Goodall Family

The following article was sent in by John Shipman - many thanks.

The Goodall family and Pytchley

By John Shipman[1]

Whilst researching my own family history I came across some notes and information relating to the Goodall family and their association with Pytchley and fox hunting.

Stephen Goodall

In 1797 [2] Pytchley Hall was in a bad way and the then owner, Mr. Burghley, had let it decline so it need many repairs. Mr. Lane, the steward of Pytchley Hall resigned, complaining that he had lost money as many members of the hunt had ordered dinner and then did not turn up for it. Mr. Buller of Maidwell Hall was the master of Lord Spencer's hounds and he engaged Stephen Goodall who hunted successfully. Stephen Goodall was a patient, quiet and knowledgeable huntsman and this combined with a good scenting season, they had excellent sport. Stephen Goodall weighed at least twenty stone so the good sport was due more to the duke’s splendid hounds than to Stephen’s energies. Stephen Goodall was the ancestor of a long line of famous huntsmen who came from Shropshire.

William Goodall

Stephen’s grandson, William or Will as he was better known was a whipper in with the Belvoir hounds before he became huntsman. He married Francis Wellbourne and they both moved into a house at the Belvoir Kennels.[3] They had 11 children. Tragedy struck when Will died in 1858 as a result of a fall when his horse got it’s foot stuck in a rabbit hole. By the time of his death Will who was also known as Will-o-Belvoir had become famous for his natural way with the hounds. His widow, Francis was 40 when Will died, and with eight boys and three girls in the family and no pension life was a difficult. With the heyday of hunting there were many wealthy patrons who subscribed to a memorial fund and some patrons offered to educate individual sons. The Duke of Rutland offered accommodation in the redundant hunting lodge in Croxton Park. One of Will’s daughters called Francis or Fanny married a game keeper called Tom Dent. One of their daughters called Lizzie Goodall Dent married a farmer called Shipman and they farmed nearby at Croxton Lodge which is between Branston and Knipton. Will Goodall had a son also called Will who became known as Young Will and he followed his father’s footsteps in the hunting world and became a whipper-in at Belvoir followed by a move to the Pytchley Hunt. Young Will married Kate Crisp. Young Will and Kate had three children: Mary – a spinster; William who died in Canada and Reuben who also died in Canada).

Young Will Goodall

Young Will Goodall was the great grandson of Stephen Goodall and son of the famous Will-o-Belvoir who had hunted with the Duke of Rutland's hounds for over twenty years and was the acknowledged head of the profession. Young Will had been educated at Guilsborough Grammar School by Sir Thomas Whithcote of Aswarby who was a great friend and admirer of Will’s father. Will had been entered at Milton under George Carter after which he came to Brixworth and spent a very unhappy year under Colonel Thomson. Will was seen by Henry Chaplin, the squire, of Blankney who was hunting every day of the week with four packs of hounds in Lincolnshire. The squire was so impressed with the speed at which young Will counted hounds away from a covert that he begged him from Colonel Thomson. After a few years at Blankney young Will returned to Belvoir as first whipper-in 1870.

In 1874 on the advice of Henry (afterwards Viscount) Chaplin, Lord Spencer applied to the Duke of Rutland for his first whipper-in, Will Goodall. Young Will knew a bit about the Pytchley country having  been whipper in for one season to Anstruther Thomson. Young Will Goodall was only twenty seven years old at this time, but the Duke of Rutland remembering the fathers great services and knowing that his present huntsman, Frank Gillard, had many more years service left in him, allowed Young Will Goodall to accept this chance. It proved a lucky strike.

Young Will was devoted to his hounds and his hounds to him. He treated it almost as a personal insult to them if he failed to kill his fox and would get off his horse and make a fuss of them. On the 4th of December 1875 Young Will broke his leg and Lord Spencer hunted hounds for the rest of the season without him.

In 1884 and to mark Young Will Goodall’s twenty years service, a silver salver and £1,315 was subscribed by the members and farmers of the hunt. These were presented to him by Lord Spencer in October at Althorp Horse Show. Mr. Loder was honorary Secretary of this fund which limited each subscription to £25.

In June 1895, Young Will Goodall was struck down with a fatal illness and died on 17th August 1895. Harry Bentley expressed the feelings of all in a poem he wrote:

In memoriam of Will Goodall

Gone, he has left us for a far off country, a distant bourne

And through Northamptonshire, Castle and cottage his loss will mourn,

Never again when note of hound is ringing the covert through,

His silver horn the slumbering echoes shall wake round Waterloo,

No more November moons in hearty greeting his voice will hear,

No more across the Cottesbrooke Vale the flying pack he’ll cheer,

And tho’ his place is void and silenced his voice is evermore,

He surely has not passed away, only gone on before,

For day must ring to Evensong, and when life’s work is done,

We too must turn our bridle rein and follow where he’s gone.

Harry Bentley did not exaggerate when he said that the whole country mourned for Will Goodall. Never in its whole history had the Pytchley a huntsman so universally popular. For twenty two years he had been the very spirit of the hunt. His clear ringing voice and horn seemed to put pace into the chase. He had a cheery word for high and low on horse or foot, on all occasions.He always said that you must trust your hounds, or they would not trust you – which in his case they did to a superlative degree. Trusting hounds could tell you more than anyone else, if you only had the sense to understand them.


Young Will was a real character as he said himself, “If hadn’t been he would not be huntsman of the Pytchley”. In the kennel he was equally as successful as he was in the field. He was fortunate in his masters for both Lord Spencer and Mr. Laughan were keen hounds men.

Young Will was good as a master as he was a servant. During twenty two years he had but four whipper-ins, and it was only with the greatest difficulty that Mr. Fernie induced Charles Isaac to leave Will and become his huntsman. Lord Spencer treated him all his life as a friend: in fact it was for Lord Spencer’s sake more than any other reason that induced Will to take the hounds in 1890 and to become Master, when conditions at Brixworth had become too impossible. Sir Herbert and Mr. Wroughton always spoke of him with the greatest affection as did all those who hunted with him. He will always go down in history as one of the Pytchley’s big five, (the other four were Dick Night, Charles King, Charles Payne and Frank Freeman).Will Goodall’s untimely death at the age of forty eight left the Pytchley for the third time running without a huntsman at the start of cub hunting.

Clearly Young Will and Lord Spencer had struck up an enduring friendship between master and man, which lasted all their lives, and even in death they were not divided – for Young Will Goodall lies only a few yards away from his beloved master in the Spencer's burial ground in Bridgeton churchyard.


October 2003

[1] John Shipman, 3 Old Mill Close, Langford, Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, SG18 9QY.

[2] Guy Paget, History of the Althorp and Pytchley Hunts

[3] Mollie Shipman

Additional information