The Keswick Hunt Club was founded in 1896 when 19 gentlemen met at Cloverfields, the home of Frank Randolph, with the purpose of organizing a club for “Social Intercourse and Fox and Drag Hunting.” One of the founders, Dr. Francis Lee Thurman later recalled that the 19 gents were “peaceful, law-abiding citizens, but dear lovers of the chase."
Fox hunting had been taking place over the Keswick landscape since 1742 when Dr. Thomas Walker of Castle Hill imported six or eight couple of English Fox Hounds. There were a number of private packs in the area in 1896. As one early member noted, having the hunt club brought a little more order to local hunting. In those days foxes and hounds ran unbothered by wire and automobile traffic.
Julian Morris served as Master of the Keswick Fox Hounds 1901-1913. He was highly successful in the show ring, winning championships in England as well as the U.S. Julian Morris helped the Keswick Hunt Club hold its first horse show in 1904. After over a century of changes, the club continues to host a show every May, a show that is renowned on the horse show circuit for its hospitality.
In 1929, John Stewart, M.F.H. instigated the first Thanksgiving Blessing of the Hounds Service in the yard of Grace Episcopal Church, another tradition that has continued to the present. Hounds, horses and riders gather for a religious service of prayers and hymns followed by a hunt. Funds collected during the service benefit local charities, including animal shelters.
Despite years of financial difficulties aggravated by depression and wars, Keswick fox hunting has endured because of the enthusiasm and work of numerous local families and individuals. Keswick maintains a tradition of volunteer labor, which helps keep dues affordable.
Roberts Coles, known to friends as Coles, was a popular Keswick MFH 1955-1967. His hounds flew out of the tailgate, and he flew after them with contagious excitement. The hunting field experienced continuous action. Coles created KHC Hilltoppings, outdoor summer full moon gatherings of Keswick members and their friends over tailgate refreshments.
John J. (Jake) Carle II served as MFH 1964-2000. He contributed remarkable amounts of his own time and financial support, funded professional whippers-in, designed the kennels, and established a successful hound breeding program. The bloodlines in today’s kennel are mostly the Virginia Bywaters strain of American Hounds Jake favored. Jake expanded the Keswick territory in 1980 to include land formerly hunted by the Rapidan Hunt.
Following Jake Carle’s departure as MFH and huntsman in 2000, Hugh Motley, MFH, hired Irish-born huntsman Tony Gammell. The two of them continued Keswick’s expansion into new territory, including Madison County land along the Rapidan River and the Green Springs District of Louisa County. Tony’s exceptional talent as a huntsman made each year’s pack even better than the previous one, providing countless long runs and memorable days. After Hugh Motley stepped down in 2005, Masters Charlotte Tieken and Andy Lynn, along with Tony Gammell, continued to open new hunting territory. The American Masters of Foxhounds Association recognized their efforts with a special citation in 2017, at the conclusion of their masterships and Tony’s final KHC season.
Present MFHs Will Coleman, Mary Motley Kalergis, and Nancy Wiley are continuing Keswick’s sporting traditions. They hired Englishman Paul Wilson, who has hunted packs in the US, Canada, and Rome. Hounds adjusted quickly to their new leader, a sign of a good pack. The club is undertaking a massive rebuilding and renovation of kennels, stable, huntsman’s cottage and clubhouse. Through the kindness of its landowners, and with hopes for a healthy fox population, Paul and the KHC pack are ready and eager to provide music and entertainment to members and guests in the hunting field.
Hounds go out three days a week during the regular season from October to March following September cubbing.