Siegfried Sassoon

Norman Loder

Norman Wilfrid Loder was the younger son of a landowning baronet and the family lived in Handcross, Sussex. Loder and Siegfried Sassoon went to the same school, Henley House, in the village of Frant near Tunbridge Wells. In 1905 both men went on to university at Cambridge.

From 1906 to 1911 Loder had been Hunt Master at the Galway Blazers in Ireland and by 1907, through Loder’s encouragement, Sassoon had become interested in Fox-hunting and golf and the two men regularly hunted together. In 1911 Loder moved to Ringmer near Lewes, to become Master of the Southdown Hunt in Sussex and Sassoon spent many happy days hunting with him there also.

In 1913 Loder moved again, this time to Witherley in Warwickshire where he became Master of the Atherstone Hunt for a year until 1914 when he joined the Cavalry and went to France at the beginning of the First World War. Also at this time he left the Atherstone to become Joint Master of the Fitzwilliam Hunt at Milton near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. However during the years 1914 to 1918 while he was away, his new wife, Phyllis, who herself was a great horsewoman, carried out the duties of Master at the Fitzwilliam.

Norman Loder

Norman Wilfrid Loder centre at a meet of the Atherstone Hunt in 1913

Loder put him on rather a wild horse...

Sassoon visited Milton and hunted with the Fitzwilliam on a number of occasions but he does not cover these visits in any great detail in his autobiographies. He stayed at Norman Loder's house at Longthorpe, Peterborough, from the 20th to the 28th of September 1916, when they spent their time cub-hunting. He also stayed at Longthorpe, in 1919 but Loder put him on a rather wild horse and he was promptly thrown from it. This aggravated his sciatica and Sassoon spent the rest of the visit in bed. Sassoon wrote to another famous war poet, Edmund Blunden on 19th August, 1919, from Longthotrpe stating, “staying til Aug 25th.” Then, in 1920, Loder left the Fitzwilliam Hunt, and moved back to become Master of the Atherstone Hunt. What Sassoon does cover in great detail in his books are two visits he made to Loder while he was Master at the Southdown Hunt in Sussex in 1913 and later while Master at the Atherstone Hunt in Warwickshire the same year.

Sassoon initially wrote three books, the first being 'Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man' in 1929 which was a slightly fictionalised autobiography in which all the real names were changed. He called himself George Sherston and in 'Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man' he describes his meetings with Norman Loder who is called 'Denis Milden' in the book. Chapter VII of this book, “Denis Milden as Master”, covers their first meeting and subsequent hunting with the Southdown (known as the ‘Ringwell Hunt’ in the book). Chapter VIII “Migration to the Midlands”,  covers a long visit to the Atherstone Hunt, which in the book is called the 'Packlestone Hunt.’ The stories of his experiences with Loder (Milden) remain true and are very entertaining.

Sasson later wrote three more books as his 'true' autobiography using all the real names, the second of these was called 'The Weald of Youth'. Chapter 10 contains more detail regarding the Atherstone visit (September 1913 to March 1914).

Siegfried Sassoon and Cockbird

Sassoon with his horse, ‘Cockbird’ after winning the ‘Colonel’s Cup’. Also covered in ‘The Weald of Youth’.

Norman Loder was to influence Sassoon greatly, he gave him his love for fox-hunting and riding and Sassoon wrote a poem called “The Old Huntsman” and dedicated it to Norman Loder. Sadly, as the years went by, Sassoon’s interests took a different direction. He became more interested in literature, writing and poetry which did not feature in Norman Loder’s world. Also, the Great War had changed Sassoon, he hated the establishment that sent young men to be killed in their thousands and to him, Loder represented the people he despised, the privileged classes that didn’t seem to care for the working man and who could not understand his opinions and ideas.

It wasn’t Loder’s fault, he was a product of his upbringing, but the circles in which he moved and the people that he associated with were not those that Sassoon wanted to know. Sassoon and Loder drifted apart over the years and in 1940, Loder tragically died quite young.

Despite his estrangement from his friend, Sassoon never forgot him. Loder became ‘Milden’ in ‘Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man’ and Sassoon clearly shows in his writing how much he adored him. Later in life, when he was an old man, Sassoon never forgot the wonderful times he had hunting with his great friend, Norman Loder.

Norman Wilfrid Loder - Master of Fox Hounds

Norman Wilfrid Loder 1911

Left: November 1911, Southdown Hunt.
I have tried for a long time to find out more about Norman Loder and came across these pictures in Baily’s Magazine.
 
Norman W. Loder was born on 2nd October, 1885, and died on 2nd August, 1940, aged 54. He married Phyllis Sydney Fisher on 24th October, 1914, and they had one son, John Wilfrid, born 31st December, 1915, and died 16th April, 1927.
Right: April 1913, Atherstone Hunt.

Norman Wilfrid Loder 1913

The Peterborough Connection

It is probably natural that as I live in Peterborough, I find Siegfried Sassoon’s association with the Fitzwilliam Hunt through his friendship with Norman Loder very interesting. Taking a closer look at the area it is easy to see just how intertwined the Hunt was, and still is, with the city itself. Back in the 1960s a lot of the Fitzwilliam Estate at Milton was taken over by the Peterborough Development Corporation which built a number of new housing estates on the land. With a little investigation of the local street map and some small knowledge of fox hunting it becomes obvious that the hunting connection with the land has not been forgotten.

One of the street names in this area is called Loder Avenue (below), and it takes very little imagination to see that the association with the hunt and one of its most famous huntsmen is being maintained. However, I had not realised just how many other street names had a similar connection. The following list shows the number of roads built on and around the original area of the Milton estate that retain links through their names with fox hunting.

Hunts

  • Atherstone (Avenue)
  • Portman (Close)
  • Ledbury (Road)
  • Berkeley (Road)
  • Meynell (Walk)
  • Cottesmore (Close)
  • Morpeth (Road)
  • Grafton (Avenue)
  • Tiverton (Road)
  • Brocklesby (Gardens)
  • Wilton (Close) and (Drive)
  • Kildare (Drive)

Longthorpe House

Loder Avenue Sign

Left: This is Longthorpe House, Longthorpe House Mews, Loder Avenue, Longthorpe, Peterborough. This is enough evidence for me to believe it was once the residence of Norman Loder and where siegfried Sassoon visited on a number of occasions.

Personalities

  • Loder (Avenue) (Norman) Joint Huntsman Fitzwilliam Hunt 1914 to 1921.
  • Sebright (Way) (Tom) Huntsman at the Fitzwilliam Hunt 1821
  • Barnard (Way) (Will) Huntsman at the Fitzwilliam Hunt 1895
  • Selby (Gardens) (Lowndes) family had  Mastership of the Whaddon Chase Hunt since 1750
  • Middleton (Lord) ran kennels at Birdsall, Yorkshire
  • Manton, Lord Manton, Fitzwilliam Hunt
  • Artis (Court) Edmund Tyrell Artis, Fitzwilliam Steward 1816-1827
  • Edgar (Way) Fitzwilliam Agent 1960s and 1970s
  • Teanby (Court) Fitzwilliam Huntsman 1977-1983

Hounds

  • Ringwood, bred at Milton for Fitzwilliam Hunt
  • Hardwick (Court) bred at Milton for Fitzwilliam Hunt
  • Nathan (Close)

Others

  • Huntsman’s Way
Milton Hall

Milton Hall, Peterborough

Kennels at Milton 1900s

Kennels at Milton 2010

THEN AND NOW: Left, A scene from a postcard showing The Kennels at Milton Hall in the early part of the 1900s. Right, A photograph showing The Kennels in the present day. Very little has changed other than the ivy has been removed.

Additional short biography of Norman Loder

Norman Wilfrid Loder came to Ettington, with his wife and young son, when in 1924 he took the lease of Fosse Hill House (now the Chase Hotel and Conference Centre). They were joined by Mrs. Loder's sister, whose husband was a senior navy officer, Commander Edward Richard Busk Kemble.

Major Loder had served on the Western Front in the First World War, in the Suffolk Regiment, East Kent Regiment ('The Buffs') and the Army Service Corps, attaining the rank of Lieutenant.

He was born at Slaugham, Sussex in 1885 and attended Henley House School near Tunbridge Wells where he met Siegfried Sassoon. The two became great friends and both went on to Cambridge University in 1905. 

Norman Loder's great passion was hunting and in 1907 he became Master of the Pack of the Cambridge University Staghounds. He was also a polo enthusiast and well-known in the polo world.

After university he went to Ireland and became Master of the Galway Blazers. In 1913 he became Master of the Atherstone Hunt in Warwickshire and the following year was appointed Master of the Fitzwilliam Hunt at Milton, near Peterborough. After the war he returned to Atherstone.

He remained good friends with Siegfried Sassoon and introduced him to hunting. Sassoon visited Loder's home on many occasions before, during and after the war, and in 1918 dedicated his poem 'The Old Huntsman' to him. However there is no record of him ever visiting Loder at Fosse Hill House.

When he moved to Ettington, Norman Loder took up the post of Land Agent to Viscount Bearsted of Upton House, the HQ of the Warwickshire Hunt and continued in  that role for the rest of his life.

Very sadly in 1927 his young son John W. Loder died at the age of 11 years.

At some point he became Major Loder. During his time in Ettington he became the inaugural President of the British Legion on formation of the branch in 1936, he was President of the Men's Hut Committee, Section Leader of the Special Constabulary, School Manager, member of the Parochial Church Council and Treasurer of the Ettington branch of the Rugby Conservative Association.

His death occurred suddenly on Thursday 1st August 1940 at Fosse Hill House. He was dressed and about to go downstairs for breakfast when he collapsed and passed away owing to heart trouble, from which he had suffered for some time. He was 53 years old.

Robert Allso
Dene Valley U3A
Great War in the Villages Project
http://www.denevalleyu3a.btik.com/TheGreatWarintheVillages

Fosse Hill House (now the Chase Hotel and Conference Centre)

[Home Page] [Sassoon Books] [Contributions] [Catalogues] [About Sassoon] [Modern Day] [Periodicals] [Book Reviews] [Music] [His Library] [Sassoon] [Sassoons Art] [Protest] [Keynes] [Robert Ross] [Crosland] [Massingham] [Robert Graves] [Norman Loder] [Hester Gatty] [Ottoline] [The Hanmers] [Two Aunts] [Godbert's] [Hospital 1916] [Poems] [Popular Poems] [Edingthorpe] [1924 Road Trip] [Letters] [Weirleigh] [Heytesbury] [Mells] [America] [Who Was Who?] [Contact] [Links]