Mordaunt Bisset

"The General"
Bisset as caricatured by Spy in Vanity Fair, December 1881
Arms of Bisset of Lessendrum: Azure, a bend argent

Mordaunt Fenwick Bisset (1825 – c.August 1884)[1] was a British Conservative Party politician and famous west-country Master of Staghounds.


He was the only son of the Venerable Maurice Fenwick (1797–1879), Rector of Drumholm and Archdeacon of Raphoe, both in County Donegal, Ireland, son of William Fenwick of Lemmington Hall, Edlingham, Northumberland, by his wife Elizabeth Bisset. Maurice had married his cousin Jane Harriot Bisset (d.1866), the eldest daughter of Maurice George Bisset (1757–1821) [2] of Lessendrum, Aberdeen, which manor had been held by the Clan Bisset since 1252,[3] by his wife Harriat (sic) Mordaunt (b.1753) one of the illegitimate children of Charles Mordaunt, 4th Earl of Peterborough (1708–1779) by his mistress Robiniana Brown, who became his second wife in 1755. Maurice Fenwick adopted the additional name of Bisset following his wife's inheritance of the estate of Lessendrum from her father. His son Mordaunt Fenwick-Bisset inherited as well as Lessendrum, the residual estate, including the Wiltshire manor of Dauntsey, of Charles Henry Mordaunt, 5th Earl of Peterborough (1758–1814), his natural great-uncle, the first legitimate son of the 4th Earl by Robiniana, who died without progeny, and whose brothers, legitimate and otherwise had all predeceased him. The titles all became extinct. The Mordaunt property was left to Jane in trust as a life-interest, which was inherited absolutely on her death in 1866 by her son Mordaunt.[4] The arms of Fenwick-Bisset of Lessendrum are: Quarterly 1st & 4th: Azure, a bend argent (Bisset), 2nd & 3rd: party per fesse gules and argent, six martlets counterchanged (Fenwick).


He was elected as a Member of Parliament (MP) for West Somerset at the 1880 general election,[5] but resigned from the House of Commons on 18 November 1883 by becoming Steward of the Manor of Northstead.[6]

Sporting career

He served as Master of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds from 1855 to 1881.[7] He accepted the mastership when west-country stag-hunting was at a low ebb. In 1824 the entire pack of staghounds, of an ancient native bloodline, was sold by a previous master to a German Baron. Following this action, the wild deer were almost poached to extinction, the lack of sport having removed the main reason for their preservation in the eyes of the hard-pressed farmers whose crops they damaged. Mr Froude Bellew, MFH, offered a draught from his own pack of foxhounds to anyone who would re-established a pack of staghounds. Mr Bisset accepted the offer.[8] His mastership was instrumental in increasing wild red deer numbers on Exmoor, he improved the breeding of the hounds and built permanent new kennels at Exford, which he donated to the Committee. In 1878 an outbreak of rabies occurred in the kennels, and he took the difficult decision to put-down all the hounds on 22 January 1879.[9] He immediately started a new pack the same year, made up from a draught from Lord Rothschild's Staghounds. He left 13 large volumes of his hunting diaries which became the property of Viscount Ebrington, later 4th Earl Fortescue his successor as Master, whose brother Hon. John Fortescue used them as a basis for his work Record of Staghunting on Exmoor, London, 1887.[10]


He married in 1851 Susan Popham, daughter and heiress of Francis Popham of Bagborough House, Bagborough, Somerset, and rented for his residence Pixton Park,[11] near Dulverton, from the Earl of Carnarvon. He had no surviving progeny and his heir was his sister Janet.[12]


Portrait of Mordaunt Fenwick-Bisset by Samuel John Carter, 1871, scene at Badgworthy Water, Exmoor

His portrait was painted by Samuel John Carter and was exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 1871, under the catalogue description: "A September evening, Exmoor Forest". A wild stag at bay with portraits; to be presented to the master of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, Mordaunt Fenwick-Bisset Esq., at the beginning of his seventeenth season by upwards of 400 deer preservers and friends". The painting was presented to him at a dinner at Dunster on 14 September 1871.[13] He is shown on his hunter Chanticleer surrounded by his favourite hounds, with a stag at bay at Badgworthy Water, Exmoor Forest. An engraving of Bisset standing on a North Devon beach watching a hunted stag swimming away into the sea is published in Fortescue, op.cit., opposite p. 87, with the caption: And there stood the stalwart form of Mr Bisset.

Death & burial

He died in August 1884 and was buried at Bagborough.[14]



  1. Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "S" (part 3)
  2. Maurice George Bisset has a monument in Lessendrum Church inscribed: "Sacred to the memory of Maurice George Bisset Esq., of Lessendrum who died at Lessendrum on the 16th December 1821 in the 64th year of his age. This tablet is jointly inscribed by Harriot, his affectionate and mournful widow, and his brother and immediate successor, William Lord Bishop of Raphoe, in honour of his name, and in grateful recollection of his many virtues that adorned his sacred character", quoted in [], by Henry Mordaunt
  3. The Bissets lived latterly however mainly on the Isle of Wight
  4. Temple, Rev. William. The Thanage of Fermartyn, quoted on
  5. Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1977]. British parliamentary election results 1832–1885 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. ISBN 0-900178-26-4.
  6. Department of Information Services (9 June 2009). "Appointments to the Chiltern Hundreds and Manor of Northstead Stewardships since 1850" (PDF). House of Commons Library. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 February 2011. Retrieved 30 November 2009.
  7. Fortescue, Hon. John. Record of Staghunting on Exmoor, London, 1887, A Tabulated History of the North Devon and Devon and Somerset Staghounds (Appendix B)
  8. Marshall, p.51
  9. Marshall, p.61
  10. Fortescue, introduction
  11. Marshall, H.J. Exmoor Sporting and Otherwise, London, 1948, p.51
  12. Temple, op.cit.
  13. Fortescue, p.50
  14. Fortescue, p.89

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Hon. Arthur Hood
Vaughan Lee
Member of Parliament for West Somerset
1880 – 1883
With: Vaughan Lee to 1882
Edward Stanley from 1882
Succeeded by
Charles Isaac Elton
Edward Stanley
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