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Archery in Manchester
in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.
Part 4 of 4

And it is recorded that this order was executed. But in 1634 it is noted that the butts are in great decay; their repair was ordered and the order carried out. Again, in April, 1648, the erection of butts was ordered; in October the constable was fined for not erecting them, and the order was renewed. A similar default is reported in May, 1650, and the order is renewed in October, 1650, and again in April, 1651. In April, 1652, the butts belonging to the town are ordered to be repaired within a month. A similar order was made in April and again in October, 1653; October, 1654; May and October, 1655; April, 1656; October, 1657; April, 1658; April, 1659; and again in April, 1660. Against the last entry there is an emphatic memorandum that it was done. The same remark is appended to the order on October 9th of the same year. The orders as to the butts, sometimes coupled with the cuckstool, are repeated in October, 1661, and in April and October, 1662. From the entry in April, 1663, we learn that the butts were then placed in Garret Lane. The order is renewed in October, 1663; October, 1664; and in April and October, 1665. The entry in October, 1670, is annotated with the remark factum est. The order appears again in April, 1672, and October, 1675. In April, 1679, it is noted that the butts in Garret Lane are in decay, and the customary order for their repair is made and is repeated in April, 1681, and April and October, 1683. In April, 1684, the jury viewed the butts at Garret Lane, found them much out of repair, and ordered them to be made good by May 10th under a penalty of forty shillings. In the entry of October 7th, the location of the butts is mentioned as " Opert Lane," and this description appears again in October, 1685. At Easter, 1686, it is found that Alport is not suitable, and the butts are ordered to be erected in Garret Lane, "the accustomed place." But in October, 1686, the butts in Alport Lane are ordered to be repaired. This is the last entry respecting the Manchester butts that appears in the Court Lett Records. It is possible that some of the later entries may, as Mr. Earwaker has suggested, refer to shooting with guns rather than with bows and arrows, but there is no evidence of this. The law, requiring citizens to exercise themselves in archery, was not repealed until the reign of Victoria.

These entries have been thought to suggest that there was considerable difficulty in enforcing it. Still, the fact remains that almost every year for a long period in the seventeenth century the local authorities paid for the maintenance of two places, one in Alport Lane, and the other in Garret Lane, where the citizens could pursue their statutory recreation of archery. What they paid we will now see. From the Constables' Accountswe learn that on April 20th, 1614, William Worrall, of Broughton, was paid 17s. 8d. for making one pair of butts, "with clods, thornes, and workmanship."

On June 24th, 1618, Edward Ellor and Robert Ogden were paid 7s. for making a pair of butts and for repairing of an old pair in Alport Lane. We may perhaps infer that the Manchester of these days was a peaceable place, for the next entry records the fact that 3s. 6d. was paid to two men "for walking through the town two days at Whitsuntide because we had no beadle, that no hurt might be done by dangerous rogues." In December of the same year Hugh Kenyon and William Bell received 4s. for four days' work to make the butts in Alport Lane and 10s. 8d. was paid for some loads of clods and the "leading" of them, and 2s. for "getting" them. These were apparently for the butts. In the following year Hugh Kenyon received 19s. for making the butts. In 1621, 16s. was paid for the butts in Alport Lane. In May, 1624, Hugh Kenyon had 13s. for making the butts. In 1626, he had 12s. for "making shooting butts which stand at Hunt's Bank," and 10s. in the following year. There was another payment in 1627, and in 1628 Hugh Kenyon and John Wright had 11s. for making a large pair of butts in Alport Lane, and in May, 1629, Kenyon was paid a further 11s., and the same sum in 1630. In 1633, 8s. 6d. was paid to John Wright for the Alport Lane butts. In 1634 only 7s. 8d. was paid for two pairs of butts, and in the following year 6s. 6d. In May, 1637, the butts in Garret Lane cost 7s., and in 1638, 8s. The same expense was incurred in the following year. In 1640 the payment was 7s. In 1641 the Garret Lane butts were repaired at a cost of 4s. In 1642 the payment to John Wright was 7s. In 1647 the Alport butts cost 6s. The last payment recorded was in 1663, when Richard Platt received 5s. 4d. for "making up the Garret Butts."

When archery ceased to be a military exercise it became, for a time, a fashionable and even a popular sport. But "that is another story"— which sometime I may try to lay before the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society. For the present, we must content ourselves with this small contribution to the passing of the archer with his bow and arrows. It is remarkable that so shrewd and practical a man as Benjamin Franklin seriously regretted the disuse of bows and arrows, and wished that, with pikes, they might be introduced into the American Revolutionary Army. "These were good weapons," he said, "not wisely laid aside." Such regrets are vain. For in what is styled " civilised" warfare archery is obsolete. Bows and arrows are dead and beyond all hope of recovery.