Violent punch-ups broke out in Lacock today as angry anti-hunt protesters clashed with hunt supporters.

An armed policeman was on hand as a number of more than four dozen protesters fought with some of around 100 supporters who had gathered outside The Red Lion to welcome the meet of the Avon Vale hunt.

Protesters mocked the huntsmen with repeated chants of “shame on you” and footage appeared to show punches being thrown on both sides as the scene descended into chaos.

“It was very nasty and very heated. There must have been around 50 protesters and twice that number of hunt supporters and it all turned sour,” said a local photographer who recorded the event.

“The protesters were waving placards, chanting at those on horseback and then it all kicked off with people throwing punches and hunt supporters pushing the protesters back. It all became very ugly indeed and the police had to intervene and bring calm to what became a nasty scene.

“James Gray, the MP, was in the crowd but I don’t think the protesters recognised him.”

Urban Pictures on Twitter: "Punches thrown as violence erupts at annual Boxing Day Hunt in rural Wiltshire. Clashes and scuffles broke out at the Boxing Day Hunt in Lacock, near Chippenham. Several dozen protesters were demonstrating against the Avon Vale meet and least 2 were injured. #BoxingDay" / Twitter

A Wiltshire Police spokesman said: "We were aware of a planned local hunt in Lacock today and officers attended at around 11am when concerns were raised about tensions between those involved in the hunt and protestors.

“Officers remained on the scene to manage the two groups and they had dispersed by around 12.30pm.

“At this stage no arrests have been made but our enquiries are continuing.”

In complete contrast at the other side of the county, not a sab was in sight when the Tedworth hunt met in Pewsey for the first time since the pandemic began.

Nobody protested, there were no placards and no police were needed to control anti-hunt demonstrations – because there were none.

Instead, the only demonstration was a silent one of support as scores of families turned out to gleefully watch more than 40 riders meet in the North Street car park to celebrate an ancient countryside tradition.

Children petted the horses and the hounds leapt up eagerly for a pat as members of the community gathered just as generations had done for decades.

There had been fears that the meet may have been greeted with protesters after anger was expressed on the village’s Facebook site that the parish council had given permission for the hunt to meet in the car park.

Anti-hunt voices protested after some people were under the impression that the council has given permission for hunting on its land, and consequently they called for councillors to lose their seats.

But the council explained that councillors had only given the go ahead for the hunt to gather in the car park, where it traditionally has done for years.

A council spokesman explained: “The car park used to be owned by Wiltshire Council and the hunt has met there for years. Eighteen months ago the ownership was transferred to the parish council. We have given permission for the meet in the car park, that is all. As soon as they move off and wherever they go they are no longer on our land, they are not hunting on our land.”

The Tedworth hunt, which has kennels outside Burbage, says it hunts legally by laying a trail, not by chasing a fox.

At today’s event, the Master of the Tedworth hunt thanked the crowds for clearly demonstrating their approval of a local gathering of horse and hounds.

“On behalf of all of us we are so grateful that you have turned out in such numbers to support the hunt, a way of life and all that we love of the countryside,” said the Master.

“Such a wonderful show of support means such a lot to us. We have gathered here for so many years and we hope that we shall for many years to come.”