Harvey J R, Deerhunting in Norfolk from the Earliest Times, Norwich Mercury Co. Ltd., Norwich, 1910
relate the history of deerparks in Norfolk from Roman times - none in Breckland
quotes Blomefield as source. Harvey states Thetford … visits by the three Edwards, Richard II, Henry VII,Elizabeth I (one visit in 1578.) James I was frequently at his hunting lodge in Thetford. … Letter from Earl of Worcester, written from Thetford, to Lord Cranborne, dated 3rd march 1604. He says
Because I know nothing can be more welcome to you to hear of his Majesty's heath and recovered of his cold; the truth is he hath been very ill and heavy with it, but thanked be God it has now almost gone.
The reason it hath so long continued hath been the sharpness of the air and wind, for every day that he hunted he takes a new cold, for being hot with riding a long chase, he sitteth in the open air and drinketh, which cannot but continue if not increase a new cold.
He liketh exceedingly well of the country, and is resolved for certain to stay these five days within this town.
He hath been but once abroad a-hunting since his coming hither, and that day he was driven out of the field with press of company which came to see him, but he therein took no great delight, therefore came home and played at cards.
… On the 3rd March 1608, Sir Rowland White writes to Sir Thomas Lake, that STAGS were to be ready if the King goes to Thetford where he appears to have come shortly afterwards.
… On 9th July 1614 John Coward and his son were appointed to the keepership of the game of VENERY about Thetford.
Harvey quotes from My Life by Charles Loftus. At Swaffham also, resided Miss Hammond, who had a considerable property, a good house and stables, was a capital horse-woman, and rode well to hounds. Her brother lived with her. He rode well and kept a magnificent pack of staghounds, originally from Jamaica, and as black as coal. With these I had many a good run. The RED DEER for hunting were kept like horses, tied by the head in stalls, and fed on oats, beans and hay and tremendous runs twice a week they gave us.
… First mention of Westacre Staghounds, under the Mastership of the Rev. Robert Hammond, is in the year 1821. 'Norfolk Annals' states.
that, on December 7th, Mr. R Hamond turned off a deer at Swaffham, which led the field a chase of nearly 30 miles. It crossed the river twice, and what is most extraordinary, Mr. A Hamond, who was in his 81st year took part in the run, and was at the take of the deer near Lynn.
In the 'History of the Quorn Hunt', it mentions -
Sir Richard Sutton's experience of stag-hunting appears to be confined to an unlucky day with Mr. R Hamond's staghounds when he was down in Norfolk for shooting. The hounds met on the confines of Swaffham Heath, about seven miles from Lindford, but on this occasion the stag, by his cussedness, enabled Sir Richard, who was no admirer of staghunting at the best of times, to turn the whole matter into ridicule. When the deer was uncarted, he kept trotting up and down among the horses, and more than once would stare at the mast of the Burton (Sir Richard Sutton was hunting that country at that time). The deer would not run, so was put back in his cart…
… 'Norfolk Annals' again informs us that:
An innovation was introduced by Mr. Robert Hammond, in his endeavour to show sport; in the western part of Norfolk, as we notice, that in 1822, two CORSICAN STAGS were present to this pack by Lord Maynard. The first of these animals was turned off at Rougham, on the 28th January, and gave the followers of the Westacre Hunt a severe chase of nearly three hours, from the effect of which two horses died. It does not state whether these stags were persevered with, as this is the only mention I find of them. They are described as being very superior to the red deer of this country, from their capability to endure extreme fatigue and to take the most extraordinary leaps.
report of a sporting occurrence which took place on February 8th 1826 between the Westacre and Melton Constable hounds. … The Westacre hounds owing to the strong strain of Bloodhound in them, did not like being over-ridden by the crowd, as they are more timid by nature than the foxhound, and the field appear to have pressed on them in a most shameful manner. In consequence, most of Mr. Hamond's were thrown out, and never recovered their lost ground again. The match took place in the neighbourhood of East Dereham.
A brief account of the staghunt that ended near Barton Mills (see National Newspaper Archive: Norfolk Chronicle - Saturday 14th March 1829 for fuller details of this hunt).
Harvey states that probably this is the last outing for the Westacre Staghounds as they were advertised to be sold at the first Newmarket meeting on April, 22nd 1829.
Description of what makes a good staghunt: Foolish to hunt a weak deer and worse to hunting an unwilling. A staghunt does not depend on the capture of the deer … the run is the 'true pathos and sublime' of the game. Yet, given that your deer is as fit as a fighting man, and as a great a votary of his profession as a game-cock, he requires sympathetic handling.
A deer must not be hunted as you hunt a fox. Catching him as soon as possible is just what you do not want to do. The huntsman of a pack of staghounds must disregard opportunities which are often hurled at his head. No healthy-minded fox-catcher ever give a fox a change. But to press home your advantages with a deer means that you run great risk of bewildering so spoiling him, or even killing him. In any case, you will disappoint an eager field by depriving them of what they conceive to be their full rights; that is, plenty of galloping, jumping, and tumbling about.
… I have heard it said that hunting the carted deer, if not a science, requires a system. I cannot quite agree. You never know what deer are going to do. They will run up and down the fences, stand in the corner of a field looking at you, trot back down a road into the pack instead of galloping away from it. …
… hunting carted deer have always had their critics and apologists. I am not going to attempt further controversial apologia. It would only be tiresome … Tried by the purest standards of hunting, it cannot, to my mind, take rank with fox-hunting.
discusses whether a deer should be killed or not at the end of the day:
Taking the deer is, of course, the proper conclusion of a day's stag-hunting. I admit that there is a flatness in having to tell these kindly and interested questioners you have left the deer out. It sounds, and is, rather ineffectual, whatever may be said against the long pilgrimage-like dragging runs to which the athletic deer often treat their followers, there is a certain satisfaction in bringing such runs to their legitimate ending by taking the deer, and a corresponding dissatisfaction about having to give him up. It is nice too, after a good run, to be able to bid good-night to our good deer comfortably housed in the best loose box about the place, up to his knees in long wheat straw. There you know he will stay, the honoured guest of pleased and sedulous hosts, until his carriage is announced some time next day.
Catching your own again, as some one called hunting the carted deer, lacks the inevitableness we prize in wilder sports of the field…
The following entries must often occur in the accounts to most staghunters:
Paid two men 5s for getting into water at Brockdish
Paid 2s.6d. for a window broken by a stag.
Met at Mulbarton Common; took in the goods yard at Victoria Station.
'Hannibal' destroyed himself in a conservatory at Diss.
Story of Edward Baldry huntsman to the Woodton Hunt and the Suckling family and a shell horsePhoto of Gravestone in Woodton Churchyard:
In Memory of
Who Departed this life,
February 24th 1759,
Here lies a Huntsman, who was stout and bold,
His judgement such as count not be controll'd,
Few of his calling could with him compare,
For skill in hunting Fox or Fallow Deer.
He shew his art in England, Ireland and France,
And rests in this churchyard, being his last chance.