Spot the Volunteer:
A hundred years ago it would not be uncommon for volunteers to meet up with royalty and the great and the good, as part of a shooting party. Ashridge shooting parties were famous, drawing prominent guests over the years including King Edward VII and King George V, and most of the royal dukes, though in their later years both Lord and Lady Brownlow came to regard such parties as social obligations rather than pleasures. About fifty keepers, most wearing a green livery with silver buttons bearing the earl’s crest, were employed on the various parts of the estate in Little Gaddesden, Ringshall, Aldbury, Dagnall and Studham, under a head keeper and a deputy. The beaters were mostly workers on the Estate, and they were dressed in white smock coats and wore red caps. A glance at the earl’s game book for 1912 shows that over a three-day shoot it was not uncommon for a party to claim up to one thousand five hundred pheasants alone.
It was de rigueur for gamekeepers to wear their bowler hats as part of their uniform – it was a status symbol. The hats were invented in 1850 and served the gamekeepers well, since they did not blow away in a wind, and they were strong enough to withstand a blow on the head from a poacher.
It’s the young lad at the extreme left of the picture in the flat cap, who is the volunteer – probably the son of one of the gamekeepers. If so he would be acting as an unpaid volunteer beater, moving the birds towards the guns, and would hope for a generous tip from the Gentry at the end of the shoot. Mind you, he would not get to keep the reward for it would have to go straight into the housekeeping pot when he arrived home. No impulse shopping in those days!
There is a sting in the tale. (sic)
The picture was taken in December 1899, but where was the location? If you know then please leave a comment.