A polo player in India and Somerset

LYTES CARY is a mediaeval manor in the English county of Somerset. This beautiful building, maintained by the National Trust, was owned by the Lyte family since the 15th century, if not earlier. The Great Hall of the manor house was built in the 1460s. The manor remained in the Lyte family until 1755, when the indebted Thomas Lyte IV surrendered all rights to their family home. Between then and 1907, the property fell into decay.

In 1907, the dilapidated Lytes Cary was purchased by Sir Walter Jenner (1860-1948) and his wife Flora, who died in 1920. They lived with their daughter Esme (1898-1932), a keen horse rider, who died of pneumonia after having been drenched in a rainstorm. Sir Walter was the son of Queen Victoria’s physician, Sir William Jenner (1815-1898), who studied at my alma mater University College in London. At his death, he left a great fortune.

Polo trophy

Sir Walter had the house repaired and filled it with furniture and objets d’art appropriate to the age of the house. The result was a comfortable home with fascinating contents. One of the many objects that caught my eye is a trophy depicting a military man on a horse. This item bears an engraved plate:

“Major Sir Walter Jenner Bt, from Lt Colonel Forrester Colvin 1915 to commemorate joining the Ninth Lancers together December 1880. The many happy years spent therein and the following polo tournaments won by the regiment…”

Below this, there is a long list of tournaments played in India, England, Wales, and Ireland. In India, he was in the winning teams in Umballa (Ambala) in 1883 and 1884, and in Meerut in 1885. The latest tournament listed on the trophy was in Dublin in 1893.

Educated at Charterhouse School, Sir Walter became a magistrate in Somerset after retiring from the Ninth Lancers. He served in his regiment during WW1 and was awarded the DSO for his services in that conflict.

I enjoy visiting old houses like Lytes Cary and always find it interesting when I discover links between them and the history of India. Sir Walter’s polo trophy is not one of the most attractive pieces on display at Lytes Cary, but for me it was most fascinating.

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