Ullswater Foxhounds

Banner Image: At the kennels, Grassthwaite How, from Chronicles of Patterdale, with thanks to Patterdale WI

Traditionally famers used to keep individual hounds to control what were considered to be ‘vermin’ – foxes, pine martens, otters and ravens. The church used to pay a bounty on the heads of these dead animals – 5 shillings for a fox head, 2 shillings and sixpence for a pine marten, and 2 shillings for a raven.

From two packs to one - the Ullswater Foxhounds are formed

At the beginning of the 19th century, there were two packs of foxhounds in the area – the Patterdale pack which were housed at Hartsop and later at Patterdale Hall, and the Matterdale pack kennelled at Bald Howe.

On 10th May 1873, at Patterdale Old Hotel, the Masters of the Foxhounds and officials from the Bald How (Matterdale) Foxhounds and Patterdale Foxhounds came together and decided to amalgamate and create the Ullswater Fox Hounds. A committee was established which included John W. Marshall, John Edward Hasell and Henry G. Howard.

Four months after their initial meeting in May, on 6th September 1873 they met at the Royal Hotel, Dockray and elected J W Marshall, the owner of Patterdale Hall as the first Master of the Hounds. New kennels were installed at Grassthwaite How in the Grisedale valley (see Banner Image). The Earl of Lonsdale provided financial support. The Committee met every year, rotating between The Royal, Dockray and the Patterdale Old Hotel.

J W Marshall was Master until 1880 when for health reasons the mantle was passed to John Edward Hasell, of Dacre and Dalemain, who was Master for the following 30 years.

John Wooddisse wrote “The first three meets of the new Ullswater pack… were blanks. The first kills were recorded on the 13th November, 1873, when a score of horsemen and ‘quite a hundred foot’ were present. The first season yielded 26 foxes. The first kill in the lake by the pack was also recorded in the 1873-4 season. In 1875 the pack hunted a Langdale fox through the three counties of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire before he was run to ground. Two days later a fine greyhound fox weighing 19 pounds was killed in Great Langdale, which shows how far the pack would travel in those times.”[1]

The first hound packs had 15-20 hound ‘couples’ - 30 to 40 hounds. The bloodstock for these hounds originated from the pack run by John Peel, one of the most famous of all Cumbrians, who was born in Caldbeck (1776-1854). The first hound pack originated in Coniston in 1825.

Iconic Huntsmen

In its 147 year history the Ullswater Foxhounds has been led by some truly iconic Huntsmen – such as Joe Bowmen (for 42 years), Joe Wear (for 32 years) and Denis Barrow (for 25 years). Both Bowman and Wear started their professional working lives in the Greenside lead mine at the head of the Glenridding valley.

Joe Wear with hounds, with thanks to Patterdale WI
Joe Wear crossing Goldrill Bridge, with thanks to Patterdale WI

In the first season of the Ullswater Foxhounds (1873) 26 foxes were killed. A year later, 1874, it was 29 foxes. In 1875 it rose to 35 foxes, in 1876 it was 36, in 1877 it fell to 17. Under the reign of Joe Bowman an average of 50 foxes were taken per season.

The hunting itself was not without dangers, both to the Huntsmen and the hounds. In some seasons up to 20 hounds were killed: falling over precipices, lost in coal pits, by drowning or killed on railway tracks. On one tragic occasion in 1879, during a New Year’s Day hunt up Helvellyn in heavy wintery conditions, 4 leading hounds were killed falling over an overhanging snow drift on the way down Swirrel edge – Trumpeter, Troubadore, Rachel and Rally.

In 1910, J.E. Hasell, who had been Master of the hunt for 30 years, died and he was replaced by J W Marshall’s son W H Marshall of Patterdale Hall. John Wooddisse noted “From that time efforts were made to put the hunt on a business like basis but, like a Good Samaritan, Walter Marshall would cheerfully write off the arrears at the end of the season.”[2]

Joe Bowman Testimonial Meet 1911, from Chronicles of Patterdale, with thanks to Patterdale WI

In 1911, after 32 years, Joe Bowman was presented with a gift of £150 from 700 friends. Heart and leg trouble led to his resignation, but he took on the role again during the war.

One of the earliest runs after his resumption covered 20 miles from Patterdale to Kentmere and back to Howtown ‘where Reynard dashed through the station waiting room (presumably the boat station), then dived off the pier into the lake as did his pursuers which accounted for him’.” (John Wooddisse).[3]

Over the years the public perception of hunting has changed and after much debate, in 2005 the Hunting Act came into effect which banned the use of hounds for hunting foxes. The hunt nevertheless still remains today, but the hounds follow a trail rather than foxes.


[1] John Wooddisse, “The Ullswater Foxhounds”, Matterdale Historical and Archaeological Society Yearbook, 1995, Vol. 2, p. 42

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

Reminiscences of Joe Bowman W C Skelton 1921

Joe Bowman

Joe Bowman, ‘Hunty’, is considered to be a true hunting icon, the most prestigious of all Ullswater Foxhound’s Huntsmen. If John Peel (1776-1854), who gave his name to the most famous of all Hunting songs: ‘D’y ken John Peel’ (1832), is globally acknowledged as a hunting legend, it is Joe Bowmen who is most regarded as the huntsman’s huntsman.

Born in Matterdale in 1850, his father was a lead miner and his mother was a member of the Dawson family who had been involved with hunting in Matterdale for seven generations. In 1879, he was appointed huntsman and retained the post for an incredible 42 years.

Joe Bowman with mother (aged 98), his daughter and his grandson Lawrence, 1945, from Chronicles of Patterdale, with thanks to Patterdale WI

After his first 32 years in service he had to retire due to a leg injury and heart problem, and he was replaced by his whipper-in George Salkeld. At his premature retirement celebration at the Patterdale Hotel in 1911 he was presented with a gift of £150 (worth about £18,000 today !) in the presence of 700 friends.

After 4 years Salkeld was called to fight in the war and Joe Bowman was re-appointed. Although not as strong as he used to be, he seemed to have made a partial recovery from his injuries.

He is thought to have killed about 2,000 foxes in his lifetime, an average of 50 per season. His record kills in one year, 1918, was 103. He lived with his wife, from Dockray, at Grassthwaite How in Grisedale Valley. 1 Grasthwaite How remains to this day the home of the Ullswater Foxhounds Huntsman.

From Chronicles of Patterdale, with thanks to Patterdale WI

His first hunt was on November 14th 1879 at Howtown: one fox was killed and two went to ground. In his first season he took 19 foxes, in the second, he took 29, and subsequently he became more successful and averaged 50 foxes per season.

He had prodigious stamina and strength on the hills, walking extraordinary distances. In one such hunt he started in Patterdale, following the hounds to Kentmere, then back over Martindale through Mardale to Howtown where the fox ran into the station waiting room and then sprang off the pier into Ullswater, followed by the hounds who ultimately despatched it in the water.

In another, hounds raised and killed a fox in Grisedale valley in the morning, then raised another that ran up Hellvellyn. The hunt continued across to Fairfield, then on to the Langdale Pikes, Borrowdale and Honister where the fox was holed up and killed in a quarry by Bowman’s hound Crowner. The dead fox and the rest of the hunt was ultimately found at Ennerdale. The local Innkeeper housed the hounds for the night and then sent off one of the hounds, Cleaver, with a message tied around his neck, hoping he would return home to his kennels. Bowman had reached Honister in pursuit, but having lost the pack decided to return to Grassthwaite How, finding Cleaver waiting for him upon his return.

He was an extraordinarily talented hound breeder, focussing on speed and quality. His favourite hound was Cleaver. It is Joe Bowman who was the first person to cross a blue-black Border Terrier with a black and tan Fell Terrier to create what he called a Patterdale Terrier. The Patterdale breed is alive and well today and is always on show at the famous annual Patterdale Dog Day which takes place in King George Vth field in Patterdale on the last Saturday of August.

Joe Bowman died in 1940 at the age of 90. The whole of the community turned out for his funeral cortège. There is a Memorial to him at the Kennels. He is buried in St Patricks’ church, Patterdale.

A special Hunting song was composed in his honour:

Down at Howtown we met with Joe Bowman at dawn,

The grey hills echoed back the glad sound of his horn,

And the charm of its note sent the mist far away

And the fox to his lair at the dawn of the day.


When the fire’s on the hearth and good cheer abounds

We’ll drink to Joe Bowman and his Ullswater hounds,

For we’ll never forget how he woke us at dawn

With the crack of his whip and the sound of his horn.

Then with steps that were light and with hearts that were gay

To a right smickle spot we all hasten away,

The voice of Joe Bowman, how it rings like a bell

As he cast off his hounds by the side of Swarth Fell.

The shout of the hunters it startled the stag

As the fox came to view on the lofty Brook crag,

“Tally-Ho” cried Joe Bowman “the hounds are away,

O’er the hills let us follow their musical bay”.

The shout of the hunter’s it startled the stag

Master Reynard was anxious his brush for to keep,

So he followed the wind oe’r the high mountain steep,

Past the deep silent tarn to the bright running beck,

Where he hoped by his cunning to give us a check.

Though he took us oe’r Kidsey we held to his track,

For we hunted my lads with the Ullswater Pack

Who caught the fox and effected a kill,

By the silvery stream of the bonny Ramps Gill.

Now his head’s on the crook and the bowl is below,

And we‘re gathered around by the fires warming glow,

Our songs they are merry, our choruses high,

As we drink to the hunters who joined in the cry.

When this song is sung at Ullswater, the third verse should be given as follows:

The shout of the hunters it startled the stag,

As the fox came to view on the lofty Brook Crag,

“Tally-Ho” We’re away, o’er the rise and the fell,

Joe Bowman, Kit Farrar, Will Milcrest and all.

by Tim Clarke and Emma Bray


Reminiscences of Joe Bowman W C Skelton 1921

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