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Skycastle French Hounds

Hunt type: Bassets
Areas: Pennsylvania
Country: USA
Contact information may be out of date so has been hidden.
History: The Skycastle Bassets were organized as a private family pack of AKC registered Basset Hounds in 1948 by Elizabeth and John Streeter at their farm,”Skycastle”, in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania. She and John hunted with Pickering, as did many of their friends and neighbors. Their bassets were hunted November through March on Sundays, and met at farms in the Pickering Hunt country. The pack became a welcome part of the hunting and social life of the community.Many people from the early days are still active with the hunt. The late Henry Maconachy was its Field Master into the 1980s, and his wife Ruth is a beloved member, along with Patricia Stephanoff, our oldest active member in the field, Jane Goslin, Shirley Winters, Colin and Maria Hingley—who’ve been whipping in for many years, Bill Macdonald—who has been a field master since Henry’s retirement, Chris Peeples—a generous landowner/supporter whose father Edwin Peeples was a pillar of the hunt until his death in 1992, Frank Bristol, Virginia Baily, the Roberts family—Ted, Liz and daughters Megan and Sally who literally grew up with the hunt, and Bobbie Neilson, whose Chantilly Farm has been the site of memorable hunts and teas.

The late George A. “Gar” Reed became the organizer for the hunt after Elizabeth and John were divorced, and was her strong right arm, putting together the fixture cards and the teas. He was famous for his culinary productions. His mother Joanna Reed, a renowned gardener and botanist, was a wonderful host for the hunt until her death. Skycastle and the Timber Ridge Bassets in Maryland exchanged meets fall and spring for many years. MastersMina and Charles Rogers and their hounds and field were great fun and the meets were always an adventure. These happy meets continued until Mina disbanded their pack in 1988. Skycastle’s Basset Ball was an eagerly awaited annual event until the mid-1970s when the Pickering sold their club house. Some of the old decorations are carefully preserved today.

In the early years, up to 1976, Elizabeth began searching for a hound with more drive, that would give a more exciting hunt. She acquired hounds from the Tewksbury Foot Bassets, which had begun crossing their AKC hounds with English hunting basset drafts from the Crowcombe. Also, she began taking in long coated bassets that occasionally turned up in field trial basseters’ litters. Then in 1976 she found what she had been seeking. She brought over the first Petits Bassets Griffons Vendéens from France—Nimrod and Nanetta, followed by Napoleon and Narcisse in 1977. In 1983, she made a formal name change of the pack from Skycastle Bassets to Skycastle French Hounds to reflect the new direction her breeding was taking. She began establishing a purebred and a crossbred line (using her AKC and Tewksbury English bassets), and in 1983 acquired the influential PBGV Turenne des Ajoncs de l’Aulne from Pierre Salaün, whose hounds are among the top hunting and conformation packs in France. It should be noted that the Tewksbury began breeding Skycastle drafts in 1979—of which Skycastle Quince ’79 was to have a big influence on basset packs through her son Tewksbury Foot Quarry ’84, a great hunting doghound widely used by many packs. The Skycastle did their share of winning in the 2 couple and stake classses at the NBC Basset Pack Trials during this period, and began to become a more level working pack.

Then in February 1987 tragedy struck. When coming in from foxhunting with the Pickering, Elizabeth suffered a fatal stroke. Elizabeth Streeter left behind a wonderful legacy for family, friends and the hunting community. During her 40 years of dedicated mastership, she and her Skycastle pack gave great pleasure to everyone, and introduced the fascinating Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen to this country.

Her son Nicholas and members of the hunt offered James F. Scharnberg the opportunity to try to work with the hounds and hunt them in June of 1987.

Nick and the members of the hunt formed a committee to organize Skycastle as a subscription pack and drafted a constitution to guide its operation. The start-up of training the pack was relatively easy with the strong support Jim got from Jay McKenna, Gar Reed and Suzanne Graham, and soon the pack was fixed on him and hunting pretty well. Gar was a great bridge for the new huntsman in meeting the landowners and arranging the meets for the fall. The pack brought home 3 and 5 couple silver from the Fall Basset Trials, and Jimmy Jones, Tewksbury’s master, said that they now really looked like and worked as a pack. The season developed well. Scharnberg was very honored to be made Master in December of 1987. It was an all-bitch pack when he took over. After going to other packs for sires, which did not prove a good long term solution, Jim began importing PBGV doghounds and bitches in whelp with the guidance of Pierre Salaün in France. His Estéle des Ajoncs de l’Aulne and Ipine des Ajoncs de l’Aulne, outstanding working hounds in the field, put the backbone and drive into the pack. These began to form the basis of the breeding program, and due to the outstanding hounds Salaün has sent us from his pack and that of other French packs over the past 14 years, the pack has become a very level and fine hunting team in the field. Estéle’s daughter Skycastle Duchess ’93, which Scharnberg drafted to the Ripshin, became the cornerstone of their breeding program. They have used her get from their English hunting bassets as dams and sires continually to the present. Her daughter Daphne is our senior pack leader, along with our- Mischief, Iris, Sabine and Pampa.

Skycastle continues to take ribbons at the Basset Pack Trials. In the fall in 1989, hounds won the 5 couple trophy for the first time, and placed 3rd in the new 7 couple class in the spring of 1990. In the fall of 1991, they were 4th in the 7 couple andWhirlwind won the 2 Hour Stake. In fall 1992 they were 4th in the 7 couple, and spring 1992 were 2nd in the 7 couple. In fall 1993, they won the 3 couple, and in spring 1994 were 4th in the 7 couple, 2nd in the 3 couple and 3rd in the 5 couple. In fall 1995 they won the 3 couple and were 3rd in the 5 couple. In fall 1997 they won the 3 couple and were 3rd in the 5 couple. In fall 1998 Dervish was 3rd in the 2 Hour Stake. In fall 1999 they were 3rd in the 7 couple and won the combined trophy, were 4th in the 3 couple, and Dervish won the 2 Hour Stake (the first purebred basset to win in over 20 years), Rebel was 4th. In fall 2000, Helper was 4th in the 2 Hour Stake. In spring 2002 they were 3rd in the 3 couple and 4th in the 5 couple. In fall 2004, they were 4th in the 5 couple. In fall 2005, they were 4th in the 3 couple, Iris (Dervish’s daughter) was 4th in the Stake. In fall 2006 Iris won the 2 Hour Stake, Kingfish was 2nd. In spring 2007 they won the combined trophy and were 3rd in the 3 couple with Sally Roberts as huntsman, and in fall 2007 Iris was 4th in the 2 Hour Stake. We can be very proud indeed of our little pack, which is usually competing against eight other packs that hunt more often and with a greater number of hounds. And four of our staff have won trials best whipper-in award.

Skycastle has become a strong annual contender at the Bryn Mawr Hound Show over the years. Our “fuzzies” have shown their conformation, quality and biddability against the bigger smooth coated English hunting basset types. The pack has usually been among the top three winners under such hound experts as Hank Woolman, Rex Hudson, and the legendary Captain RonnieWallace. We have won almost every trophy, including best unentered hound, best entered hound, champion doghound, champion bitch, grand champion basset, five couple of bassets and the huntsman’s prize for highest scored pack. Hounds and staff have done us proud.

The hunt owes a great deal to its dedicated members. Gillian and Paul Wiedorn (Mr. and Mrs. Indispensible), Colin and Maria Hingley, Gary Sturts, Phyllis Allen, Coopie Heiserman, Liz Roberts and Lisa Booth have given the continuing time and work to keep the pack going. We’ve been fortunate to have had young people develop and grow into becoming super whippers-in for Skycastle. Eliot Kalmbach, Megan and Sally Roberts (now joint huntsman),Michael Gottier, Gwen Knight, Gideon Yeager, and Laura and Nicholas Booth all have been wonderful additions to the staff over the years. Sally, Gwen and Gideon earned the Best Whipper-in Award at the Basset Pack Trials, as did our First Whipper-In Phyllis Allen—who has gotten many of the new meet properties for us. Many people have given much time and effort over the years—Jay and Sandy McKenna, George and Suzanne Graham, Chris May,WendyWillard (who now has her own fine pack), Gayle and the late Jim Killeen, whippers-in, who first ran our “Adopt-A-Hound” program, Joe Egan, “A” Reeves, hard-working jointMaster and Huntsman for 10 years, Sandy and her late husband Barrie Slaymaker (whose tireless work as property chair and “Mr. Fix-it” at kennels is sorely missed), Ron Madden, David Andy Dinniman presenting a certificate to Skycastle for its land preservation efforts, with Jim Scharnberg and Eleanor Morris of French & Pickring Creeks Preservation Trust. Sally Roberts presenting her trophy-winning 3 couple at Aldie, 2007. Megan Roberts and Paul Wiedorn, Whippers-In. Boxing Day Meet at Allerton Farm, 2007. Eliot Kalmbach, Megan Roberts and Jim Scharnberg. A Meet at Eagle Farms, 1994. Chris May, Jim Scharnberg and Joe Egan. A great property now lost to development Skycastle won the Pack Class at the Bryn Mawr Hound Show, 2001 and 2002. Seymour, the late Norm Lees and Pat Colket (who ran our “Adopt- A-Hound” fund raiser until her death), and Mona Chylack. Patty Scharnberg, whose death in 2003 was a great loss, made our post-hunt teas easy, along with Ginny Baily, DebbieWessells, Gray Halton and others of the events committee, who have added so much to the social side of the hunt over the years. Our Skylines newsletter editors—Lois Haney (who passed away last month), Gray Halton and now Gillian Wiedorn—have done a wonderful job as the voice of Skycastle.

The pack continues to enjoy fine hunting here in Chester County, even though heavy suburban development has buried many of our old meets. Skycastle has held Open Space rallies which have been effective in uniting preservation groups and county and state initiatives and matching funds preservation programs. Skycastle was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation in 1998 by Chester County for our work to preserve open space and water resources—the first ever to be given to a hunting organization in the County. We have sponsored a conservation tent for all county groups at the Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show each year since 1995, with local foxhunts and our hounds as a draw to get out county easement and other program info to landowners. It has been a challenge to open up new country. Happily we are now able to meet in the old Brandywine hunt country andMr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds, thanks to theMasters of the Radnor Hunt, the Cheshire and the Apple Grove Beagles, as well as the Pickering Hunt’s country. It is great to still have access to so much open land. We are always on the lookout for new farms to hunt. We owe a huge debt of thanks to our Farmer Landowners, Landowners and their Tenants, without whose kind permission and goodwill our sport and enjoyment of the countryside would be impossible.

We hope that the next sixty years will be the best of the fun for our hunt and Chester County.
Skycastle French Hounds web site
Last update sent by James F. Scharnberg, MH on 6th March 2009

Please note the position of the marker above is only intended as a rough guide to the location of the hunt country.
It does not show the location of the kennels, or the homes of any of the subscribers, officials or staff of the hunt.

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