A Huntsman's Home: Richard Almond Describes How Some Rare Wall Paintings Help Shed Light on Medieval Hunting

By Almond, Richard | History Today, April 2011 | Go to article overview

A Huntsman's Home: Richard Almond Describes How Some Rare Wall Paintings Help Shed Light on Medieval Hunting


Almond, Richard, History Today


Hunting was an almost universal activity in the later Middle Ages. It provided food and raw materials for the common people and, for the ruling class, food, sport, exercise and a positive outlet for aggressive tendencies. Social status prescribed who hunted which quarry and the methods employed. However, forest court records show clearly that all classes illicitly hunted the three native species of deer. Hunting on horseback with hounds, shooting driven game from stands and hawking were what medieval gentlemen (and ladies) were expected to do, both in their public and private roles. These leisure activities were marks of a 'gentle' or noble birth and education. The Institution of a Gentleman, an anonymous tract of 1568, makes this point:

There is a saying among hunters that he cannot be a gentlemen which loveth not hawking and hunting, which I have heard old woodmen [yeomen foresters] well allow as an approved sentence among them. The like saying is that he cannot be a gentleman which loveth not a dog.

In 1653 Izaak Walton included a commendation of hunting in The Compleat Angler: 'Hunting is a game for princes and noble persons; it hath been highly prized in all ages.' Demonstrating the continuity of aristocratic mores, Walton then cites the medieval conventions of the chase:

Hunting trains up the younger nobility to the use of manly exercises in their riper age. What more manly exercise than hunting the Wild Boar, the Stag, the Buck, the Fox, or the Hare? How doth it preserve health, and increase strength and activity!

For the English aristocracy and gentry, hunting methods remained largely unchanged into the 17th century and beyond. Late-medieval hunting manuals and treatises continued to influence conduct, forming the bases for 'lerned' vocabulary and behaviour and as references for both gentlemen and the professional staff who maintained hunt establishments and manned hunts.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Literary evidence of hunting and hawking is enhanced by contemporary iconography, particularly in the form of illuminated manuscripts, tapestries, paintings and engravings. In contrast, few murals exist in England of such pastimes. Several years ago, quite by chance, I was privileged to view a remarkable, possibly unique, cycle of wall paintings in the Turret Room at Madingley Hall, near Cambridge. Executed by an unknown hand, these lively scenes have remained hidden from the public gaze since their production between 1605 and 1633. The Turret Room is inaccessible to the general public, although some Madingley students have benefited from conducted tours. The three murals show bear hunting, boar hunting and hawking with two panels of decorative work. They were almost certainly commissioned by Sir Edward Hynde, the owner of the hall between these dates and a local enthusiast of animal-baiting.

In both the bear and boar hunting scenes gentleman hunters on horseback and servants on foot use spears to slay the beasts, aided by mastiffs and greyhounds. Bears had been extinct in the British Isles for many centuries, but bear-baiting in 'bear-gardens' (arena-like pits with seating) using hunting dogs was a popular entertainment until the 19th century. Hunting a bear on horseback with a pack of hounds in a park was thus an unusual activity.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Wild boar were also long extinct in England by this date, although they continued to be regarded as noble beasts by aristocratic families, living on symbolically in heraldry and romances. Boar were especially bred for hunting and kept in semi-captivity in parks.

The incomplete hawking mural illustrates a classic scene of hounds flushing a partridge for a mounted falconer, while a gentleman on horseback flies his bird at a mallard on a lake, a method known as 'hawking at the brook'. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Huntsman's Home: Richard Almond Describes How Some Rare Wall Paintings Help Shed Light on Medieval Hunting
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.