Ludlow Hunt Ball 1930 at Croft Castle

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The splendid ‘Hure de Marcassin aux Pistaches’ or Boar’s Head stuffed with Pistachios.

In late April I went to visit my Grandmother in Ludlow. Given the bright spring-like weather and Granny’s boundless energy we set off to explore Croft Castle, a fortified country house near Hereford, and discovered a fascinating bit of foxhunting history.

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Croft Castle – a building has stood here since the 11th century and current castellated manor since the 14th century. To the left is St. Michael’s Church.

Croft is set on a gentle slope with long-ranging views of Shropshire and Herefordshire. There is an exquisite walled garden, which, given the month, was rich with apple blossom and bright spring flowers. The stables, replete with decorative brass fittings have been restored and the handsome farm buildings are still in use. Mature parkland surrounds the house and is dominated by a triple row of majestic Spanish chestnut trees. One of these is one of 50 ‘Great British Trees’ recognised on the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002.

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The celebrated Spanish Chestnut

 

The most engaging part of the visit was without doubt the dining room. Inspired by a menu from the 1930 Ludlow Hunt Club Ball, the National Trust (who now own the property) have put together an exhibit of the grand event given by Lady Margaret Croft.

From the discovery of the menu amongst the personal ephemera of a family member, the Trust appealed to local people through regional papers to track down as much information about the night as possible. A contemporary article from the ‘Ludlow Advertiser’ reported that ‘the arrangements had been excellently made and guests numbered around 250’.

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The original 1930 menu.

It also mentions that ‘Newman’s Band’ provided the entertainment and parking valets were provided by both the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) and the Automobile Association (AA)  .

The menu itself gives an intriguing insight into the party and the social scene of the time. The dishes (provided by Harris’s Caterers of the West, Hereford) are all listed in French – a peculiar fancy of British gourmands to this day! Amongst the treats were Viennese Ham Mousse, Strawberry Bavarois and the splendid ‘Hure de Marcassin aux Pistaches’ or Boar’s head stuffed with Pistachios!

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Lady Margaret Croft who gave the Ball.

James and Katherine Croft, who organised the 1930 ball at their ancestral family home. Picture courtesy National Trust.

James and Katherine Croft in full hunting garb. Love the britches! Picture courtesy National Trust.

 

My favourite details is that ‘au depart’ guests were given fried eggs and bacon and a mug of soup!

As you’d expect the tables are laid beautifully with silver service and each table is lit by a lamp with a hunting scene depicted on the shade. If anyone is wondering whether the event would be more decorous than our raucous hunt balls today, I think probably not: there was a considerable quantity of booze on hand!

The one thing I would have loved to have seen would have been more photos of the night – it would be fascinating to get a glimpse of the great and good in attendance and the fashions of the day.

Hunt balls continued to be held at the castle until the 1960s. Today the Ludlow Hunt still rides across the estate. I feel more than inspired to try and arrange a visit next season – anyone else?

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The main gate at Croft.

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Plenty of silver to polish on the tables – looks almost as smart as one of our picnics!

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Detail of the hunting scene on the lamp.


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Please note, throughout our website we use the term fox hunting to mean all of the activities carried out by our participating hunts operating within the constraints of the Hunting Act 2004.