Hunting with the hounds was a very popular pastime, and for a detailed history I can recommend ” Hunting in the Holme Valley “, an illustrated history of the Working Man’s Hunt by Cyril Ford & C.B. Woodcock.
Hunting was well supported by the villagers, and on Saturday, 12 November 1908 the hunt started at the Cricketers’ Arms and on the following Monday, 14 November, from the Queen’s Arms.
Hare coursing was also very popular in the valley and the Holmfirth, Honley and Meltham Hunt was one of the oldest institutions of its kind in England. The only paid man was the huntsman, there was no Master of Hounds and nobody rode on horseback with the hunt being carried out on foot.
In October 1913 the Holmfirth, Honley and Meltham Hunt met at the Queen’s Arms. Two years later a large group of 100 followers from the three Hunts gathered at the Queens Arms with James Senior, huntsman, and Frank Lee, whip. There were plenty of hares in Mark Bottom.
Beagles eventually replaced the Harriers and in 1928 the Holme Valley Beagles, which displaced the pack of harriers formerly owned by the H,H & M Hunt , had their first public run. Hares were sought out in their own country and hunted by hounds, whose pace gave every opportunity for the fleeter hare to escape, thus forcing the dogs to hunt by scent alone. They were well supported by the inhabitants of all the surrounding villages and hamlets. They met at the Clothiers in November 1932 and a great afternoon was enjoyed by all.
One Sunday in March 1939 the Beagles started from Deanhouse. The hounds found the “ puss “ near the Institution, ran towards Holmroyd and on to Lower Oldfield. Puss doubled back towards Miry Lane and Holmroyd Wood then onto Larch Wood, Banks Wood, Holmroyd, the Institution, Lower Oldfield and down to Gift Wood before finally ending at Honley Cricket field. The Huntsman made a sporting move and called the hounds off.
Mr.John Donkersley of School Street, who had been a very keen follower of the Beagles for 60 years , died at the age of 83 years. A cortege was led from his house to the Parish Church by Mr.Barnes ( Beagles current huntsman ) in his red coat and Thomas Dutton , a whipper –in, who wore his green hunting dress. They each had charge of a pair of beagles.
In October 1947 the Beagles turned out from the Clothier’s Arms and the hounds cast near the vicarage and worked the fields up to Knowle Bridge to no avail. They crossed Moor Lane and worked over the hill and raised a hare which they chased down to Crimbles but managed to lose it. After working the fields near Marks Bottom without any success, it was decided to return the hounds to the kennels and many of the followers returned to the Clothiers and were welcomed by the host and hostess, Mr. & Mrs. Hampshaw, who put on a very good tea.
Once again in October 1949, the Beagles started from the Clothiers but before the actual start, the company stood in silence to the memory of the late Mr.Wimpenny in whose honour the hunt was named. ‘ The first hare raised took the hounds to Upper Oldfield and came back towards Wood Nook. A very wily hare took them to Honley Head, back to Wood Nook, Knoll Lane, Holmroyd and Knoll Bridge’. The local reporter continued …. ‘the afternoons hunting had been a great success providing almost continual hunting with excellent hound work. This was very good beagling.’
There were several reports in 1950. The first was on Saturday February 11 in the morning at 10.30 and in the afternoon at 14.00 from the Clothiers. The Beagles met again on Saturday 7th. October for the Albert Wimpenny Hunt, which had two starts from the Clothiers, one at 10.30 and the other at 14.00. The third report was in November when the Beagles turned out from the Cricketers for the Tommy Dufton Hunt.
In October 1967 the Beagles started off at the Cricketers and initially progressed towards Oldfield – hunting continued for just under three hours. The programme for the season August 1968 to August 1969 showed a start from the Cricketers on August 26, and two from the Clothiers on December 14 and January 18.
The next report I have is from November 1971, when a good crowd were at Deanhouse to see the Beagles turn out for the Tommy Dufton Hunt – the chase took in New Hagg, Oldfield Road, Upper Hagg Farm and back to Gill Wood. After a hunt of over one and a half hours, the hare was given the day. They found another hare that kept the hounds busy by taking them to Marks Bottom before the Huntsman decided that ” blowing out ” was called for. A meal was taken at the Clothiers before everyone re-assembled for the afternoon session. About 70 enthusiasts made their way to Swinney Knoll where a hare was chased but for the first time that season the hounds had failed to kill.
In November 1973, it was the Cricketers turn once again to host the Beagles. The morning hunt started at 10.30 and the first hare was found within 10 minutes and it led them in a circle from Gill Wood,Lower Hagg, Oldfield Road back to Deanhouse. The route in the afternoon took everyone to Bank Wood, Swinney Knoll, Wolfstone Heights and Marks Bottom.