Exploring changes in gamekeeper numbers in England (1851–1921)
The gamekeeper played an important role in the development of modern gamebird shooting but has been peripheral in many analyses of the sport, which have tended to focus on the poacher, the landed elite, or the game laws. This study places the gamekeeper in a central position and, for a selection of counties, provides a detailed examination and comparison of changes in gamekeeper numbers between 1851 and 1921. The influence on gamekeeper numbers of population changes, estate area, landowner numbers and poaching prosecutions were also examined. Significant differences were found between the counties in gamekeeper numbers, and the magnitude and timing of changes in these. Average estate area varied greatly with no direct link to the area of the county, or to the number of gamekeepers on an estate. The type of quarry and interest of the landowner were important in determining the number of gamekeepers employed. In some counties, there may have been a link between the level of poaching and gamekeeper numbers, but there were significant differences between the counties. The results indicated a complex, regionally nuanced, picture in which factors such as the location, primary quarry and poaching pressure, as well as the interests of the landowner and the depth of his pockets, determined gamekeeper numbers.
Author affiliationCentre for Regional and Local History, School of History Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester
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