A Potted History

Condensed from Club Year Books.

It is well documented that Mr Roswell Eldridge offered a prize of £25 at Crufts Dog Show in 1926 for the best "old type toy spaniel". In that first year only two dogs were entered of the type he was looking for but this was sufficient to arouse the interest of a handful of exhibitors and breeders. They banded together and at the next Crufts Show in 1927 Mrs Pitt’s bitch "Waif Julia" took the best bitch prize.

Thus the seeds of the Cavalier breed and of the Club were sown. It was only due to the herculean efforts of Mrs Pitt, along with those other early dedicated breeders and exhibitors, that the Cavalier and the Club went from these humble beginnings to their present strength and position.

In 1928 a group of exhibitors and breeders decided to form a club and an extract from early Club literature states:

"In 1928 a club was founded and the title ‘Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’ was chosen. It was very important that we should keep our association with the name King Charles Spaniel as some of the stock threw back to the long face very quickly (some were extremely long faced and pioneers were often accused of using out crosses to other suitable breeds to get the long face). This accusation was undeserved and crossing was not recommended by the Club. Most breeders realise that the longest way was the shortest, and they stuck to breeding back to the original type by way of long face throw-outs from the Kennels of the short face variety breeders".

At the inaugural meeting held in 1928, the standard of the breed was drawn up, using Miss Mostyn Walker’s Ann’s Son as the standard, and has remained practically the same throughout the years. Early records show the Club was adamant that "the dog should be guarded from fashion and there was to be no trimming. The perfectly natural dog was desired, and was not to be spoilt to suit individual tastes, or as the saying goes, carved into shape".

The first meeting of the Club took place on the 3rd May 1929, the second day of Crufts that year. Tradition has it that a toss of a coin decided who was to be President and Secretary, but there is no evidence to this effect. However it is rather fun to picture the scene. Miss Mostyn Walker was elected President and Mrs Pitt Secretary.

In 1930 Mrs Pitt was elected as Chairman, a position she was to hold for over 30 years.

For the next few years progress of the Club was slow and obviously a struggle, especially as at this stage the Kennel Club was not prepared to recognise the breed. Early records show that various canine societies to put on sponsored classes for the breed. It was clear that not only time but also a great deal of money went into the venture. Owners and breeders of today should appreciate the great debt of gratitude that we owe to this small band of pioneers.

The minutes of Committee meetings held in the 1930’s show indicate that the Club approached the Kennel Club several times for separate registration, but without success. It was not until 1945 that this status was finally granted.

There is very little information concerning the activities of the Club from the early 1930’s until after the Second World War. During this time it must have been a struggle to keep dogs, and even for the enthusiasts, the future of the Club must have been a low priority. For example the Ttiweh Cavaliers went from a kennel of approximately 60 Cavaliers to only 3 in number. Kennel Club records show that 60 Cavaliers were registered between 1940 and 1945, showing that breed enthusiasts were able to maintain at least some activity throughout this period.

Interest and enthusiasm in the breed grew rapidly after the war and was maintained throughout the 1940’s.

With the war over the Club held a general meeting on 12th September 1945 attended by 14 people. This was effectively the re-forming of the Club when it could have so easily lapsed. During the meeting it was once again agreed that the Kennel Club should be approached for separate registration from the "short faced King Charles" as it was felt that Cavaliers could only advance on the basis of separate registration and formal acceptance by the Kennel Club.

On the 5th December 1945 the Kennel Club agreed to separate registration of "Cavalier Spaniels". The Club later requested that the title be changed to the "Cavalier King Charles Spaniel" and this was duly accepted by the Kennel Club.

The Club gave Mrs Pitt, Mrs Harper and Madame Harper Trois Fontaines the task of identifying dogs on the King Charles register, that most closely followed the standard for the new breed, and could appropriately be known as Cavaliers. The list that they eventually produced also included the names of King Charles Spaniels of both sexes that were known to produce "nosey" puppies. It is true to say that every Cavalier in the world today is descended from the dogs they selected.

In those early days it was permitted to breed a Cavalier to a short-faced King Charles and register the puppies as interbred. After two generations of breeding back to a Cavalier, the progeny was then once again eligible for the Cavalier register.

In 1946 the Club was granted Championship status and the first Championship show was held on 29th August 1946 in the grounds of Stratford On Avon School of Drama, the home of Mrs L Hitching (Avoncliffe). Thus started the long tradition of shows taking place at the homes of members. From the 41 dogs entered, Best In Show, and Bitch CC, went to a Blenheim bitch "Belinda of Saxham" with the Dog CC being awarded to "Daywell Roger".

The Club’s second Championship show, held in May 1947, had 150 dogs entered with Best In Show and Bitch CC going to "Ena De Fontenay" and the Dog CC to "Plantation Smut". The progress of the breed was commented on by the judge, Mrs F Mitchell, who wrote ‘It was a great pleasure to judge cavaliers once again after so many years. The last time I placed them was at Crufts before the war. The type has altered a good deal and I have quite changed my opinion on the subject of tails’.

Surprisingly, the Club’s Christmas party seems to have been of great importance to members in the late 1940’s. One gets the impression that this was a ‘must’ on the social scene and was an occasion when members got together for discussion. It should be remembered that long distant travel was then far more difficult than it is today and full advantage had to be taken of all events. In 1946, however, to members dismay, the party had to be cancelled due to "so much canine disease around".

The first formal Judges list was published at the AGM in 1947.

The first Club newsletter was published in 1948 and was a monthly publication sold for 6d (2½ new pence).

The Club’s first Champion, "Daywell Roger" was crowned at WELKS in 1948.

From the minutes of meetings held in 1950 it became apparent that the Members wished to become more involved with the management of the Club and more decisions were being made by those attending the AGM rather than within the Committee.

In 1951 the first Club Bulletin was published and this became the forerunner of the current Year Book and Magazine. The first bulletin showed that there were 17 shows scheduled with only three breed judges, clearly by this time all-rounders wanted to judge the breed, which was gaining in popularity. The bulletin also details a list of members, the earliest list available to the Club, showing that there were 59 members at that time.

During the early 1950’s the Club and its’ members were constantly striving to improve the breed that was steadily gaining recognition in the dog world. The first recorded Best In Show at a none Club show was Ch Harmony of Ttiweh in January 1951.

Throughout the early 1950’s the Club continued to press for extra sets of CC’s and this was met with some success. In 1953 14 sets were offered to the breed by the Kennel Club which was rapid progress as in 1948 there were only 6 sets on offer. Today we have 36 sets on offer.

At the AGM in 1955 it was announced that 380 Cavaliers had been registered the previous year putting the cavalier fourth on the Toy list. Contrast this with the registrations of 10,309 for 2001. At that meeting it was resolved that dogs should not be trimmed and feet should be feathered. This was again emphasised in 1999 when the Club issued a statement in the Dog Press that the standard must be adhered to and this included "no trimming".

The Club held its first Open show in October 1955.

In 1955 the Club produced its distinctive badge and this has remained the same vere since.

The Club strove to maintain a high standard of judges. To emphasis this two judges were removed from the Club’s approved list in March 1955 for ‘his written report was not in accordance with the Breed standard’ and ‘not paying sufficient attention to the breed standard and failed to keep her appointment’.

In 1956 the tenth anniversary Jubilee Show was held at Seymour Hall in London, a venue that was to be used for many years. It is amazing to think that Championship Shows were held in the middle of London where there was only street parking, and to make matters worse, parking meters were later introduced.

Unfortunately the Club’s Minute book for 1956 to 1963 is missing but from the Show Catalogues of that period the Committee remained relatively unchanged.

In 1963 history was made when Mrs F Cryer won the Toy Group at Crufts with her Ch Amelia of Laguna. This win really put Cavaliers in the public eye.

Our class sizes today are often cause for comment, but even in 1965 there were 25 entered in puppy bitch at the Championship Show, with a total entry (for one judge) of 182. By 1988 however, the year of the Diamond Jubilee, entries had grown to 777 exhibits. Due to the increasing entries, in 1970 it was decided that two judges should be appointed for the Championship Show.

The first Club Year book was published in 1964 and the publication has grown from strength to strength and each year is now eagerly awaited by members world-wide.

During 1969 the Club produced its first list of approved Open Show judges. This list, in various formats, has been maintained by the Club and is now a Kennel Club requirement.

In 1971 it was decided to establish The Benevolent Fund to assist members who had fallen upon hard times. This fund is administered by a Board of Trustees independent of the Main Committee.

1973 was an historic year for the Breed and the Club, when Messrs Hall and Evans’ Alansmere Aquarius won Best In Show at Crufts. The publicity that followed resulted in an explosion of interest in Cavaliers and numerically the breed became one of the strongest of those recognised by the Kennel Club. The Club clearly had to work hard to maintain its standards.

Sadly due to the expansion in popularity it was found necessary to introduce The Rescue and Welfare Service to provide a means of caring for the Cavaliers that had been abandoned or maltreated or needed re-homing due to family circumstances.

The 1978 Golden Jubilee Championship show attracted an entry of 617 dogs. It was befitting that Mrs Pitt was able to attend, this her last Championship Show. She was, of course, the lady who saved the breed and she received a presentation from the Club in appreciation of her enormous contribution. Sadly Mrs Pitt died in 1978.

Following the death of Mrs Pitt, the Club set up the Amice Pitt Memorial Rally in 1980 and this has been hosted by the Regional Clubs, on a rotational basis, annually ever since.

In 1980 it was apparent that the breed was suffering from an increase in Juvenile Cataract and research into this was established with eye testing being made available at the Club's shows. This research continues and eye testing has become an established facility at the Clubs Championship Shows.

In contrast to the 1940's an attempt to resurrect the Christmas Party failed due to lack of support.

To assist in the standardisation of judges, Judges training was started in 1987 and continues today. This was well in advance of the current requirements placed upon all Breed Clubs by the Kennel Club.

The popularity of the Breed continued to grow and the Diamond Jubilee Show held in 1988 attracted an entry of 780 with 72 in Minor Puppy dog.

In 1991 the Club introduced Heart Testing at the Championship Show and encouraged all breeders to participate in the research into MVD by having their dogs regularly checked. Two major seminars,sponsored by Intervet, have been held the first in 1996 and the latest in 2000.

In 1997 the sponsored walks started with the first taking place all over the UK and bringing in excess of £6,000 towards the health research fund. These have carried on and have been very well supported and enjoyed by Cavalier owners.

In 1995 another annual event was established and that is the Pup of The Year (POTY) contest which is open to puppies that have won classes at Championship shows in the preceding year.

The move into the new millennium saw two new seminars on eyes being held and although the country was brought to a standstill in 2001 with Foot and Mouth Disease, causing the cancellation of many shows including the Club Championship show, the Club hosted the first ever International Breed Conventions with speakers and visitors from all over the world.

The Club still looks forward and strives to promote the Breed and improve the health of Cavaliers. To this end in 2002 the Club has decided to sponsor a veterinary research project into heart disease and has set about raising the £17,000 pounds required for the first two years of study.


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