Sport and Foxhunting in South Staffordshire 1800-1850

Fox hunting in South Staffordshire in the area to the West of Wolverhampton has a long history.

The Earl of Stamford and Warrington, based at Enville Hall, was a prominent hunt master in the latter half of the eighteenth century. It is from these roots that the Albrighton hunt was founded in the 1820’s and all helped to define what ‘sport’ meant to individuals such as Richard Evans and his father in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Some of the books that survive from Richard Evans‘s library shed some light on this world. The Evans family interests revolved around horses, largely, but not entirely because of the coaching business based on the Red Lion Inn in the centre of Wolverhampton. It was clearly a common interest with the Shaw-Hellier family too. Both Thomas Evans, Richard’s brother, and Thomas Shaw-Hellier were prominent members of the Albrighton hunt by the 1850’s.

The first important family connection with the Earl of Stamford is the fact that Rev Thomas Shaw-Hellier, amongst his many posts, is described as the personal chaplain to the Earl. For a brief time in about 1767 Thomas had been Rector of Enville an advowson in the gift of his brother in law’s family – the Downings. His sister Jemima had married Rev Harry Downing in 1766. It is only speculation, but the worldly vicar may well have rode with the Earl’s hunt long before his grandson was to become Master of Foxhounds of the Albrighton hunt some fifty years later. Also James Shaw-Hellier, Thomas’s son, was steward of the races on Penn Common in the 1820’s.

Another early piece of evidence of the Evans family interest in racing is the surviving copy of the Chester Racecard of 1766. The significance of this is lost but could be researched further.

The marriage of Richard Evans and Mary Shaw-Hellier in 1824 therefore probably owed something to the fact that both families shared common interest in ‘the chase and the turf’

The first book in Richard Evans’s library that is significant is the “The Chase, The Turf and the Road” by CJ Apperley (aka Nimrod). For a brief period Nimrod, the most prominent contemporary writer on ‘sport’  lived in Bilbrook a mile or so away from Pendeford Hall. If they did not know each other well, Nimrod certainly gathered information on Richard Evans. He marvels at the fine Chestnut horses belonging to Mr Richard Evans that served the stage coach from Wednesbury to Wolverhampton (p 94).

Three bound copies of the Sporting Magazine from 1809-1810 have also survived. These books are all signed by Richard Evans of Pendeford Hall and there are some underlinings and annotations.Again there are long lists of horses and their pedigrees that may or may not tie in with the Chester Racecard or Thomas Evans’ Stud Book. Further research is possible. The signature in the front of each of these volumes appears to be that of the father, Richard Evans (Snr).

The Sporting Magazine is aimed at a range of ‘leisure activities’ for gentlemen and Richard Evans clearly shared these eclectic interests – in fishing and reports of all exotic hunts from around the world.

Also in the book collection on this theme are:-

  • “Foreign Field Sports, Fisheries, Sporting anecdotes etc” Inc Supplement on New South Wales, S Howitt, Published by HRYoung London 1819 Second Edition.
  • “The Noble Science” by F P Delme-Radcliffe published Rudolph Ackerman 1839 – a book on fox hunting – signed “R Evans” on inside cover together with bookshop name in Wolverhampton.
  • “History of British Birds” (2 Vols) T Bewick, 1827 Sixth Edition – this contains interesting pencil manuscript about a particularly rare specimen that was bagged near Crosby on a shooting trip. Volume 1: Land Birds. Volume 2:Water Birds
  • “Museum of Natural History” Div II Birds by WS Dallas, published by Wm Mackenzie 1803.
Last updated on 5 February 2019 by JJ Morgan