This picture shows Sir John Cope, second from the right, beside his Huntsman Jem Shirley, with Captain Edward Gordon R.N. and Thomas Peers Williams on foot and Robert Tocock, the Whipper-in, mounted on a bay horse, to the left.
Sir John Cope, 11th Bt.(1768-1851), was the second son of William Cope of Brigden Place, Kent and succeeded to the baronetcy on the death of his elder brother Sir Denzil Cope in 1812. Sir John had been a solicitor in the Temple, and Aesop (W. Nunez-Heysham) in his Hunting Reminiscences of Hampshire 1745-1862, London, 1864 relates that:
'....on the death of Sir Denzil, a special messenger came up from Bramshill to the chambers in the Temple with a letter, addressed to Sir John Cope, Bart. He [Sir John Cope] was at the time examining a deed, and, seeing the address, he hastily glanced at the contents, threw it to his partner [Mr. Gerard Wharton], and said "there, Jerry, hang the law, and now for fox-hunting" '
Sir John took over Ellis St. John's pack of foxhounds in 1817 and hunted a large tract of land in the eastern part of Berkshire and north-east Hampshire. Bramshill, one of the greatest of Jacobean houses, originally built by Lord Zouche between 1605 and 1612, had been bought by Sir John's great uncle, Sir John Cope, 5th Bt., M.P., in 1700.
A letter from Edmund Havell to Sir Anthony Cope, 13th Bt., dated 5 February 1897, which has only recently come to light, clarifies the relationship between the artist and Sir John Cope who was among his most important patrons (see Lane, op.cit.). Havell records that he first visited Bramshill, with an introduction arranged by his father, in order to make a study from one of Sir John's hounds for use in another painting. Sir John purchased the study and subsequently commissioned pictures of several other of his favourite hounds. In 1837 he also commissioned a large group portait (86 by 110 in.) which is described in the inventory of the pictures at Bramshill of 1883 as:
'Meet of Sir John Cope's Hounds at Bramshill, with a view of part of the front of the house, and portraits of Sir John Cope Bart, T. Peers Williams of Temple, Esq, Gerard Blisson Wharton Esq, and (sitting in a chair) John Warde, of Squerries, Esq. The servants, horses and hounds are all portraits. Painted by Edmd Havell, 1837.'
In his letter to Sir Anthony Cope, Havell mentions that the present picture was painted for 'Colonel T. Peers Williams, of Temple house nr. Marlow ... the figures represented ... crossing the park ...'. The picture includes many of the same figures as in Sir John Cope's picture illustrating a mutual friendship and a shared passion for hunting. Thomas Peers Williams (1795-1875), of Temple House and Craigydou, Anglesey, was the son of Thomas Williams (1737-1802) 'The despotic sovereign of the copper trade' who had left a fortune estimated at 500,000 on his death. He was Member of Parliament for Great Marlow from 1832 to 1865 and married Emily, youngest daughter of Anthony Bacon of Elcott, Berkshire, in 1835. The depth of the friendship between Thomas Peers Williams and Sir John Cope is indicated by an old label on the reverse of this picture which records that Sir John Cope was godfather to Thomas Peers Williams' eldest son, Owen Lewis Cope Williams. Havell also executed a picture of Mr. Peers William's Hounds at Temple House, of similar measurements and dated 1836, which was sold as the following lot to this picture in the 1937 sale.