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Augustus F. Ross. South Devon Hunt

It’s not often one gets the opportunity to re-write the history or reference books, but I think that I might be able to do just that thanks to an unexpected purchase.

The image below is that of a button that (to the best of my knowledge) has not been identified before.  It bears the crest of Augustus F. Ross above the initials S.D.F.H. for the South Devon Hunt (or foxhounds).  My thanks go to Bob Mullins in Lakeland FL for helping identify the crest.

Mr Ross came from the Wheatland and held two brief periods of Mastership of the South Devon.  Firstly 1875 to 1877/8 during which hounds were kennelled at Oakford, Kingsteignton and latterly, after the old country was divided, 1879/80 to 1882 when they were at Ambrook – punctuated by one season of Mr Fearnley Tanner on the Newton side.     [As a side note; Mr Fearnley Tanner toyed with calling the pack the Dart & Teign Foxhounds, but settled for the South Devon.]

What makes me think that this button is rare is the fact that Edward Tozer’s seminal book ‘ The South Devon Hunt: A history of the hunt from its foundation…etc’ includes a page illustrating the various hunt buttons used during the history, and Mr Ross’ button does not feature.  This may, of course, be an over-sight, but other comments within the book may hint at other reasons.   It makes reference to Mr Ross’s first period of Mastership (before the division) as being “fraught with problems..”

On the other hand it goes on to talk of “the tip-top style of Ross in his first season, when he carried the horn himself.  He had three whippers-in: Arthur Mason, Xat Smith (sic) and Harry Freeman – Master and men in leather breeches.  All very smart and well-mounted.”   Ross was also a very keen and skilled falconer.

I am also unusually lucky in being able to know exactly whom the original owner and wearer of this button was.  It was one Harry Hanson Barrow, an hotel owner in Torquay, originally from Staffordshire.  Judging by the other buttons that came with the Mr Ross’s, Harry Barrow hunted with the South Devon for quite some years.

As mentioned above, Tozer kindly tells us to which Master(s) or pack the other buttons relate.  So, as illustrated by Tozer here are the other buttons of the South Devon Hunt and/or its counterparts:

I shall stick to those in Tozer’s book first of all, and then show three more buttons associated with the Devon/South Devon at the end.

For the Masterships of both Mr Westlake  and Mr Studd the pack is known as the South Devon and the button is shown as being just SDH.  I can provide images of three different versions for your interest.   a) mounted dress b) engraved dress c) hunt servant’s

With joint Masters Sir L. Palk and Sir J Duntze the pack that hunted the Haldon side was known as The Haldon and they used this lovely ornate button.

and when Lord Haldon himself was Master the pack took his name as ‘Lord Haldon’s’

When Dr. Henry Gaye took over the Newton side, the button became SDFH.  There is a ‘fancy’ mounted version, but sadly I can’t illustrate that, but here’s a domed field button.

In the midst of this change, in 1888 they tried a ‘Subscription’ button, but it was not popular and soon fell out of favour.

During the Mastership of Mr Singer the button was a very finely engraved, high-gilt example.  A real beauty.

Finally, as far as Tozer’s book is concerned Messrs W & H Whitley instigated the more familiar SDH button in 1915.

Other buttons not featured in Tozer’s book that, unlike the crested Ross button, have been documented previously are:

Sir William Carew’s (also known as The Devon Hunt) 1829 – 1843

The Devon Hunt 1843 – 1856 when it became the South Devon

Mr St Maur’s 1894 – 1897

I hope that has been an interesting and informative wee article, and if anyone has previously knowledge of the ‘Mr Ross’ button, and/or an illustration in any publication please get in contact with us here at Baily’s.




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