The Bilsdale Fox Hunt purports to be the oldest in England, established in 1668 by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, George Villiers. But Michael Heavisides, a frequent visitor to Bilsdale at the turn of the 19th century recounts that when first established game no smaller than wild boar was hunted. No foxes. Heavisides was referring to an article in the North Star newspaper on the funeral of Bobbie Dawson who was a lifelong character of the Bilsdale Hunt.
Heavisides and others talk of a tradition in the dale when the Duke chased a particular fox for a gruelling three hours. Finally at a certain boulder in Tarn Hole, off Tripsdale, his horse collapsed and died. No one knows how the Duke felt about his poor horse. No doubt one of his lackeys brought him another one to ride home but the rock remained in the memories of Bilsdale folk, supposedly capping it with a smaller boulder. Some feat.
Armed with just an archived photo of the rock the objective today was to locate the rock. Mission accomplished.
The Duke was a bit of a rake, a hellraiser. Some say the nursery rhyme
Georgie Porgie, Pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry,
When the boys came out to play,
Georgie Porgie ran away.
was based on the Duke but others attribute it to his father, the first Duke, also a George. George junior fought for King Charles I in the English Civil War forfeiting his estates but had these returned in the Restoration. Under Charles II his life became a series of scandals. The year 1668, the year the Bilsdale Hunt was founded, started off with a duel with the Earl of Shrewsbury over his affair with the Countess of Shrewsbury. The Earl was fatally wounded after which the Countess moved in with the Duke and his wife, Mary.
The Duke died in 1687, having caught a chill while hunting. One version is that this chill was caught while waiting for his replacement horse at the rock. He left no legitimate hiers and the Dukedom became extinct with his estate eventually being brought by Charles Duncombe in 1694, a mere commoner. In 1826 Charles Slingsby Duncombe was made the 1st Baron Feversham.