W3C The Fell Packs During WWII     HUNTS


From Baily's Hunting Directory

The 1938/39 Season

Blencathra: Master J. Tatters (1937). Hulntsman. G. Bell (1931) Whippers-in Mr. D. Paisley and A. Irving. 20 couple of hounds. Meet, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

Coniston: Master. Bruce Logan (1906.) Huntsman. Ernest Parker. 13 couple of hounds. Meet, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Eskdale and Ennerdale: Master. W. C. Porter. Esq (1910.) Huntsman. J. W. Porter Esq (1936.) 15 couple of hounds. Meet 2 days a week.

Lunesdale: Master. Miss Lees (1937.) Huntsman. Mr. T. C. Robinson. Whipper-in. Mr. Walter Parkin. 12 couple of hounds. Meet Tuesday and Friday.

Melbreak: Master. Major E. A. Iredale (1917.) Huntsman. W. Irvine. Whipper-in. A. Thomas. 12 couple of hounds. Meet 3 days a week.

Ullswater: Joint Masters. Mrs A. Lowther (1934) and Dr. J. Thomson. Huntsman J Wear (1934) Whipper-in J. Wilkinson. 20 couple of hounds. Meet: Three days a week, advertised in local press.

As the outbreak of war grew increasingly closer, things carried on pretty much as normal with the Coniston pack as the following reports show.

After a week’s hunting at Grasmere, where three good meets were completely spoiled by the weather, hounds met for the first hunt this week at the Kennels. They were cast off into Rydal Park and drew through to Humphrey crags without finding, but on being taken back over the top by Birk Hagg for Scandal, they struck a hunt, which led them to Brock Crag, where they marked to ground. This fox would not bolt, however, and paid the penalty beneath ground. Just before hounds were blown off, several of them started marking on another part of the borran and on a terrier being tried another fox bolted. These foxes had evidently been lying in on account of the bad weather. This one did not go far before again going below, and this time refused to bolt. He was drawn and given law, but hounds soon viewed him and rolled him over. RINGWOOD.

Westmorland Gazette 11 March 1939

In the last five meets hounds have accounted for seven foxes, with some rattling good hunts. They had a very good week at Coniston. Last Wednesday they were loosed at the Scrows and went up Treddale and at Heron Crag roused a fox that climbed out by Hook Riggs to the skyline and turned in at Levers Water. Reynard went on past Sweat Crag and over Hooks Riggs to Swirral Hause, where he climbed out on to Wetherlam. His next move was to turn in to Heron Crag before coming back to Hook Riggs, where he went to ground. A terrier was put in and affected a grand bolt, Reynard turning in by Levers Water towards Grey Crag. He made it to the Mines, but before reaching this stronghold hounds were on him and Ranger and Barmaid pulled him down after a good hunt. The next day Far End breast was tried but this and Yewdale Crags proved blank. On reaching Holme Fell a fox was roused at Ivey Crag land went by way of Fish Tarn, Holme Fell Quarries, and into Little Langdale as far as Fell Foot, where he turned out for Wetherlam End and crossed Yewdale Moor into Tilberthwaite. Hounds were by now gaining the upper hand and forced their game in to Holme Ground Quarries once more where he tried a lot of dodging about, but they were not to be denied and forced him down to Colwith, where they bowled him over in the beck.

On Friday, Guards Wood was found to be blank, but at Globe Plantation hounds struck a drag. This led them forward into High Fell where they had such a good put off that Reynard was forced inbank across Yewdale Valley. He climbed out by Gate Crag to Blue Quarries, over Mawtry Bank, and through Far End Breast to Yewdale Crag. After a stay in this rough crag he was forced out and after another short spin was run into the open at the bottom of White Ghyll.

The first meet this week was Helm Crag, Grasmere and at Helm breast hounds roused a fox, which went forward to Horn Crag in the Easedale side. The fox then dropped into Greenburn before rounding Steel Fell End, and with hounds fairly near went to ground in the Raise side of Steel Fell. He was soon bolted and hounds put paid to career of an old dog fox. Hounds were then loosed for Blind Tarn Moss but before reaching here another fox was roused. It was a hunt that it will be remembered for some time. Reynard made out by Castle How and crossed Raw Head, apparently with the intentions of going to Langdale. On reaching White Ghyll, however, he turned back over Silverhow and down to Goody Bridge near Grasmere. He had a wash here and gave hounds a slight check, but they went on out by Sour Milk Ghyll towards Castle How again. This time he turned in from Raw Head to come in by Megs Ghyll to Chapel Stile, but climbed again over Silver How to come in at Allen Bank and through Easedale to Brimmer Head. Here Reynard binked in a Crag opposite Brimmer Head, but with hounds about three hundred yards behind came in bank. Making the valley ring with their music hounds slowly but surely gained ground as they left the meadows of Brimmer Head they rolled him over on the open.

The next day, from the Kennels and Rydal Park was found blank. At Buckstones a fox was roused to cross Rydal bottoms and climb out by Heron Crag and on for Alcock Tarn. He was forced in down Dunney Beck Ghyll and then climber Brockstones breast to gain Nab Scar End. With a terrific hunt hounds went down the Scar End by Harts Head to Rydal Church where Reynard went to ground in a drain on the road. On a terrier being put in the fox soon shot out but he did not get far before hounds rolled him over in the open. RINGWOOD

Westmorland Gazette 1 April 1939

And also, with the Ullswater...


The Duke of Northumberland was one of the guests at the annual hunt ball promoted by the committee of Ullswater Foxhounds and held at the Crown Hotel, Penrith, on Friday night. He was one of a party brought from Askham Hall by Mrs Anthony Lowther who with Dr J R K Thomson, Bishopyards, is joint master of the Hunt. There was a large attendance at the ball from many parts of the two counties – Carlisle, Penrith, Windermere, Kendal, Appleby, etc. In addition to the Duke of Northumberland, Mrs Lowther’s party consisted of Captain M. O. Pease, Miss Rosemary Lowther, and Lieutenant Commander Thwaytes, Holesfoot. Others present included Dr J R K Thomson and Miss Thomson, Mr J V Allen, Hartsop Hall; Miss Holt, Patterdale; Mr and Mrs K Dobell, Hartsop; Mr P T B Browne and Mr Brown (Sedbergh).

The huntsman (Weir) and whip (Wilkinson), were in hunting uniform. Spot dances were won by Mrs J F Harris, Bowscar, and Mrs Beswick (Oldham); the latter’s prize was a large stuffed fox, caught on Barton Fell, and given by Mr W D Marshall. The Hunt Social Committee made the arrangements, consisting of Mrs Lowther. Dr J R K Thomson, Mr A Walton, Mr J V Allen, Mr J Stalker, Mr Alec Parkin (Crosby Raven-sworth), Mr G P Grant, Mr M Parker, Mr J Nelson and Mr C Eric Arnison (secretary).

Westmorland Gazette, 22nd April 1939

The war caused tremendous food shortages, and many people kept hens, geese, etc. to supplement their diet. The increase in poultry and reduction in farm labour and gamekeepers, etc. allowed the fox population to thrive. Hunting was seen as helping the war effort and encouraged although with many men “called up” and fuel rationing not easy to continue. However all the fell packs did.

The following section is an account of the Melbreak foxhounds for the war years.

SEASON 1938/39

The Melbreak began hunting on 19th September that season with the opening meet on 6th October on a wild and windy morning where they accounted for two foxes. On 29th October a glorious autumnal morning saw a fox go to ground in Wandope Crags. A terrier went in and literally dragged the fox out of the borran where he was accounted for, a dog fox weighing over 17lbs and the 15th fox caught so far that season.

On 10th April 1939 hounds accounted for a fox which had been worrying lambs at White Keld Farm, this vixen was caught at Jackie Plantin and dug out, remains of the lambs being found at the den site.

The 6th May was the final meet of the season, but scenting was poor owing to the heat and nothing was caught. The hounds had accounted for 64 foxes, a good result after losing so many days due to bad weather.

SEASON 1939/40

War was declared in September 1939, but shepherds and huntsmen were considered to have a reserved occupation and not called up. Willie Irving who at that time was hunting the Melbreak was at aged 41 considered too old anyway. For the Melbreak the season began on 16th September.

The opening meet on 12th October saw three foxes accounted for by the terriers, but on 24th November a fox took refuge in such a bad place on Honister Crag that even the quarrymen could not dislodge him and he had to be left.

In the week preceding the meet of 5th February 1940, a hard frost and heavy snow had confined hounds to kennels. Willie was laid up with illness and so Joe Hind was in charge, a fox went to ground in some sand holes and a terrier named “Nip” was put in and sadly never emerged.

The season ended on 7th May with a season’s tally of 59 foxes, which considering the weather and days lost due to it did not seem unreasonable.

SEASON 1940/41

More tragedy followed on 17th October when another terrier was lost in Long Crags. That season the Melbreak hunted until almost the end of May and accounted for 83 foxes, despite losing many days due to bad weather, heavy snow and hard frost.

SEASON 1941/42

For the Melbreak it began on 10th September. At the end of October the hounds accounted for a“poultry killer” who had taken several chickens from Hope Farm, this illustrates the contribution of the fell packs to the war effort when food was in very short supply.

The Shepherds' Meet at Buttermere on 28th November saw a fox roused from Knott Rigg go to ground in Robinson Crag after a long hunt. A terrier named Gypsy was entered and succeeded in bolting the fox onto the crag face, following behind the fox the terrier fell a considerable distance; badly injured she was carried home but made a good recovery.

In March from the Ling Fell meet a fox went to ground near to Strawberry How, whilst digging the fox out it bit Irvine’s hand quite badly, and in April a hound fell about 50 feet from a crag on Robinson Fell, again making a good recovery.

The season ended on 20th May with a total of 65 foxes accounted for. It would appear that during this season hounds were first used to “flush out” foxes for the waiting guns. Willie Irvine was apparently not a great enthusiast, no doubt harbouring concerns for the accuracy of some of the shooters.

The following story gives some insight into the life of a fell huntsman in wartime.

At the start of his career he had (A. Barker) to collect hounds, which had been at walk over the summer months. This was done on foot and his journey took him from the kennels at Ullswater to Kentmere, onto Long Sleddale, right down the dale into Wet Sleddale, back over to Mardale where he gathered around there. Back over Barton fell, Swarthbeck, Howtown with his final stop at Hawse Farm to collect a hound named Snowdrop.

I don’t know how long it took or where/if he stayed overnight but it is a hell of a long walk.

Back to the Melbreak...

SEASON 1942/43

The season began on 6th September and on 30th October a hunt took them (The Melbreak) to Hodyoad Ghyll where instead of the expected fox two sow badgers were dug out. At the Shepherds Meet in November a terrier had to be left in a borran at Gate Ghyll overnight.

In February 1943 a terrier called Trixie no doubt bored by the inability of hounds to shift a fox from a ledge again at Gate Ghyll, jumped onto the ledge, seized the skulking fox and dispatched it herself.

In April at Paper Mill Wood, two terriers were entered about 09.30 and became trapped. Digging began and continued all day and eventually a fifty-foot tunnel was created which finally reached the terriers, dead dog fox and three cubs at 8pm. The final meet was 28th May and the season closed with 69 foxes accounted for.

SEASON 1943/44

The Melbreak began early on September 9th but early October saw severe flooding, which lasted until the 12th October. On this date the hounds found a fox at Gate Gills, which showed no sign of leaving the crags, two terriers in their excitement ran over the crag face and fell several feet into the branches of a lone tree. They were coupled and hung one over each side of a branch, which finally broke, and they plummeted into deep heather below being non the worse for their adventure.

November saw a fox go to ground at Bleaberry Coombe, two terriers were put in but only one emerged, a storm broke which increased in violence as digging continued. The work carried on for the next forty-eight hours until the terrier (Major) was found. During the struggle with the fox he had fallen into a “gryke” from which he could not emerge without assistance. As a result of working in wet conditions Willie became a “flu” victim and hunting was stopped for several days. At the close of the season on April 25th seventy one foxes had been accounted for.

The Westmorland Gazette had a columnist known as Red Screes; here is an item from his column.

The sight granted to one evacuated from London according to a letter which has reached me from the wife of a man at present living near the Old Church at Ambleside of a fox emerging from Ecclerigg Farm, with a chicken in its mouth, as he was cycling to Windermere, proves that little touches of nature which makes the whole world kin. I do not suppose this is the first fowl that Mr. Fleming has lost from this farmstead just off the Ambleside-Windermere main arterial road. Reynard disappeared in the direction of Skelghyll woods, where there is strong cover; nevertheless if he continued his depredations so boldly he will find his because the Coniston Foxhounds, which have roused many a fox from these same woods, can be relied upon to end his nefarious exploits. Days numbered.

4th March 1944

Ullswater Foxhounds Hunt Ball

The second Hunt Ball of the season on behalf of the Ullswater Foxhounds was held at Shap Memorial Hall on Friday evening, when there was a large attendance from all parts of the district. It is expected that about £30 will be handed to the hunt funds. The dancing was to the music by the Rhythmiacs Band and Mr. R Renwick was M.C.

The arrangements were in the hands of a committee consisting of Messrs. W. A. Atkinson, Sleddale Hall; J. Harrison, Swindale; M. Lewis, Rayside, J. Lewis, Shap; W.Douthwaite, Thornship and J. Bateman, Keld.

11th March 1944

Daring Rescue of Dog In Lakeland

The bronze medal and certificate of the R.S.P.C.A. have been awarded to Mr. James Bewley for his courage in rescuing a dog from Helm Crag, Grasmere.

A terrier was imprisoned from early one Tuesday in May til the following Saturday evening 40 feet down a hole, the entrance to which was at the summit of the crag.

Several people abandoned rescue efforts on the Thursday evening owing to the roof and sides giving way.

Walking round on Saturday evening, Mr. Bewley decided to try to reach the dog. Crawling in head first he called the dog's name and it answered and he found it located at the bottom. Under the light from torches Mr. Bewley removed the debris and cleared a way to the dog.

The society has also sent a letter of appreciation to Teddy Tyson, aged 14 ½ years who accompanied Mr Bewley to the crag.

15th March 1944

Ex Lunesdale Huntsman Wounded

Driver Walter W. Parkin, son of Mr. Joseph Parkin, Crosby Ravensworth, has been wounded in Normandy and is now in a Liverpool hospital. Before joining the forces he was huntsman for the Lunesdale Foxhounds.

29th July 1944

SEASON 1944/45

As usual the Melbreak’s season began in early September. Early November saw a terrier named Buffer humanely destroyed after becoming trapped in a borran, despite the best efforts of the huntsman and followers it was impossible to rescue him as he had fallen down a crevice. Late November saw a fox “lost” at Cockermouth railway station.

In April 1945 a hound named “Truant” fell several hundred feet on Mowdy Crags, his fall broken by the many deep couches of heather he encountered on his descent, he was shaken but uninjured, walking back to kennels unaided.

The season ended on 23rd May 1945 with 71 foxes accounted for.

The war ended and peace once again returned, men began to return to their homes and take up hunting, once again. Here is a newspaper account of the Ullswater at Mardale, a valley when last seen by many in 1939, a reservoir on their return in 1945.

The Ullswater completed the three week tour of their southern ground by going from Longsleddale to Bampton for the (Mardale) shepherds’ meet weekend, and on Saturday provided the first real jingle for years at the top end of Mardale. Anthony Barker loosed his hounds on Bransty, and before long their music was echoing across the lake which has gathered the thousand waters to its bosom to such an extent that hunters who have banished from the haunts of raven and fox during “Hitler’s years” stared amazed at the vast expanse. But the more pressing business of the moment banished ponderings on the whereabouts of the bar parlour of the old Dun Bull or the yew girt church, as through the waters above them swam a big dog fox with a dozen hounds breasting the waves not far behind. Reynard crossed the narrowest part of the lake to the foot of Riggindale, but his bath failed to baulk the splendidly fit hounds, and he became victim number one. Somewhere on the top of Harter Fell Sam Thompson and some Longsleddale colleagues saw another grand hunt and after a second fox had been killed in below them, a third went to ground in High Holes earth and had to be left. On Monday a screaming hunt ended in Naddle Forest and when the huntsman located hounds all was over but whether they had killed is unknown.

24th November 1945

Hunting started up again 1946; this is some unknown writer’s take on the forthcoming season (the material is copied as printed, mistakes and all).


Despite the complete absence of seasonal autumn weather – no browning bracken or falling leaves – the calender does not lie and within a fortnight the various packs of foxhounds will have made a start on the new season. In addition to the Coniston, Ullswater and Lunesdale packs, the Oxenholme Staghounds have now become the Oxenholme Foxhounds and will hunt the South Westmorland and North Lancashire area, both mounted and on foot.

The annual meeting of the Lunesdale pack took place at Kendal on Saturday, when it was announced that following the resignation of Walter Parkin, the huntsman for the new season will be George Black, of Ambleside, a nephew of that great hunter, the late Braithwaite Black. Mr. T. C. Robinson, to whom high tributes were paid for keeping the hounds since the pack was formed, was elected Master, with Mr. H. S. Hodgson (Witherslack) chairman, Mr. H. Watson (Kendal) vice–chairman. Mr. W. S. Hodgson (Witherslack) secretary and Mr. W. Thompson (Barbon) treasurer. The Master announced that the season would begin in early October with 15 experienced hounds and probably seven youngsters. The opening meet will be at Greyrigg on Friday 18th October.

The Ullswater pack, with Joe Wear reinstated as huntsman after his wartime service, will make a start next week-end and should have a fine lot of hounds. The summer shows brought some grand entered hounds into the ring, and there will be a strong compliment of youngsters coming in. The first two meets are from the kennels next Saturday and Monday, 28 and 30 September, and the official opening meet will be at Brotherswater on 12 October.

The Coniston, again under Anthony Chapman, will not be starting for a fortnight, but will have a strong pack when they all come in.

One of the biggest difficulties during the coming season is going to be the feeding of hounds. After the drastic – and tragic – reduction of numbers during the war all the packs were hoping they would be able to rebuild but the food situation now is worse than ever. In view of the fact that last season the five mountain packs of Lakeland killed over 350 foxes – the figures are accurate – the existence and welfare of those hunts is proved to be vital to the community.

Melbreak. Master (1917) Major E. A. Iredale. Huntsman (1926) W. Irving, Whipper in (1946) H. Hardisty. Subscription voluntary.

Ullswater. Master (1934) Dr. J. R. K. Thompson. Huntsman. (1933) J. Wear. Whipper In (1946) T. D. Robinson. 15 couple of hounds. No fixed subscription.

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With thanks to Jackie Faye (Kendal Library), Peter and Helen Brooke (Baily’s), Pearl and Maud (for permission to use the hunting diary of Willie Irving).

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