William ‘Tom’ Goddard – Northamptonshire

Wm Goddard: Hunting Reds
William (Tom) Goddard

William was a huntsman between 1868 and 1878 with the Pytchley Hunt and rode regularly with the 5th Earl Spencer of Althorp in Northamptonshire.  The Earl took William with him as Kennel Huntsman when he started the Woodland Pytchley Hunt based in Brigstock in 1878, the year and place that his second daughter Margaret Evelyn (our direct ancestor) was born.

William was the son of John and Mercy Elizabeth Goddard (her second marriage) and was born on 23 February 1850. He was baptised on 14 April 1850 in St Nicholas Church, Heythrop, Oxfordshire and lived in the ruins of Heythrop House for several years.Hunt servants of the Heythrop hounds lived in the part of the mansion which had not been destroyed by fire.

He became a whipper-in with the Pytchley Hunt in 1871 when he was 21 years old. Research on William was quite problematic until we found, in a booklet of typed notes on hunting in North Warwickshire, just one line which said that –

“William Goddard was always called ‘Tom’ Goddard, who came from the Pytchley and was a most finished horseman”

It would seem that there was another huntsman called William Goodall already with the hunt. The surnames ‘Goodall’ and ‘Goddard’ are similar sounding and having two ‘Williams’ in the hunt would be very confusing.

‘Tom’ Goddard who rode for the Pytchley Hunt was in fact our ancestor William Goddard.

We could not find “Tom” on the census anywhere, but hadn’t considered that it might have been a nickname.

Tom is mentioned often in publications hunting with the 5th Earl Spencer and the Woodland Pytchley Hunt, originally the Althorp and Pytchley Hunt. The 5th Earl was known as the “Red” Earl because of his bushy red beard and his love of hunting. He was Viceroy of Ireland and the First Lord of the Admiralty and died in 1910. The 9th Earl is, of course, Charles Spencer, brother of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, who still lives at Althorp, also with red hair, (as indeed has Diana’s son, Prince Harry).

Will Goddard Althorpe Close up
William (Tom) Goddard with 5th Earl Spencer

It is quite intriguing to think that it was, in fact, William Goddard, (who we knew had ridden with the Pytchley Hunt between 1869 and 1878), who was named as riding regularly with the Earl. At this time some very special hunts were organised which attracted the whole hunting fraternity of the midlands. We examined some 19th century Spencer Journals in the Northamptonshire record office and there were entries referring to Tom Goddard and sometimes Tom (Will) Goddard. One account on 2 November 1874 Althorp Park mentioned that “Tom went very well on Perfection & Cameo” and another described him riding with Earl Spencer and Her Imperial Majesty Elizabeth, the Empress of Austria for six weeks at the beginning of 1878.

On this visit 500 horsemen rode with her and there were nearly 5000 spectators. She was quite an interesting person. She was very beautiful, very vain and very slim, exercising and dieting to excess. Her son, Crown Prince Rudolf became infamous because of the Mayerling tragedy. He was married to Princess Stephanie of Belgium but then fell in love with a commoner, 17 year old Mary Vetsera. She became pregnant, had an abortion and at a lonely hunting lodge at Mayerling bled to death in his arms. He then killed himself with a shot to the head. It was all hushed up and there were lots of conspiracy theories at the time but when the Vatican archives of the imperial family were opened the full story came to light. (Portrait of Elizabeth Empress of Austria – Wikipedia)

5th Earl & Wm painting
William (Tom) Goddard with 5th Earl Spencer
Proof! That it's Tom Goddard
Plaque placed beneath the painting listing 3. T Goddard

In 1875 William (Tom) was aged 25 and newly married.  Earl Spencer, the ‘red’ earl was totally obsessed with hunting and the Spencer Journal stated that he hunted with the Pytchley (the hounds being kept at Brixworth) for 5/6 days a week in the season of 1876/77. During this time the hounds would be taken by train to Brigstock. He then started his own pack, the Woodland Pytchley in Brigstock in 1878 (the year and place that William’s second daughter Margaret Evelyn was born and baptised) at his own expense for two seasons with Tom Goddard as kennel huntsman.

In the village of Brigstock we were reliably informed at a local pub that the “Py” in Pytchley was pronounced pie (as in pork pie) and with an inflection of “oy” (as in soy sauce). You have to practice before asking questions about the “Poi”chley hunt!

At the back of the public house was a road sign, “Kennel Hill” and unbelievably, a large old building at the bottom of the hill was part of the original kennels and is still being used by today’s Pytchley Hunt to kennel their hounds. The barking was ferocious as we passed the building but a kennel man screamed at them and they quietened down immediately. A good voice was needed not only during the hunt.

Many buildings seen in the old photographs in the record office and library have been converted into very upmarket dwelling houses. Lots of Jags, Mercs and BMWs! You lose much of the ambiance of the old villages (they are too pristine, not a weed in sight) but I suppose at least they have been preserved for the future and the developers have left bits of the past, like the wall of the old kennels and the surrounding wall of the old Workhouse in Brixworth.

The hand written Spencer journal states “the earl brought Tom Goddard with him as kennel huntsman and carried the horn himself”. Apparently, the earl was a successful politician, a charming, rather serious man, the ‘last example of the male Spencers at their best’, who was a great friend and ally of Gladstone and gave Wimbledon common to the people and invented barbed wire!  All this must have been done out of the hunting season!

Althorp stable block where T Goddard lived
Althorp Stables

At Althorp we visited the stables where ‘Tom’ would have worked and which have been adapted to house the ‘Diana’ exhibition. Although there were many visitors in the stable yard there was an uncanny air of peacefulness about the place, unlike 1875 when it would have been extremely noisy. When ‘Tom’ hunted with the Pytchley the stables accommodated up to 100 horses and 40 grooms. The exhibition and the shop have been converted from the stables very tastefully, as has the restaurant, with each pair of tables being inside the original horse stall and with the name of the horse on the wall. Even the toilets reminded you of horse stalls and were in keeping with the original stables. We did find that there was a homely feel to the whole place – perhaps because the family has continually occupied it for nearly 500 years. All the bedrooms we saw were still being used by guests to the house.

We found the grave of William Goodall (the main huntsman on the left of the painting), who had died aged 48, in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin, Great Brington, where the 5th Earl (Diana’s father) is buried in the Spencer family crypt, (and it would seem ‘Diana’ too, according to the locals!!). How our ancestor, William, survived to the age of 86 in such a precarious profession is a mystery! One guide at Althorp House said that the 5th Earl’s hunts, although enjoyed by many were feared by all. The speed and ferocity of the hunt was beyond belief and they were described as “thunderous” in the archives.

We used the British Newspaper Archive to find a newspaper article from The Essex County Chronicle – Friday 10 April 1896 which details a serious accident of William Goddard

Serious Accident to a Huntsman

On Saturday Mr William Goddard, the huntsman of the Essex Union Hounds, met with a very serious accident while hunting with the ‘drag hounds’ near Dunton Waylett Farm, Dunton. In endeavouring to clear a low fence his horse stumbled and stopped dead, thus throwing the rider. The animal passed on and kicked out, striking Mr Goddard upon the side of the head. Drs F Carter and R Quennell, who happened to be with the hounds, quickly attended to the unfortunate man, and he was conveyed home as soon as possible. He had sustained a slight fracture of the skull. He is now under Dr F Carter’s care, and lies in a delirious and highly dangerous condition. Much anxiety is felt as to his recovery.

It appears that Mr Goddard happened to go to Dunton and saw the ‘drag hounds’ there, and a mount being offered him by Mr Pinching, of Dunton, he attempted to jump the fence where the accident occurred. In consequence of this serious accident the Point-to-Point Steeplechases and the Puppy Show announced to be held on Saturday next have been postponed. Mr Pinching writes: The horse that Goddard rode of mine was a four-year-old English thoroughbred, bred by Her Majesty the Queen, and has been backed by me all the season.

William married Margaret Buswell on 26 March 1875 in Brixworth, Northamptonshire at All Saints’ Church.Their story continues here.


Old Goddards family portrait
Goddard Family Portrait

The oldest photograph we have is a metal plated negative which may have been taken about 1888.

The ‘best fit’ of family ancestors for 1888

(left to right) Emma Goddard age 57; Margaret Evelyn Goddard, age 10 or 11 (the riding habit can make younger girls look older); Robert Worrall, age 53; Helen Goddard, age 6: Margaret Buswell, age 37 (middle) and pregnant with Frank; William Goddard (our direct ancestor), age 38: Gertrude Goddard, 12: John William Goddard, age 11. (Margaret Evelyn and John were born very close together).

Robert Worrall married John Goddard’s sister, Emma Goddard in 1860. He wrote several diaries mentioned in hunting publications and there is also a picture of him riding his horse, Cremorne. He was a ‘celebrity’ at the time and definitely one to be photographed with. So the photograph could be that of William and his wife Margaret with their children and Aunt Emma and her husband. William’s family lived in Brixworth at the time and Emma lived in Bicester, not far away.

Only Tom, aged 7 seems to be missing. He may have been ill, living away from home, or indeed found it difficult to sit still for the length of time needed to take the photograph in those days.

Apparently, the camera had a narrow field of focus and they had to get the heads at the same height, so tall men would always be seated. Maybe this is the reason a pregnant woman is standing while two able bodied men are sitting down. Or it may be to disguise the pregnancy – they didn’t flaunt their bumps in those days! I think the shawls were ornate and expensive. Emma’s appears to have holes in it, but this is probably due to a damaged negative. The frills and flounces on the girl’s dresses would have made them expensive and interestingly, Emma is described as a dressmaker in the 1851 census when she was 20 years old.

We know that William was with the Pytchley Hunt at the time and that a Peterborough hound show was held annually. It is possible that the photograph may have been taken at an event like this. The girl on the left certainly has a look of Margaret Evelyn around the eyes.