Lady Wentworth in the London Times

221b Baker Street: Lady Wentworth in the London Times

Copyright 1993 by R.J.CADRANELL from Arabian Visions Mar/Apr 1993 Used by permission of RJ Cadranell

Founded in 1878 by Wilfrid and Lady Anne Blunt, from 1920 to 1957 the Crabbet Arabian Stud was under the firm hand of their daughter Judith Blunt-Lytton, also known as Lady Wentworth. Lady Wentworth added the stallion Skowronek to the stud, picked and chose from among the “Blunt mares,” bought back horses her parents had sold, sold some they had kept, and set about breeding Arabian horses to suit her own ideals and tastes. The Depression and Second World War put a crimp on her breeding activities, but after 1945 she expanded her program and Crabbet was going full blast when Lady Wentworth died in August of 1957. She left behind a herd of about 75 head.

Lady Wentworth continued her parents’ practice of selling horses all over the world. All of today’s major breed subdivisions benefited from Crabbet breeding. In 1936 Lady Wentworth sold a large draft to Russia’s Tersk Stud, including the key animals Naseem, Rissalma, and Rixalina. Her sale to Egypt in 1920 included the stallions Kasmeyn, Sotamm, and Hamran as well as the mares Bint Riyala and Bint Rissala. Five Skowronek daughters were among the horses she sold to Spain’s Duke of Veragua, and of these Reyna founded a particularly strong dam line. To Poland she sold the stallion Rasim and the mare Sardhana; in more recent decades horses from Tersk have brought additional Crabbet lines to the Polish state studs. To America she sent such key breeding animals as *Serafix, *Raffles, *Raseyn, *Rissletta, *Nasik, and *Ferda.

Lady Wentworth’s obituary in the London Times ran on August 10, 1957. The headline read “Lady Wentworth, Breeder of Arab Horses” and a surprising amount of the text was devoted to the Crabbet Arabians:

Baroness Wentworth died in hospital at Crawley, Sussex, on Thursday night at the age of 84.

As a leading breeder of Arab horses and as a writer of books on breeding, Lady Wentworth carried on the tradition of the Crabbet stud which had been built up by her father and mother. In her independence of mind, her eccentricities, her artistic pursuits, and her stormy domestic relations she reflected her ancestry — both her father, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, the traveler and poet, and her maternal great-grandfather, Lord Byron.

Judith Anne Dorothea Blunt-Lytton, Baroness Wentworth, as sixteenth holder of the peerage, was the only daughter of Wilfrid Scawen Blunt and Lady Anne King-Noel, who as a child of the Earl of Lovelace was a granddaughter of Lord Byron, the poet. In youth she was a society beauty and her appearance made a strong impression on Burne-Jones, for some of whose last studies she sat. “She gives me the impression,” he said, “of perfect beauty combined with the speed and lightness of foot of some wild creature.” The second part of this tribute was not merely fanciful, for Lady Wentworth was a fine athlete. She became a champion royal tennis player, a game that is not generally regarded as suitable for women, and she built her own court at Crabbet. She was also a good squash player and went on playing the game until late in life.

In 1899 she married Neville Stephen Lytton, son of the second [actually first] Earl of Lytton. The marriage took place in Cairo. The bride was given away by Lord Cromer, the Resident, who to the Queen’s inquiry about the ceremony sent the laconic reply, “Marriage duly performed.” She later became estranged first from her father with whom she had differences of opinion about the management of the Crabbet estates, and afterwards from her husband, from whom she was divorced in 1923. Her mother succeeded to the Barony of Wentworth a few months before her death in 1917, when it devolved by special remainder on Judith Blunt-Lytton. The new Lady Wentworth lived for the rest of her life at Crabbet Park in the grounds of which her father was buried.[1]

She inherited from her parents the love of the desert and of the horse of the desert, the Arabian, and the “feeling for the desert” never left her. After her mother’s death she took over the Crabbet stud which the unfortunate quarrels of her parents had allowed to reach a very low level, and gradually built it up to the dominating position which undoubtedly it holds to-day. There is hardly a stud in this country or abroad which does not owe its existence to one or other of the Crabbet stock. As a breeder she probably had few equals; she combined a voluminous knowledge of pedigree with a keen eye for a horse and with the means to breed on a big scale, and she had a certain flair or instinct which transcends scientific calculations. She was also a competent horse trainer and brought the business of preparing horses for the show ring to a fine art. The foundation of the modern Crabbet stud was undoubtedly the almost legendary Skowronek, a pure bred Arab foaled in Poland, whose sire was hanged in the market place[2] by the revolutionaries of 1917; he was saved from a like fate by being bought for Mr. Walter Winans just before the First World War, after which Lady Wentworth acquired him. From this foundation has flowed the long line of champion Arab sires and mares which have dominated the show ring for many years in almost every country of the world.

A character as strong as Lady Wentworth’s could hardly keep out of controversy; indeed, like the Biblical warhorse which she loved so much, she probably “smelled the battle from afar” and she was a doughty opponent. Just after the war she became involved in a violent controversy within the Arab Horse Society over the height and size of Arab horses in England. After much acrimony she won her point that there should be no limiting the size of the Arab horses in English shows.

At Crabbet she used also to breed dogs and her toy spaniels won innumerable championships. In later years she gave an increasing share of her time to her painting and her poetry. Among her books are two major works: Thoroughbred Racing Stock and its Ancestors (1938), and The Authentic Arabian Horse and His Descendants (1945).

She is survived by her son, the fourth Earl of Lytton, to whom the [Wentworth] title descends, and by her two daughters.

A Requiem Mass was celebrated on August 14 at the Franciscan Friary in Crawley. The burial took place afterwards. According to the London Times of August 15, among those present were:

The Earl and Countess of Lytton (son and daughter-in-law), Lady Anne Lytton and Lady Winifrid Tryon (daughters), Viscount Knebworth, the Hon. Roland Lytton and Lady Caroline Lytton (grandchildren).

The Hon. Mrs. R.E.L. Vaughan-Williams, Colonel Sir Henry Abel Smith, Mr. Gordon Blunt, Mr. Ronald Armstrong-Jones, Q.C., Mr. K.W. Cumming (president) and Colonel D.R. Hewitt (representing Arab Horse Society), Mr. Geoffrey Cross (representing Royal Windsor Horse Show Club), Miss C. Draper (librarian St. Anne’s College, Oxford), Mrs. H.V. Musgrave Clark, Mr. Nigel Napier, Mr. R.W.F. Staveacre, Mrs M. Odell, Mr. R.S. Summerhays (representing National Pony Society), Dr. R.A. Matthews, Mr. and Mrs Cecil Covey, Mr. Gladstone Moore.

Lady May Abel Smith and Sir John and Lady Blunt were among those unable to attend.

  1. [1]Wilfrid Blunt was buried in the woods behind his house Newbuildings Place, about sixteen miles away from Crabbet.
  2. [2]In a February, 1958 Arabian Horse News article, Count Joseph Potocki presented a different account of Skowronek’s sire Ibrahim: “Some communist soldiers led him out of his box stall during the Revolution as other horses were being taken. Whereupon, that generally quiet and kindly horse began to react violently and would not be taken away. The troopers, in their irritation, killed him on the spot with their swords. The incident is described in a well known book ‘Pozoga’ by Zofia Kossak Szcyucka, who was there at the time.”