Posts Tagged ‘Mrs. Winifred Charlesworth’


Mrs. Winifred Charlesworth with Noranby Sandy and Noranby Balfour.

The three individuals most responsible for the creation of the golden retriever as a separate breed from the Flat-coat were Lord Harcourt, the Earl of Shrewsbury, and Mrs. Winifred Charlesworth. Her dogs were registered under the kennel name of Normanby, which because of misspelling at a dog show, became Noranby. She is perhaps as important in founding the breed as the Marjoribanks family.

Her first brood bitch was Noranby Beauty, and she was bred to Culham Brass Lord Harcourt’s founding stud. Brass was a very dark dog, lightly built as all flat-coats were at the time, and he had a very wavy coat. He must have had a good impression on her line, for her later Noranby dogs looked like this:


The two dogs on the right were actually of the preferred color. The second dog from the right is Noranby Diana, an early breed champion bitch. Mrs. Charlesworth preferred the darker colors and the more lightly built dogs, because they were faster in the field and more biddable. She once had a light colored and heavily built dog whelped in one of her litters. Although he was a good gundog that placed in trials, she never bred from him, for he was too much of the “old strain.” By this term she meant the old strain of wavy coated retriever that existed in the later part of the nineteenth century that was too heavy to do its work efficiently.

Interestingly, Mrs. Charlesworth  originally believed the ideal color was the color of grain fields in the first standard for the breed, which she wrote in 1911, just as the movement for separation from the flat-coat was gaining steam. However,  by the 1930’s, when this photo was taken, it was obvious that the darker colors had taken over, and she was among their leading proponents.

My guess is that she would be deeply displeased if she saw what was being shown as a golden retriever today in Britain. And she wouldn’t be happy with those hairy goldens we have in the US. She believed in the golden retriever as a working dog, and she spent much of her time breeding out the coarseness in the breed, which she knew would make it a better working dog. Now, we’ve seen that coarseness return and become institutionalized in the standard. She certainly would not have liked that.

Also of note: She quite stubbornly held onto the story about the Russian circus dog origins story in the golden retriever. I think she did this largely because she wanted the breed to be thought of as distinct, not a yellow flat-coat.

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