It is a fact that in this modern age most of us frown upon the ancient practice of hunting with hounds, whether on horseback or not, but in times gone by, such things were commonplace and accepted. I’m not here to promote a debate on the rights and wrongs of hunting, but to mention a legend that I have just happened upon. It may be something that most of you know already, but it was new to me.
Fowlescombe Manor, near Ugborough in Devon, is now an ivy-covered 16th-century ruin, but its records go back to 1453, when a Sir Thomas Fowell, “a member of the king’s court” (Edward IV? Richard III? Or, horrors, Henry VII?) is recorded as being born at the manor. I have not found him anywhere, but the Fowell family was definitely associated with the manor, and a William Fowell (Fowhill) was born there in 1408. This means there must have been a house there prior to 1408, but how far back, I do not know. Anyway, my ramblings around the internet took me to this website, where I found the legend:-
“….A pack of hounds was kept at kennels at Fowlescombe for many years. It is said that a kennel-master used sometimes to keep the hounds hungry so that they would hunt well the following day, but that one night, when visiting his hounds which were making a lot of noise, he failed to wear his usual jacket, and was eaten by the hounds, only his boots being found the next morning….”
There is a song about the story here.
Such an awful fate serves the kennelmaster right, did I hear you say? Well, probably, but by now my interest in Fowlescombe Manor had unearthed more about the house. It is one of three in Devon that may have been Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle’s Baskerville Hall. The others are Hayford Hall, west of Buckfastleigh, and Brook Manor, a few miles east of Hayford Hall. See more here.
There is another Baskerville-type legend attached to Brook Hall, and you can read it at here. This one, of course, is very much like the Sherlock Holmes legend of Baskerville Hall, and how the dreadful hound first came about.
One thing seems evident… when you’re in that neck of the woods, don’t upset any large canine you may encounter!
And on a lighter note: