James Seymour
A Kill at Ashdown Park 1743

Artwork details

James Seymour ?1702–1752
A Kill at Ashdown Park
Date 1743
Medium Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 1803 x 2388 mm
frame: 2030 x 2618 x 80 mm
Acquisition Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery and subscribers 1969
Not on display


The principal figure, in tricorne hat and seen in profile on his dark grey hunter, is Fulwar, 4th Baron Craven of Hamstead Marshall, Berkshire. He is represented here with his huntsmen and hounds at the conclusion of a hunt on the Berkshire Downs near his home at Ashdown Park. Born between 1700 and 1704, Fulwar would have been about forty years old in this painting. He was the younger son of William, 2nd Baron Craven, and succeeded his brother in 1739. He died unmarried at Benham Valence, Buckinghamshire, on 10 November 1764.

Ashdown House is clearly visible in the background on the left of the picture. It was built c.1665, by an unidentified architect (possibly William Winde), as a hunting-lodge for William, 1st Baron Craven. Seymour's viewpoint is from the south-east, on Kingstone Downs, looking towards the back of Ashdown House. The two hills on the right of the picture are probably Weathercock Hill and (further from the spectator) Crowberry Tump.

Fox-hunting first appeared in England in the late seventeenth century, replacing the earlier sport of stag-hunting. Its success was only gradual, however, and stag-hunting remained common in many parts of England up to the middle of the eighteenth century. Roger Longrigg (p.65) suggests that the 4th Lord Craven began fox-hunting in the year of his succession. He notes that Seymour portrays tricolour (black, white and tan) foxhounds, with some of the blood of the Duke of Richmond's kennels at Charleton in Sussex, and that the Cravens were typical of the territorial magnates who maintained the hunt at their own expense. Seymour shows the foreground littered with 'sarsens', the distinctive sixty to seventy million year-old boulders that still characterise the district.

Seymour painted the 4th Lord Craven in other sporting pursuits as well. A picture (present whereabouts unknown) also set on the Berkshire Downs shows him coursing, apparently with the same two greyhounds which are portrayed chasing a hare in the background on the right of this painting. Some of the horses appear to be the same in both pictures.

Further reading:
The Tate Gallery 1968-70, London 1970, p.67, reproduced p.30 in colour
Roger Longrigg, The History of Foxhunting, London 1975, pp.60, 62, 65, reproduced

Terry Riggs
March 1998