Bradgate Park was cleared by the Greys of Groby in the 15th century and the construction of Bradgate House was begun in 1490 by Sir John Grey, 7th Baron Ferrers of Groby, the husband of Elizabeth Woodville. The house was the birthplace of Lady Jane Grey, who was later to reign for a mere nine days before being overthrown by Queen Mary I. This house is now a ruin. A much later park landmark is the folly known as 'Old John' on the top of the highest hill in the park, built in 1784 (fig. 1) and visible at the extreme left edge of the painting. This was also built by the Greys of Groby, who were by then Earls of Stamford. In 1928 the park was bought from the heirs of the Greys by Charles Bennion, who gave it in perpetuity to the people of Leicestershire. Bradgate Park is still a deer park today and Ferneley has included a group of deer in the middle ground to the right of the sitters.
Thomas Tertius Paget, M.P., who was one of Ferneley's close friends and its patrons, lived at nearby Humberstone Hall, which like Bradgate lay between Leicester and Ferneley's home at Melton Mowbray. He first commissioned the artist to paint a picture of a Bay Pony and Dog in the late 1820s, and would appear to have purchased a number of paintings by him including this charming group in 1852. The Pagets and their grandson are all featured in A Meet of the Quorn at Kirby Gate (1859). Another recorded commission was Maggie, Favourite Hunter of Thomas Paget, Esq., M.P., of Humberstone, with his Dogs (1859; fig. 2).
Paget was an influential figure in Leicestershire. The idea for a Leicester opera house seems to have originated from opera singer and dramatist Elliot Galer who in 1873 became lessee of the Theatre Royal, in Horsefair Street. With the financial backing of his influential friend Thomas Tertius Paget, senior partner in Paget's Bank, the Royal Opera House was built in the mid 1870s on a generous scale and at the considerable cost of £35,000 - nearly four times as much as the Theatre Royal. Paget was High Sheriff of Leicestershire in 1869.
Thomas Tertius' grand-nephew, inherited the family collection of paintings by Ferneley when only seven. They kindled in him a lifelong interest in British sporting paintings resulting in his celebrated book The Melton Mowbray of John Ferneley, which was published in 1931.
Opposite the preface of the book is a photograph of 'The Author's Dining Room', which shows the present painting hanging above the sideboard (fig. 3).