Death of Sir Henry Halford

You are hereHome > Marksmanship > 19th Century Riflemen > England > Sir Henry Halford

Source: Morning Post, London, Tuesday 5 January 1897

We regret to record the death of Sir Henry St. John Halford, C.B., which occurred at Wistow Hall, his residence at Leicester, at two o’clock yesterday afternoon after an illness of several months’ duration. He was the eldest son of Sir Henry, the second Baronet, by the second daughter of the late Sir John Vaughan, and was born in 1828. Sir Henry Halford was educated at Eton and at Merton College, Oxford, where he graduated B.A. in 1849. After taking his degree he spent some time in foreign travel, and on his return to England he occupied himself with county work. For over 20 years he was Chairman of Quarter Sessions; in 1872 he was High Sheriff for Leicestershire, and was afterwards the first Chairman of the Leicestershire County Council. Sir Henry married in 1853 Elizabeth Ursula, daughter of the late Mr. William John Bagshawe, of The Oaks, and of Wormhiill Hall, Derbyshire, and succeeded to the title in 1868. The baronetcy, in default of male issue, passes to his brother, the Rev. John Frederick Halford, vicar of Brixworth, Northants.

When the Volunteer Movement was started in 1860 [1] Sir Henry Halford captained a Leicestershire company, became major, and finally, in 1862, took command of the regiment, a position he held until 1891, when he retired. He afterwards held the rank of hon. colonel. In 1886 he received a Companionship of the Bath for his services in connection with the Volunteer Movement, and was one of the first recipients of the Volunteer Officers’ Decoration. In 1880 Sir Henry was placed on the Small Arms Commission, and had much to do with the adoption of the Lee-Metford rifle. He went to the first meeting of the National Rifle Association at Wimbledon in 1861 [2], and in the following year competed in the English Eight at Hythe, coming out first, while in the match for the Elcho Shield against Scotland he made the top score. Naturally these successes soon brought him into prominence in the world of marksmen, and he regularly visited the shooting meetings in various parts of the country. In 1874 he went to Norway, and won a match against the reindeer hunters in the Eikesdale Valley. Three years afterwards he captained the first English Eight [3] which went to America. The team lost, but at the next visit, in 1882, they had their revenge [4], and the trophy – a bronze figure of Fortuna, presented by the National Rifle Association of America – has a prominent place in the dining-room at Wistow. Previous to this he had won, among other prizes, the Cambridge Cup in 1865. He also shot at Bisley – which he considered a vast improvement on Wimbledon – as late as 1895, and has established a prize there, which bears his name.

Unlike most crack shots, Sir Henry was a great smoker, and generally had a pipe in his mouth when at the ranges. It is said that on one occasion he was firing for the Elcho Shield – he captained the English team in this competition for several years – and was doing very badly. “Why, where’s your pipe?” an onlooker asked. “Light up, and you’ll do better.” He did so, and, in his own words, “with the first few puffs the next shot was a bull’s eye.” He had a theory that blue or grey eyes are the best shooting eyes. “That is why,” he once said, “the Scots are so successful at the target, for apart from their thoroughness there are more blue eyes amongst them. An eye with a very small pupil is a great advantage. Brown eyes seldom come in, though a marked exception is Lamb, who is as good a shot as any man, and his are chestnutty brown.” Sir Henry had also in his younger days a great reputation as a deer-stalker, and the collection of antlers, secured in all parts of Europe, at Wistow was a tribute to his prowess.


  1. The Volunteer Movement was established in 1859.
  2. The first meeting of the National Rifle Association at Wimbledon was in 1860.
  3. The team that Sir Henry Halford captained in 1877 was Great Britain (not England) in a rifle match against the USA at Creedmoor.
  4. This was a team of British Rifle Volunteers vs. the US National Guard.