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OSBALDESTON, GEORGE (1787–1866), sportsman, the son of George Osbaldeston (d. 1794), of Hutton-Bushell in Yorkshire, by Jane, only daughter of Sir Thomas Head, bart., was born on 26 Dec. 1787. His father, the descendant of an old Yorkshire family, was the son of John Wickins, rector of Petworth in Sussex, who assumed the name of Osbaldeston on his wife Philadelphia succeeding in 1770 to one-half of the estates of Fountayne Osbaldeston (1694–1770), M.P. for Scarborough, and brother of Richard Osbaldeston [q. v.], bishop of London.

Losing his father when only six years old, Osbaldeston went to reside with his mother at Bath, where his education included riding lessons from Dash, the most celebrated teacher of his day. He subsequently went to Eton, and matriculated at Brasenose College, Oxford, on 3 May 1805. While still an undergraduate he commenced his career as a master of hounds by the purchase of a pack from the Earl of Jersey. Having quitted the university without taking a degree, he next purchased Lord Monson's hounds, and hunted the Burton country for five years, in the course of which he acquired a fame for his pack which has scarcely been surpassed by that of any in England. Upon leaving Lincolnshire he hunted the Quorn hounds from 1817 to 1821, and again from 1823 to 1828, when he migrated to Pytchley. In the capacity of master of foxhounds no one has probably ever stood higher than Osbaldeston, and the ‘Squire,’ as he was called, and his huntsman, Tom Sebright, became ‘bywords’ in sporting circles. His bodily strength was prodigious, as is evidenced by the fact that in Leicestershire he constantly hunted six days in succession. His knowledge of hounds was unrivalled, and ‘as a breeder,’ says Nimrod, ‘he raised himself to the very pinnacle of fame.’ If the casualties inseparable from the hunting field succeeded each other with any rapidity, he showed an irascibility worthy of the best tradition.

In 1831 Osbaldeston became doubly prominent. In the first place, at the Newmarket Houghton meeting, he performed an extraordinary feat. He undertook to ride two hundred miles in ten consecutive hours for a bet of a thousand guineas, the number and choice of horses being unlimited. He divided the distance to be covered into heats of four miles each, changing his horse at the conclusion of each heat, and he accomplished his task one hour and eighteen minutes within the time specified, having ridden, allowing for stoppages, at the rate of twenty-six miles an hour. In 1831 also occurred the ‘Squire's’ famous duel with Lord George Bentinck. This sprang from a bet of two hundred guineas, claimed by Osbaldeston, and paid by Bentinck with the comment that it was ‘a robbery.’ ‘“The matter will not end here, my Lord!” exclaimed the Squire, who marched off with his bristles set.’ They met on Wormwood Scrubbs, and Osbaldeston is variously described as having fired in the air, and as having sent a bullet through Lord George's hat within two inches of his brain (compare the account under Bentinck, William George Frederic Cavendish, with that in John Kent's Racing Life of Lord G. Bentinck, or both with that in Day's Reminiscences). Some years later the antagonists were reconciled, and Lord George treated Osbaldeston with marked politeness. With reference to the propriety of Bentinck's implication that Osbaldeston was a swindler, Day remarks that ‘no one who ever knew the Squire would imagine for a moment that he was capable of doing anything approaching an ungentlemanly action.’

Osbaldeston was a daring steeplechase rider, and was well known in cricketing and racing circles, and in fact in every branch of field sports. He was a J.P. for the East Riding of Yorkshire; he represented East Retford from 1812 to 1818, and he was high sheriff of his county in 1829. Some years before his death he retired from sporting life, and resided at 2 Grove Road, St. John's Wood, where he died on 1 Aug. 1866. In personal appearance he is described as below middle size, with a large and muscular frame, and ‘with legs appearing somewhat disproportioned to his body, yet, when on horseback, to belong to the animal rather than the man, so firm and steady was he in his seat.’

[Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715–1886; Whittaker's History of Whalley, ii. 368; Gent. Mag. 1835 ii. 653, 1866 ii. 417; Men of the Reign; Wildrake's Cracks of the Day, pp. 32–5; Nimrod's Hunting Reminiscences, pp. 43–6; Kent's Racing Life of Lord George Bentinck, pp. 402–408; Day's Reminiscences of the Turf, 1891, pp. 84, 85.]

T. S.