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To be, or not to be a hunt button? That is the question.

Over the years there have been a number of buttons that have taxed the brains of many a collector.  Some had us fooled for many years, until some digging around proved otherwise, others were discovered to be wrong ‘uns by sheer chance.

Conversely, some that collectors had dismissed as sporting or stock pattern buttons were discovered to have had real provenance as having been used for a working pack of hounds.  A good example of this side of the problem is the ‘That’l Do’ button I featured back in January as being a private button for a master of Lord Kintore’s Hunt.  (See Some Private Buttons)

Some stand-out examples of incorrect attributions over the years have been:

The KOH – that was an unidentified Otter Hunt for a long while, until it was pointed out it belonged to The King’s Own Hussars.

The BHC – that wasn’t a hunt club after all, but the Bedford Hotel Company.

The numerous ‘XYZ Foot Beagles buttons that are in truth Fire Brigade buttons from cities around the country.

Notoriously, the MFH below a Marquess’s coronet.  Reputed to be Viscount Milton’s Fox Hounds, but recently discovered to be a concierge’s button worn until the 1950’s/60’s at The May Fair Hotel in London.  Yes, it is still written as two words.

A white metal button that looks like SOFH and was thought to be South Oxfordshire Fox Hounds, but is actually SOLTC – Lawn Tennis Club??

And the issue has raised its head again in the last week or so with the POH button shown below.

thumbnail_imga0043

(Image courtesy of Mr R. Mullins.  St. Cloud. Florida)

For years this button was considered to be for the Pembrokeshire Otter Hounds.  It is of the correct date and, with the exception of the initial letter, identical to the Dumfriesshire OH button.  However, it was suddenly ‘demoted’ to a military button for either the Prince’s or Princesses Own Hussars.  Why? I do not know.  Perhaps because the newly discovered (at the time) Firmin pattern books illustrated and annotated a different button as Pembroke Otter Hounds, below.

pembroke-otter-hounds

(Image courtesy of T G Thomas-Davies)

I was approached by a gentleman in the USA regarding the ‘silver’ button and he rightly queried the military connection because no regiments had ever existed so named that he could find.   The advice of an expert on military buttons was sought and elicited the fact that he had “no idea what it is”.  So, 99.9%  it ain’t military after all.  So, we are back to square one on whether it is an Otter pack’s button or not.

Could the silver button be an early Pembroke or Pembrokeshire Otter Hounds, or maybe another otter pack beginning with P?  Given the tradition of unusual buttons that look stunning against the blue uniform, it would seem highly likely.  But likely isn’t enough.  If any BHD reader knows for certain either way…Please let us know.

There is a danger of dismissing one button because another is identified, for instance in a pattern book; and if there is one thing I have learned about collecting hunt buttons it’s to beware of using the definite article, i.e. this is THE Blankshire Hunt button.  Given that so many official, historic and sometimes esoteric variants are appearing more and more frequently, it is much safer to use the indefinite and  say “It is A Blankshire.

This leads us onto the subject of provenance, which I will look at next time.

As we enter that wonderful time of agricultural shows, puppy shows and, of course, The Festival Of Hunting; as new huntsmen get to know their country, masters their teams, newly appointed staff try on new ‘uniform’, and in the lull before we try to squeeze into new boots or old hunt coats I wish you all the best of summer.

‘Firebrand’

 

 

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