Is this the great Will Goodall’s horn?

James Davies and his wife Denise bought the horn, which is engraved "Will Goodall, Belvoir Kennels," for just a few dollars at an auction in Zimbabwe

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.”

Goodall's name is on the bell of the horn.

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.

Belvoir Hunt Button

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.

Modern horns made by Keat. One expert has told us that the unusual nickel band around the bell of the Davieses' horn is sometimes seen in horns dating to Will Goodall's era.

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.”

Lord Henry Bentinck wrote glowingly of Goodall's talent with hounds.

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.”

Of horses and hounds

Stalker the horse and Stalker the hound

Stalker the horse and Stalker the hound

IROQUOIS has a lot of horses that are named for hounds. Joint-MFH Jerry Miller always has named all his horses for hounds, not all of them Iroquois hounds. Miller’s great hunt horses Furrier and Tennessee Lead, for example, were both named for famous hounds from history. (Furrier was described as “crooked as a crab’s claw” but the black and white Belvoir-born hound “ran hard at head and was as stout as oak” in his career with the Quorn and Brocklesby, according to author William Scarth Dixon; Furrier went on to become not only a famed hunting hound but also a renowned sire).  

But many of Miller’s current horses–such as Gangster, Farmer, Bonfire, and Grundy–are named for Iroquois hounds of the recent past. A few are named for hounds that are still with us, such as Stalker (pictured above with his equine namesake). Now retired under the auspices of the Hound Welfare Fund, Stalker is the fourth hound profiled in the “Meet the Hounds” link provided with his name above.

The Iroquois field secretary has a hunter named Harlequin after her favorite hound, the Hound Welfare Fund’s retiree of the year for 2009-2010.

Members of the field also have honored hounds by naming horses after them. I understand one of our accomplished young riders has a horse named Glog, just as Iroquois has a hound named Glog. Willy, if you’re out there, send us a photo of your horse!

If you’ve got a horse who shares a name with a hound, please e-mail Tell us why you chose the name you did and a little about your horse. If you’ve got a picture of your horse, send that as a JPEG file, too, and we’ll post it.

I’ll get the ball rolling. My horse, Sassoon, and the hound Iroquois Sassoon ’04 both were named for the English writer and World War I soldier Siegfried Sassoon. He’s best known for his poetry about the war, but he also is the author of the sporting classic Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man. I got my Sassoon in 2003 from the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. The same summer, Jerry gave the name Sassoon to the only male puppy in that year’s litter by the great Iroquois stallion hound Grundy and out of Bicester Sandal.

The hound Sassoon was entered at Iroquois in 2004, the same year my Sassoon hunted his first full season.

Sassoon hound

Sassoon hound

 Iroquois Sassoon ’04 has gone on to fame and fortune! He won the foxhound championship at the Mid-America Hound Show a couple of years ago and has turned into an exemplary hunting hound. He’s easily recognizable in the hunt field, because he’s large and woolly.

My Sassoon has had a more up-and-down path. In 2005, just before the start of what would have been his second full hunt season, Sassoon got a tiny puncture wound underneath his fetlock while he was turned out. The puncture went into the tendon, infecting the tendon sheath, which then required four surgical tendon flushes and a stay at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute.

We weren’t at all sure he’d survive, but he did. Then we were pretty certain he’d never be rideable again, but he surprised all of us by coming all the way back. It was a long recovery, but in 2008 my vets declared him hunting sound again. He had missed two full seasons when I took him out again last October for the first time since his injury.


Sassoon horse

Sassoon horse (the black one!)

He’d been off so long, I put a green ribbon in his tail to let everyone know he might be unpredictable. That morning I overheard another rider remark, “She’s saying that horse is still green?”  That seemed unkind, but then she didn’t know the full story!

Sassoon doesn’t get out hunting as much as either of us would like (this really is true, according to a “horse psychic” I met at a horse sale the other day!), but he’s a great pleasure in my life, as I’m sure your horse is, too.

By the way, Siegfried Sassoon died in 1967, but his son George carried on his father’s support for hunting. When the foxhunting ban was debated in England, George and his stepson put pro-hunting signs on the family’s pasture fencing. The day the ban went into effect in 2005, George attended a local hunt’s first post-ban meet for drag hunting. He was too frail to ride anymore, but he wore a Countryside Alliance sticker (and an old Soviet army hat!).

George Sassoon and his furry Soviet hat attended a local drag-hunt meet in February 2005 after live fox-hunting was banned in England. He thought it was both flattering an amusing that there was a hound named Sassoon across the Atlantic in Kentucky!

George Sassoon and his furry Soviet hat attended a local drag-hunt meet in February 2005 after live fox-hunting was banned in England. He thought it was both flattering and amusing that there were canine and equine Sassoons hunting across the Atlantic in Kentucky!

George, a farmer, engineer, and linguist, died in 2006 after a remarkably interesting , though sometimes turbulent, life. After his funeral, the attendees gathered in in his regular pub. One of his pals at the bar, on hearing I was from Kentucky, said, “That’s where they’ve  got that hound and horse called Sassoon!” I got a kick out of that, and I guess George did, too.