A once-popular but now banned countryside tradition was revived in Sunderland almost 70 years ago – fox-hunting.
The fields around Silksworth, Burden and Warden Law resounded to the sounds of a huntsman’s horn and cries of Tally Ho on January 6, 1949.
“It had been nearly half a century since the South Durham foxhounds had hunted in the district,” said Echo photo archivist Susan Swinney.
“But, after farmers complained about several fox attacks on their poultry – one man lost 12 cock chickens in a night – the hunt was called in.”
Farmer J.H. Thompson, who ran Vicarage Dairies at Silksworth, opened up his home – Silksworth Close – to the hunting party.
And, after moving off from the house – now The Cavalier pub – the huntsmen headed for the woods on Wesley Weightman’s Hall Farm.
“What was once a routine practice has been revived,” reported the Echo at the time. “During the past few years foxes in the area have multiplied.
“There are stories of farmers losing as many as 20 head of poultry. Recently, a Tunstall farmer shot a dog fox within half a mile of Sunderland’s boundary.”
The South Durham Hunt were once regular visitors to Wearside, with farmers welcoming huntsmen onto their land from at least the 1870s.
But the tradition of a Sunderland hunt died out in the early 20th century, possibly due to the two World Wars – until revived in 1949.
“Records show at least one more hunt was held from Silksworth Close, in 1950; but the grand house was sold soon after that,” said Susan.
“Silksworth Close certainly housed its share of notable residents. Among them were the Nicholsons in the 1910s, who later had ties to Vaux.
“Meanwhile, councillor George Marshall made it his home in the 1930s, while J.M. Ditchburn – chairman of Sunderland Round Table – lived there in the 1950s.”