Part 1 of 2
In most branches of sport the second half of the nineteenth century has witnessed a very remarkable increase of skill among its devotees. In some cases this is due to the fact that where one took part in a sport or pastime hefty years ago, ten do so now. Among such a multitude of competitors, it is natural that the number of really excellent performers should increase, and that records should continually be broken. Another cause of the present high level of achievement is the fact that the weapons and implements of sport have been much improved lately.
The feats recorded, for example, in the volumes of this Library devoted to gun shooting would not have been possible, even for the great Colonel Hawker, in the old times, seventy years ago, when he pursued the partridges in the long stubbles armed with his flint-gun, or even when he first acquired the newly invented `detonator.' A third cause remains to be mentioned which, perhaps, has been more powerful than either of the other two, and that is, the greater degree of earnestness and thoroughness which has been brought to bear on sport in modern than in olden times. It is no longer thought that, because a pursuit is only a recreation for leisure moments, it is therefore right to go about it in a half-hearted manner, as if success or failure were indifferent, or as if it were rather discreditable than otherwise to excel at a mere amusement. We have nowadays found out that there is no exception to the rule that what is worth doing is worth doing well, and we have undoubtedly arrived at the conclusion that sport comes under the head of things worth doing.
In no sport has this improvement been more marked than in archery, though in this case the number of those who practise it is smaller than it was forty or fifty years ago. Had archers increased in the marvellous degree that golfers have of late years, it is probable that the average of shooting would be higher than it is, and it is possible that even he records, high as they stand, would have been raised. Our tackle --especially in the matter of arrows-has undoubtedly improved, though not so much as is the case in many other sports, and it is certainly true that we apply more science and devote more thought and energy to our craft than our forefathers did. This last result is almost wholly due to one man-the late Mr. Horace Ford. It would be absurdly understating the merits of this wonderful archer to say that he occupied the position in archery that Mr. W. G. Grace has done for twenty years in the cricketfield. Mr. Ford not only made scores which far outstripped those of his contemporaries, and established records which have never been beaten or even approached to this day, but he practically created modern archery. Before his day, though shooting with the how was one of the most popular pastimes, yet the results achieved were so contemptible that one wonders how grown men and women could have continued to indulge in an exercise in which the failure of even the most successful among them was so lamentable and so complete. By what means Ford effected this revolution can be learnt in other parts of this book; here we have merely to note the fact.
In comparing the scores made at the present day with those recorded at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century, certain difficulties meet us at the threshold. In such a slovenly way was the business conducted in those days, when for popularity and fashion archery was at its height, that even in the books of the Royal Toxophilite Society the distances at which the arrows were shot are not always mentioned, and at times it is impossible to ascertain ow- many arrows were shot. The matter is further complicated by the system, which prevailed up to 1794,, of recording merely the. number of hits and their gross value in money, a gold being, reckoned as half a crown, a red two shillings, an inner white. eíghteenpence, a black a shilling, and an outer white sixpence. These values, which are in the ratio of 5, 4, 3, 2, 1-whereas the colours are now scored 9, 7, 5, 3, 1 - were on match days paid to each shooter out of the Society's funds. Had Horace Ford lived in those days, the Society would have come to a premature end from want of funds. These peculiarities render the inquirer's task difficult, but there are more to come. Instead of using targets of the same diameter, at all. ranges, as is now the custom, targets were used of a diameter of four feet at 100 yards, three feet at 8o yards, and two feet at 6o yards; while in a match which took place on August 19, 1794, it is stated that, 'owing to a mistake,' the targets were in fact four feet, two feet seven inches, and one foot nine inches. This finally puts a stop to any close comparison of scores at the two shorter ranges, as, of course, the size of all the rings. in the smaller targets would be less than on a four-foot target. In spite of these difficulties, however, it is possible to reckon up fairly well the abilities of the archers of a hundred years ago.
As an example of the scoring of this period, we may take the annual or summer target of the Toxophilite Society, which. was shot on June 9, 1794. It is recorded as follows:--
At this meeting, several of the foremost archers of the day were shooting, such as Messrs. Palmer, Troward, Waring, Glen, and Crunden.
The distances shot are not mentioned, but probably an equal number of arrows were shot either at 120, 80, 60, and 30 yards, or at 100, 80, and 60. The latter ranges were introduced in 1792, by H.R.H. George, Prince of Wales, and were know-n as the 'Prince's lengths.' As the scoring on this occasion was in money, and not by the 'Prince's reckoning' of 9, 7, 5, 3, 1, for the five colours, there is a probability that the old lengths were also used. Whichever round was shot, and, allowing for the fact that the target at the shorter ranges was less than four feet in diameter, the shooting was uncommonly bad. No archer put half his arrows into the target, the one who approached that not very great performance most nearly being Mr. Palmer, who put in 104 arrows out of 228. Next to him came Mr. Glen, with 98 hits out of 228; while more than half of the archers present missed more than three-fourths of their arrows.
Roberts mentions with very high praise the name of Mr. Anderson, 'whose excellence in archery has (both in this country, and in Flanders) been a subject of admiration.' This gentleman was not a member of the Toxophilite Society, and shot there but rarely as a visitor. Ford gives two of his scores made at 100 yards as follows:--
192 shots, 37 hits, 137 score 216 " 46 " 182 "
A third score of this gentleman's is given in the 'History of the Royal Toxophilite Society,' made on July 9, 1795, when he made 66 hits, but the range and number of arrows shot are not mentioned. Mr. Anderson's score for 216 arrows at 100 yards may he profitably compared with Mr. Everett's score for the same number of arrows at the same range made on September 29, 1880, on the occasion of the Annual Handicap of the West Bcrks Archers, when he made 155 hits and scored 633. On this occasion twelve archers completed the 216 arrows, of whom one only made less than Mr. Anderson's 46 hits and 182 score.
In the 'History of the Royal Toxophilite Society' (p. 60) is given a list of the winners of the Prince's Bugle, which was shot for annually from 1792 to 1801. Two scores stand out. as being far better than any others recorded, viz.:
An equal number of arrows was shot at 100, 80, and 60 yards respectively, the colours were valued at 9, 7, 5, 3, 1, and the targets were four feet, three feet, and two feet in diameter at the three ranges. Allowing for the size of the targets, the results, when measured against modern shooting, appear ta be of the most paltry character, though Mr. Waring, in his 'Treatise on Archery, calls Mr. Brady's performance 'undoubtedly very great shooting.' In fact, at this period, when archery was much in voguc, it was the rarest possible thing for an archer to put half his arrows into the target, and Ford states that he had 'seen a letter as late as 1845, from good old Mr. Roberts, who was well acquainted with the powers of all the hest archers of the preceding half-century, in which he states "he never knew but one man that could accomplish it."
Unfortunately, the records of the Toxophilite Society between 1804 and 1836 are lost, but the shooting does not appear to have improved in the interval. In 1836 the Crunden Cup and Bugle were won by Mr. Peters with 29 hits, 81 score. This is the lowest score which has ever taken this cup, which is competed for on a round of 144 arrows at 100 yards. The list of winners and their scores is complete from 1836 to the present time, and it is printed here, as giving a fair idea of the shooting of members of this Society at 100 yards for a period of nearly sixty years. The day is always fixed early in the season, before archers are in full practice, so that it docs not usually represent the best form of the year at 100 yards; but, as this practice has been followed from the commencement, the comparison of the shooting at different periods is a fair one It will be noticed that the name of Mr. Horace Ford only occurs once, and on this occasion he was not competing for the prize, although he made the highest score. This is due to the fact that Mr. Ford seldom shot at the grounds of the Royal Toxophilite Society, although he was a member from 1850 to 1857 :--
LIST OF WINNERS OF THE CRUNDEN BUGLE, SHOT FOR ANNUALLY BY MEMBERS OF THE ROYAL TOXOPHILITE SOCIETY, AND THEIR SCORES.
144 Arrows at 100 Yards
 Mr. H. A. Ford made 88 hits 372 score, but was not competing for the Cup.
The Crunden is won by the archer who makes the greatest number of hits on the appointed round, Sir H. Martin's Medal being allotted to the maker of the highest score; but the two prizes cannot be taken by the same member. Consequently, the above list gives the greatest number of hits made on each occasion; but where the maker of the greatest number of hits did not also obtain the highest score, which occasionally occurred, the actual highest score is not recorded here.
The first good score made on the Crunden day was Mr. Ford's, in 1854, his total being 88-372. This was considerably more than double any score previously made on this occasion, and it was in this year that Mr. Ford reached the first 1,000 in public on the Double York Round. Though his name does not occur again in the Crunden competition, his influence made itself felt, Mr. Mules being his most successful follower at that time at the Toxophilite Society. Previous to 1854, 200 had never been scored on the Crunden Cup day, but in the thirty-nine years from then to 1893 on only five occasions has the Cup been won with a score of less than 200, while fourteen times the winner's score has exceeded 300, and three times it has exceeded 400. The three occasions on which a score exceeding 400 was made were all in the last eleven years, during which time on only two occasions did the winner's score fall below 300.
An example of shooting at 100 yards by other clubs than the Toxophilite, in the year 1835, is to be found in a letter from Mr. T. Hogan Smith to Mr. W. Peters, which is in the possession of the Royal Toxophilite Society. On this occasion three only out of the nineteen shooters are put down as being Toxophilites. The score is given as follows:--
HANDICAP PLATE, BENHAM PARK, OCTOBER 6, 1835
Little need be said about the shooting on this occasion. Although representatives of so many well-known clubs competed, no archer succeeded in putting half his arrows into the target, and only one put in more than one-third.
The influence of Mr. Horace Ford is shown more directly in the records of the Grand National Archery Society. At the championship meeting, held annually since 1844, the Double York Round has been shot on every occasion except the first, when the single round only was shot. At the first five meetings of the G. N. A. S. the scores were very poor, although the number of gentlemen shooting was large. In 1849, at Derby, Mr. Ford won the championship for the first time with 176 hits and 702 score. Mr. A. P. Moore had the highest score--viz. 173 hits and 747 score--but Mr. Ford beat him on the points. This is the first time that 700 was exceeded at a public meeting on the Double York Round, and this meeting therefore records a notable step in advance. The next year at Edinburgh Mr. Ford carried the record a long step further, as he won the championship with 193 hits 899 score. In 1853, at Leamington, he passed 900 on the Double York Round, scoring on this occasion 202 hits for 934 score. The following year, at Shrewsbury, he scored the first 1,000 in the annals of the G.N.A.S. with 234 hits and 1,074 score, and in 1857, at Cheltenham, he made the magnificent score of 245 hits and 1,251 score, which has never been approached since.
During the eleven consecutive years that Mr. Ford held the championship, no other archer approached the score of 1,000 on the Double York Round, the highest point reached by any of his opponents being in 1858, when Mr. Edwards was second with 186 hits 864 score. This archer was second on several occasions to Mr. Ford, and finally effected his overthrow in 1859 at Leamington, when he took the championship with 216 hits 962 score, Mr. Ford being second with 200 hits 922 score. Mr. Edwards was not the only archer who, inspired by Mr. Ford's example and profiting by his methods, succeeded in making scores which would have been thought wonderful in the early days of the G. N. A. S. Mr. A. P. Moore, Mr. K. T. Heath, Mr. Bramhall, Mr. W. J. W. Baynes, Mr. P. Muir, Mr. Mules, Mr. Walters, and Mr. J. T. George, all exceeded 700 at the G. N. A. meetings during the years of Mr. Ford's championship.
It is the case with most archers that their private practice. shows results considerably in excess of anything that they are able to attain amidst the fatigue and excitement of a prolonged contest in public. Mr. Ford's nerve was probably as good as that of any archer who ever faced a target, but he was no exception to the rule. Some details of Mr. Ford's private practice will be found in Chapter XVI., but his score of 809 from 137 hits on the Single York Round may be mentioned here as being the finest ever made by any archer of whose performances records exist.
It is somewhat remarkable that Mr. Ford's friends, Mr. Bramhall and Captain A. P. Moore, both made some wonderful scores in practice, their best being 125 hits 675 score by Mr. Bramhall and 133 hits 691 score by Captain Moore. The highest score on the York Round made by any living archer is 127 hits 639 score, made by Mr. G. E. S. Fryer on June 3, 1873, though this has been approached very closely by Mr. C. E. Nesham, Mr. O. K. Prescott, Mr. F. L. Govett, Mr. F. A. Govett, Mr. L. R. Erskine, Mr. C. J. Perry Keene, and possibly other archers in practice. But, though Mr. Bramhall and Captain Moore, drawing their inspiration direct from the great archer, were able in private to make these startling scores, they never succeeded in shooting nearly up to this level in a public match. In fact, neither of them was ever able to exceed 800 at a public meeting--a feat which has been performed by nearly a score of archers now shooting.
At no time during the century with which we are now concerned has the general level of shooting been so high as it is at present, and at no previous time have there been two or three archers who could show scores approaching those which are commonly made now by a number of the leading shots.