The Pytchley Hunt

The above photographs are by kind permission of

No background of Pytchley would be complete without some history of the Hunt for which Pytchley is most famous.

The Pytchley Hunt is believed to be directly descended from the Royal Hunt maintained by the Plantaganets in Rockingham Forest and its history is well chronicled from the mid 17th century. Originally called the Althorp and Pytchley Hunt, with kennels at Althorp, its history is intertwined with that of the Earls Spencer. One of its most famous masters was the 'Red Earl', the 5th Earl.

Until the division of the country in the late 19th century, hounds, horses and Hunt servants travelled weekly by train from Althorp to Brigstock, to hunt what is now the Woodland Pytchley country.

The Padua red livery worn by the Masters and Hunt servants, although worn by servants in the 18th century, was re-introduced by Lord Annaly in 1902, being the colour of a bolt of cloth at Lowther Castle. The white collar, originally worn to protect the coat from the powdered wig, and now awarded by the Masters, is still highly prized.

Much later, in the twentieth century, Naseby House came to provide an interesting link with the Royal Family in that the late King George VI, when Duke of York, rented the house to hunt with the Pytchley Hounds during the seasons of 1928-29 and 1929-30. He, his Duchess (the Queen Mother) and the little princesses Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and Margaret Rose were popular figures in the neighbourhood during those years.

Ladies have ridden horses side-saddle for centuries; the art is depicted in early editions of The Canterbury Tales, while a recent find in the Isle of Man suggests that it was already practised before 1000 AD.

For many centuries, side-saddle was considered the only way for a lady to proceed 'properly' on horseback. The 1920's were its heyday in Britain, with the emphasis as much on elegance, style and 'propriety' as on technique, horsemanship and courage. Ladies were not alone in practising the art: their grooms rode side-saddle to train and keep their ladies' horses fit.

It had become fashionable for ladies to follow hounds, not merely as interested spectators out for a good gossip, but as active participants. One of its pioneers was H.I.M. The Empress of Austria, who rode regularly with the Pytchley Hunt. By her daring example she helped set the pace in saddle design, by demanding the same, or indeed greater, durability and security for the side-saddle rider, whether hacking in a London park or keeping up with hounds.

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