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Home > Books > Badminton > Chapter XVI: Archery of the Past
Chapter XVI
Archery of the Past
Some of its Archers and some of Their Scores
Part 3 of 3


This once well-known archer and attendant at public archery meetings-now, alas! no more--was coeval with Ford almost from the first, who refers to their shooting together in 1851, in his book 'Ford on Archery,' p. 119-and thus. In November 1851 a friendly passage of arms between Messrs. Ford, Bramhall, and Moore resulted in the following score-- the Double York Round of 144 arrows at 100 yards, ninety six at 80 yards, and forty-eight at 60 yards being shot.

Mr. H. Ford, 288 shots, 262 hits, 1,414 score
Mr. Bramhall, ,, 250 ,, 1,244 ,,
Captain Moore, ,, 223 ,, 1,045 ,,

The 100-yard part of the shooting was very good, Mr. Ford getting at this distance 127 hits 617 score; Mr. Bramhall 114 hits 504 score; Captain Moore 100 hits 440 score. This is not, however, one of the most favourable specimens of this last named gentleman's shooting. The following is a better one, obtained in private practice, still the Double York Round-- 288 shots, 252 hits, 1,288 score. I extract from my old notebook (in which I have entered it from, I suppose, either Bramhall's or Ford's own report of it to me) the full scores of their first York Round in this match, and very fine scores they are, as under:--

        100 yards   80 yards    60 yards   Total
Ford      72 63 319   48 46 272   24 24 154  133 745
Bramhall  72 57 243   48 46 236   24 23 149  126 626

Captain Moore entirely ruined his archery by his passion for bell-ringing (the tenor bell quite finishing it), and I have often heard Ford declare that he had been forced to give up cricket (preferring archery when he had to choose between the two).


Mr. Mules, who was, I believe, one of the Tithe Commissioners, took up archery somewhat late in life, and became very fond of it. He must have joined the Toxophilite Society about 1850, and nearly all his shooting took place there. His was the earliest good score on the testified 'York Round' recorded in the books of the Royal Toxophilite Society, and was shot there on August 24, 1858, and thus: h. 50 s. 240, h. 42 s. 232, h. 23 s. 131, h. 115 s. 603, and a good score it is. It has, I think, only once been surpassed there at a match by the under score made by Mr. G. E. S. Fryer (who is still a member of this Society) on August 2, 1872:--

 100 yards      80 yards       60 yards         Total 
 59 h. = 289 s. 44 h = 218 s.  24 h. = 132 s.  127 h.= 639 s.

and by one other score of Mr. Fryer's and one of Mr. Ford's. This score holds the Wilkinson practice medal given to the Royal Toxophilite Society in 1866) and seems likely to hold it, though it is now A.D 1894!

In comparison with his excellent shooting at the Royal Toxophilite Society Mr. Mules's performances at the public meetings were disappointing. He never did himself justice away from the well-known ground of the Archers' Lodge, Regent's Park. Defective vision possibly caused this in some degree, but I always attributed it to this archer's habit of drawing his string by means of the very smallest portion of the tips of the finger-ends that I have ever seen before or since his day. I considered that this weak and critical ' draw ' required for its successful use the quiet and ease of the accustomed ground, and fell to pieces amidst the trials of a great public meeting.


This archer, who, beginning about 1859, continued to shoot in public until 1883, must have been well known to many of my readers. Mr. Sharpe thus describes him in the ' Archer's Register,' 1885, in his sad 'in Memoriam' column:--

He was undoubtedly good-hearted, impulsive, of excitable spirit, and with the quick tongue and manner of that temperament. His breezy manner at the targets and the constant outflow of a sunny disposition are lively in the recollection of hundreds.

I may add that it certainly was constant, for he was not only visible but audible as well, and how he contrived to shoot and talk as he did without removing his pipe from his mouth was a perfect marvel. A yet greater marvel to me and to all was the peculiar style in which he used to shoot; no one, not even he himself, could call it a good one, and most of us used to think that he shot well in spite of and not because of this strange method, though he himself declared that he never could shoot in any other way. Be this as it may, the result must have satisfied him, for he carried off the Archery Championship three times, and on a fourth occasion made the largest score, but lost the medal by points to Mr. Walters, and six times made over 900 on the Double York Round at a public match. Mr. Sharpe goes on to quote some bowman who thus and in the main correctly describes Mr. Rimington's curious style:--

He did not draw up his arrow by three if not four inches from the pile ' [in reality, far more], ' and how he could so take correct aim I cannot make out. l wished him to try a weaker bow and pull his arrows up to the head. He would by doing so have obtained a much more correct aim, and his arrows would have gone much lower and faster, but he would not do so. He used bows of upwards of 60 Ibs.--probably 65 Ibs.--but only got about 50 lbs. out of them.'

As 'style' is always a matter of interest to archers, and the method adopted so successfully by Mr. Rimington appeared to most of us very faulty, I give it as my own opinion that, if he could have been induced to practise one more rational, he would largely have exceeded what he really did attain to. I do not think any other archer has adopted this method, and I hardly think that any will. Let us see what he accomplished with it. His record of public match shooting during his twenty-five years of it is doubtless exceptionally good. He always did better at 80 and 60 than at 100 yards (as was to be expected, I think), and throughout his career his 60-yards shooting was usually about the best on the ground. Confident and loudly cheerful, even in adversity he stoutly declared that his 60 yards would yet pull him through, and, sooth to say, it often did. A score he once made, I believe, still holds the record for 60-yards match shooting in the Royal Toxophilite records, 1872, 144 arrows, 142 hits, 840 score; and a great score it is. He often recalled this achievement with pardonable pride, inasmuch as he dropped only two arrows in his second end, and none in any subsequent portion of this long 60-yards shooting.

I am here induced to add a personal anecdote in connexion with Mr. Rimington on the archery ground, as it again bears on the vexed question of ' nerve.' In 1871 I was shooting at the Crystal Palace Archery Meeting, and shot the 60 yards on the first day for 24-152. In the course of this ' two dozen ' I had made five consecutive golds, and my target was surrounded by many friends, probably many of whom had just paid me the customary shillings for my first three golds, and thought it would be hard to have to pay them again for my next three shots; but no one made himself so audible about it as Mr. Rimington. I resolved, therefore, to make the sixth if I possibly could, and took special pains with it; but, losing nerve, 1 very unwisely fancied that I must have tired my good self-yew bow, 'old Cupid,' 48 lbs., by its previous successes, and so aimed a shade higher, and loosed. We all supposed that three more consecutive golds had been made (which I never remember to have seen done at a public meeting); but on going up to the targets my third arrow was obliged to be called 'a red '--just above the gold, though it was a very nice question which colour it really did belong to. I always blamed my late friend, and his loud voice, for this result !


This remarkable archer and man deserves more notice than I at least can here give to his memory; for he, like all I have noticed or propose to notice, has long since gone over to the majority, and has left little but his archery scores made in public behind him. As his archery career ended, as far as I can ascertain, in the year 1869, when he shot at the G.N.A. Meeting for the last time, I think, in public, few can now remember him. He first appeared at a public archery meeting at the third Grand Leamington and Midland Counties Meeting, June 18 and 19, 1856, In the year 1857 at the G.N.A. Meeting, that year held at Cheltenham, on July I and 2 (when Ford made 245-1,251, the best score ever yet made in public), he assumed the position of ' second to Ford,' which he kept for the rest of the time that that great archer shot in public; and constantly irritated and threatened him with defeat as his powers began to decline, until in 1860 at Bath, July 4 and 5, he succeeded in wresting the Championship medal itself from Mr. Ford's failing grasp with the comparatively moderate score of 188 hits 886 score. This position G. Edwards held in 1861, and in 1862 with 194 hits 902 score, and again in 1863 and 1866; five times in all.

Edwards had, I believe, been in his time a soldier, and certainly was a master of swordsmanship, being especially good with the broadsword. When he first appeared at a G.N.A. Meeting, it was understood that he kept the ' Earl Grey ' public house in Birmingham; but at a National Archery Meeting no candidate for archery honours is excluded whose character and conduct are unexceptionable.Edwards, therefore, soon became a familiar figure on these occasions, and invariably behaved in a grave and modest way. He was an exceptionally powerful man, and though his left hand had been so mangled by the bursting of a gun that it seemed inadequate to the holding of the weakest of bows, he somehow contrived (by the aid of a pad over the lost thumb) to hold, and to hold both long and steadily, very heavy bows made of backed lancewood. I have often shot at his target, and wondered how he did it. He spoke but little, and then to the purpose, in what I deemed a very broad Lancashire dialect; and his shooting at 80 and 60 yards was firmness and accuracy itself, though his style was slow, laboured, and somewhat awkward to look at.

I am indebted to the Rev. W. K. R. Bedford for the following information:--

I saw a good deal of the poor fellow at one time, and had a high regard for him. The manner of our acquaintance was thus. After the G.N.A. Meeting at Leamington in 1852 or 1853, a match was proposed between Cheshire and Warwickshire, and I was requested by Colonel Granville to write to G. Edwards--who had shot that year, but whom none of us knew--to ask him to shoot for Warwickshire. I received a letter from him in reply, in which he said he had a fear lest I should have mistaken his position in life, as he was only a tradesman; but if, after that confession, we still desired him to shoot, he would do so. Granville and I both agreed that the letter showed true gentlemanly feeling, and he did shoot accordingly. Then I asked him to come and shoot with me, and I well remember his first three arrows on my ground were two golds and a red. He was a quaint and clever, though uneducated, man.

I shall draw upon my own recollections for the following story. I well remember Edwards telling me that having once just received twenty-four new arrows, he took them to his ground to try them; that he went to his 60-yard targets, and shot the whole of these arrows consecutively from one and the same end, making twenty-four hits. There is little of the extraordinary in this, but a good deal in what he declared was the fact--that on crossing over he discovered that he had twenty

four hits and twenty-four reds! The story is well known, and was always related as above. I have made many inquiries about it, and, strange as it sounds, may say that an archer now living, who probably knew Edwards better than anyone else, told me with reference to this very story ' that he had never found him untruthful.'

Dean Hole, in his pleasant 'Memories,' p. 10, has an anecdote of Edwards:--

Mr. Edwards, of Birmingham, a successful archer, communicated to me an incident which blended tragedy and comedy in a remarkable degree. He had received a dozen new arrows from Buchanan, and went forth to try these in a paddock adjoining his house. He had made eleven successive hits at 60 yards, and was delighted with his purchase, when a cow which he had not observed slowly approached the target and pushed it down with her horns. 'You will guess what I did,' he continued. ' It was no longer in my power to make a bull's eye, but I touched up the other end of the cow '--

and I think Dean Hole must have touched up the story.

It is generally believed that Mr. Edwards's private practice was far beyond his public shooting. He has been heard to say that, though Mr. Ford had been able to land only seventy-one out of the seventy-two arrows shot at loo yards in the targets (missing his fifty-ninth arrow), he (Mr. Edwards) had put all his seventy-two arrows into the target at the same distance.-- Ford on Archery, Butt, p. 293.

Edwards died about 1870.


Mr. Coulson is another instance of fair success attained with the bow when only taken up for the first time very late in life. He was fifty-one years old when he first began shooting; but he soon took a great liking to archery, and pursued it with the energy and perseverance which so distinguished him in many another sport and pursuit. I knew him well, constantly shot with him, and paid much attention to his singular style; which, like that of most of us, was ' sui generis,' but certainly on a very different pattern from that of most. He held his bow across his body much more than is usual, and his right or drawing hand very much lower. As he adopted a somewhat snatching style of drawing and loosing, never touched brace or arm with the string, and used lovely self-yew bows, his arrows took a very low flight; quite remarkably so for the small weight or power of the bows he used--viz. about 45 lbs., or even less, at all distances. This somewhat bizarre and hazardous style of his is thus commented on by 'Weatherman' (the late J. Sharpe) in the ' Field' of 1863: 'His shooting is remarkable for strength and power, and his arrows for a flight unequalled for strength and beauty.' And so they were; but I have often told Coulson that the moment he became unable to shoot exactly in this way, and with the curious mechanical perfection with which he certainly did perform the difficult task, he would lose his accurate shooting, as, in fact, he not long after did. As a proof how 'l exactly when at his besthe shot arrow after arrow in the same strange way (a distinct snatch back, for some inches after aiming and an instant loose, this being usually found the most trying of all styles with the bow), I well remember three golds he made at one end at 80 yards at a public meeting. They were in the form of a very small triangle surrounding the pin-hole of the gold, from which no one was further off than half an inch!

As Coulson was a powerful man and used such weak bows with so very easy a style, he was enabled, in pursuit of this--so to speak ' hobby ' of his old age, to get through an amount of practice at the targets very rarely surpassed by any archer of any time of life. It certainly must have been a labour (even if a labour of love) to have shot, in 1860, 17,884 arrows; in 1861, 83 York Rounds; in 1862, 95; ill 1863, 113; in 1864, 105, and in 1865 no less than 124 complete York Rounds; and all these his well-kept notebooks assure us that he shot as quoted. He never made very large scores anywhere; I think that his two scores at Leamington-- 1866,832, and 1871,8I5-- are his best public performances, and he only very rarely appears to have exceeded 500 on the York Round in private practice. Coulson thoroughly enjoyed a public archery meeting, and his unfailing good spirits, wit, good nature, and energy went very far to make him popular, and to render the meetings he attended a success.


Mr. Sharpe, 'Archer's Register,' 1883, p. 78, remarks, in his obituary notice of Mr. Gruggen, who died in that year, that he was ' not in the common roll of men on account of his many sterling qualities of mind and heart'--praise which I believe Mr. Gruggen fully deserved. For the purposes of this paper, however, it will suffice to say that he certainly was ' not in the common roll ' of archers either, for he drew his bow and shot his arrows in a way and style which he alone, of all the fellow-craftsmen of the art that I have seen or heard of, ever employed. From some cause Mr. Gruggen was unable to draw the bow by means of the usual so-called ' release ' adopted by European archers, for which he had to substitute the cleverly arranged mechanical device of a smooth steel clip, embracing the nock of his arrow so firmly that, having ' nocked ' his shaft in the usual way, affixed affixed the 'mechanical loose' to its horn or nock (which practice enabled him to effect with great ease and readiness), he proceeded to complete ' the draw ' not at all in the usual way, but by means of a broad double belt of leather attached to the steel clip and passing round the elbow of his right arm, from which it was suspended--a backward movement of the strong right arm, a firm grasp of the bow in the usual position by the left hand, finished the business. Having completed the draw in this strange style, and found his aim, Mr. Gruggen had nothing more to do than to touch a small trigger and open the clip. This effected ' the release,' and away sped the arrow on its way to the target. The author and user of this contrivance (though it enabled him to enjoy shooting a York Round in public or in private with perfect ease, being otherwise incapacitated from all archery) never appeared to me to do much with it. For this result, I do not think the above mentioned clever mechanical contrivance could be blamed. I never tried it myself, but I well recollect seeing the late Mr. Betham (at the end of a day's shooting) borrow Mr. Gruggen's 'mechanical loose,' and try it himself. I also remember that he made a gold at his first attempt, and said it was delightfully easy and effective. This he might well just then have thought (wisely leaving off); for the loose, which contrivances of this kind render nearly perfect, is probably the greatest of the many difficulties to be overcome by the successful archer. I am not aware that Mr. Gruggen ever won a prize at the many G.N.A. Meetings at which I have seen him thus shooting in high good spirits and with cheerful pleasure; it was, however, decided at the Richmond Meeting of the G.N.A.S. that he would be eligible to receive one.


On leaving school, Muir was set to learn his father's business as a 'wright,' but the part of it to which he took most kindly was the making of bows and arrows. In this latter department he attained a proficiency which has never been surpassed and seldom equalled in modern times. His reputation soon travelled far beyond his native village, and in 1829 he was appointed bowmaker to the Royal Company of Archers, an office which he filled with credit to himself and the Company till 1877. As a bowmaker, Mr. Muir (his arrows being remarkably good) was known wherever archery was established, and he was also an archer of no mean ability. His well known handsome face and figure, and white buckskin shooting gloves, were seen at many a Southern Public Archery Meeting, as well as with the Edinburgh Salisbury Archers, and few archers have been more respected and better liked than he. In archery he probably and naturally (from his connexion with the Royal Company of Archers) excelled most at the long ranges, and I think his best arrows have never been surpassed. He died in 1886.

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