Gallery

Gallery: 
English School 19th, Century
Portrait of George Osbaldeston 1786 - 1866, Known as "Squire Osbaldeston"
George Osbaldeston, "Squire Osbaldeston"
oil on canvas
30 x 25 cm. (12 x 10 in.)
Price: 
£3500

Description

Together with a book titled "Squire Osbaldeston, his autobiography, edited by E D Cuming and an introduction by Sir Theodore Cook

Notes

George Osbaldeston,   (1786–1866), sportsman, was born on 26 December 1786 at Welbeck Street, London, the only son of the five children of George Osbaldeston (1753–1793), previously Wickins, landowner and MP for Scarborough, and his wife, Jane (d. 1821), daughter of Sir Thomas Head. His parents, who were from ecclesiastical, academic, and political families, were from the south of England, but in 1770 Osbaldeston's grandfather had inherited half the Yorkshire estates of his wife's uncle Fountayne Wentworth Osbaldeston (1694–1770), on condition that he took the Osbaldeston name. The family lived in the Osbaldeston house at Hutton Buscel, near Scarborough. When his father died, the estate was left in trust for six-year-old George, whose mother squandered much of it.

Osbaldeston lived at Hutton Buscel until he was nine years old, from which time he attended successively the schools run by the Revd Carr and the Revd Wallington, both at Ealing, London, and then Eton College (1802–3), where sport was his sole interest. Following a wild spell at Brighton (1803–4), he went to Brasenose College, Oxford, where he matriculated in 1805, but sport took precedence over study and he left in 1807 without a degree. His wealth qualified him to be commissioned lieutenant-colonel of the 5th regiment North Riding local militia from 1809 to 1811, and family connections enabled him to be elected as a whig MP for East Retford, Lincolnshire, from 1812 to 1818, although he rarely attended parliament. The appointment as high sheriff for Yorkshire, in 1829, was more to his taste, as it involved much socializing.

Osbaldeston's obsession was to be the best at competitive sports; he was skilled at billiards, cricket, shooting, rowing, tennis, horse-racing, carriage-racing, and especially fox-hunting. He was sixteen when he first bought hounds; they were Southern hounds, and were too slow for him, so he bought Lord Jersey's dwarf foxhounds and built kennels, to Beckford's design, at Hutton Buscel. In 1810, when a fire destroyed Hutton Buscel Hall, he rented a house with his mother, the Palace, Lincoln, where she could entertain, and he hunted the local Burton country, after purchasing the late Lord Monson's pack. He was reputed to have a son, by a Miss Green, a Lincoln prostitute, but the child was sent abroad. For the next twenty-four years he was an itinerant master of foxhounds, serving nine hunts, including the Atherstone (1815–17), the Quorn (1817–21 and 1823–7), and the Pytchley (1827–34), usually subsidizing the cost; he may have been tolerated only for this reason, as he antagonized all ranks of society by his self-centred, arrogant attitudes and his persistent belief that people cheated him. W. Sparrow has suggested that Osbaldeston's great reputation as a huntsman and hound-breeder was mainly due to the skill of his whipper-in, Tom Sebright: after they parted company, Osbaldeston's hunt declined considerably, and he overworked his hounds (Sparrow, xviii). At cricket, he first played at Lord's in 1808 and bowled and batted for the All England team. He rowed competitively, with success from boyhood to middle age. He was a famous shot, both at game birds and at live pigeons, released from traps, at the Old Hat and Red House clubs, although the bore of his gun was 1½ inches, so he may not have been particularly skilful.

Horse-racing was an obsession that Osbaldeston pursued in many forms. Nicknamed the Squire by the press, he was only 5 feet 6 inches tall but weighed 11 stone and was a powerful man, who rode well as a gentleman jockey in horse races and steeplechases, as well as carriage races with the Four-in-hand Club and trotting races. He rode at least one horse to death. He also bred racehorses at his new seat at Ebberston Hall, Scarborough, Yorkshire, where he desperately prospected for coal, hoping to solve his financial problems. In 1831 he rode an endurance horse race against time, covering 200 miles in ten hours, for a bet of 1000 guineas, which he won easily. The same year he fought a duel on Wormwood Scrubs with Lord George Bentinck over a gambling debt, following a race in which Osbaldeston probably bent the rules; neither was hurt, and the two men later became reconciled. Gambling was Osbaldeston's downfall; he lost about £200,000 on horses, and was forced to sell his estates in 1848 for £190,000 to pay his debts of £167,000. This sale allowed the purchase of an annuity for £10,500, and provided a safe income for life. On 29 July 1851 he married a widow, Elizabeth Williams, née Cornes; they lived in her houses in Regent's Park, London, and in the south of England, where he kept a few racehorses, without success, until his death; he rode his last race in 1855. Osbaldeston, whose exploits made him a folk-hero of the hunting classes, died intestate and virtually penniless at his home, 2 Grove Road, St John's Wood, London, on 1 August 1866, and was buried in Highgate cemetery.

 Thomas Seccombe, rev. Iris M. Middleton  DNB

‘Squire’ Osbaldeston admitted that he had wasted his substance. A fabulous all-round sportsman, master of nine hunts, he lived ‘a life of plunder’—as did the agents of his neglected estate. He lost £200,000 on the Turf, about the sum realized when he sold his property in 1848. His father had been Member for Scarborough but during his long minority the family interest there would have lapsed save for the intervention of Earl Fitzwilliam. His mother, an ardent Whig, cultivated Fitzwilliam and it was her ‘political enthusiasm’ that secured him a seat in Parliament. While Master of the Burton (1810-13) Osbaldeston resided at Lincoln Palace and paid court to the widowed Lady Monson. At Fitzwilliam’s recommendation she was prepared to put him up for Lincoln on the Monson interest, though she refused his hand. In the event, Osbaldeston objected to the expense and was diverted by Fitzwilliam to East Retford, where there was an opening in 1812. He stood as a Whig in conjunction with an opportunist Charles Marsh* and, after an energetic canvass with his mother, was confident of success. There was no contest. According to Osbaldeston, who ‘thought it a great bore’, he paid dearly for the honour, but his agent Oldfield alleged that he did not settle his bills. Oldfield also reported, 20 Jan. 1813, that Osbaldeston was about to vacate his seat. He did not, but admitted

I had however no taste whatever for public life. I was so entirely engrossed with hunting, shooting and athletic feats that I could not turn my thoughts to politics, and it was only in response to my mother’s entreaties that I attended the House on urgent occasions. Habitually talkative, Osbaldeston did not utter in debate. He voted for Catholic relief, 22 Mar. and 13 May 1813, and paired in favour on 24 May. He voted with opposition on the civil list, 27 May 1813; on the army estimates, 6, 8, 11 Mar.; the state of Ireland, 26 Apr.; for retrenchment, 6 and 7 May 1816, and for the opposition candidate for the Speakership, 2 June 1817. According to Tierney, pressure from Fitzwilliam was necessary to make him attend. Before the end of 1817 Osbaldeston had decided not to waste his money on a seat in Parliament. It was in vain that Lady Warwick (formerly Monson) endeavoured to lure him back to Lincoln. He later thought he had been in the House ‘eighteen months or two years’ and ‘gave up thought of politics’ for the rest of his life. He died 1 Aug. 1866.Of the many disputes in which his sporting prowess involved him, he said ‘any man may have the credit so long as I have the diversion’. Undoubtedly Osbaldeston was a gifted sportsman but his personality often attracted disputation.He played for the MCC, Surrey and Sussex and being both a gifted fast bowler and batsman enjoyed single wicket competitions that invariably involved large side bets. In 1810 Osbaldeston teamed up with the professional Lambert and played Lord Frederick Beauclerk and Thomas Howard. The squire fell ill and withdrew from the match but his opponents insisted it must proceed. Lambert deliberately bowled wide and to Beauclerk’s fury won by 15 runs. As a direct result the MCC changed the rules of cricket to ban bowling wides. Ill feeling flared again in 1817 when Beauclerk captained an England team against a Nottingham eleven which included Osbaldeston and Lambert. Both sides accused the other of cheating and such was Beauclerk’s influence that he had Lambert banned from the MCC.  The following year Osbaldeston was so enraged by losing a single wicket game to George Brown of Sussex that he resigned his MCC membership. Later he relented and reapplied for membership only to be barred by the vengeful Beauclerk.

A physically tough slightly built man he was for many years a gentleman jockey riding  his own race horses. Inspired by the famous exploit of the 17th century highwayman ‘Swift Nick’ Nevison, who rode from London to York in 15 hours, Osbaldeston wagered 1000 Guineas that he could ride 200 miles within 10 hours. The race was held at Newmarket racecourse on a wet November day in 1831. The squire, dressed in purple silks and black velvet cap, set off at 7.12 am. and despite several rain showers, one fall and generous stops for brandy and food, achieved the 200 miles in less than 9 hours riding 28 horses. He then rode back to Newmarket, bathed and joined his friends for dinner. 162 years later on the same course, Peter Scudamore the champion jockey only just managed to beat the squire’s record although his breaks were much shorter and he spent more time in the saddle. On completing the 200 miles Scudamore declared himself exhausted and ‘laid himself carefully on the ground for a massage’. In 1836 the squire was suspected of deliberatly holding back his horse Rush at  Doncaster so achieving a favourable handicap for the following race meet at Heaton where he won easily. He had of course backed himself heavily at Heaton including a £200 bet with Lord George Bentinck. His lordship was slow to settle and when Osbaldeston demanded his winnings Lord George declared “ I’m surprised you ask for the money for the affair was robbery’. Accused of cheating Osbaldeston demanded satisafction and so the Squire and the Lord met at dawn, pistols drawn, on Wormwood Scrubs. Unlike his opponent Osbaldeston was a crack shot but his lordship’s friends had seemingly negotiated a compromise and both parties missed their mark. Hunting was the squire’s other great passion and for nearly 30 years he spent a fortune   moving from one famous hunt to another: 1810 the Burton, Lincolnshire; 1813 the Muster’s pack (now the South Notts);

1815 the Meynall and Atherstone, Derbyshire; 1817-24 and 1823-27 the Quorn, Leicestershire; 1827-34 the Pytchley, Northants. Each move involved the enormous expense of purchasing the Mastership which included the running costs of stables, kennels and men and  renting a gentleman’s residence for the season. During his time in Nottinghamshire (1813-5) he rented Thurgarton Priory -“Thurgarton was a pretty good house but I was obliged to build stables as well as kennels , a very expensive business”.However Osbaldeston was not impressed by the hunting, describing the countryside as“very bad and inconvenient for hunting, as the River Trent is so wide and deep that hounds and horses must be taken over in a boat.” During his time at Thurgarton the squire was bitten by a hound that might have been rabid: “he was seperated from the pack and I watched him daily (for a year) with the greatest anxiety convinced that if he did go mad I must die of that horrible disorder, hydrophobia”. The  squire’s success at hunting the fox was not mirrored in his pursuit of women. When in Lincolnshire he vigorously courted the recently widowed Lady Munson but she went to ground and married Lord Warwick. A Miss Green of Lincoln provided some comfort but she quietly left the country on the birth of a son reputed to be the squire’s. At one county ball he was said to have seduced both the daughters of the house in one evening. True or not such stories about the squire’s hunting exploits on and off the field only fed his reputation and no doubt grew in the telling. More certain are accounts of his petulance and short temper that led to numerous disputes and to his frequent change of hunts. All the major newspapers of 1866 printed lengthy obituaries of “The Squire of England” celebrating his many feats of sportsmanship but mixed into this praise of a legend were more bitter memories and accusations of ungentlemanly conduct. Squire George Osbaldeston belongs to the pages of Henry Fielding’s novel Tom Jones but he lacked that hero’s charm and generosity  – there was too much of the snappy Yorkshire terrier in him.