W3C The Mardale Hunt
Lunesdale & Oxenholme Staghounds

The Mardale Hunt-A History

Lakeland Hunting Memories Vol I

Lakeland Hunting Memories Vol II

Hunting Songs Vol I

HUnting Songs

Brait Cover

A History
by Ron Black

The book is no longer in print but the ebook is available from : Amazon : Smashwords : and all major ebook retailers.


Reviewed by Peter Brook, 2012

Though it makes extensive use of contemporary meet reports the book is more than just a historical review of a hunt as it provides the reader regardless of their knowledge or association with the Lake District with a degree of context of the place that hunting hunt staff followers and hounds have within a rural community. In addition it is a book that illustrates the effect that man and commercial interests can impose upon an area as unspoiled and natural as the Lakes.

The original Mardale meets are said to have been held on High Street where in addition to the first purpose of identifying and claiming stray sheep, there was horse racing along the route of the Roman road, wrestling, and other sports. At some time long ago the meets were transferred to the Dun Bull Inn, a hotel that became the unofficial "base" for the hunting with the Ullswater Foxhounds which accompanied the meet, and the evening's sing song which followed. Mardale was certainly famous for its autumnal shepherds’ meet. Stray sheep were brought from the surrounding fells to be restored to their rightful owners. They were, and still are to this day, identified by their ear and wool markings, each farm having a distinct code.

Most of the information regarding specific hunts in the book concern the Ullswater, and its popularity and a huge proportion of its success came from its long time huntsman Joe Bowman. From the number of songs that were sung to recall his exploits it is clear that he and his hounds was held in great reverence by the farmers and shepherds in the area and it is this area in particular where Ron Blacks efforts are to be congratulated as he uses extensive contemporary reports, anecdotes and local folk song to tell the tales of Mardale. The book is full of interesting and unusual events and give a mere glimpse of the sort of people that live and work in an area as challenging as the Lakes and the natural affection they have for it but perhaps a few examples will encourage a prospective reader to investigate this work further.

The first takes place in November 1927 where over seven hundred people attended the meet, participating in the hunt with the Ullswater Foxhounds, watching the stray sheep being brought down from the fells, taking part in clay pigeon shooting and joining in the festivities of the evening. On that occasion there were many nostalgic tales of earlier meets, recalling times at the Dun Bull when the festivities continued on from Friday evening such as when an unnamed man walked over the pass from Kentmere to play the piano at each shepherds meet. He wore a fancy waistcoat with pockets. After two days of playing the piano, he ran out of the money he’d earned for his efforts, so on the third morning he set off to walk home again. When he reached the top of the Nan Bield pass, he sat down to have a smoke, feeling in his waistcoat pocket for tobacco, he found half a sovereign, so he returned to the Dun Bull for another two days.

On another afternoon a hunt came racing down the fellside above the village school, the teacher (Miss Simpson) and all the children abandoned the classroom and rushed outside to follow the hounds, missing two lessons. Miss Simpson later was heard to say “we put it down to a natural history lesson.” The last meet was held in 1935.

It will make interesting reading for both hunting enthusiasts and social historians.


Bowman Cover

Chappie Cover

Ullswater 2 Cover

Ullswater I Cover

Lathom Remount Depot Cover

Bobby Cover

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