Near the Stables stood the great Cambray Kennels, equally as opulent and studious in their design and beheld in equal measure to the stables. The Cambray Kennels were outrageously extravagant both in size as well as in comfort for their residents. Their opulence showed that no expense had been spared in their construction and signified the immense worth they beheld for its owner.
Lord Dunholme’s rank and fortune having placed him, as it may be said, on the summit of human life; if money can contribute to the pleasures of the day, that one thing needful can never be wanting. It would not be much then to say of him, that, in point of expense and splendour of establishment in his kennels and stables, he stood first on the roll of masters of foxhounds, keeping them upon their own resources.
Everything with Lord Dunholme was managed with order and method. He had a weekly state of his coverts regularly brought to him—specifying what had been done to each covert, or the fences round it, and also what was required to be done; and some estimate may be made of the expense he was at in preserving foxes, by the single fact of his paying three hundred and forty pounds (£340) a-year to his own tenants, for rent of coverts.
History: Rebuilding of Cambray Kennels (1766)
If there was a singular object that stirred Spencer de la Valette, the 12th Viscount Dunholme's passions, it was hunting. Especially after his three brothers' deaths in 1764, this passion became an obsession which suited his exacting nature. It soon compelled him to rebuild the Cambray Kennels into professional state-of-the-art kennels where the finest breeds of dogs were sired. The new kennels were inaugurated in 1766 with the first Cambray Meet that was to become a new de la Valette tradition. Lord Spencer made Cambray a household name as the place to be invited to during the hunting season.
His passion for the sport and his fine dogs became the one place where Spencer could let off steam and feel any real emotion. So full was his heart with love and pride for his pet project that he transmitted the same passion to this three sons, especially to Montague II, his heir apparent and future serving lord of his demesne. It was only during hunting that he felt free to show a modicum of filial love to his issues, and it was only in Deerfield Park that the bond between the boys and their father was forged.
The Kennels Compound
The Cambray kennels compound was an immense establishment, upon a scale of too great an extent for particular description.
Like the stables, the Cambray Kennels were also purposely situated close to the house for the convenience of His Lordship, who made it his business to consult with his huntsman on the well-being of his precious foxhounds on a daily basis. Inspection of the kennels was even more needful than that of the stables; for in both, cleanliness was considered no less essential than food.
In fact both major outbuildings, the Kennels and the Stables, were designed into one considerable compound, sub-divided into two individual sections. The kennels and stables were shut out from the road by a very high wall and possessed every convenience and comfort that made them the most complete hunting box in England; perhaps in any country, even.
The five kennels and offices for the servants employed in them were quite perfect of their kind, as also were the stables. This place, with a pretty estate around it, abounding with pheasants and fox coverts, were both most strictly preserved by His Lordship.
Size and Layout of Compound
The number of a kennels compound’s inmates must determine its size and in this respect, the Cambray Kennels were more than spacious to fulfill every comfort. The architecture was neat, without being uselessly expensive. It had cost £19,000 when rebuilt to the required specifications in 1766, and was sufficiently extensive for two packs of hounds.
The kennel was in length four hundred and five feet; having the boiling house in the centre, with two feeding rooms adjoining, with stoves to warm the air when too cold, and a granary behind. On the right of the centre were lodgings for two kennelmen, two long lodging-rooms for the hunting hounds having an inner court to each; with flues running along the wall, to preserve an equal temperature in the severity of the winter season; spacious courts to each, furnished with a fountain in the middle, for the hounds to drink at; water cocks fixed at proper distances, to cleanse the pavement when it may be required; and a brook running through the middle of it.
In the centre of the boiling house and feeding-yard, a lesser kennel, either for hounds that were drafted off, hounds that were sick and lame, or for any other required purpose, was on one side of the two great lodging rooms. This was referred to as the bunting kennel. This had divisions of seven hospitals for sick and lame hounds, with yards to each.
At the back of the bunting kennel, it being but half the depth of the two larger kennels, was the coal room, were places for coals, etc., was kept for the use of the kennel. There was also a small building in the rear for hot bitches, that was impishly referred to as the hot house; while another independent building was reserved for bitches in pup; all with yards to them. On the left, were divisions for litter and stores of any kind.
In the front, was a reservoir of water which supplied the fountains and different cocks in the several yards within. Behind the whole was a large airing ground and all requisite conveniences. There was a Thatched House (most times referred to as the Straw House), fenced at the sides, to contain at least a load of straw, a pit for receiving the dung, and a gallows for the flesh called the Flesh-House. A horse enclosure adjoined to the kennel was conveniently used for keeping such horses as may be brought alive for the use of the hounds.
The huntsman's dwelling was a handsome building on the periphery which stood close yet in splendid isolation for his privacy.
The two great lodging rooms were exactly similar, and having an inner court belonging to each, and were distinct kennels situated at the opposite ends of the building. A large bricked front court, having a grass court adjoining, completed the kennel.
Each kennel was of sufficient dimensions at its first construction; room for two kennels were under the same roof; this enabled a dry alternative kennel for the inmates when the other was washed out. Hounds, particularly in winter, not only suffered during the time of cleaning, but as long afterwards as it remained wet. The second kennel afforded opportunity for drafting the hounds intended to hunt the next morning. In a few days they would be drafted with little trouble, and would readily answer to their names; and with equal ease as a shepherd numbered his sheep, one may count his hounds into the hunting kennel.
The Lodging Rooms
The two great lodging rooms were exactly similar, and having a court belonging to each, were distinct kennels situated at the opposite ends of the building.
The lodging-rooms were bricked, and sloped on both sides to the centre, where a gutter was in place to carry off the water, that when washed, the floor may be equally dried. The floors were made of large square bricks termed pammonds; this type of floor was the ideal for kennels as there were fewer interstices, and consequently less filth or water accumulated there, and the surface was sooner dry. The floor was kept in thorough repair, that no water may remain in any cavity; stagnant water was carefully stopped tip; for nothing was more hurtful to hounds, than damp, or more refreshing than warmth after hard work.
There was a raised wooden bench on which the hounds slept on straw bedding while the stone floor area was for the hounds to run around. Most remarkable was the sophisticated heating system. While the residents of the manor hall froze the dogs were warm and snug!
It was not often that a wrinkle was to be given to masters of fox-hounds, but the kennels at Cambray, afforded one. A passage led from the feeding room to the lodging room, which was made to hold water, about six inches deep on the level. This, on hunting days, was filled with broth from the copper, and hounds passed through it in the evening, after they had been fed. The consequence was, they licked their feet dry; and the healing properties of a dog’s tongue to a sore were very well established.
Apertures: Each kennel had three doors; two in front and one behind; that in the back had a window in it, with a wooden shutter, which was kept always closed, except in summer, when it would then be left open the whole of the day. This door had a twofold utility, it served to carry out the dirty straw, and being opposite to the window, admitted a thorough air, when the lodging room was cleaned, which would much contribute to render it sweet and wholesome. The front doors were useful in drying the room when the hounds were out; and as one was shut and the other hooked back, so as to allow a single dog to pass, they were not liable to any objection. The large centre window had a folding shutter, which at night, depending on the weather, would be wholly or partially closed; and thus the warmth of the kennel may be regulated as was judged most salutary.
In the centre of the boiling-house and feeding-yard, a lesser kennel, either for hounds that were drafted off, hounds that were sick and lame, or for any other required purpose, was on each side of the two great lodging rooms; at the back of which, it being but half the depth of the two larger kennels, were places for coals,etc. for the use of the kennel. There was also a small building in the rear for hot bitches.
The two long lodging-rooms for the hunting hounds each had an inner court with flues running along the wall, to preserve an equal temperature in the severity of the winter season; and spacious courts to each, furnished with a fountain in the middle, for the hounds to drink at; water cocks fixed at proper distances, to cleanse the pavement when it may be required; and a brook running through the middle of it.
The inner court floor was flagged, and sloped towards the centre like those of the lodging room; and water brought in by a leaden pipe, which ran through the channel in the middle. In the centre of each court was a well sufficiently large to dip a bucket for the purpose of cleaning the kennel. To keep these from wanting repair, they were faced with stone, and to that of the feeding-yard a wooden cover was fixed. The benches, which were open to let the urine through, had hinges and hooks in them all, that they may be folded up when the kennel was washed. They were made as low as possible, that when a hound was tired, he may have no difficulty in jumping up, and at no time be able to creep under them. Owing to the smallness of the hound, as in beagles, it was difficult to make the benches sufficiently low, and it was therefore proper to nail a ledging projecting downwards in the edge, or the benches may be faced with boards at the bottom, to prevent hounds from creeping under.
Outer Courts and Brook
A large bricked court in front, having a grass court adjoining, and a brook running through the middle of it, completed the kennel. This court was planted round, and also had some lime trees and some horse chestnuts near the centre for shade. Some posts bound round with straw, rubbed with galbanum, were placed so as to prevent the hounds from making water against the trees. The brook was used as a cold bath for hounds lamed, in the stifle, in strains, or for other purposes for which the cold bath was required. A high paling enclosed the whole, and which, to the height of four feet, was closed, the remainder being open, with an interval of two inches between the pales.
Enclosure for Horses
A piece of ground adjoining to the kennel was conveniently enclosed, for keeping such horses as may be brought alive for the use of the hounds. This was of great service, as the disorders of condemned horses could not always be ascertained; and this enclosure provided an opportunity of investigating their nature and progress, which would prove advantageous in future similar cases. The hounds may also be brought into this field, to empty themselves after feeding; and the draught for the next day's hunt could be here made with greater accuracy than when they were confined to the kennel.
The Lodging Wing
A lodging wing adjoining the lodging area of the hounds contained the living quarters for the 1st and 2nd whippers-in, who also performed the duties of Kennelmen. Each had a parlour, kitchen, and sleeping-room which they shared with their respective families.
The huntsman's dwelling was a handsome building on the periphery of this wing. It was referred to as The Hunter’s Lodge, and it stood in close but splendid isolation on the periphery of the lodging wing in order to afford maximum privacy for the highly regarded Huntsman, while enabling him to be at close call to attend to his business at all times.
Care of Hounds and Kennels
Cleanliness of the kennel was very carefully attended to; a resort to remedies for disease would then be unnecessary, and all injury to hounds from this source would be prevented. Cleanliness was absolutely necessary, both to the nose of the hound and the preservation of his health. The sense of smelling was so exquisite in a hound, that every stench must be supposed injurious to it; upon that faculty all hopes of huntsmen depend, and nostrils clogged with the effluvia of a dirty kennel, were ill adapted to carry the scent over greasy fallows, or guide one through the soil of deer, or over ground tainted by sheep. Dogs were by nature clean; where they lie, if they can avoid it, they seldom dung. Air and fresh straw were essential to preserve their health. They were subject to the mange; nastiness very much contributed to this, and although at the first appearance it may be easily checked, the remedies that were used were in themselves strong in their operation, and will do no good to the hounds’ constitution.
In a morning, upon the feeder's first entering the kennel, he let the hounds into the Outer Court; the door of the Bunting Kennel, when not occupied by the drafted hounds for that day's hunting, would be opened in bad weather to shelter them; the Lodging Room would then be thoroughly cleaned, the windows and doors opened, the litter well shaken, and the kennel made sweet, before the hounds were again shut into it. Every omission prejudicial to the hounds would be immediately pointed out to the feeder, who must be made to remedy it; and also observe that the great court and the other kennels were equally objects of his attention.
If ticks proved troublesome at any time, the walls of the kennel was well washed; and if that failed to destroy the ticks, they were white-washed with lime.
Although stoves were not a compulsory feature in a well-designed kennel, the Cambray Kennels implemented their use during severe inclement weather. Otherwise, a good feeder, and the mop properly applied, rendered them unnecessary.
The Kennels After the Hunting Season
When the hunting season was over, one kennel was sufficient, and the other with the grass-yard adjoining to it was allowed to the young hounds. This separation, which continued till the season commenced, was necessary for preventing many accidents that might otherwise have happened at this time of the year. It was proper to keep the dogs separate from the bitches during the summer mouths. When hounds were very riotous, the feeder usually slept in a cot in an adjoining kennel; if the dogs were well chastised at the first quarrel, his voice would afterwards be sufficient to keep them quiet.