Sunday, 23 May 2021

The Hunt Train and the Melbourne Hunt Club

In 1850, George John Watson, the founder and first Master of the Hounds of the Melbourne Hunt Club arrived in Melbourne (1). His father, John, was the Master of the Carlow Hounds in Ireland from 1808 until 1869. George also bought with him from Ireland a few couples of fox hounds from his father's kennels. In 1853, George acquired the best of the hounds from the disbanded Werribee and Corio Hunts and the Melbourne Hunt Club was established. The hounds were kept at Kirk's Bazaar (2). Kirk's Bazaar was a horse bazaar (or sale yard) in Bourke Street, between Queen and Elizabeth Streets. It was established in 1840 by James Kirk, and later taken over by Watson. George Watson, also owned the I.Y.U estate on the Toomuc Creek at Pakenham from 1866 until 1884 (3).

In the late 1850s George moved the hounds to East St Kilda, initially in Dandenong Road and then to Alma Road (4). The Club later moved to Neerim Road in Caulfield, then in 1885 to Mount Derrimut or Deer Park. In 1897 the Club again moved, this time to Oakleigh, on land between North Road and Centre Road. It was at Oakleigh until 1929, when it relocated to Cranbourne (5). The Club moved from one location to another due to development - the empty paddocks of St Kilda, then Caulfield, then Oakleigh became housing estates and this was the eventual fate of the Cranbourne land. In 1996 the Hunt Club buildings were demolished or removed and it is now also covered in houses.

The Melbourne Hunt Club, when it was located in Cranbourne, played a large role in the social and community life of Cranbourne and the surrounding area and you can read about it here in a article written by my predcessor, Claire Turner Sandall. 

Window in the Oaklands Hunt Club building at Somerton.
Photo: Heather Arnold

The Melbourne Hunt Club was one of four clubs operating in Melbourne at this time - there was also the Findon Harriers, the Oaklands Hunt and the Yarra Glen and Lilydale  Hunt (6). The Oaklands Hunt Club building, in Somerton, is now a reception centre. It consists of a mid 1870s homestead, 'Sherwood' and a 1938 Tudor Revival style hall with six interesting etched glass windows with hunting motifs, including one of a fox with a hunting horn and a border which includes acorns. It is shown above.

The Hunt Train at Berwick Railway Station, July 11, 1927.
A2.800 on Hunt train at Berwick. Victorian Railways, photographer.
State Library of Victoria Image H1077

Before everyone had a car and a horse float particpants in Hunts in the greater Melbourne area took the Hunt Train to the locations and this is really what this post is about, because I came across this photo (above) of the Hunt Train at Berwick in 1927. The Hunt Train not only took passengers but their horses and the hounds as well.

Notice of the Hunt train timetable

The earliest reports of Hunt Train which I can find is from 1883 (7). There was this interesting report from 1909, below, about this train holding up the regular trains on the Whittlesea line, on a Friday.

A complaint about the Hunt train

The Melbourne Hunt Club frequented this region, even when they were based at Oakleigh.  The Herald reported on the Club in 1924 - It hunts over the wide-stretch of country lying between Beaconsfield and Clyde, and meets are hold regularly twice a week during the season - this year probably on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On an average some fifty members attend on each day, and many citizens of Oaklelgh have witnessed the picturesque scene when the hunt train draws in, and the clamoring, eager hounds are placed aboard by the huntsman and his assistants. It is the hounds, with their expressive faces and beautiful eyes, that usually attract the greater attention by the way, though fleeting glances are also thrown at the scarlet clad human beings (8). 

There was another report of a hunt in September 1927, which started at Andrew Chirnside's property, Edrington at Berwick. It went from Berwick to Beaconsfield to Officer and if you know where Brunt Road and Rix Road is, it will give you some idea of the route taken by the Hunt.
Hounds were then taken on to the Cardinia Creek, which was worked from Lecky's crossing. Hounds found a fox in Abbott's, and pushed him through the timber into Marsden's, over Pound road, to Boag's. Here bounds took some little time to bustle their fox through the thick tea-tree, but at last got him away to the open on the Berwick side. Leaving the creek hounds ran through Boag's into Nixon's and May's, but here the fox turned back and crossed the Cardinia Creek to the sand pits. The pack ran up-stream for about a mile, then swung right-banded through the pipe works into Stevens's, where they turned in the cultivation and beaded for Brunt's. Travelling at a great pace hounds streamed across Brunt's flat into Jones's, where they crossed a lane into Rix's, and headed for Officer station. Heavy rain began to fall, and as hounds ran through a mob of cattle, they were at fault. Swinging on their own cast they hit off the line once more, and rattled through Rix's up to Officer road into C. Greaves's, where they were again in trouble in the crop. The heavy rain seemed to wash away all traces of scent (9). 

The Hunt Special, c. 1920s.
Image: Mrs G. Moore's collection from Hounds are Running: a history of the Melbourne Hunt by Heather B. Ronald (Lowden Publishing Company, 1970)

The fact that they hunted during week days meant that the average working person could not participate as they were at work. Hunting was an activity for the well off. The same Herald article referred to above itemised the costs involved in hunting - 
The average citizen knows comparatively little of this "Sport of Kings' - which is not at all surprising, in view of the fact that the average income is strictly limited. To hunt regularly during the season will cost a man at the very least £5 per week, and this is doing it cheaply. There is no difficulty in spending twice or thrice that sum if desired, and a fairly heavy investment of capital is required at the start. A suitable horse, for instance, may cost anything from £50 and upwards - often upwards. There are, indeed, a few "one-horse men," but the average hunting follower keeps two animals, and there are some even who use five or six. In addition, there is the hunting kit to be purchased - no small item, so that the would-be fox hunter must be prepared for a big outlay.

In any of the good stables the horse will cost about £3/3/ a week for keep, and to this the expense of taking it on the train to the various meets has to be added. Furthermore, the hunt club subscription, may be £10/10/, for the season, and there are sundry incidentals to be paid for, so that, taking it all round, hunting is not a cheap pastime; but it is a fascinating one, and the delights of an eight to fifteen miles run in the keen winter air across open country have been sung by poets and described by writers innumerable....the value of the hounds at Oaklelgh varies from £35 to £100 per animal (10)

The Hunts were an activity in which many women participated with the men. The names of the participants of the 1927 Hunt from Edrington was listed in the report and there were 32 men listed and 23 women - Misses Moira Pennefather, on Phillip; Geraldine Pennefeather, Dell; Daisy Farrell, Menander; Hylda McCardel,Clark's Chance; Ursula Syme, Red Harry; Fairlie Hagenauer, Little Rocket; Marie McKinnon, Simon; Betty Bayles, Snip: Margot Anderson, Albury; Violet Farmer, Rubicon Lad; Jess Mackenzie, Jemba; Gwen Johnston, Rocket; Fairlie Lyon, Harmony; Noel Lyon, Ansaldo; Lorna Embling, Delteetim; V. Jordan, Refrain; Violet Turner, Bonnie Lass; Jean Demergue, Redcap; Joan Sewell, Judy; Betty Sewell, Hazel; Suzanne Sewell, Sam; Edith Churchill, Greygown; Violet Richardson, St. Leonard (11).


These women are off to the Hunt, organised by the Findon Harriers. The photo gives you an idea of the outfits which were required to be  worn.
Misses L. Warner, D. Foster and D. Clarke arriving at Spencer Street station to catch the special hunt train to attend today's meet of the Findon Harriers at Epping.

Hunting also appeared to be an activity enjoyed by young and old. There was a report in The Herald in June 1933 of a meeting of the Findon Warriors - Foremost among the riders was one of the oldest huntsmen in Victoria. Mr H. C. Pennyfather, riding Bogie, is more than 70, but had travelled from Berwick for the day's sport. Little Isabel Bunting, aged 5, was the youngest follower. On a shaggy pony she had ridden four miles with her father to the meet (12). It would be unlikely that it would be accepted that a five year child should ride with a hunt these days, as the whole aim is to chase down and kill a fox, however these were different times. Mr Pennyfather was Hugh Claude Pennefather of Ardsley, Clyde Road in Berwick, he died in February 1951 at the age of 87 (13).

The last report I can find of a Hunt train was in 1936 (14). By then, more people would have had cars and it appears by the mid 1930s horse floats became more common (15). So the sight of horses and hounds waiting at railway stations for the Hunt Train became a thing of the past.

The Whip and the Hounds: Mr Jack Snowden, the Whip of the Melbourne Hounds, waiting for the special hunt train which left Oakleigh today for Pakenham.

The Melbourne Hounds met at Lyndhurst on June 11. The Master (Mr A.T. Creswick) and the Secretary (Mr Norman Wood) are here seen waiting with the hounds for the train at Oakleigh.
Caption and image from The Australasian, June 16, 1923

Trove list
I have created a list of articles on Trove on the Hunt Train, access it here.

(1) There are various dates reported as to Watson's date of arrival in Melbourne and also his year of birth. His obituary in The Leader of July, 14, 1906, see here, says he arrived in 1851 and that he was born in 1831. His obituary in The Herald of July 11, 1906, see here, says he arrived in 1851 and had been born in 1828. His Australian Dictionary of Biography entry, see here, says he was born 1829 in Ballydarton, County Carlow, Ireland, and arrived in Melbourne in March 1850. Watson died July 11, 1906 and his death certificate, under George John Watson, records that he was 80, which makes him born in 1826 and had been in Victoria for 55 years, which means he arrived about 1851. His death certficate  also said he was married at the age of 24, to Sarah Jane. I have a marriage certificate of a John Watson to a Sarah Jane Townsend - the marriage took place on August 20, 1850 at St James Church of England in Melbourne. James' death certificate lists eleven children.
(2) This information about the Melbourne Hunt Club and George Watson comes from Hounds are Running: a history of the Melbourne Hunt by Heather B. Ronald (Lowden Publishing Company, 1970). The direct quote about the fox hounds coming from Ireland is on page 6. Interesting book and  well indexed, the book is worth tracking down if you have an interest in hunting.
(3) Read George Watson's Australian Dictionary of Biography entry, here. The author says that he owned I.Y. U from 1872 until 1884. I believe he purchased it 1866, see this article in The Herald, April 6, 1866, here and The Leader of April 7, 1866, here. He certainly owned it in 1867, Ovens & Murray Advertiser, July 25, 1867, see here. I.Y. U. was sold to the Staughton Brothers in 1884 (Weekly Times, August 23, 1884, see here.)
(4) Mrs Ronald writes on page 6 of Hounds are Running - that They firstly moved to a site in Dandenong Road near the junction with Wattletree Road, where the low-roofed sheds which housed them were a land-mark known as the 'old kennels' long after the Melbourne Hounds moved to new quarters. The new kennels were built in Alma Road East St Kilda about 1859 on land purchased from John Callow. They were situated on the south side of the road, on the face of the hill, east of St Kilda Cemetery, between what is now Alexander Street and Lansdown Road, and extending back to Inkerman Road. On the four and half acres of land was a small wooden house, stables and kennels. The boys school 'Cumloden' was afterwards built on the site. which is now covered by blocks of modern flats.
(5) Hounds are Running: a history of the Melbourne Hunt by Heather B. Ronald (Lowden Publishing Company, 1970).
(6) The Herald, May 10, 1924, see here.
(7) See my Trove list, above.
(8) The Herald, May 10, 1924, see here.
(9) Australasian, September 3, 1927, see here.
(10) The Herald, May 10, 1924, see here.
(11) Australasian, September 3, 1927, see here.
(12) The Herald, June 9, 1933. see here.
(13) Mr Pennefather's obituary was in the Dandenong Journal of February 21, 1951, see here.
(14) See my Trove list.
(15) Shepparton Advertiser,  June 6, 1935. Interesting article which starts with the transport of racehorses by motor horse boxes has now become a specialised business in most of the leading centres of the world. Read it here.

No comments: