Part 1 of 3
Best Shots of the Toxophilite Society—Mr. Brady—Mr. Crunden— Mr. Palmer—Mr. Cazalet—Mr. Shepheard—Result of Mr. Waring's Arm-striking theory—Mr. Anderson, the Incomparable Shot—Scores of more Modern Archers—First and Second Scores of all the Grand National Meetings.
In the present chapter I propose presenting to my readers a few specimens of ancient and modern scoring, The term "ancient," however, must be considered as used only in a comparative sense; for the earliest period to which I am able to refer goes no further back than 1795, some few years after the first establishment of the Toxophilite Society, and the subsequent revival of Archery. Anterior to this period I have been unable to obtain any authentic records, none such having been kept, or, if kept, having in the lapse of time been misplaced or lost. For the less modern scores about to be given, the reader is indebted to the books of the Toxophilite Society, some of the earlier of which have fortunately remained in existence to the present day, whilst others, including the whole from 1806 to 1834, have been unaccountably lost. As this Society has always, from its first commencement until now, numbered amongst its members some of the best, and generally the very best Archers of the day, the specimen scores given may be fairly looked upon as the good shooting for the times during which they were achieved; and, consequently, a pretty accurate opinion may be formed as to the capabilities of the then magnates of the bow. The result of their comparison with the shooting of the present day will show what rapid strides in advance Archery has made since the establishment of the Grand National Meetings has held out an adequate inducement for its proper study and practice. The great scores of times anterior to these Meetings now cut but a sorry figure indeed. May we not hope that, some years hence, the same may be said of the great performances of the present time?
The first score I shall give is that which won the Prince's annual bugle in 1795; and it is given more especially because Mr. Waring, in his treatise, calls it "undoubtedly very great shooting." The Toxophilite records give it as follows:—
276 shots, 90 hits, 348 score.
Mr. Brady was the shooter, and the distances were 100, 80, and 60 yards, at four, three, and two feet targets respectively (the smaller targets at the shorter distances may be considered, perhaps, a trifle easier to score at than the full sized ones at 100 yards). Thus, according to Mr. Waring, something worse than one hit out of three, at 100 yards, was very great shooting in his day. Down to 1805 this score was beaten only once, and that occurred in 1797, for the same prize, and at the same marks and distances, when Mr. Shepheard scored as follows:—
252 shots, 88 hits, 358 score.
There appears to have been a bye-law respecting this annual bugle, preventing the same member from winning it more than one year; so, in 1799, it was gained by Mr. Waring, with 53 hits and 185 score. The number of arrows shot in this instance is not given; but as the shooting lasted two days, it could not well have been les9 than what appears to have been the ordinary round for this prize— namely, 252 arrows, equally divided between the three distances.
By far the best average shot of that era was, indisputably, Mr. Crunden; though several, namely, Messrs. Palmer, Shepheard, and Cazalet, sometimes surpassed him, and generally were, one or other of them, close at hand. The first-named gentleman, indeed (Mr. Palmer), made the greatest single day's shooting during the ten years to which I am able to refer, having scored as follows at 100 yards:—
192 shots, 91 hits, 379 score.
Subjoined are the three best scores of Mr. Crunden during the same period (taking the hits as the criterion), the distance being still 100 yards:—
The like of Mr. Palmer —
The like of Mr. Shepheard:—
The like of Mr. Cazalet:—
The amount of benefit to be derived from Mr. Waring's "arm-striking" theory may be estimated by reference to this gentleman's three best scores:—
I am happy in being able to furnish my readers with two of Mr. Anderson's scores—that "incomparable" (sic) Archer, according to Mr. Roberts; they are as follows, the distance being 100 yards:—
If these are fair average specimens of this gentleman's shooting, his "incomparability" is in the very opposite direction to that intended by Mr. Roberts.
It must be remarked, concerning the foregoing scores, that they are taken from those records only where the number of arrows shot is stated; this, though only occasionally the case, is sufficiently often as to render the specimens given a good average criterion of the shooting of that day. Scores made at 100 yards are given principally, as at the eighty and sixty yards different sized targets from those at present in use were then shot at.
For want of the records from 1805 to 1834, I am now obliged to jump at once to the latter year. Whether during this interval the shooting improved or not is a question that must be left undecided. Probably not. But, if it did, it must again have retrograded, as from 1834 to 1844 (during which latter year the first National Meeting was held) the shooting appears to have been of about the same average character. Indeed, I am unable to find an instance up to the latter date of Mr. Palmer's best score, already given, having being either beaten or equalled. The nearest approach to it is a score of Mr. Peters's, as follows:—
192 shots, 88 hits, 328 score.
Of this era this gentleman appears to have been the Robin Hood, though Messrs. Norton, Robinson, Arabin, and Smyth, contested the palm with him, and not always without success. The St. George's Society (likewise a London Club) also possessed several shots equal in skill to these.
Still the days when it was considered impossible to put in half the arrows at 100 yards (excepting as a rare feat) were dragging their slow length along. Indeed, I have seen a letter as late as 1845, from good old Mr. Roberts, who was well acquainted with the powers of all the best Archers for the preceding half-century, in which he states "he never knew but one man that could accomplish it." From what has been already stated, it will be seen that no single recorded instance of its having been achieved at all is to be found up to that date—at any rate, as far as the Toxophilite books are concerned. It ought, however, here to be mentioned that, up to this date, the scoring part of the target measured only three feet ten inches in diameter, the Archer not being allowed to score the hits in the edge beyond this, which was then called the "petticoat." Also another rule then prevailing militated against the scoring, namely, that when the arrow struck two circles the least only was marked, whereas at the present time the whole of the target (four feet) scores, as well as the higher numbered circle. Six per cent, however, on the hits, and ten per cent, on the score, will be a most liberal allowance to counterbalance the drawbacks alluded to. In comparing, then, the foregoing scores with those about to be mentioned, the reader must bear in mind the above observations.