Henry Hastings (1551-1650)


Henry Hastings was the absolute stereotype for the eccentric, hunting, shooting and fishing, English country squire. Even in his own time he was considered far from typical. Henry became the squire of Woodlands upon his marriage to Dorothy Willoughby in 1587.  The following description of him is attributed to Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, later the first Earl of Shaftesbury, and describes Henry in 1638 at the time of his wifes death.  Although it must have been written, or at least updated,  over twenty years later following his death.

Henry Hastings“In the year 1638 lived Mr. Hastings, by his quality son, brother and uncle to the Earls of Huntingdon. He was, peradventure, an original in our age, or rather a copy of our ancient Nobility in hunting, not in warlike times. He was low [short], very strong, and very active, of a reddish flaxen hair; his clothes always green cloth, and never worth, when new, five pounds. His house was perfectly of the old fashion, in the midst of a large park, well stocked with deer; and near the house, rabbits for his kitchen; many fish ponds; great stores of wood and timber; a bowling-green in it; long, but narrow, full of high ridges, it being never leveled since it was ploughed; they used round sand bowles; and it had a banqueting house like a stand, a large one built in a tree. He kept all manner of sport-hounds, that ran buck, fox, hare, otter, and badger; and hawks, long and short-winged. He had all sorts of nets for fish. He had a walk in the New Forest and the Manor of Christchurch; this last supplied him with red deer, sea and river-fish; and, indeed, all his neighbours’ grounds and royalties were free to him who bestowed all his time on these sports, but [except] what he borrowed to caress his neighbours’ wives and daughters, there being not a woman in all his walks, of the degree of a yeoman’s wife, or under, and under the age of forty, but it was her own fault if he was not acquainted with her. This made him very popular; always speaking kindly to the husband, brother or father, who was to boot very welcome to his house. Whenever he came there, he found beef, pudding and small beer, in great plenty; the house not so neatly kept as to shame him or his dirty shoes; the great hail strewed with marrow­bones, full of hawks, perches, hounds, spaniels, and terriers; the upper side of the hall hung with fox-skins, of this or the last year’s killing; here and there a pole-cat intermixed; gamekeeper’s and hunter’s poles in great abundance.

FalconThe parlour was a large room, as properly furnished. On a great hearth, paved with brick, lay some terriers, and the choicest hounds and spaniels. Seldom but two of the great chairs had litters of cats in them, which were not to be disturbed: he having always three or four attending him at dinner; and a little white stick, of fourteen inches long, lying by his trencher [dinner plate], that he might defend such meat as he had no mind to part with for them. The windows, which were very large, served for places to lay his arrows, cross-bows, and stone-bows, and such like accoutrements; the corners of the room full of the best chosen hunting and hawking poles; his oyster table at the lower end, which was of constant use, for he never failed to eat oysters all seasons, both dinner and supper: the neighbouring town of Poole supplied him with them.

The upper part of the room had two tables and a desk, and on the one side of which there was a Church Bible, and on the other side the Book of Martyrs: on the tables were hawks’ hoods, bells and such-like; two or three old hats, with their crowns thrust in, so as to hold ten or a dozen eggs, which were of the pStagheasant kind of poultry; these he took much care of, and fed himself. Tables, dice, cards, and boxes, were not wanting. In the hole of the desk were stores of tobacco-pipes that had been used. On one side of this end of the room was the door of a closet, wherein stood the strong beer and the wine, which never came from thence hut in single glasses, that being the rule of the house exactly observed; for he never exceeded in drink, or permitted it. On the other side was the door of the old chapel, not used for devotion; the pulpit, as the safest place [from the dogsl. was never wanting of a cold chine of beef, venison pasty. gammon of bacon, or great apple pie, with thick crust, extremely baked. His table cost him not much, though it was good to eat at it. His sports provided all hut beef or mutton, except Fridays, when he had the best of salt-fish, as well as eating other fish he could get; and this was the day his neighbours of best quality visited him. He never wanted a London pudding, and always sung in eating it, “With my pert eyes thereina” - (my part lies therein)”. He drank a glass or two of wine at meals; very often put syrup of gilly-flowers [wall-flowers] in his sack, and always holding a pint of small beer, which he often stirred with rosemary.

He was well-natured hut soon angry, calling his servants bastards and cuckoldry knaves, in one of which he often spoke the truth to his own knowledge. and sometimes in both, though of the same man. He lived to be an hundred, and never lost his eye-sight. but always wrote and read without spectacles, and got on horse-back without help. Until past fourscore, he rode to the death of the stag as well as any."

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