Hunting and the Market Place
Whatever your views on blood sports, foxhunting figures very largely in Melton's history, and when more than 250 years ago Hugh Meynell founded the Quorn Hunt, in 1753, foxhunting as a properly organised blood sport really came into its own.
Melton became the centre of the foxhunters mainly on account of several famous packs of foxhounds which had been formed at various times in the district, namely the Belvoir, the Cottesmore and the Quorn.
The Market Place of Melton is the focal point of these packs, for this small area is considered according to local tradition, neutral ground, not within the boundary of any particular Hunt.
Down the years a procession of notabilities, the famous and infamous, have made Melton Mowbray their autumnal Mecca, and with their hard-riding days, and very often easy-living nights, have made the name of the town synonymous with the winter pleasures of the hunt and its social gatherings, and since the latter part of the eighteenth century these seem to have had a peculiar fascination to most of the heirs apparent to the Throne of England.
On 1st January 1983, the Town Estate introduced the New Year's Day Meet. The 3 local Hunts to participate in rotation, i.e. Belvoir (1983) Cottesmore (1984) Quorn (1985) in an annual Meet in the Market Place. For safety the New Year Meet now takes place in the Play Close. On Millennium Day - 1 January 2000 - a unique 'Meet' took place when all three Hunts met together in the Play Close.
The following observations are taken from a directory published in 1849:
Melton Mowbray is the centre and principal rendezvous of the Melton Hunt, which has been celebrated as the finest in the kingdom. The principal Hounds hunted are the Belvoir, Quorn, Atherstone and Cottesmore packs.
For many years the gentlemen of the hunt have taken up their residence at Melton during the hunting season, being a central situation between the kennels of Belvoir and Quorndon, from which the surrounding district obtained the popular name of the Melton Hunt.
During the season, Melton, the hunting metropolis, presents a gay scene of aristocratic bustle and festivity.