History of Clumber Spaniels

“We now have a Clumber Spaniel that the Duke of Newcastle would recognise”

Phoebus de Foix, a Gaston feudal baron who died in 1391, mentions ‘fair’ spaniels in his hunting manual, he wrote: ‘Another manner of hound there is, called hounds for the hawk, and Spaniels for their kind comes from Spain, … Also a fair hound for the hawk should have a great head, a great body, and be of fair hue, white or tavele* for they be the fairest and of such hue as is commonly best.’
*tavele meaning speckled or pied


It is a well-documented story that the spaniels we now know as Clumbers originated from Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire.  The breed was developed from spaniels that legend tells us were given to the second Duke of Newcastle from the Duc de Noailles in France around the time of the French Revolution in the late 18th century.  These dogs were then bred for hunting and working by the Duke’s gamekeeper, William Mansell, presumably by selecting the best working specimens to breed a dog fit for purpose.  The earliest description found of the Clumber dates from 1861, by John Meyrick, who describes the dog as “the largest variety of Spaniel, weighing sometimes as much as 30lbs”, – substantially smaller than the Clumbers we see today!

Earliest pictures of these original Clumber Spaniels can be seen in the painting by Francis Wheatley of 1788, which now hangs at Clumber Park, showing the second Duke out hunting with his dogs.

Return from shooting 1788 – Francis Wheatley

It is our policy to breed Clumbers that are close to these original dogs.

The Duke then shared dogs from his kennels with his neighbours at the country seats in the Dukeries at Welbeck, Portland, Thoresby and Osberton Hall. Francis John Savile Foljambe of Osberton Hall near Worksop then became well known for his Clumbers, notably Beau “pillar of the stud” and the prize winning Nabob in 1872.
The Clumber spaniel was officially recognised as a breed in 1879


Paintings by John Ferneley, 1835 of a shooting party at Osberton Hall

Royal connections

Clumber Spaniels have been favoured by royalty being kept and bred by Prince Albert, King Edward VII, King George V and more recently HRH Princess Anne the Princess Royal.


King George V’s kennel man Alfred Higgs with his ‘Sandringham’ Clumber Spaniels


King Edward VII’s Clumber Spaniel

Show vs working
Cruft’s evolved from being a purely terrier show to exhibiting all dogs in 1891 with Clumbers being included. An advertisement for Mr James Thorpe Hinck’s stud dogs ‘Friar Trounce’ and ‘Friar Bob’ claim them to be both “well broken and excellent workers”. Friar Bob being a direct descendant (6th generation) of Nabob of 1872.

In the early 1900s Clumbers were worked and shown, and kennels such as Beechgrove, Heathmynd and Hempstead produced dogs that won in the show ring and would work in the field. The first Field Trials were held in 1899 and Clumbers were well represented in this sport.


Mr F Winton-Smith’s Beechgrove Bee, Field Trial Champion

During the Second World War the breeding of Clumber Spaniels was rare and was only kept going by the show dog fraternity – the dogs being bred against a breed standard for conformation rather than any working ability. The breed standard was now calling for much heavier dogs than the original Duke of Newcastle’s spaniels, and the breed became slower such that their reputation as a working dog suffered and they became known as a slow and plodding dog, not for the serious working enthusiast, and cockers and springers took over as the spaniels of choice for working in the field.

Show Champion Raycroft Socialite bred by Rae Furness and owned by Ralph Dunne won Best in Show at Crufts in 1991.

A new dawn for the Working Clumber

In 1984 a group of enthusiasts who wanted to work with their Clumbers formed the Working Clumber Spaniel Society and a movement was born to breed these beautiful dogs back to how they had been, and provide opportunities for people to work and train their dogs. By skilful and careful breeding, selecting only the best and healthiest dogs, we now have a Clumber Spaniel that the Duke of Newcastle would recognise and one that has a turn of speed, will hunt and retrieve, and is again starting to hold its own as an active working spaniel that you would be proud to own.

Huddlestone Clumbers hopes to contribute in some small way to the continued development of the breed.