DENISE Davies spotted it first at the auction preview. She held it up and showed it to her husband.
“Do you know what this is?” she said.
Her husband James said he had no idea.
“It’s a foxhunting horn.”
It might not be just any foxhunting horn, as the couple learned last week. The nine-inch copper horn might have belonged to one of the great huntsmen of all time: Will Goodall, who hunted the Belvoir hounds in England from 1842 until his death after a riding accident in 1859.
We’ve written about Goodall before. He was the inspiration for Lord Henry Bentinck’s famous treatise on hunting, Goodall’s Practice, and he came from a famous family of huntsmen that started with his grandfather Stephen, who was as well known for his girth as for his ability with hounds; he was said to have tipped the scales at 280 pounds, and one account describes him as “the heaviest professional huntsman who ever sat on a horse.” His grandson Will really brought the Goodall name to prominence at Belvoir, rising from whipper-in to huntsman in 1842. During his time at the Belvoir, Goodall brought in the celebrated hound Rallywood, and together they gave the Belvoir pack a golden era of hunting.
T. F. Dale, writing The History of the Belvoir Hunt in 1899, put it this way: “With Lord Forester and William Goodall, who brought, the one enthusiasm and the other genius, to bear on the fortunes of the hunt, the Belvoir touched the highest point of excellence the pack has ever known. This was undoubtedly the golden age of the Belvoir country.”
Dale did not, of course, have the benefit of foresight to know the future of the hunt, but through Dale’s time at least, Goodall had set the standard.
James and Denise Davies didn’t know any of this when they decided to bid on the copper horn at a local auction near their home in Zimbabwe. The couple have a restaurant in the African nation and also have been collecting antiques for about six years.
“Nobody bid on it, so we got it for next to nothing,” said James, whose usual auction picks are more in the line of figurines and military memorabilia. “We were the only bidders.”
When the Davieses came to England to convert a Victorian house they own into two apartments, they decided to offer some of their finds for sale–partly, James said, because they only have slow dial-up internet access in Zimbabwe, making eBay listings too much of a hassle.
“We thought we’d take a few of the smaller items over to see if there was anything anyone was interested in,” James said. “We brought over a few silver items, and my wife put them on eBay. She also put the horn on eBay. The silverware just sat and sat at 99p and nobody bid on it. But the horn got a hell of a lot of response, and the price just started going up on the horn. Denise said, ‘This is very odd, because everything else is sitting dormant, but this horn …’ And we got a couple of questions from people who were bidding, asking us for more photographs of the inscription so they could read what it said, that sort of thing. That’s when Denise said, ‘Let’s do a bit of research on it.’”
The Davieses ended the bidding, which had reached 50 pounds, apologizing to bidders that the auction had been canceled while they tried to assess exactly what they had.
Here’s where the hound blog came in. On Feb. 10, James wrote a short comment on our post describing Lord Henry Bentinck’s Goodall’s Practice. The comment was brief, but its content got our attention: “I have an old hunting horn inscribed ‘Will Goodall Belvoir Kennels’ and ‘Schott & Co 159 Regent Street London,’” James wrote. “Do you know if this is valuable?”
Short answer: yes. The houndbloggers aren’t in a position to do a formal appraisal, but if this horn really is Will Goodall’s, it’s priceless as a historic artifact from foxhunting and one of England’s great packs.
Will Goodall began his career as a groom and second horseman for the then Master of the Bicester, Thomas Tyrwhitt Drake senior, for whom young Will’s father was stud groom. Curiously, foreshadowing the accident that contributed to his death many years later, as a boy he narrowly escaped serious injury in this first job when a mare named Florence dragged him across a stable yard while he was working with her. He survived and became admired almost as much for his horsemanship as for his hound sense.
In 1835, Drake promoted Goodall to second whip under Bicester huntsman Tom Wingfield, whose own work history began when he hired on with the great Hugo Meynell at age 10, then hunted hounds for another legend, Quorn Master Thomas Assheton Smith.
While under Wingfield, Goodall “was noted for his bold riding, his high spirits, and his sense of humor,” according to The History of the Belvoir. Goodall also apparently idolized Heythrop huntsman Jem Hills, who was hunting that pack while Goodall was with the Bicester, and wanted to work under him, though he never did. “Perhaps it was as well that this dream was never fulfilled,” Dale opined, “for the brilliant style of that famous huntsman was not suited for imitation, and least of all by a young beginner in the art.”
By 1837, his reputation as a horseman and his talent with hounds had gained him enough notice that the Belvoir hired him as second whip to huntsman Thomas Goosey. That began his long association with the Duke of Rutland’s pack that was to make his name and add even more glory to the already celebrated pack. Goosey retired in 1842, and Goodall–though still a second whip–was promoted over the hunt’s first whip, Tom Flint.
Goodall set about preserving the Belvoir pack’s quality, while adding bone, and he brought a highly influential hound into the pack when he got Rallywood, or Yarborough Rallywood, from the Brocklesby. To quote The History of the Belvoir again, “the influence he has had on the Belvoir kennel and through the Duke of Rutland’s pack on nearly every kennel in England is incalculable. There are very few first-rate packs of hounds which have not some of Rallywood’s descendants in them through his famous son, the Belvoir Rallywood. If in any pack the observant man notes a hard-working hound probably of a rich black, tan, and white, with a fine voice, and if further he sees the same hound trotting back to kennel at night with his stern up after a long day, it will be a fair guess to put him down as belonging to the first foxhound family in the world.”
Goodall came by Rallywood in an interesting way. The Brocklesby huntsman was eager to acquire one of the Belvoir hounds, Grappler, and offered Goodall anything in his kennel in exchange for that hound. The huntsman, Will Smith, died before the exchange could be formalized, and Grappler never made it to Brocklesby. But Goodall picked up the conversation again with Smith’s son when he took over his late father’s position. By that time Rallywood already had sired about 28 hounds for Brocklesby, and Smith took Belvoir Trouncer in trade.
Rallywood arrived at the Belvoir and went on to great fame there. At the end of his life, he was buried in the middle of Goodall’s flower garden at the kennels and, as of 1899, a red currant tree sat atop his remains.
Goodall himself was an interesting character, by all accounts. He is universally described as “kind,” something that Lord Bentinck also notes in his very detailed description of Goodall’s exceptional way with his hounds. In addition to his life’s work with hounds, Goodall also kept bees and “had a great love of his beautiful little home at Belvoir” and of the 11 children he had with his wife Frances, including the celebrated future Pytchley huntsman, Will Goodall the younger. Their future was of constant concern, apparently, and he once confided that he was so anxious for their wellbeing that he could “sweat in an ice house.”
The sporting author The Druid, reminiscing about Goodall after the great huntsman’s death, presented a collection of lovely anecdotes, including one in which Goodall intended to go to the Great Exhibition in London in 1851. Along his way from Belvoir to London’s Crystal Palace, Goodall understandably thought it might be interesting to stop and see some hounds. In the end, he visited 16 packs and never even got to the Exhibition at all.
“His phraseology was very unique and expressive,” wrote The Druid, “and ‘screamed over the fallows,’ ‘raced unto him and eat him,’ ‘a blazing hour,’ ‘blew him up in the open,’ etc., were great expressions with him, and very characteristic of the ceaseless energy of the man.”
When Goodall suffered his fatal injuries while trying out a horse, there was much speculation that his horn might have played a role. Dale, who knew Goodall, described the days following the accident, when Goodall was, it was hoped, recovering in his bed:
“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.”
Will Goodall died near daybreak on a May morning in 1859.
Here is another wonderful note from The History of the Belvoir Hunt about his funeral: “… 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.”
According to the History, Goodall was buried in the same cemetery as his Belvoir predecessor Goosey, 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.”
Neither James nor Denise has foxhunted (although Denise’s father regularly hunted wild pig and buck in Africa, as her brothers still do), and so the important history of this horn, if it is indeed Goodall’s, has taken them by surprise–as has their growing interest in a field sport they’d never previously thought much about. James says he intends to sell the horn if it proves authentic, but he confesses he is tempted to keep it himself.
At the moment, James is waiting for any records that Schott, the musical instruments maker whose name is on the horn’s bell, might be able to provide by way of authenticating it. One thing we do know is that Schott was indeed located at 159 Regent Street, the address on the horn, at the time Goodall was hunting the Belvoir hounds.
“I want to find out a little bit more about it, because it’s such an interesting story,” James explained, “and I don’t want to just get rid of it for a couple of hundred quid. I want to know more about Will Goodall and his history now.”