© Dareen A. Bridge
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Mr S. E. Shirley - A man of his time
y the beginning of the 1870s Dog Shows were proliferating throughout the British Isles, but with no controlling body, and rules, such as they
were, set by each show promoting association, the fancy
would have descended into notoriety, had it not been for
the foresight of one man. The Victorian era produced
many visionary men and women who became legendary
leaders within their chosen field, Mr Sewallis Evelyn
Shirley MP, of Ettington Park, Warwickshire and Lough
Fea, Ireland, was just such a force in the canine world.
His influence instrumental in the establishment of
‘The Kennel Club’ in 1873 which created a respectability for the fancy far beyond the expectations of its twelve founding members who envisaged nothing more than a show promoting society. Standards were immediately raised by the necessity for all exhibitors to accept a small number of rules, designed to promote sportsmanlike behaviour, at the Kennel Club’s first show held at the Crystal Palace in June the same year. By the end of the decade an increasing number of the newer show promoting societies sought permission to adopt the same set of guidelines, and gradually shows were advertised as ‘Held Under Kennel Club Rules’.
The Kennel Club took a further step on the road to canine government in 1874, with the introduction of ‘The Stud Book’. The first volume, published retrospectively, giving details of all shows held between 1859 and 1873 inclusive, adding descriptions of winning dogs, along with a copy of the, now enlarged, guidelines for Dog Shows and Exhibitors. Three years later, in 1877, the Kennel Club attempted to formulise the title of Champion, which had often been assumed by owners’ after their dogs had achieved a single show place.