An Illustrated Interview with Sir Henry Halford

Introduction | The Den | First Gun | To America

By: H. How
Source: The Strand magazine, London, 1893

Wistow Hall stands in one of the most picturesque parts of Leicestershire. It is the home of the man who may honestly by titled "The Grand Old Man of Shooting." Sir Henry Halford has revelled in records almost from the very first meeting at Wimbledon in 1860 [1], and it is a remarkable fact that amongst his prizes - and there are twenty-one of them - are those of the Albert at Wimbledon in 1862 and the same trophy at Bisley [2] in 1893, a record lapse of thirty-one years!

Wistow Hall

Ten years ago a lady remarked at Wimbledon, "What a very old man to be shooting!" but on the 9th of last August, when he was forced to remember that it was his sixty-fifth birthday, he adjourned to the field adjoining the house, which makes a capital range, and rattled off a dozen or two bull's-eyes with as much deliberation and more certainty than he did when he first handled a rifle.

Sir Henry is of medium height. His hair is snowy white - his eyes look you through and through. He wears a comfortable knickerbocker suit, and a drab coloured, broad-brimmed, soft tennis hat. He talks rapidly, though always thoughtfully. Success with the rifle and gun - he has brought down his stag, too, with the best of them - has not spoiled what I soon discovered was the original foundation of his constitution - modesty. He converses with extreme enthusiasm on all things connected with shooting weapons, and discusses the Volunteer movement with equal heartiness. His days are passed in experimenting. Go into his workshop - it abuts from a magnificent conservatory where, among the flowers, oranges and lemons are making satisfactory progress. It is a working man's room indeed. Sir Henry is a practical gun-maker, and here you will find every known appliance for making tools associated with the gun-maker's art. Immediately after breakfast the veteran enters his experimenting apartment, though he has before now stuck to his task till eleven at night and started work at three in the morning. And his dog, "Numa Pompelius," invariably keeps its master company. Sir Henry admits that he lives with his dogs. He kept them as a lad and has grown up with them.

Sir Henry at work

The interior of Wistow Hall is in every way interesting.

The dining, drawing, and morning rooms run one into the other, terminating in the conservatory. The only two associations of shooting are noteworthy ones. The great silver cup on the table is the Albert Cup of 1893, whilst on the massive oaken sideboard is a bronze figure of "Fortuna," presented by the National Rifle Association of America to the winners of the International Military Match between the Volunteers of Great Britain and the National Guard of the United States, competed for on September 14th and 15th, 1882. Sir Henry captained the winning team, who gave him this token [3]. Here, too, is the Cambridge Cup, won in 1865 at 1,000 and 1,100 yards [4].

The reception-rooms are full of works of art, cabinets of bric-à-brac, sculpture, and pictures, whilst the number of miniatures about are as numerous as they are precious. Photos of the "English Eights" of the early days of shooting abound - very quaint some of the competitors look in their queer-cut coats and the most approved of "Dundrearies."

English Eight, 1863
 Standing, left to right:
Capt. Williams, A.Ashton, Lord Bury, M. Smith, Lieut.-Col. Halford, WM. Palmer
Seated, left to right:
Capt. Drake, Capt. Heaton, Lady Bury, Earl Ducie, E.J. Hawker, Capt. Rowland

Notes
  1. Queen Victoria fired the opening shot at the first NRA rifle meeting on 2 July 1860.
  2. The Princess of Wales opened the first Bisley meeting on 12 July 1890.
  3. The British won by 1,975 points to 1,805.
  4. Using a Gibbs-Metford rifle.
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