Despite being in existence in one form or another for hundreds of years, the English Springer Spaniel was officially recognised by the Kennel Club in 1902. This article takes a brief look at those one hundred years but recognises it is impossible in a few pages to even touch the surface of the history of the English Springer.
The English Springer as we know it today owes its existence, in the main, to the stalwart, working fraternity. Back in the late 17th Century the spaniel family was beginning to split into three groups, identified mainly by size and the game they hunted. This trend continued for many years, although in 1800 the Boughey family founded their strain of English Springers and started their own Stud Book in 1813.
Although this article celebrates the 100th anniversary of Kennel Club recognition of the Springer Spaniel, I would like to take you back to 1812. The Southern English Springer Spaniel Club are the proud guardians of the Denne Stud Book featuring pedigrees from 1812 to 1912. Two spaniels, Mop and Frisk, owned by Sir Thomas Fenton Fletcher Boughey Bart could possibly be credited with being the foundation of the modern day springer. An oil painting of Mop I born in 1812 and Fan, 1817 was featured in the Sporting magazine December 1831.
This extract shows the high regard in which these dogs were held
“That faithful attachment which is proverbial with the spaniel “Mop”, the old dog
possessed in the highest degree. This was joined to all those essential qualities
which make a spaniel valuable; a good nose, under excellent command, versatile
in pursuit and equally good at either woodcock, pheasant, hare, rabbit,snipe or
mallard. On land or in water, it was a matter of indifference to Mop which,if it was
his masters wish, guided by the hand, checked by the whistle, indefatigablein his
labours; his end regretted, being accidentally killed. Frisk, when painted, was
young. She possesses a pleasing archness of countenance, which is indicative of
bustle and industry, qualities in the spaniel always desirable; both dogs were bred
by Sir Thomas.”
From these two dogs, a line was produced which can be traced through to today’s winning springers, but more of that later in the article. A direct line from Mop and Frisk can be traced via dogs in the Denne Stud Book with names such as Fop, Squib, Curley and Fan through to Champion Velox Powder born in 1903, the year after Kennel Club recognition.
In 1859, with the advent of dog shows, the various spaniel breeds began to separate, by size and colour. The Kennel Club was founded in 1873 with its official registrations and Stud Book, which set the seal on breed definition and separation. In 1885 the Spaniel Club was formed together with the publication of breed standards. 1902 saw the full recognition of the English Springer Spaniel as a breed in its own right.
Now you might think that having been recognised as a separate breed, the rest is history.
The truth is very different. Show classifications, whilst few and far between for the ESS, showed
the classes being split into ‘over 50lb’ or ‘under 50lb and over 25lb’. Other classifications were
‘ ESS other than Clumber or Sussex’ or ‘ESS (other than Clumber, Sussex or Field) old-fashioned,
medium-legged spaniels, any colour’. WOW!!!
July 1903 saw the arrival of Velox Powder (Copy of the original pedigree can be seen in the SESSS
archives) sired by Mr Pratt’s “Randle” and out of Sir T. Boughey’s “Belle”. A direct descendant of
Mop and Frisk, after 14 generations, Powder went on to become a Champion winning in the field
and the show ring. The first Challenge Certificate awarded was at Crystal Palace in October 1903,
judged by Mr W. Arkwright giving the CC to Beechgrove Will, who was in the smaller size category
and the son of two unregistered field spaniels. In bitches the CC went to Fansome. Beechgrove Will
was made up at his next two shows and became the first ever English Springer Champion.
Although much of the breeding of ESS was from working and show stock, it wasn’t until 1913 that Rivington Sam became the first Field Trial Champion. Sam’s sire was an over-size cocker spaniel called Rivington Riband. The practice of mating between different spaniel breeds continued for many years and may account for the different colours which were registered at time. Stud Book records show many various colours including blue & black; liver roan; lemon & white; and golden, liver & white (some tri-colour that one!).
Another interesting fact is the mating of unregistered dogs with registered dogs, some being quite prolific winners.
By 1914 and the start of the First Word War, only 9 springers had become Champions.
The Championship show scene did not start again until late 1920 with the Scottish Kennel Club
where Little Brand won the Dog CC whilst Horsford Honeybell won the Bitch ticket. 1921 saw the founding of The English Springer Club, making it the eldest and senior breed club. By 1924 approximately 15 Championship Shows were classifying English Springers. Needless to say, the working fraternity continued as best they could during the war and many of the top winners of these years were the result of matings between the show and working springer. In fact many springers achieved great success in Field Trials and on the bench.
In the early part of the 20th Century, owners and breeders regarded their dogs as dual purpose, putting them in the show ring and regularly shooting over them. The breed produced three Dual Champions; Horsford Hetman, Flint of Avendale and Thoughtful of Harting.
Famous affixes and influences in the early years were Avendale; Beechgrove; Tissington; Horsford; Velox; Denne; Laverstoke and Rivington.
Registrations, understandably fluctuated a great deal during the two wars but prominent prefixes in the 1920’s were Beauchief (Mr. F. Warner Hill), a direct line from Champion Little Brand; Marmion (Hon. George Scott); Solway (Mr. Grierson); of Ware (Mr H.S. Lloyd) and Shotton (Mr M. Withers). Top winners were Ch Winning Number of Solway, Ch Dry Toast and Int. Ch Showman of Shotton who had considerable influence both here and later in America. Ch Jess of Shelcot and Ch Beauchief Barham were also in Mr Withers kennel, which were managed by the famous Mrs Gwen Broadley.
Miss C.M. Francis and her Higham prefix will be remembered for her efforts to bring the working and show lines together, her best known dogs being Champions Higham Teal, Topsy and Tom Tit. Just after the outbreak of the Second World War, two dogs were the top winners and had considerable influence on the breed. These were Ch Pleasant Peter and his son Peter’s Benefactor. No championship shows were held during the war period and so Peter’s Benefactor, whilst winning many awards, never gained his title. The ESS Club held its first post war show in 1946. It was at this time that Joe Braddon began a winning streak with Starshine of Ide and ChInvader of Ide. Mrs Gwen Broadley was also prominent at this time with her Sandylands prefix as was Mr Hepplewhite with the Happeedaze suffix.