On the run with a 19th century fox hunt

PUBLISHED: 15:00 25 February 2017

Fox hunting was outlawed in 2004.

Fox hunting was outlawed in 2004.

PA Archive/PA Images

Most of us regard fox-hunting as a cruel pastime, but 150 years ago it was a major part of country life – and Havering was still very rural.

Prof Ged Martin invites us to join Essex Hunt on a February afternoon in 1863 as they gather at Kelvedon Hatch, near Brentwood.

Most of us regard fox-hunting as a cruel pastime, but 150 years ago it was a major part of country life – and Havering was still very rural.

Let’s join the Essex Hunt on a February afternoon in 1863 as they gather at Kelvedon Hatch, near Brentwood.

Keen huntsmen in scarlet jackets – strangely called “pink” – mingle with gentlemen in top hats and some farmers in their working clothes. Most farmers resented the damage the hunting crowd did to their crops. Few “ladies” rode to hounds.

After a fruitless trot through Navestock, the hunt plunged into woodland near Passingford Bridge, four miles north of Romford.

There “the welcome music of the whole pack” confirmed that the hounds had scented a fox.

Hunting was defended because foxes were vermin that killed lambs and chickens.

But farmers were bullied into protecting them, to give the huntsmen something to chase!

Their quarry fled south, towards modern Harold Hill, heading – the experts thought – for a drainage pipe off Broxhill Road, a favourite refuge for hunted foxes.

But the pipe had been blocked, and the animal streaked to the west, through Bedfords Park to “Cheese Cross”, the old spelling of Chase Cross.

There it turned south. There was no Eastern Avenue in 1863. The terrified animal quickly dashed across crossed the Gidea Hall grounds, part of them modern Raphael Park.

Somewhere along today’s Carlton Road, it jumped the railway, turning sharply eastward heading – it was thought – for the safety of thick woodland beyond Tylers Common.

The huntsmen probably crossed the railway at Balgores Lane, before galloping towards Ardleigh Green.

However, near Nelmes, in Emerson Park, the fox doubled back towards The Drill.

After a “gallop across Squirrels Heath”, huntsmen chased it through Heath Park to Hornchurch Road (the A124), near the Crown Inn.

Crossing the busy highway delayed the hunt for several minutes. Then they splashed through the River Rom near Grenfell Park and pounded on through Rush Green.

But the fox had veered north alongside Whalebone Lane, before turning east, and finally north again across the fields of Rise Park, seeking safety in familiar country.

Fanning out in search of the scent, the hounds lost a quarter of an hour before resuming the chase alongside Collier Row Lane, crossing the grounds of Priests, a former mansion remembered in Priests Avenue.

The “run” had now lasted three hours and covered over 20 miles. The winter daylight was fading.

The hounds, “intent on a late supper”, were still in full cry, but the climb up Orange Tree Hill was too much for the exhausted fox.

The pack cornered its quarry in woodland near Havering village. After a few desperate attempts to escape, “he died as a fox ought to die” – so wrote the hunt’s historian.

The hounds tore the animal to pieces, “struggling for the dainty morsels while the shades of evening fell fast around.”

Usually, the fox’s “brush” – its tail – was cut off and used to “blood” newcomers, by smearing gore on their faces.

But today only a few experienced huntsmen were in at the kill. They enjoyed “a most satisfactory finish” to a great day’s “sport”.

Hunting was outlawed in 2004.

1 comment

  • Erm is this meant to be a quote of a historical account or a piece of fiction? While the route and distance covered seem entierly feasible there are a number of glaring errors or inaccuracies. If it is based on a historical account could I have the source? Late 19th C means 1880-1890 ish, what highway, as this predates cars by around 50yrs, did they come across that was so busy as to delay them? Even that close to London the main stagecoach routes at their peak were never that busy. Also as an agronomist I would quite like to know what winter crops were being grown? Winter fallows were the norm, or so I understood.

    Report this comment


    Monday, February 27, 2017

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

Latest Romford News Stories

Yesterday, 17:18

Our reporter Liam Coleman met with the big man before a hectic few weeks.

Yesterday, 15:00

A special needs school in Harold Hill said its first Christmas fete was a resounding success for all the pupils and families that came for the festive afternoon.

Yesterday, 14:27

A 69-year-old woman was taken to hospital with “life-changing” injuries after a hit and run in Havering-atte-Bower.

Yesterday, 14:09

Crossrail, London’s new east to west railway service, may be delayed even further and could require a £2billion funding boost, Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed.

Yesterday, 12:00

A Hornchurch secondary school was one of 28 schools in London to receive an award for encouraging active and safer modes of travel.

Yesterday, 10:39

A Hornchurch fostering agency has received an “outstanding” Ofsted report.

Yesterday, 07:00

Twenty-five pubs in Havering have closed their doors since 2001, figures have revealed.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Recorder readers this week.


From November, The Mercury in Romford begins to celebrate Christmas. The mall has plenty of gift ideas, fun events and activities for everyone

Vauxhall has completed its sport utility vehicle range with the third, and largest, Grandland X. We put the SUV, now available at Tony LeVoi in Romford, to the test.

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining,” so the saying goes. So if some warm weather is making your conservatory uninhabitable, think about replacing its roof with a flat one and adding a roof lantern instead.

Newsletter Sign Up

Romford Recorder twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists

Education Promo

News from your area

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now