This section is from the book "The Terriers. A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland", by Rawdon B. Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland: The Terriers.
In the chapter on fox terriers allusion was made to a strain once owned by the late Mr. Donville Poole at Maybury Hall, Shropshire, and which had more than a local notoriety for gameness. It had been said of them that they had attacked and worried a postman. However, these dogs were not fox terriers as we know the variety now; what they were, and how game they were, the following contribution from the late Mr. S. W. Smith - so great an authority on terriers in his day - will tell. The article first appeared in one of the weekly papers devoted to dogs and poultry, but before his death Mr. Smith kindly gave me permission to use it as I like. He wrote:
"The Squire, as he was called, seldom left his seat, but spent his money in the town. He kept, I should say, from fifty to one hundred terriers, chiefly smooths, with short, dense, and hard coats. I do not recollect one of his over 161b. or many much under 141b., but occasionally there were some under the latter weight. All were dead game, or if they did not prove themselves such they were not alive long after having had their trial. I never saw a terrier amongst his lot with black or black and tan markings, and it was not until many years after that the black and tan marked ones began to crop up; all the smooth-coated were all white with few exceptions, which were marked with a brickdust kind of tan patch on back, setting on of stern, or head and ears. The colour was similar to that which is now called the Belvoir tan; they were perfectly compact and well-made little animals, always on the qui vive, and full of fire and go; the ears of some were carried erect, like a fox's, but the others are small (all thin in texture), nicely shaped, and as well carried as they are now, or rather should be, i.e., dropping from the spring of the ear close to the skull, the corner or point coming near to the eye, and not set on wide, standing out from the head. The head was much smaller compared with the terriers of the present day, more rounded in skull and shorter in muzzle, the eye was more rounded and prominent, with a flesh or red coloured cere round it, evidently showing not a very remote cross with the bull or bull terrier.
"The wire-hairs were a little larger, as a rule, in size,with coats of a fair length,always of a strong pig's bristle, pin-wire kind of texture, while the colour of all I ever saw was alike or nearly so, being white with patches of a blackish-blue grizzly mixture like Mr. Shirley's celebrated Tip and Mr. D. H. Owen's Saracen. Not unfrequently red or plum-coloured noses appeared amongst the smooth-haired, but to the best of my recollection I never remember seeing one amongst the wire-haired ones. Undershot ones were always discarded.
"The greater number of the Squire's dogs were sent out to be reared on walks amongst the tradesmen he dealt with and farmers, cottagers, and his keepers, etc.; my father always keeping two for him - one a smooth, the other a wire-haired one. I remember we had a brace for a length of time, one named Tyke, the other Trimmer; these were with us, excepting when they were invited to the Hall for a few days to perform before an audience of visitors and neighbours, they being of a sporting turn of mind, and never so happy as when among the tykes at work. I seldom reared a bad one, i.e., a coward that would not take his gruel freely, because I used always to keep them well up in their training whenever an opportunity occurred, and when I could get some game for sport, had an occasional private rehearsal.
"Trials of the Marbury young tykes were held periodically. On these occasions the youngsters out at walk were collected together for the fray, and woe be to the tykes when the day of trial came if they did not come up to the Squire's standard! It did not matter how smart or good-looking they were, unless they answered the Squire's motto, which, was, 'They must be stout as steel, good as gold, and hot as fire,' and if they were not all this on their day of trial, death was their doom very shortly. When sufficient game was got together to give the tykes a trial, a day was fixed, and on most of these occasions no one except the squire and his keepers were allowed to witness it, except a reverend divine occasionally, and old Tom Rogers (there were two Toms - old Tom and young Tom), who was generally there at the trials. Sometimes, however, the Squire would invite a few friends, farmers who kept terriers for him, to witness the sport, and at such times as these there was always a grand field day.
"Old Tom Rogers was a master sweep, and such in those days earned as much or more money than most men in trade at that period. Sweeping chimneys with machines was not in vogue then, but small boys, who were dressed in calico knickerbockers down to their knees (no shoes or stockings as a rule), and a calico blouse and cap that could be drawn over the face like a culprits, went up the chimneys, the little imps, with hand-brush in hand, climbing, brushing, and scraping as they went up, until they came out at the top and shouted, 'Sweep, all alive, oh !' Old Tom was very kind to these boys, providing them with comfortable living and sleeping apartments. He never did any work himself, young Tom superintending the business. Old Tom, with his round, red (not black), ruddy face, drove about, dressed in breeches and top-boots, with a heavy chain and seals hanging from his fob pocket, bright-coloured waistcoat, bottle-green swallow-tailed coat with gilt buttons, tall beaver hat made of rabbit skins; high white shirt collar, with neckhandkerchief twice round neck, and tied in two bows in front. You will pardon this departure; it will help to let you see how the Squire got together the great quantity of game he required from time to time for his trials. Old Tom was the Squire's factotum, and foremost with him in all his favourite sports. He did most of the business at gentlemen's residences for miles round, so that this brought him in contact with keepers, trappers of all kinds of vermin, farmers, and others, from whom he got his different kinds of game, viz., foxes, badgers, wild and other cats, fitchets, stoats, weasels, etc, etc.; and at Marbury Hall there were places where these animals were kept and well fed and attended to until they were wanted.