In 1977, a huge change took place in the history of the Exmoor Foxhounds when Captain R E Wallace came down to Exmoor from Gloucestershire to join Mr Hosegood plus Mr R Pollock in the Mastership. Captain Wallace brought with him from the Heythrop many of the lovely hounds that he had bred to join the Exmoor pack, also Anthony Adams came from the Heythrop as kennel-huntsman. Captain Wallace and Mr Hosegood shared the hunting of the hounds, each hunting their own hounds once or twice a week. The kennels had also to be altered to accommodate this larger establishment, and Mr Hosegood had organised a large group of volunteers to build a new hound lodge and yard and had it all ready for May 1st 1977. Mr A Edgar joined the Mastership in 1980.
This partnership looked set to last for a long time, but Mr Hosegood suffered ill health during the autumn of 1981 and had to relinquish the Mastership. This brought to end a distinguished career as Master and Huntsman which had lasted for 32 years in the West Country.
On May 1st 1982 Mr T Finch joined Captain Wallace and Mr Edgar for a total of six seasons, Anthony Adams left to go as huntsman to the Warwickshire and was replaced by Tony Wright as kennel-huntsman. To start with the kennel-huntsman only hunted hounds when Captain Wallace was away on MFHA hunting business, but after a short time allowed to hunt the mixed pack on a more regular basis. In 1989 Mrs Charmian Green joined the Mastership for one season, renewing a link to the Exmoor of old as she was the daughter of Colonel Jackson.
Lady Caroline Gosling became Master with Captain Wallace from 1990 until 1994 with Miss F Busby joining the Mastership in 1993, and Mr J S Hosegood for two seasons from 1994. Captain Wallace relinquished the hunting of the hounds in 1997, allowing Tony Wright to hunt both the mixed pack and the bitches.
In 1999 Mr N Hawksley joined Captain Wallace and Miss Busby for four seasons, and Mrs E Verity joined the Mastership in 2001 which included the foot and mouth crisis of 2001 when hounds were confined to kennels from the late summer for twelve weeks while restrictions were imposed on the local area. Hounds were finally allowed to hunt again in early January, 2002 when they scored a five mile point from Limecombe to Old Scoresdown on their first morning
Captain Wallace was killed in a car crash on February 7th, 2002 and so ended the remarkable life of a dedicated hunting man. He had been Master of Foxhounds for a consecutive 58 seasons. Before that he had been Master and Huntsman of Beagles for 3 seasons, and during his foxhunting days had been Master and Huntsman of the Hawkstone Otterhounds for 24 seasons. While he was at Eton his holidays were spent with his family staying on the Brendon Hills from where he hunted with the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, the Exmoor Foxhounds and as many other local packs as he could fit in. His gift for hunting hounds was recognised from the earliest days, and by the time war was over and he went as Master to the Ludlow his name was already well known in the Hunting World. He left the Ludlow to go and hunt the Cotswold, and from there to hunt the Heythrop and it was while he was here that the 25 seasons producing unsurpassed sport wearing the green Heythrop livery and was to secure his place in the annuls of foxhunting forever. When the Captain, with Mrs Rosie Wallace, moved down to Exmoor in 1977 he brought with him some of the fruit of his 37 years of breeding hounds, and then with a doghound called Exmoor Fortescue’77 the tradition of hounds bred by Captain Wallace taking the top honours at the Royal Peterborough Foxhound Show continued once again, and the Exmoor had their first Peterborough Champion. Many more followed, both doghounds and bitches. However, the quality of the Exmoor pack wasn’t just in their conformation because the Exmoor continued to show great sport, and catch a large number of foxes. While at the Exmoor, Captain Wallace introduced several new bloodlines into his hounds’ breeding, using hounds from the Lake District, America, plus lines from the Old English roots of the Foxhound Studbook and also the nearly defunct West Country Harrier bloodlines. All of these will be of huge benefit to those people entrusted to the careful breeding of hounds far into the future.
Mr Hawksley left the Mastership at the end of April 2004, and Mrs Verity retired at the end of the 2005 season leaving Miss Felicita Busby as the sole Master.
The Hunting Act 2004.
Hunting in the UK had been the subject of many debates in the Westminster Parliament during the 20th century, all of which came down in favour of allowing it to continue in the traditional way. The Labour government in power at the turn of the 21st century, led by Tony Blair, revisited the topic. A major revue was called for and so the Burns Report was eventually produced after pro and those against hunting had been invited to state their points of view. After many hundreds of thousands of pounds had been spent by the Burns Inquiry the report by it’s Committee did not draw any conclusion on whether hunting should be banned or should continue. In a later debate in the House of Lords the Inquiry Chairman, Lord Burns, also stated that “Naturally, people ask whether we were implying that hunting is cruel … The short answer to that question is no. There is not sufficient verifiable evidence or data safely to reach views about cruelty. It is a complex area”.
Ignoring the Burns Report the Government passed (but only by invoking the little used “Parliament Act”) a poorly drafted bill to ban hunting with dogs which included several exemptions to allow dogs to be used in stated circumstances. The Countryside Alliance noted that “The Act makes it an offence to hunt a mouse with a dog but not a rat, you can legally hunt a rabbit but not a hare. You can flush a fox to guns with two dogs legally but if you use three it’s an offence. You can flush a fox to a bird of prey with as many dogs as you like”.
The Exmoor Foxhounds held a public meeting, Chaired by Sir Richard Peek Bt. in Exford Memorial Hall and the building was packed out with people all concerned with the future of the hounds and the hunt. A wide range of views were aired before the Master and representatives of the Committee stated that the Exmoor Foxhounds would hunt within the law, using the exemptions of the Act when appropriate and to rein-act a days hunting by laying lines for the hounds to follow using a false scent. The meeting overwhelmingly backed the Mastership and Committee for the future. The Hunting Act 2004 became law on 18th February, 2005, and the Exmoor Foxhounds’ remaining fixtures were conducted using exemptions, and trials laying trails for the hounds to follow. It was a surprise, therefore, when in the following October Tony Wright received a summons to appear at Barnstaple Magistrates Court on a charge of breaching the Hunting Act 2004, the case being brought privately by The League Against Cruel Sports.
Tony was eventually found guilty, but was then acquitted in Exeter Crown Court on appeal. The case continued to the High Courts in London where parts of the judgement were ratified by the Law Lords. The whole process took over four years.
Mrs Angela Ingram joined Miss Busby in the Mastership from May 1st, 2009. Mrs Ingram had been Master of the East Essex for many seasons and during this time had hunted regularly on Exmoor and had been friends with Miss Busby for a long time. When Mrs Ingram and her husband Henry decided to “retire” to Exmoor, the Exmoor Foxhounds were indeed lucky that Mrs Ingram’s retirement including her joining the Mastership! In a similar vein, Mrs Amanda Benson had also been down to hunt on Exmoor from her Gloucestershire home when not following The famous Duke of Beaufort’s hounds and was pleased to offer her services in the Mastership, so from May 1st, 2010 there were three very experienced hunting ladies at the helm.
During the time since the Hunting Act came into force there has been tremendous support from the farmers of the Exmoor country, added to which the immense hard work put in by the committee and members of the EFH Supporters Club, and the EFH Masters and Committee have ensured that the Hunt is in good heart. The hounds continue to produce good sport for the riders and foot followers to enjoy and the numbers of visitors who come hunting, particularly in the Autumn and Spring, have grown.