Shropshire History

Mad Jack Mytton


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1796 - Jack Mytton was born at Halston Hall, near Oswestry.


1798 - His father died when Jack was 2 years of age. He inherited the family estate at Halston Hall, which was worth £60,000 (£4.3 million today) and also received an annual income of £10,000 (£716,000 today) as rents from 132,000 acres in North Wales and Shropshire.


1806 - Jack was sent to Westminster School but was expelled one year later for fighting a master at the school. He was then sent to Harrow School but was also expelled from there after 3 terms. He was subsequently educated by private tutors, whom he tormented with practical jokes that included leaving a horse in one tutor's bedroom.


1812 – At the age of16 he was commissioned as captain in a local yeomanry regiment called the Oswestry Rangers. The regiment was later amalgamated into a larger regiment called the North Shropshire Yeomanry Cavalry, into which Jack transferred.


1813 - Jack went to Cambridge University and took 2,000 bottles of port to sustain himself during his studies. He soon found university life boring and left.


1814 - He embarked on the Grand Tour through Europe's major cultural capitals, as was customary for members of families of a high social standing.


1815 - Jack was commissioned into the regular army and joined the 7th Hussars, since he liked their flamboyant uniform. As a young cornet, he spent a year with the regiment in France as part of the occupation army after Napoleon's defeat. During this period, he spent much of his time gambling and drinking before resigning his commission. After his return, he rejoined the North Shropshire Yeomanry at his previous rank.


1817 – Jack received his full inheritance upon becoming 21 years old and wasted no time in spending it.


1818 – Jack married a Baronet's daughter but she died two years later.


1819 – Jack became MP for Shrewsbury by bribing his constituents £10 each to vote for him, spending a total of about £10,000 (£750,000 today). He found political debate boring, however, and only attended parliament once for just 30 minutes, so resigned the following year.


1822 – He was promoted to major of the yeomanry.


1825 - Indulging his enjoyment for horse racing and gambling, he bought successful race horses such as the horse Euphrates, which won the Gold Cup at Lichfield. He was a well-known local character at Oswestry Race Course.


1826 - As a bet, he rode his horse into the Bedford Hotel and up the grand staircase onto the balcony. From here, still seated on his horse, he jumped over the diners in the restaurant below and out through the window onto the Parade. Other mad antics occurred over the next few years :-


He held contests for local children at Dinas Mawddwy to roll down Moel Dinas, giving prizes ranging from half a crown to half a guinea to those who made it to the bottom of the hill.


He would go hunting in any kind of weather and his usual winter gear was a light jacket, thin shoes, linen trousers and silk stockings but in the thrill of the chase he could strip down and continue the chase naked. He had a wardrobe consisting of 150 pairs of hunting breeches, 700 pairs of handmade hunting boots, 1000 hats and some 3,000 shirts.


He crouched naked in snow drifts and swam winter rivers in full spate.


On a freezing winters day he would lead a small army of stable lads on rat hunts, each stable boy equipped with ice skates.


He would get out of bed in the middle of the night and set off completely naked, carrying his favourite gun across the frozen fields towards his lake. Here he would ambush the ducks, fire a few shots and return to bed apparently none the worse for his ordeal. He frequently got up again half an hour later and went through the whole process again. Once he got fed up waiting for the birds to come within range so stripped naked, sat on the ice and slowly shuffled forward on the slippery surface until he was within range. It took over an hour but he never caught a cold or seemed in the least unwell after this or indeed after any of his naked shooting exploits.


He had numerous pets on his estate, including 2,000 dogs comprising fox hounds and other breeds such as gun dogs, pointers and retrievers. His favourites were fed on steak and champagne. Some dogs wore livery and others were costumed.


A favourite horse called Baronet had free range inside Halston Hall and would lie in front of the fire with Jack.


He sought thrills through reckless driving of carriages and would drive his gig at high speed at an obstacle like a rabbit hole to see if it would turn over. Once he unsuccessfully tested if a horse pulling a carriage could jump over a tollgate. He raced around the country roads in a four horse gig tearing across crossroads and around hairpin corners with total disregard for his own safety or any other road users. Once he was driving his gig with a new companion and asked him if he had ever been upset in a gig. The man replied "Thank God, I have never been upset in one". "What?" cried Mytton, "What a damn slow fellow you must have been all your life" and promptly drove the gig up a sloping bank at full speed, tipping himself and his passenger out.


He invited a local Oswestry parson and doctor to dine at Halston Hall. As they left on horseback at nightfall, he quickly donned a highwayman's garb and mask, complete with a brace of pistols and by a circuitous route caught up with them at the edge of his estate. He burst from cover, firing both pistols over their heads and called "Stand and deliver". He often related the tale of them galloping for their lives with him hard on their heels.


He picked a fight with a tough Shropshire miner who disturbed his hunt and the bare knuckle fight lasted 20 rounds before the miner gave up.


He once rode a bear into his drawing-room in full hunting costume, scattering a dinner party. The bear carried him very quietly for a time but, on being pricked by the spur, bit Mad Jack on his leg. Despite being bitten, Mad Jack kept the bear called Nell as a pet but it later attacked a servant and Jack had it killed.



He could drink 8 bottles of port a day with a helping of brandy and killed one of his horses called Sportsman by making it drink a bottle of port.


Rather than sit down to a formal dinner every evening he would eat hazelnuts or dine with his tenant farmers, eating fat bacon and drinking a quart of ale beside their fire. He then returned to Halston Hall, where his cook and servants would have prepared a full dinner which he would now be unable to eat.


He was an enthusiastic dog-fighter and gambled on the outcome of fights between bulldogs, mastiffs and terriers. He beat his own bulldog with his bare fists and bit fighting dogs with his own teeth, even standing upright with a mastiff held in his own jaws without using his hands to support the weight. He was rumoured to have put his wife’s lapdog on the fire in a jealous rage, burning it to death.


He gave his servants lots of spending money and visitors to his estate would find banknotes secreted around the grounds. Once he lost several thousand pounds winnings at Doncaster Races when the wind blew them away.


He would affectionately toss his children into the air as babies and pelt with oranges.


1830 - His second wife Caroline Giffard ran away.


1831 - Jack attempted to enter Parliament again for the Shropshire County seat as a Whig candidate. He withdrew on the fifth day of the poll, however, when he came bottom with 376 votes.


1832 - Over fifteen years he had managed to spend all of his inheritance and fell into deep debt. Jack fled to France to avoid his creditors, prison and court. On his way there, he met an attractive 20 year old woman on Westminster Bridge and offered her £500 per annum to be his companion and flee with him to France. This woman, Susan accepted his offer.


1833 - During his stay in France he once tried to cure his hiccups by setting his shirt on fire. It did work but only the intervention of his friends spared him more serious injuries from burns.


1834 – Jack ran out of money and returned to England, where he ended up in the debtor's prison in Southwark, London. He died the same year in prison, a “round shouldered, tottering old-young man bloated by drink. Worn out by too much foolishness, too much wretchedness and too much brandy”.