Guest blogger: Lord Henry Bentinck

Lord Henry Bentinck: Legendary 19th century hound man and Master of Fox Hounds

Lord Henry Bentinck: Legendary 19th century hound man and Master of Fox Hounds

Okay, okay–Lord Henry Bentinck, MFH of the Rufford and then the Burton hunts in England, actually died in 1870.

But he can still post here, thanks to the written words he left behind in “The Late Lord Henry Bentinck on Foxhounds: Goodall’s Practice.” (Hey, if the man can be published beyond the grave, he can certainly blog)
The Goodall that Bentinck refers to is William Goodall, who hunted the Belvoir hounds in England for 17 years before his death in 1859 as the result of a riding accident.
The grandson of another well-known huntsman, Stephen Goodall, William Goodall had started his hunting career at age 11 as a second horseman and began carrying the horn at the Belvoir when he was just 25. He was widely admired for his natural ability with hounds, and there is no doubt he was devoted to his work with them.  In 1849, the author of the sporting guidebook The Hounds of England observed, “William Goodall is, perhaps, one of the hardest-working men alive. After hunting on Monday–no matter at what hour he returns–he feeds his hounds, and then has to ride to the kennels at Ropsley, a distance of fourteen miles. Here he hunts on Tuesday, feeds, and hacks it back to the Belvoir kennels; then hunts on Wednesday. On Thursday he travels with the hounds to Ropsley; hunts on Friday, and back again to Belvoir that night, where he hunts on Saturday.”
Bentinck greatly admired Goodall’s method of handling hounds. Shortly after his 1863 retirement from the Burton mastership, Bentinck, stuck indoors during a blizzard, felt moved to write a letter to the pack’s new Master, Henry Chaplin, extolling the virtues of “Goodall’s practice.”  Inspired by the lengthy letter’s wisdom, Chaplin published it privately and then, after Bentinck’s death, publicly.
Here, then, are some of Bentinck’s words about Goodall’s relationship with his hounds, one that Bentinck and many others in hunting’s heyday held up as ideal.
“In handling his Hounds in the open, with a Fox before him, he never had them rated or driven to him by his whips; never hallooed them from a distance. When he wanted them he invariably went himself to fetch them, anxiously watching the moment that the Hounds had done trying for themselves and felt the want of him. He then galloped straight up to their heads, caught hold of them, and cast them in a body a hundred yards from his front, every Hound busy before him with his nose snuffing the ground, his hackles up, his stern curled over his back, each Hound relying on himself and believing in each other. When cast in this way, the huntsman learns the exact value of each Hound, while the young Hounds learn what old Hounds too believe in and fly to, and when the scent is taken up no Hound is disappointed. When the huntsman trails his Hounds behind him, four-fifths of his best Hounds will be staring at his horse’s tail, doing nothing.
“The Hounds came to have such confidence in Goodall that with a burning scent he would cast them in this way at a hand gallop, all the Hounds in his front making every inch of ground good; while with a poor scent he would do it in a walk, regulating his pace by the quality of the scent; the worse the scent, the more time the Hounds want to puzzle it out.
“On this system, the Hounds are got to the required spot in the very shortest time, with every Hound busily at work, and with his nose tied to the ground.
Foxhunting in England, 1906
“On the opposite vulgar plan, the huntsman galloping off to his Fox, hallooing his Hounds from a distance, his noise drives the Hounds in the first instance to flash wildly in the opposite direction; four or five minutes are lost before the whip can come up and get to their heads, then they are flogged up to their huntsman, the Hounds driving along with their heads up, their eyes staring at their huntsman’s horse’s tail, looking to their huntsman for help, disgusted, and not relying upon themselves, especially the best and most sagacious Hounds.
“A few minutes are lost before the best Hounds will put their noses down and begin to feel for the scent, a second check becomes fatal, and the Fox is irretrievably lost. Often enough, in being whipped up to their huntsman in this way, when crossing the line of the Fox with their heads up, they first catch his wind, and then, as a matter of course, they must take the scent heelways, the Fox as a rule running down the wind. This fatal piece of bungling–so injurious to Hounds–is always entirely owing to the huntsman; it is neither the fault of the whips nor the Hounds; it can never occur when the huntsman moves his Hounds in front with their noses down. …
“Goodall’s chief aim was to get to the hearts of his Hounds. He considered Hounds should be treated like women; that they would not bear to be bullied, to be deceived, or neglected with impunity. For this end, he would not meddle with them in their casts until they had done trying for themselves, and felt the want of him; he paid them the compliment of going to fetch them; he never deceived or neglected them; he was continually cheering and making much of his Hounds; if he was compelled to disappoint them by roughly stopping them off a suckling vixen or dying Fox at dark, you would see him as soon as he had got them stopped, jump off his horse, get into the middle of his pack, and spend ten minutes in making friends with them again. The result was that the Hounds were never happy without him, and when lost would drive up through any crowd of horsemen to get to him again, and it was very rare for a single Hound to be left out.”
Lord Henry Bentinck's Foxhounds, by his son Lord Charles Bentinck

Lord Henry Bentinck's Foxhounds, by his son Lord Charles Bentinck

As Lord Henry Bentinck’s son Charles later wrote in his book Lord Henry Bentinck’s Foxhounds: “A huntsman may never actually make a tactical mistake in the way he draws his coverts, makes his casts, etc., etc., but without sympathy between himself and his hounds he will never make the mythical ‘Heaven Born’ or even a good huntsman.”
You can read more about Lord Henry Bentinck’s thoughts on “Goodall’s practice,” as his letter to Chaplin is often called, online. There are several free copies available on the internet, including a scan of the published booklet at http://www.archive.org/stream/latelordhenryben00lond#page/n0/mode/1up
The full text, including the introduction by Viscount Henry Chaplin, is available (with a few typos, but still very readable) at http://www.archive.org/stream/foxhoundstheirha00bent/foxhoundstheirha00bent_djvu.txt
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6 thoughts on “Guest blogger: Lord Henry Bentinck

  1. Pingback: Rummager: a royal retiree | Full Cry: A Hound Blog

  2. Pingback: It’s Goodall’s horn. But which Goodall? « Full Cry: A Hound Blog

  3. Pingback: Never Yet Melted » Will Goodall’s Horn Sold in Zimbabwe

  4. Pingback: Is this the great Will Goodall’s horn? « Full Cry: A Hound Blog

  5. Hi I have an old hunting horn inscribed “Will Goodall Belvoir Kennels” and “Schott & Co 159 Regent Street London” it looks like silver and copper do you know if this is valuable.

    • What a wonderful thing to have, and, yes, I would think it would be. There were two Will Goodalls who carried hunting horns in the 1880s, and I would think your horn, if it dates to then, would have belonged to the first of them. The first hunting William Goodall, sometimes now referred to as Will-o-Belvoir, was huntsman to the Belvoir from 1842 until his death in 1859. He hunted the hounds when the pack included the celebrated Rallywood, who is thought to have been a major contributor to the pack’s success and to have sealed Goodall’s reputation as a genius both of hunting and breeding hounds. It’s hard to overstate how well regarded Goodall was in his time as Belvoir huntsman.

      Goodall died of injuries he sustained falling from a horse he was trying, and The History of the Belvoir quotes a contemporary account as speculating that his horn might have played a role: “He had a habit of carrying his horn in his breast to get easier at it, and whether he injured himself or not by falling on it could never be ascertained. They took it to his bedside some days before he died, and he showed them exactly how he fell, and half sitting up in bed took it with all the animation of health, as if it revived him to lay hold of it again.”

      Here is another wonderful note from the same book: ” … and as the hearse moved off, the hounds set up that sort of deep wailing sound, not singing and not chiming, which quite went through the followers and the crowd who stood at the distance to see the last of their old friend, and seemed, even to the whips, like a sound they had never heard before.”

      Will Goodall the first (as we’ll call him) is, according to the History, buried about a mile from the kennel location at the time, at Knipton, “and just under Granby Wood, the end of that unbroken woodland chain which he has made ring again so often in cub-hunting time.”

      Goodall left a son, Will, who also went on to be a great huntsman in his own right, and this is Will the second. He was huntsman at the Pytchley after a term as first whipper-in at the Belvoir, during which time I think it highly unlikely to have had an inscribed horn, and he never was huntsman at Belvoir, which is why I think your horn (providing the authenticity and date of manufacture can be substantiated) has a very good chance of being his father’s. William the younger died in 1895, having served 22 years, I believe, as Pytchley huntsman.

      If your horn did indeed belong to Will-o-Belvoir, you have got quite a historical hunting treasure there! I’d like very much to do a blog post on it. Can you e-mail me at beagle52@aol.com and tell me how you came by it? And we’d love to see a photo!

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