THE antique hunting horn that James Davies and his wife Denise picked up for a few dollars at a Zimbabwe auction is set to sell in England on March 25. Luckily enough, we’ll be there, too. The hound blog was the first to write about the horn and the remarkable story of how the Davieses found it, and since then its existence has excited a great deal of interest in the hunting world. But now there’s a lot of discussion going on over the horn’s provenance: did it belong to the legendary Belvoir huntsman Will Goodall, who died days after falling on his horn in a riding accident? Or did it belong to his son, also named Will Goodall, the longtime and beloved huntsman of the Pytchley?
The copper and nickel horn bears engraving that reads: “Will Goodall, Belvoir Kennels.” It also is stamped “Schott & Company, 159 Regent Street,” the name and address of a musical publisher that opened in London in about 1835 (and is still there). That seems like definitive information: Will Goodall, the Belvoir’s celebrated huntsman between 1842 and 1859, lived in a cottage at Belvoir Kennels. The horn also has an unusual double ferrule that strongly suggests it has been repaired–tempting one to wonder whether or not this horn might be the very horn that might have played a role in the elder Goodall’s untimely death.
The possibility that it could have belonged to Goodall’s son first surfaced when a researcher at Cheffins, the auction house that is selling the horn in Cambridge, found something he thought ruled out Goodall the elder as a possibility. At least up until this week, he could find no record of Schott & Co. at the address stamped on the horn, 159 Regent Street, until after the elder Goodall’s death in 1859. But this week, the houndbloggers found ample evidence that the company was indeed located at the address from at least 1857, when this advertisement–one of 34 such advertisements listing Schott & Co. at 159 Regent Street–appeared in a single 1857 volume of the old music-related newspaper, The Musical World.
In case you’re interested in the publication itself, you can leaf through it–virtually, that is!–at this link at Google Books.
That evidence certainly rules Goodall the elder back in, assuming Cheffins excluded him solely on the basis of the address and date. If they are basing their assessment that the horn is Goodall the younger’s on other information, we’re very eager to find out what they’ve learned. On its website, Cheffins theorizes that the horn was “probably presented to him as a young man while serving as whipper-in at the Belvoir in 1870 as a promising young huntsman to be.”
We’re skeptical, until we see any additional evidence. According to hunting historians we know, it would have been highly unusual for a first whipper-in to be provided with his own engraved hunting horn. We wondered at first whether perhaps Goodall the younger might have substituted for his father in the initial part of the hunting season after his father’s death, but according to published histories of the Belvoir, the elder Will Goodall was immediately succeeded as Belvoir huntsman by Jem Cooper.
When we contacted the Schott’s London office, which is still in business but at a Marlborough Street address acquired in 1908, company employees seemed completely baffled by the horn and could offer little help. Schott was founded in Mainz, Germany, in 1770 and since has expanded worldwide as a musical publisher, not an instrument maker or seller, and its current London staff could shed little light on what the shop might have sold other than sheet music 150 years ago.
Let me pause to warn you here: if you don’t care much about the history of brass instruments, it’s about to become heavy going. We won’t be offended if you just skip to the end!
One employee told us that the Schott company never had made any instruments, but in fact, in Germany, they were regarded in the 1800s as innovators in the design of brass horn valves, as described in some detail in musical instrument historian Anthony Baines’s 1993 book Brass Instruments: Their History and Development. For example, in 1825, “Schott was offering a natural post-horn in trumpet form (as opposed to circular) with four crooks and tuning slide,” Baines noted, and included a picture of this and other Schott-manufactured horns.
But, so far, we haven’t found any evidence that Schott made a regular practice of manufacturing hunting horns specifically, and we think it’s more likely that Adam Schott–the Schott son and military bandleader who opened the London branch for his father in 1835–simply might have ordered a few horns (perhaps only a very few as part of a special Belvoir order, even) from other local manufacturers of hunting horns and coach horns (Keat and Swaine Adeney are the most famous, and both existed at the time). There were certainly plenty of them around, and the practice of buying them for resale with one’s own stamp was pretty common practice, according to one horn collector we consulted. And, as he also pointed out, there are other examples of firms that did manufacture horns (and quite good horns) as more or less a side business to their main work of music publishing.
“We think of Boosey as great coach horn makers, but they were mostly a music publisher,” our source pointed out. In fact, that’s true, and Boosey’s reputation for coach horns grew largely after it merged with the brass instrument maker Hawke.
So, on balance, we’ve found no evidence ourselves that the horn belonged to Goodall the younger, although the idea that it might have could tempt some at the Pytchley into a bidding war with Belvoir, if the latter hunt is indeed interested, as we believe they must surely be. It’s our considered opinion that the horn very likely belonged to his father.
Either way, it is a remarkable hunting treasure, and the houndbloggers are delighted that James and Denise Davies brought it to our attention so we could embark on the fascinating quest for its history.