Traffic in Pewsey was brought to a halt on Friday (April 29) by a Victorian hearse drawn by two magnificent Friesian horses with flowing manes and red plumes on their bridles. It carried the coffin of Ted Burton, huntsman of the Tedworth Hunt for over 30 years.
His coffin was carried into the church by serving huntsmen and two foot supporters.
Ted Burton died at the age of 85 after a relatively short battle with cancer, with his wife Dot beside him. His family was with him throughout his illness, and friends were always dropping in to reminisce.
Almost to the end they were greeted by his wonderful, slightly wicked smile and twinkling blue eyes. Asked in those last weeks whether there was anything he would like to change about his life, he replied: “Absolutely nothing…I’d do it all again”.
The church was packed to overflowing to hear what was a celebration of a true countryman’s life. Ted, as he was universally known, was born in Worcestershire, to a farm labourer who worked the land with horses.
He left school at 14, and worked on the farm himself before becoming a groom and then becoming kennel Huntsmen at the local hunt. In l970 he moved to the Tedworth, where he and his wife, Dot, lived for many years in the house behind the kennels.
Only six months before he died he was riding at the opening meet of the Tedworth at Oare House, surrounded by the next generations of his family, all of whom are equally dedicated to horses.
His son Gerald trains point to pointers, and his three sonS, in turn, all became jockeys. One, had a terrible accident at Exeter racecourse which means he is now confined to a wheelchair. Ted was so proud of the way he has made an active for himself, and his accident didn’t put of his 10 year old half sister Molly, taking up the sport.
His oldest friend Bill Cook gave the eulogy, recalling how they used to ride in team chases where one of them regularly ended up on the ground. He said Ted was a ‘great legman’ who carried around with him ‘a magic potion’ which could be used to treat all the myriad lumps and bumps to which horses are prone.
He described his distinctly unromantic proposal to Dot. Her family were having to move out of their cottage because her father had died, so Ted said ‘they might as well get married’. It was wonderful marriage which lasted 60 years. She was as much part of the hunt as he was.
They were both bitterly upset by the hunting ban ten years ago. Ted, who had never been to London before, went to the Countryside Alliances march where he seemed to know everybody. For him hunting was never the same after the ban, but after a pause he continued to ride to hounds.
Despite his assurances to Dot in later years that he wouldn’t take risks, he continued jumping. Ironically it wasn’t hunting on a horse which killed him. He fell from his quad bike last year following the beagles, and when he didn’t recover as fast as he hoped, doctors found he had cancer.
His coffin was carried out of the church to a recording of the Countryside Alliance’s anthem, ‘We are the defenders of the countryside’, as a friend blew ‘Gone away’ on a hunting horn.
With our thanks to Sarah-Jane Bullock for use of her photograph – you can reach her website here.