W3C The Hutton Roofer  FOXES


This site was begun with the intention of recording the history or at least some of it, of the Fell Packs along with my memories. In the main it is a proud story, however not all aspects of it were palatable. The piece below and its accompanying piece about the Taylor family, show a side which I personally find repulsive, but it is not the purpose of the site to sit in judgement, only to record.

~ ~ ~

In the 1800s the practice known as hunting a ‘bag fox’ was carried out. The ‘meets’ were usually from a public house in an effort to increase trade, the captive fox being ‘released’ in close proximity, with a meal provided after the ‘chase’ had concluded.

The Coniston are described in the material which follows however they were not the only pack which did it, their newspaper records are the ones easily available to me.

 It is also worth pointing out that the practice of hunting a ‘bag fox’ was extensively carried out in the nineteenth century by the mounted packs, many purchasing their ‘quarry’ from the London market at Leadenhall. The fox then being shipped by train or coach to the home of the purchaser or the venue. R. S. Surtees makes reference to hunting ‘a travelling fox’ one that had travelled up in a stagecoach!. One serving Chancellor of the Exchequer who hated ‘blank days’ apparently used to return to his ‘seat’ for the day’s hunting, accompanied on the train by the fox he was to pursue.

The Coniston Foxhounds

These hounds have fairly broke cover at last. On Saturday from Grimeshill, in Middleton, they had a rattling run to Dent, and killed in the open, in that far-famed valley. A few days before they put way at Hutton Roof, and after ringing the changes for three hours, took Reynard alive, and he will make a sure find for Saturday at the Bishop Woods, Sawrey.

Ulverston Advertiser 10th December 1874

The Coniston Foxhounds

A fortnight ago these hounds ran a fox to earth and left it at Hutton Roof. A few days afterwards Mr John Braithwaite captured it without injury, and kindly sent it to the kennels at Sawrey, safe and sound. Last Saturday it was “let go” between the villages of Sawrey, with a fair start. After the pack had been put upon the scent, Renny made a ring or two, just to view the beautiful winter scenery that the country displayed, and then made straight off past Eelhouse, Graythwaite, Thwaite Head and into Dalepark. He made a little circle here, and then hied over the hill into Satterthwaite and down to Force Mill, where he found safe shelter in the miller’s kitchen, with about twenty furious hounds howling outside the door. “Hutton Roofer” was again bagged, and brought back in triumph to the kennels, where he is as brisk and lively as possible, and as soon as the weather changes will be ready to run another roving, rattling race.

Ulverston Advertiser 24th December 1874

The third and final episode of this sorry little affair was played out in January and was reported thus …

Fox Chase

It is always rather a bye word to hunt a “bag fox”, but in the present instance it was much to the honour of the Coniston hounds, and gained them no little fame that they did so. Readers of hunting notes will remember a fox sent from Hutton Roof that was chased from Sawrey and taken alive in the miller’s kitchen at Force Mill, without hurt. On Monday it was again let go between the villages of Sawrey and made a rattling chase. The morning was muggy and extremely unfavourable for any pleasure in hunting, but as the sequel proved, favourable enough for fox and dogs. For some time after being put upon the scent the hounds got badly away, and the huntsman had much trouble to get the pack pushed through the woods into Dale Park, and over into Satterthwaite. Here things improved, and loud clear and long the echoes of the pack rang through the valley, as the outlying hills between there and Coniston Lake were traversed. On reaching the lake reynard pushed downstream to Arklid, making a round or two of the covers there, then off he went through the thick mist across the townships of Nibthwaite, Blawith, Torver and Woodland, with many a twist and twine, the cry being as sweet and soothing as the voices of the little streams they crossed as they passed along. Late at night fox and dogs were found at Croft End, near Broughton, 16 miles from where they started in the morning “as the crow would fly” with 23 hounds in at the death.

Westmorland Gazette 16th January 1875

Not every ‘hunt’ ended in the demise of the fox which, usually miles from their known country, had little or no chance to escape. Occasionally it did happen ………………

Fox Hunt At Hawkshead

The good old town of Hawkshead, once famous for it’s “auld Wife Hakes” and Christmas parties, presented quite a lively appearance on the first day of the new year, the occasion being a fox hunt. The meet took place at the Sun Inn, and the fact that Mr Postlethwaite had provided for the days sport, a fine fox, a native of Hutton Roof Crags, where a few days before foxy was unfortunate enough to get into the hands of two knowing old trappers, was probably the cause of the large gathering of hunters and others to witness the start. The day was beautifully fine, in fact quite Spring like, and about ten o’clock, when a move was made to the field where Reynard was about to be let free, there could not have been less than 200 people present, all eager to join in the chase. And when the captive regained his liberty the “Tally ho” announcing the event was heard for many miles round. It was soon evident that Billy Dickinson and his pack had their work set out “If this day a fox must die” and many of the old hunters told Billy “to telegraph to Hutton Roof that their old friend would shortly be there” Reynard made the running at a rattling pace, taking in his course a six foot wall with the greatest of ease. Twenty minutes start was allowed before Billy let loose the eager hounds, when through Waterside Woods, past Lake Bank and to Sawrey Knots, making the hills resound with their melody, went the pursuers on their errand of death. But Hutton Roofers are not so easily caught. Foxy finding Lake Windermere, which

“Lay at his feet
Like a vast river”

presented a rather serious impediment to his straightforward course, altered tactics, and doubling back by way of the Sawreys, he crossed the highway near the residence of Mr J. E. Ogden, and was last seen making towards the margins of Esthwaite Lake. His pursuers were not long behind, and after hunting him for about quarter of a mile along the shore of the lake they suddenly came to a standstill, and although every effort was made to get them onto the scent again, foxy cunningly his baffled all attempts. It was afterwards ascertained that he had been seen by Mr. Dove of Coniston and others crossing the lake and emerging on the opposite side near Esthwaite Hall. Pursuit however was hopeless, and it is to be hoped that he will remain long enough in this neighbourhood to afford another day’s sport. An adjournment was now made to the Sun Inn, where a good substantial dinner was provided for the hungry hunters, of which about 90 partook. The evening was enlivened by speech and song, until the hour arrived for the departure of the guests, all hugely delighted with their day’s amusement.

The Westmorland Gazette 8th January 1876

These distasteful affairs were not to last however, for in 1878 the Coniston were prosecuted by the R.S.P.C.A after a 'hunt' at Bowness, Windermere, and never again hunted a 'bag fox'.


Raymond Carr: English Fox Hunting: A History, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1976
J. N. P. Watson: Book of Foxhunting, Batsford, 1977
R. Longrigg: History of Foxhunting, McMillan, 1975
N. Salisbury: In the Steps of Mighty Men, Ryelands, 2008

WAFWebsite manager

Unless stated otherwise all images and text on this site are copyright of the owner and may not be reproduced without permission.
 Site created: 20.04.08 © Cumbrian Lad 2008-2017. All rights reserved. Email me