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Home > Books > Book of archery > Section VII: Societies of Modern Archers
Section VII
Societies of Modern Archers
Part 3 of 6

Thus much for Turkish archery: and quitting Constantinople, we will once more transport ourselves to the Regent's Park, where, in the pleasantest portion of one of the most delightful suburban scenes ever created by the taste and industry of man, the Royal Toxophilite Society have established their present quarters. The ground, on account of the plantations, is not visible from the road, except on the days of meeting, when the targets, glittering with crimson and gold, are just discernible through the masses of foliage that encircle the spot. Three pairs of earthen butts, surmounted according to ancient usage, with urns of the same material, are ranged on its green closely shaven turf, at the usual distances. An elegant iron railing and gravelled path encloses the whole area, which, except in the space between the targets, is tastefully dotted with clumps of trees and flowering shrubs. The remainder forms a beautiful parterre, embellished with a profusion of flowers; and the whole management reflects much credit on the taste of the Hon. D. Finch, the secretary, under whose direction it was planned, and whose judgment in ornamental gardening appears no way inferior to his skill as an archer.

The banquetting-hall, where the Toxophilites dine, is erected in the genuine old English style of architecture, thus harmonising with an amusement all whose associations are connected with the fashions of a by-gone age.

The interior is fitted up with elegant simplicity. In the centre of the apartment stands a range of oak dining tables, sufficient to accommodate the members on their occasional festivals. To the left on entering, is a lofty antique chimney-piece of oak, with a dial in the centre. The windows, opening on a broad veranda, which encircles the whole edifice, are of richly stained glass, proudly decorated with the heraldic bearings of its founder; his Majesty, the patron; and the Earl of Aylesford, president. They bear in addition the following inscriptions:--

First Window.
TOXOPHILITE SOCIETY. Sir ASHTON LEVER,
A.D. 1781. KNIGHT,
FOUNDER.
Second Window.
HIS MAJESTY WILLIAM IV.
PATRON
Third Window.
EARL of AYLESFORD,
PRESIDENT.

Massive shields of carved oak, emblazoned with devices emblematical of archery, adorn the ceilings of this interesting apartment; and around its walls are placed a range of Aschams[26], ornamented with crest and coronet, as well as the colours and pattern of each archer's arrow-mark. The badge and painting already described, with a portrait of the elder Mr. Waring, are also preserved at the banquetting-hall.

The Toxophilite Society possesses many valuable prizes[27], of which the Queen will annually present one. In 1795, Mr. Palmer, a member, bestowed an elegant silver gilt arrow, on condition that it should be shot for during four successive years. At the expiration of that period, his crest and cipher were engraved on it, and the four archers who had been already successful, again contested its final possession.

The Toxophilite costume, in Sir Ashton Lever's time, was a single-breasted coat, of grass green, with an arrow engraved on the buttons; buff kerseymere waistcoat and small clothes; Hessian boots, hat turned up on the right side, with black feather; belt, bracer, and shooting-glove.

We will now bid them farewell, and transport ourselves to the sunny greensward of Meriden Heath, where

style="margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto"All clad in Lincoln green,

beneath their trysting tree, our presence is anxiously awaited by--

THE WOODMEN OF THE FOREST OF ARDEN.

Oliver. Where will the old Duke live?
Charles. They say he is already in the FOREST OF ARDEN and a many merry men with him; and there they live like the old Robin Hood of England; and fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world.[28]

We are warriors gallant and true,
But our triumphs are not stained with tears;
For our only war cry is the huntsman's halloo,
And the blood that we shed is the deer's:
    And the green wood tree
    Is our armoury,
And of broad oak leaves our garlands be.

We sleep not the sun's light away,
Nor shame with our revels the moon;
But we chase the fleet deer at the break of day,
And we feast on his haunches at noon;
    While the green wood tree
    Waves over us free,
And of broad oak leaves our garlands be.

We drink not the blood-red wine,
But our nut-brown ale is good.
For the song and the dance of the great we ne'er prize;
While the rough wind, our chorister rude,
    Through the green wood tree
    Whistles jollily,
And the broad oak leaves dance to our minstrelsy.

To the forest then, merry men all;
Our triumphs are ne'er stained with tears;
For our only war cry is the huntsman's call,
And the blood that we shed is the deer's;
    And the green wood tree
    Is our armoury,
And of broad oak leaves our garlands be.[29]

It was not lawless "minions of the moon," as Falstaff termed his rogueish associates, who resorted to these places of sylvan rendezvous for the distribution of their booty; archers, as well as lovers, had their places of assignation beneath the forest bough. Rangers and woodsmen of the royal hunting grounds also pitched upon a conspicuous oak, growing in some central situation, as a kind of head-quarters. Thither each forester, after his evening perambulation, bent his steps; there he sat down to await his comrades' arrival, and discuss the events which had occurred in reference to their guardianship " of the green hue and hunting." An old comedy, called "The Merry Devil of Edmonton," contains this brief but very pleasant allusion to the foresters' trysting tree:--

Enter BRIAN and his man, with a hound.

Brian. Ralph, heard'st thou any stirring?
Ralph.I heard one speak here hard bye, in the bottom. Peace, Master I speake lowe; nownes if I didn't hear a bow go off, and the buck bray, I never heard deer in my life.
Brian. When went your fellowes to their walkes?
Ralph. An hour agoe.
Brian. Life I are there stealers abroad, and we cannot have them? Where the devil are my men to night? Sirrah, goe up the wind[30] toward Buckley's lodge. I'll cast about the bottom with my hounde, and then meet thee under Coney's Oak.

This ancient forest of Arden once covered nearly the whole of Warwickshire, Worcestershire, and the neighbouring county of Stafford. Thus Drayton:--

Muse, first of Arden tell, whose footsteps yet are found
In her[31] rough woodlands more than any other ground
That mighty Arden held, even in her height of pride;
Her one hand touching Trent, the other Severn's side.

The Woodmen assemble within a few miles of Coventry; and exercising a nominal, as their predecessors did a real, authority over vert and venison, their officers receive appropriate designations. Of these, the lord warden is chief. They have likewise master-foresters, verderers[32], and most probably a bowbearer, whose name indicates his duties, and who, in some districts, anciently ranked next to the lord warden, he being the monarch's most favoured attendant during his hunting parades. In the first lieutenant's absence, likewise, his oath of office obliged him to attach every one found trespassing on the timber or the deer, often styled in sylvan parlance, "the green hue and hunting."

George III. was the last of our monarchs who required the performance of this ancient service. When he visited Lyndhurst in state, the Rev. Sir Charles Hill, Bart., attended him as bow-bearer, leading a brace of milk-white greyhounds.[33] Such I have here attempted to describe, appears to have been the ancient vocation of a forester. We will now contemplate him under his more modern guise.

The meetings of the Woodmen, appropriately styled "grand annual wardmotes," are accompanied by all the pride, pomp, and circumstance of archery. The fine band of the Warwick shire militia attends upon the ground, exhilarating the already 'buoyant spirit by strains of martial music. A bugle call announces the opening of the targets, and summonses the archers to the contest; while the united clangor of trumpet and kettledrum proclaims the victor's triumph. Their prizes are various and beautiful, among which, "the bugle horn of Arden" appears to be a special favourite, and always excites more than ordinary emulation.[34] The distance for this prize varies from nine to twelve score yards, which exempts the Woodmen from the operation of a statute alluded to elsewhere.

There are also--

THE MASTER FOERSTER'S GOLD MEDAL, claimed by the first shot in the gold.[35]
THE VERDERER'S SILVER MEDAL,[36]--by the second shot in the gold.
SILVER ARROW,[37]--nine score yards.
DIGBEAN GOLD MEDAL, [38] --OPTIME MERENTI.
DIGBEAN SILVER MEDAL,[39]--BENE MERENTI.

This society was originally established by the Marquis of Aylesford, father to the present lord warden. His Lordship's strength of arm, and the consequent low range of his arrow, has been often a subject of remark; and his vigorous shooting has descended like a heirloom to his successor.

I will now give a list of all, or most, of the original members, commencing with the officers, who gain their rank by a display of superior skill:

Lord Aylesford Lord Warden.
R. York, Esq. Master Forester.
Digby, Esq. Secretary.
W. Dilke, Esq. Senior Verderer.
Rev. W. Bree Verderers
E. Finch, Esq.
Cradock Hartopp, Esq.
Palmer, Esq.

In 1786 there were about thirty-six woodmen, besides the these officers; viz.--

Lord Lewisham. -- Lewit, Esq.
Lord Walgrave. -- Adderly, Esq.
Lord Warrick. -- Dilke, Esq.
Sir Robert Lawley. -- Lawley, Esq.
Sir George Shuckburgh.[40] -- Okeover, Esq.
Sir John Sheffield. Frank Mills, Esq.
Rev. -- Reynolds. W. Mills, Esq.
Rev. J. Dilke. -- Moland, Esq.
Charles Greville. Ralph Adderly, Esq.
William Finch. -- Bateman, Esq.
Featherstone Dilke. -- Wright, Esq.
-- Palmer, Esq. -- Boultbee, Esqs. (two).
-- Gresley, Esqs. (two). -- Malloy, Esq.
-- Sadler, Esq. -- Frod, Esq.
-- Croxall, Esq. &c. &c.
-- Reppington, Esq.

Their uniform was a plain frock of Kendal green, with gold buttons bearing an arrow, on which is inscribed the word "arden"; white waistcoat; round hat, and black feather.

A mutual exchange of honours soon ensued between the Royal Toxophilites and the Woodmen of Arden. The former conferred the freedom of their society, with permission to shoot on their ground, &c., by a diploma, elegantly emblazoned, and enclosed in a box of yew. That by which the Woodmen returned the compliment, was received in a box made of the heart of oak, the growth of the forest whence they derive their name.

The following is a chronological list of the archers who have been victorious at their grand annual wardmotes, during a nearly consecutive series of years.

Score yards.
Sept. 1792. Silver arrow, 9 Rev. J. Dilke.
Bugle horn, 9 1/2 J. Featherstone, Esq.
Annual target gold} W. Palmer, Esq.
and silver medals,}
Sept. 1795. Silver arrow,[41] 9 Rev. J. Dilke.
Bugle horn, 12 Lord Aylesford.
Master Forester, Rev. W. Bree.
Senior Verderer, Wriothesley Digby, Esq.
Captaincy of Numbers, Thomas Anderson, Esq.
Lieutenancy of Numbers Thomas Palmer, Esq.
Aug. 1796, Bugle horn, 11 Thomas Featherstone,Esq.
Silver arrow, 9 Rev. J. Dilke.
Gold medal, and
Master Forester
R.York, Esq.
Silver medal, and
Senior Verderer,
W. Dilke, Esq.
Sept. 1797. Silver arrow, 9 Richard Gresley, Esq.
Bugle horn, 10 Henry Grimes, Esq.
Gold medal, Rev.--Bree.
Silver medal, R. York, Esq.
Aug. 1798. Silver arrow, 9 Gilbert Beresford, Esq.
Bugle horn, 10 Rev. J. Dilke.
Gold medal, W. Holbeache, Esq.
Silver medal, R. York, Esq.
Aug. 1799. Gold medal, Rev. Gilbert Beresford.
Silver medal, Earl of Aylesford.
Silver bugle, 12 Rev. G. Beresford.
Silver arrow, 9 Thomas Palmer, Esq.
Sept. 1800. Gold medal,
and Captaincy of Numbers,
Lord Aylesford.
Lieutenancy of Numbers, Thomas Palmer, Esq.
Silver medal, Rev. J. Wilkie.
Silver arrow, 9 Rev. J. Dilke.
Silver bugle, 10 T. Featherstone, Esq.
Aug. 1801. Gold medal, C. Reppington, Esq.
Silver medal, and
Captaincy of Numbers,
T. Palmer, Esq.
Silver arrow, 9 T. Featherstone, Esq.
Silver bugle, 10 T. Palmer, Esq.
Aug. 1802. Silver arrow, 9 William Palmer, Esq.
Silver bugle, Rev. J. Dilke.
Captaincy of
Numbers,
Earl of Aylesford.
Lieutenancy of Target, W. Palmer, Esq.
Silver arrow, Rev. J. Dilke.
Aug. 1803. Gold medal, Lord Aylesford.
Silver medal. Edward Croxhall, Esq.
Captaincy of Numbers, Earl of Aylesford.
Lieutenancy of Numbers, F. Barker, Esq.[42]
Silver arrow, Earl of Aylesford.
Sept. 1804. Captaincy of Target T. Palmer, Esq.
Lieutenancy of Target, Rev. Gilbert Beresford.
Silver arrow, T. Featherstone, Esq.
Silver bugle, Rev. J. Dilke.
Sept. 1805. Gold medal, Rev. J. Dilke.
Silver medal, J. Boultbee, Esq.
Silver arrow, T. Palmer, Esq.
Silver bugle, 12 T. Featherstone, Esq.
Sept. 1806. Gold medal, Earl of Aylesford.
Silver medal, Sir Grey Skipworth.
Silver arrow, T. Palmer, Esq.
Silver bugle, 10 Rev. J Dilke.
Aug. 1807. Gold medal, Rev J. Dilke.
Silver medal, Ed. Reppington, Esq.
Silver arrow, Charles Hudson, Esq.
Silver bugle, Rev. J. Dilke.
Aug. 1809. Gold medal, Lord Guernsey
Silver medal, W. Palmer, Esq.
Silver arrow, Rev. J. Cattel.
Silver bugle, W. Willoughby.
Aug. 1810. Captaincy of Numbers Earl of Aylesford.
Lieutenancy of Numbers, Lord Guernsey.
Gold medal, T. Featherstone, Esq.
Silver medal, Joseph Boultbee, Esq.
Silver arrow, Lord Guernsey.
Silver bugle, 9 Hon. Henry Verney.
Aug. 1811. Captaincy of Target. W. Palmer, Esq.
Lieutenancy of target Rev. T. L. Freer.
Gold medal, Verney, Esq.
Silver medal, Breton, Esq.
Silver arrow, Rev. Egerton Bagot.
Aug. 1812. Gold medal, Rev. Coker Adams.
Silver medal, W. Palmer, Esq.
Silver arrow, R. Willoughby, Esq.
Aug. 1815. Gold medal, Rev. J. Cattel.
Silver medal, H. C. Adams, Esq.
Silver arrow, Rev. C. Palmer.
Aug. 1816. Gold medal, J.E. Eardley Wilmot, Esq.
Silver medal, Rev. Charles Palmer.
Silver arrow and forest bugle, Earl of Aylesford.
Lieutenancy of Target, R. Willoughby, Esq.
Captaincy of Numbers, Earl of Aylesford
Lieutenancy of Numbers, H. C. Adams, Esq.
Aug. 1818. Gold medal, C. G. Reppington, Esq.
Silver medal, Rev. T. C. Adams.
Silver arrow, Earl of Aylesford.
Silver bow, Hon. and Rev. E. Finch.
Aug. 1832. Master Forester's gold medal, Lieutenant Colonel T.E.Steward.
Senior Verderer, silver medal, Hon. and Rev. C. Finch.
Lieutenancy of Target, John Drinkwater, Esq.
Silver arrow, Rev. Coker Adams.[43]
Bugle horn of Arden, 10 Hon. and Rev. C. Finch.
Digbean gold medal Rev. Coker Adams. dal.
Digbean silver medal Hon. and Rev. C. Finch.
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