumen's yard in Sunderland. He similarly floated the Poldhu Steamship Co. Ltd., the following year to acquire the Poldhu from the same yard. He moved from St Ives in 1909 to Cardiff and took delivery of his third new vessell the Polvarth. The Pol- prefix of his ships was a Cornish reference. Between 1910 -13 he bought three second-hand ships, the Polmanter, Polcarne and Polperro, to meet the improving market. However before the end of WW I he had sold 5 of his ships, having lost one to a U-boat attack. The average tonnage of his vessels was about 3,000 tons.[42]
Colonel Walter William Wiggin (1856–1936), Queen's Own Worcestershire Yeomanry, Master of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds c. 1917-1936, of Forhill House, King's Norton, photograph published in Baily's Magazine, no.720, February 1920, vol.113
  • c.1917-23/4/1936 Lieutenant-Colonel Walter William Wiggin (1856–1936). He was a son of Sir Henry Samuel Wiggin, 1st Baronet (1824–1905) by his wife Mary Elizabeth Malins. His brother was Brigadier-General E.A. Wiggin and his nephew was Col. W.H. Wiggin. He was Colonel of the Queen's Own Worcestershire Yeomanry and lived at Forhill House, King's Norton, Birmingham. He married Edith Atkins, daughter of George Caleb Atkins. He died aged 81 on 4 November 1936 at King's Norton, and was buried at Alvechurch on 9 November 1936.[43] His obituary in the Colliery Guardian and Journal of the Coal and Iron Trades, 13 November 1936, was as follows:[44] "The death has occurred at the age of 80 (sic) of Lieut.-Col. Walter W. Wiggin, who entered his father's business, Henry Wiggin and Co., of Birmingham, at the age of 22, ultimately becoming a director and finally chairman in 1916. He retired in 1920 when the business was merged with the Mond Nickel Co. He had served also as a director of Joseph Lucas and at his death was on the boards of W. and T. Avery, the South Staffordshire Waterworks Co. and Henry Pooley and Son". He lived at Stockleigh when hunting on Exmoor.[45]
  • 1935/6- end WW II Hancock, Abbott
  • 1981–present Maurice Scott (joint-master)
  • 1987–present Diana Scott (joint-master)
  • 2000/1-present George Witheridge (joint-master)
  • -present Fran Bell (joint-master)



Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Collyns, p.14
  2. ^ Collyns, p.63
  3. ^ Scarth-Dixon, William, p.16
  4. ^ Bailey's Hunting Directory
  5. ^ Devon Record Office, ref 564M/F11/7, published in Gray, Todd & Rowe, Margery (Eds.), Travels in Georgian Devon: The Illustrated Journals of the Reverend John Swete, 1789-1800, vol.3, Tiverton, 1999, pp.95-6
  6. ^ History of Parliament biography
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ MacDermot, p.41
  9. ^ Somerset Archives DD\COL/8 1775-1837: Hunting diary of Revd. J.B. of Hawkridge and Withypool 1775-1819 with illustrations of stag heads and account of the formation of Devon and Somerset Subscription Stag Hounds, 1837. Interleaved with many papers incl. names of hounds in the packs of Mr. Bassett (1780). Sir Thos. Acland (1790), Mr. Worth (1808), Ld. Fortescue (1802), Col. Bassett (1798). Printed list of subscribers and resolutions at a staghunt meeting at Exeter, 1822
  10. ^ Biography of Collyns of Dulverton, Victoria County History, Exmoor,
  11. ^ Somerset Archives DD\COL MSS Collyns of Dulverton
  12. ^ Axe, Matthew, Chapman, Lesley & Miller, Sharon. The Lost Houses of Eggesford, Eggesford, 1995, pp.18-21
  13. ^ Watson
  14. ^ Yandle, Tom. Reminiscences, Exmoor Oral History Archive 2001
  15. ^ Bailys Magazine
  16. ^ Lethbridge, Richard, MBE, The Barnstaple Staghounds, Bideford, 2004, pp.7-8
  17. ^ London Gazette, 15 October 1880, p.5285
  18. ^ Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles. Armorial families: a Directory of Gentlemen of Coat-Armour
  19. ^ Everard, P., p.31
  20. ^ said (erroneously) to have been the grandson of "Colonel Basset", Master 1775-1784, the above two possible identities for whom however had no male progeny, making such relationship impossible. (Lee, Author Rawdon Briggs, A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland (Sporting Division), 1897)
  21. ^ Everard, P., p.126
  22. ^ Evered, Philip. Staghunting with the Devon and Somerset, An Account of the Chase of the Wild Red Deer, 1902
  23. ^ Ball, Richard Francis. The Essex Foxhounds, with Notes upon Hunting in Essex, p.284
  24. ^ a b Everard, p.32
  25. ^ Everard, P., p.127
  26. ^ Bailys Magazine, no.475, Sept 1899, vol.72, biography pp.157-159
  27. ^ The London Gazette: no. 28579. p. 979. 9 February 1912.
  28. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 31712. p. 2. 30 December 1919.
  29. ^ The London Gazette: no. 33510. p. 4268. 28 June 1929.
  30. ^ Robert Arthur Sanders, 1st and last Baron Bayford
  31. ^
  32. ^ Victoria County History, Somerset, Volume 6: Andersfield, Cannington, and North Petherton Hundreds, 1992, pp.158-162
  33. ^ Watson, J.N.P., In Pursuit of the Quantocks Deer: A Spring Hunting Visit (II)
  34. ^ a b c Macdermott, p.22
  35. ^
  36. ^ The War Graves Photographic Project
  37. ^ Exmoor Oral History Archive
  38. ^ twgpp
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^ London Gazette, 11 April 1916, p. 3847
  42. ^ Fenton, Roy. Cornish Steam-Ships and Owners: the View from England, published in "Troze", the Journal of the National Maritime Museum of Cornwall, Vol. 1, No.3, March 2009
  43. ^ The Times, 10th. November 1936, p.19
  44. ^ [2]
  45. ^ E.R.Lloyd, Exmoor Oral History Archive
  46. ^ Bourne, p.92
  47. ^ Collyns, p.70
  48. ^ Everard, P., p.36