Revival of the Long-Bow

Reproduced from the British Archer Magazine. Vol. 3. No. 4. Dec/Jan. 1951/52.

Recent years have seen a great revival of the Ancient sport of Archery throughout the British Isles, but it must be admitted that this revival has brought an urge to replace the ancient Long Bow made of wood (generally yew) and the wooden arrows, by the modern bow of tubular steel and arrows of metal alloy. It cannot be denied that these modern machine-made weapons have enormously increased the score records and quite fantastic scores have been registered since their use has become universal in this country.

Rather naturally considerable controversy has often taken place as to whether the modern Archer is really a better shot than his forebears or whether the precision-like weapon he now uses has largely helped towards his greatly increased scores.

Apart from this controversial point many Archers have felt that the introduction of these “soulless” weapons has destroyed much of the romance and beauty of the antient sport, a sport teeming with history and of stories of the prowess of the Archers in battle, later, much later, to be followed by colourful accounts of Archery Meetings held in the spacious grounds of the great houses of England.

Thanks to the initiative of Mr Kenneth Ryall Webb of Reigate Priory Bowmen a determined effort has been made to preserve the old traditions before it is too late.

On Saturday, September 29th, 1951, the first meeting of the British Long Bow Society took place on the grounds of the Royal Toxophilite Society in London. The forty who competed in the meeting will go down to posterity as Founders of this revival of the use of the Long Bow, Everyone competing was required to use a Long Bow made of wood – no composite materials of horn or plastic were allowed. Wooden arrows were also the only type permitted. The old system of two way shooting was re-introduced and I think those who had come into Archery since one way shooting were very surprised to find what a big difference it made when shooting right into the glaring sun which was always our fate at the Royal Tox, since our ground runs East to West, No sighting contraptions were allowed other than a simple pencil mark, or adhesive strip of tape on our bows. And finally the old system of awarding the Championships on Hits instead of Score was re-introduced, this I fear, has already led to some controversy.

Many of us were shooting with old and unmatched arrows-often rather featherless, the fortunates were those who still stick to wooden arrows since they at least had matched tournament ones. For the most part our bows were reasonably good; though often showing signs of having taken advantage of the National Health Service!

The weather was the “devil an’ all” as we shot through a heavy mist all day till the evening when we had to face a fierce setting sun, but there was no wind.

The ladies can claim a small excuse in that they shot a Double National whereas in the old days the ladies shot only a single National in one day. Human nature being what it is, I feel sure that many of the old school must have been saying to themselves, “Now we’ll see whether they are really so much better than we were.”

My own impression is that among the Ladies’ scores the differences was not so very much against us. I have noted that several National Championships were won on smaller scores than Miss Marchant’s and mine, on the other hand the majority were considerably higher. On our side it must be remembered that we were using borrowed tackle and had little or no practice in shooting in a wooden bow-but to be quite fair to our critics Miss Marchant was able to use her own beautifully matched arrows. I am a ‘steel merchant’ so I was rather at sea!

We had both made Nationals of well over 400 during September so our scores with wooden tackle certainly gave us no feeling of pride or satisfaction apart from a great delight in shooting in a wooden bow.

On the Men’s side I think the difference was much greater as of course they had to tackle the severe 100 yards and their bows were hardly adequate for that distance. One gentleman was heard to remark that he felt they should stand in reverent silence to the memory of the great Horace Ford whose record York had never been beaten, under the conditions in which he shot.

I have a feeling that we will all do something about it next year now that this is to be an annual event!!

The men’s event was won by Mr C. B. Edwards, and second to him came major Hayter who is a Woodman of Arden so I need not comment on his tackle! Mr. Edwards is also wedded to the wooden tackle so they came into their own. In the ladies event I had the good fortune to win on Hits, and second to me came Miss Marchant- the margin of hits was only one. The full results are below. Trophies were kindly presented by Mrs. Petty and Mrs. Ingo Simon and Mrs. K. L. Dames.

Our lady Paramount Mrs. Petty graciously presented these trophies and also some medals and prizes which were given by the Society.

At the conclusion a short meeting was held to elect Officers and to form a simple set of regulations- Mr Frank Petty was unanimously elected President and Chairman- Mr Ryall Webb, Secretary and Treasurer, and Commander Drawbridge, R.N. was elected Recorder.

The first meeting of the Society was enjoyed enormously and our every grateful thanks were extended to Mr. and Mrs. Ryall Webb for their brilliant idea in forming the long Bow Society, and for their untiring work on our behalf, and on behalf of the ancient traditions we hold so dear.

First British Long-Bow Society Meeting Results

Albion Mews, London, W.2. 29th September, 1951.

Prize List.

“Dames” Salver and Medal for most hits – Mrs K. L. Dames – 121.

“Ingo Simon” Trophy and Medal for highest score – Miss R. Marchant – 610.

Medal for Most Golds – Mrs Ogle.

Highest morning round – Mrs Langford Lloyd – 53/239/6.

Highest afternoon round – Miss Dobson – 54/256/7.

Best Gold (Lady Paramount’s Prize) – Mrs Ryall Webb.

“Petty” Bowl and Medal for most hits – Mr C. B. Edwards – 100/464/9.

“Ingo Simon” Trophy and Medal for highest score – Major Hayter – 91/351/7.

Medal for Most Golds – Capt. Ingham.

Highest score at 100 yards – Mr F. L. Bilson – 125.

Highest score at 80 and 60 yards – Mr P. R. Bergson – 241.

Best Gold (Lady Paramount’s Prize) – Cdr Drawbridge.

NB. Hits/Score/Golds

Credit:  Image extracted from the British Archer Magazine. Vol. 3. No. 4. Dec/Jan. 1951/52, as part of this original article.