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Home > Books > Badminton > Chapter XI: The Grand National and other Public Meetings
Chapter XI
The Grand National and other Public Meetings
By Colonel Walrond
Part 3 of 3

The Leamington Meeting is the first to take place each year, and is popular as a 'preliminary canter' for the others, the ground being good, though it is not liked by some archers on account of there being a fall on one side of it; but most of the best shots are constant attendants here. Some good totals have been made at Leamington, Mr. H. A. Ford having on six occasions scored over a thousand, and twice very near it (998 and 995). Mr. Edwards made 962 in 1859, and Mr. O. K. Prescot 924 in 1867. In 1885 the Championship of the Midland Counties was instituted, and three fine scores were made for it by Major Hawkins Fisher of 918,926 and 982, in 1885, 1886 and 1887, the best recent score being 942, made by Mr. C. E. Nesham in 1890. The ladies also have distinguished themselves at this meeting; Mrs. Horniblow making 706, 719 and 769, in 1863, 1868 and 1871; F Miss Betham 735, 701 and 743, in 1864, 1866 and 1867; Mrs. XV. Butt 785, 730 and 707, in 1870, 1876 and 1877 ; Mrs. Piers Legh, after several scores of over 700, making in 1885 the highest total yet reached by any lady, of 864, from 142 hits. Miss Legh also made 817 in 1888, and Mrs. C. Bowly 768, 764 and 755 in 1891, 1892 and 1893.

THE CRYSTAL PALACE ARCHERY MEETING

This was the second meeting established as an offshoot of the Grand National, and owes its existence to the efforts of the late Mr. T. Aldred, who in 1858 persuaded the Directors of the Crystal Palace Company to hold an archery meeting the following year on their cricket-ground. Finding that sufficient support could be obtained, they engaged the services of Mr. N. Merridew as manager, and a successful meeting resulted, as it proved not only popular among archers, but also with the public, who came down in train-loads to see the shooting. Three more meetings followed under the same management, Mr. T. Aldred acting as hon. secretary. Though maintaining its popularity among archers, the interest of the public fell off, and consequently, on the Grand National being appointed to take place at Alexandra Park in 1864, the directors were inclined to drop the meeting, but by the exertions of Miss H. Chetwynd they were led to reconsider their determination, and the meeting took place, with J. Chetwynd, Esq., as hon. manager, he being ably assisted by the above-named lady, who pluckily herself undertook the management of the meeting the next year.

In 1866 doubts again arose as to holding the meeting (Miss H. Chetwynd having resigned in consequence of her marriage), and it was put, as it were, in commission, Mr. Peeters, the bowmaker, taking the principal part in promoting it. From 1867 to 1871 Mr. R. Butt was hon. secretary, and he was succeeded by Captain (afterwards Colonel) Lewin, R.E., who resigned after holding office two years. In 1874 Mr. Chenery undertook the duties, but difficulties again arose with the directors on pecuniary grounds and the meeting of 1877 would have fallen through had he not himself guaranteed the requisite number of entries. Mr. W. Butt relieved Mr. Chenery in 1878 on that gentleman's leaving Anerley, and was in turn succeeded by Colonel Lewin in 1880, who, after three years, gave up the management to Mr. C. E. Nesham, who has successfully carried on the meetings ever since.

The Crystal Palace has always been one of the most popular meetings; the goodness of the ground, its general surroundings and easy access from London, must all contribute to its success, and it has been fortunate in being uniformly well rmanaged. Though good scores have been made at the meeting of over 700, by Mrs. Villiers Forbes (752), Mrs. W. Butt (722), Mrs. P. Pinckney (729), Mrs. Horniblow (7190, Mrs. Pond (700), Miss I. Carter (714), Mrs. Marshall (744), Mrs. Piers Legh (736), Mrs. J. F. Stilwell (733), Mrs. C. Bowly (786 and 822), Mrs. Yates Foot (752) and Miss Legh, who holds the record with 862, yet most of these ladies have done better (except the last named) elsewhere. Messrs. H. A. Ford, E. A. Holmes, W. Rimington, Perry Keene and Major Fisher have all exceeded 900, but the only gentlemen who have reached 1,000 at these meetings are Mr. H. H. Palairet, who scored 1,025 in 1882 with 221 hits, and Mr. F. A. Govett, who had 214 hits for 1,004 in 1893.

THE GRAND WESTERN ARCHERY SOCIETY

Meetings of the archers of Devon and Cornwall were held at Bitton House, Teignmouth--the seat of Serjeant Praed-- from 1852 to 1857. These meetings were most liberally supported by Serjeant Praed, but on this gentleman's death in 1858 they ceased ; and though the question of reviving them or holding them elsewhere was several times mooted, no one was found energetic enough to carry the matter through. The desire of having a meeting was, however, widespread among the archers of the West, and culminated at last in the archers present at a prize day of the Culm Vale Archery Society on July 25, 1860, passing the following resolution: ' That an annual meeting of archers being members of some society of archers in one of the five counties of Wilts, Dorset, Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall, be held at some town in one of those counties . . . and further, that such meeting be called " The Grand Western Archery Meeting." '

The Rev. J. C. Pigot (one of the honorary secretaries of the G.N.A.M.) acted as honorary secretary pro tem., and circulars were sent out and meetings held, the result being that the first meeting was held at Taunton on August 7 and 8, 1861, the Revs. J. C. Pigot and F. Warre, and T. Dawson, Esq. acting as joint honorary secretaries. The real working secretary seems to have been the latter gentleman, though he did not become sole honorary secretary till 1864; and to him belongs the credit of the great success of the first five meetings. l he meeting at Taunton was conducted on a very ambitious scale: challenge prizes were subscribed for, badges given to the winners of prizes, and numerous local prizes obtained; and this being continued at the two next meetings held at Salisbury and Weymouth, increased the popularity of the meetings to such an extent that the committee of the G.N.A.S. grew alarmed, and began to look on the Grand Western more as a rival than as an auxiliary. In 1864 it was modestly suggested by the G.N.A.S. that the championships should be abolished, the badges no longer given, and that the meetings should cease to be peripatetic. As none of these points were conceded, Messrs. Caldecott, Ford, Hare, Luard, and Peckitt retired from the Committee. To quote the 'Ingoldsby Legends ':--

Never was heard such a terrible curse!
      But what gave rise To no little surprise,
Nobody seem'd one penny the worse!

and the meeting of 1864 at Exeter was larger than ever. No meeting took place in 1865, as the Grand National was at Clifton, but a large meeting was held at Weymouth the next year. This was the last meeting at which Mr. T. Dawson acted as honorary secretary. No steps were taken to hold a meeting in 1867; but a committee meeting was called in the autumn, at which it was proposed to abandon the meetings, and let the challenge prizes be shot for by their respective winners in 1868, when they should become the actual property of the winners. No date was, however, fixed for this competition, the only two gentlemen who had won the challenge claret jug, Mr. H. B. Hare and Mr. Walrond, having expressed their intention of not consenting to this disposal of the prize. At the prize day of the South Devon Archery Club on July 7, 1868, at which both Mr. Hare and Mr. Walrond were present, a very general opinion was expressed that the Grand Western should be revived; and the latter gentleman agreed to d what he could to effect this. A good deal of correspondence ensued, but all difficulties were finally overcome; and at a meeting held at Taunton Mr. Walrond was appointed honorary secretary, which post he has filled ever since.

121. Grand Western Archery Meeting, Teignmouth, 1871
121. Grand Western Archery Meeting, Teignmouth, 1871

The first meeting after the 'revival' took place at Teignmouth in 1868, the grounds of Bitton being lent by Mr. Parson for the purpose, with a more modest programme than had been customary, the badges so much objected to by the Grand National, whether rightly or wrongly, being abandoned. Four meetings were held at Teignmouth; and at Sherborne in 1872 it was determined to form the 'Grand Western Archery Society,' which was started the following January, and has materially assisted the meetings which have since been held at Salisbury, Exeter, Bath, Weymouth, Taunton, Exmouth, Seaton, &c. At Sherborne in 1893 a handsome silver tea and coffee service was presented to the honorary secretary in remembrance of his twenty-five years of office.

Many fine scores have been made at these meetings. In 1879 Mrs. W. Butt made 744 and Mrs. Piers Legh 700, and Miss I.egh's score in 1881 of I44 hits 840 score, though not the highest score made, is probably the best shooting that has ever been done, certainly if all three days are taken into account, as she only missed one arrow altogether at the meeting, scoring 341 with 71 hits on the handicap day. Major Fisher's 225 hits 1,033 score in 1870 and 218, 1,060 in 1872 (the 'record' since Ford's time) were both very notable performances, and it was many years before anyone could share with him the honour of having made a thousand in public since the days of Ford. In 1875 Mr. W. Rimington scored 926, and in 1881 Mr. H. H. Palairet and Mr. C. H. Everett 982 and 907 respectively, the latter gentleman, however, having 215 hits to his opponent's 202. Mr. C. E. Nesham's score of 1,022 at the joint meeting of 1886 has already been noted.

THE GRAND NORTHERN MEETING

In 1879 the archers of the Northern Counties awoke to the fact that they were not so well cared for as regards public meetings as other parts of England. Possibly some enterprising archer, having wandered westward, had brought back a glowing account of a Grand Western Meeting visited by him under more genial skies than his own, and on his return expatiated on the delights of which he had partaken. However this may be, the expediency of having a meeting of their own was canvassed, and in September, 1879) Mr. J. Foster, jun., wrote a letter to the ' Field ' suggesting that one should be started for the North on the lines of the Grand Western. The idea took, and a month later Mr. Foster again wrote to the ' Field ' saying he had received so many promises of support that he felt justified in calling a meeting of archers at the Leeds Archers' Hall on October 30, to consider whether a grand Northern Archery Meeting should be established, and if so to form a committee. The meeting was well attended, and a resolution was passed 'that an archery meeting to be called the Grand Northern Archery Meeting, for the six Northern Counties, and the counties of Chester, Derby, Nottingham, and Lincoln, shall be held in one of the said counties, and that a committee and secretary be appointed to make the necessary arrangements.' A strong committee was appointed, Mr. J. Foster being the first secretary; and the next year the first meeting was held on the Gentlemen's Cricket Ground at York, a large entry of shooters being secured, both of Northern and other archers. Mr. J. Foster was secretary for the three next meetings held at Liverpool, Harrogate, and Derby the last two of which were distinguished by the inclemency of the weather, no scores of any consequence being made at any of them. From 1884 to 1887 I.ieut.-Colonel Ainsworth and Mr. Gregson acted as joint honorary secretaries, since which time Major Stokes has filled the office. The meeting of 1886 at Lincoln was a very stormy one, and on the first day such was the violence of the wind that the ladies' tent was blown down bodily. In spite of this, however, what, considering the weather, may be called a phenomenal score was made by Mr. C. J. Perry Keene of 1,499 on the three days, 969 being the total of the first two days. On two occasions Mr. C. E. Nesham has scored 900 and upwards (964 in 1884 and 902 in 1890), and Mr. F. L. Govett made 903 in 1891, but otherwise the gentlemen's scores have not been high. Among the ladies Mrs. Eyre Hussey and Miss Legh alone have reached 700, the former lady scoring 709 in 1887, and the latter 720 in 1887 and 754 in 1892.

There have been other public archery meetings held at Holland Park, Aston Park, Brighton, and elsewhere; but they ceased to exist after the first year or two, and nothing of special interest occurred at any of them.

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