The Aldenham Harriers



Hare & Hounds

The Aldenham Harriers

by Eric Edwards

The Book Castle, 2002

Organised and legal hunting for hare within thirty miles of the centre of London is a remarkable thing. and yet it has been going on regularly, and indeed frequently, for 124 years. This book aims to tell the story of how it all came about: the people and places involved, the characters, the trials and the achievements of the followers of a pack of hounds kept for the purpose in the same kennels in Hertfordshire for over fifty years.

It all started in Aldenham. in an area now largely covered by the urban sprawl of Boreham Wood and hemmed by the M1, A1 and M25. It is indeed astonishing that in an area between Bedford and London. heavily populated as it is today. and with major roads and railways radiating outwards from London every few miles, such an essentially rural activity thrives and, politics permitting, appears to have a bright future. Open countryside is the key to hunting hare and who would have thought that sufficient of it could still be found here.

The research for the work has been widespread and thorough and there is much first hand material gathered by interviewing over a two and a half year period. This is not an 'official' history: it has been written by an outsider looking in. The aim is to inform and in so doing to reduce suspicion and antagonism by recording the traditions that hunting the hare has accumulated over two or three centuries. A conscious effort has also been made to humanise the whole thing with detailed, sometimes amusing, anecdotes about the characters who have sustained the sport and still hold it so dear. Hunting is indeed a whole way of life. [from dust jacket.]

If your family was involved in hunting in the area there is a good chance they are mentioned in the book, which includes many press reports, lists of names, and a good index. The following account from the Herts Advertiser of 1st April 1911, describes a hunt which started at Heath Farm, Bernards Heath, which was farmed by my great grandfather, Jacob Reynolds, with my grandfather, Harry Finch Reynolds being the huntsman.

Ideal conditions favoured the concluding rim of the Aldenham Harriers on Tuesday, when the meet was at Heath Farm [St Albans] where a large company of followers and friends were hospitably welcomed by Mr and Mrs Jacob Reynolds whose house was truly 'Liberty Hall'  for all who gathered there. The Master (Mr Birkbeck Ravenscroft) the Huntsman (Mr. H.F. Reynolds) and Mr. H. S. Bailey (the late Master) were there and the company also included Dr Hartzhorne, Mr F.W. Dearbergh, Mr C.H Watson, Mr and Mrs C. Arnold, Mr W. Slimmon, Mr and Mrs A.J. Reynolds, Mr H.R. Stoff, Mr S. Welch, Mrs and Miss Worsnam, Mr J. Mousley, Mr A. Scott Moreton, Mrs H.F. Reynolds, Master Jack Reynolds, Mrs H. Mardall, Mrs W. Mardall, Mrs Cecil Scott, Miss Reynolds, Mr T. Smith, Mr D. Smith, Mr H.T. Smith, Mr W. Dickinson, Mr J. Lyon, Mr J. Sibley, Mr A. Martin, Mr A.J. Dixon jun., and Mrs Herring.

The weather was fine and the scent good, and a considerable concourse of people gathered to watch the meet. A start was made down Sandridge Road and a hare was found directly on Heath Farm, and ran by the Midland Railway round by Cheapside just skirting Hawkswick, then back through Beech Bottom and the old Brickyard, which forms part of Messrs. Wiles and Lewis's property on Bernard's Heath. The Hare then got upon the Harpenden Road and was seen to pass the Riding School, making for St Peter's Street, down which thoroughfare the hounds proceeded and there lost scent.

Returning to Sandridge Road, the hounds were taken over Dead Woman's Hill Bridge and found a little hare, which gave them a run round through Beech Bottom, by Sandridgebury and the Rifle Butts over Evans's Farm to Oaklands where the hounds re-found her, and she then came back through Marshals wick [sic] and Beech Bottom right on to Sandridgebury again and on to the Sandridge Road where the hounds ran into her. The run was very fast from start to finish.

Locating Books
At the time this page was last updated new and second hand copies were available online

The following pictures (from my family collection of photographs) are of the meet held at Heath Farm in March 1911 and described in the above news item.

Harry Finch Reynolds, huntsman of the Aldenham Harriers with the hounds at Heath Farm


Possibly Birkbeck Ravenscroft, Master of the Hounds


The Aldenham Harriers


Possibly a Reynolds Family relative


Henry Jacob Finch "Jack" Reynolds


Heath Fram, Bernards Heath, St Albans - 1911

Heath Farm


Further Pictures at Heath Farm

July 2007   Page updated
July 2013   Pictures of 1911 hunt added