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Home > Books > The Archer's Guide > Chapter II
Chapter II
Sketch of the History of Archery in England
Part 3 of 4

"This was the first time he had witnessed a scene of Moorish warfare. He looked with eager interest at the chance medley fight before him; the wild career of cavalry, the irregular and tumultuous rush of infantry, and Christian helm and Moorish turban intermingling in deadly struggle. His high blood mounted at the sight, and his very soul was stirred within him, by the confused war-cries, the clangour of drums and trumpets, and the reports of arquebuses, that came echoing up the mountains. Seeing the King was sending a reinforcement to the field, he entreated permission to mingle in the affray, and fight according to the fashion of his country. His request being granted, he alighted from his steed. He was merely armed en blanco; that is to say, with morion, backpiece, and breast-plate; his sword was girded by his side, and in his hand he wielded a powerful battle-axe. He was followed by a body of his yeomen, armed in like manner, and by a band of archers, with bows made of the tough English yew-tree. The Earl turned to his troops, and addressed them briefly and bluntly, according to the manner of his country. 'Remember, my merry men all,' said he, 'the eyes of strangers are upon you; you are in a foreign land, fighting for the glory of God and the honour of merry old England!' A loud shout was the reply. The earl waved his battle-axe over his head. 'St. George for England!' cried he; and, to the inspiring sound of this old English war-cry, he and his followers rushed down to the battle with manly and courageous hearts. They soon made their way into the midst of the enemy; but when engaged in the hottest of the fight they made no shouts or outcries. They pressed steadily forward, dealing i their blows to right and left, hewing down the Moors, and cutting their way with their battleaxes, like woodmen in a forest; while the archers, pressing into the opening they made, plied their bows vigorously, and spread death on every side. When the Castilian mountaineers beheld the valour of the English yeomanry, they would not be outdone in hardihood. They could not vie with them in weight and bulk, but for vigor and activity they were surpassed by none. They kept pace with them, therefore, with equal heart and rival prowess and gave a brave support to the stout islanders. The Moors were confounded by the fury of these assaults, and disheartened by the loss of Hamet el Zegri, who was carried wounded from the field. They gradually fell back upon the bridge; the Christians followed up their advantage, and drove them over it tumultuously. The Moors retreated into the suburb, and Lord Rivers and his troops entered with them pellmell, fighting in the streets and in the houses. King Ferdinand came up to the scene of action with his royal guard, and the infidels were all driven within the city walls. Thus were the suburbs gained by the hardihood of the English lord, without such an event having been premeditated. The Earl of Rivers, notwithstanding he had received a wound, still urged forward in the attack. He penetrated almost to the city gate, ill defiance of a shower of missiles that slew many of his followers. A stone, hurled from the battlements, checked his impetuous career. It struck him in the face, dashed out two of his front teeth, and laid him senseless on the earth. He was removed to a short distance by his men; but, recovering his senses, refused to permit himself to be taken from the Suburb. When the Contest was over, the streets presented a piteous spectacle, so many of their inhabitants had died in the defence of their thresholds, or been slaughtered without resistance. The Christians remained masters of the field, and proceeded to pitch three encampments for the prosecution of the siege. The king, with the great body of the army, took a posit on the side of the city next to Granada. The Marquis or Cadiz and his brave companions once more pitched their tent upon the height of Santo Albohacin; but the English Earl planted his standard sturdily within the suburb he had taken."

The exact time in which the bow became disused in war by the English, perhaps cannot be fixed.. P. Daniel mentions that arrows were shot by the English at the Isle of Rhé, in 1627. Mr. Grose informs us, that in 1649 the Earl of Essex issued a precept "for stirring up all well affected people by benevolence, towards the raising of a company of archers for the service of the king (Charles I.) and the parliament. And, in a pamphlet, says the same author, which was printed A.D. 1664, giving an account of the success of the Marquis of Montrose against the Scots, bowmen are repeatedly mentioned. Neade, in the Teign of Charles I. obtained a commission under the great Seal, wherein he and his son were empowered to teach the combined management of the pike and the bow; which shews that archery was not laid aside at that period. Indeed, Mr. Grose asserts, that the long-bow continued to be in estimation among the English for more than two centuries after gunpowder was introduced; which probably arose from muskets being at first very cumbersome and unwieldy.

As early as the beginning of the twelfth century, a law was instituted With respect to the practice of archery, which freed from the charge of murder any one who, in practising with arrows and darts, should kill a person passing between the shooter and his mark.

Edward III. found it necessary to enjoin the practice of the bow by two mandates during his reign; and ill the reign of Richard II. an act was made to compel all servants to shoot on Sundays and holidays. From this time many laws were enacted, of which the following is a summary. The 7 Henry IV. ordains, that the heads of arrows shall in future be well boiled and brazed, and hardened at the points with steel; under the pain of the forfeiture of all heads otherwise manufactured, and imprisonment to the makers: all arrow-heads to be marked with the maker's name. Henry V. ordered the sheriffs of several counties to procure feathers from the wings of geese, picking six from each goose. Two feathers in an arrow were to be white, and one brown or grey; and this difference in colour informed the archer in an instant how to place the arrow. In the time of Edward IV. an Act passed, ordaining every Englishman to have a bow of his own height; and butts were ordered to be put up in every township, for the inhabitants to shoot at on feast-days; and, if any neglected, the penalty of one half-penny was incurred. An Act of 1st Richard III. complains, that by the seditious confederacy of the Lombards using divers ports of this realm, the bow-staves were raised to an outrageous price; that is to say, to eight pounds an hundred, where they were wont to be sold at forty shillings. This Act therefore provides that ten bow-staves shall be imported with every butt of Malmsey or Tyre wines, brought by the Merchants trading from Venice into this land, under a penalty of thirteen shillings and four pence, for every butt of the said wines, in case of neglect.

In the 33d Henry VIII. we have a statute of complaint on account of the decay of this art. It ordains that all men under sixty, except spiritual men, justices, &c. shall use shooting with the long-bow and shall have a bow and arrows ready continually in their house. And that every person having a man-child or men-children in his house shall provide a bow and two shafts for every such man-child, being seven years old and upwards, 'till of the age of thirteen, in order to promote shooting. And if A master or father permit his servants or children, being seventeen years of age, to lack a bow and arrows for the space of a month, the said master or father shall forfeit six and eight pence for every offence. Also every servant, upwards of seventeen and under sixty years of age, shall pay six and eight pence if he be without a bow and four arrows for one month. The inhabitants of every city, town and place, are ordered, by this Act, to erect butts, and use shooting on holidays, and at every other convenient time.

Another statute was also passed in 33 Henry VIII. to reduce the price of bows.

In this reign, also, the practice of archery seems; to have been enforced from the pulpit.

In a sermon of Bishop Latimer, preached before the king, after condemning the vices of the age he concludes thus: "The art of shutynge hath ben in times past much esteemed in this realme; it is a gyft of God, that he hath given us to excell all other nations withal. It hath ben Goddes instrumente whereby he hath gyven us manye victories agayneste our enemyes. But now we have taken up horynge in townes, insteade of shutynge in the fyldes. A wonderous thynge, that so excelente a gyft of God shoulde be so lyttle esteemed. I desire you, my lordes, even as you love honoure, and glorye of God, and intende to remove his indignacion, let there be sente furth some proclimacion, some sharpe proclimacion to the justices of peace, for they do not theyr dutye. Justices now be no justices; there be many good actes made for thys matter already. Chargethem upon their allegiance, that this singular benefit of God may be practised; and that it be not turned into bollyng, and glossyng, and horing, within the townes, for they be negligente in executyng these lawes of shutynge. In my tyme, my poore father was as diligent to teach me to shute, as to learne any other thynge; and so I thinke other menne dyd thyr children. He taught me howe to drawe, howe to lay my bodye in my bowe, and not to draw wyth strength of armes, as other nacions do, but wyth strength of bodye. I had my bowes bought me according to my at e and strength; as I increased in them, so my bowes were made bigger and bigger: for men shall never shute well, excepte they be brought up in it. It is a goodly arte, a holesome kind of exercise, and much commended in phisike. Marcilius Sicinus, in hys boke de triplica vita (it is a greate while sins I red hym nowe), but I remember he commendeth thys kynde of exercise, and sayth, that it wrestleth agaynste many kyndes of diseases. In the reverence of God, let it be continued. Let a proclamacion go furth, charging the justices of peace, that they see such actes and statutes kept, as vvere made for thys purpose."--Latimer's Sermons, black letter, 1549, 12mo.

Henry VIII., besides making laws in favor of archery, instituted a society, in 1537, for the practice of shooting, under a charter, in the name of the fraternity of St. George. This fraternity is now the Artillery Company of London, and had its origin thus: From a rare tract, entitled, "The Bowman's Glory, or Archery Revived; giving an account of the many signal favors vouchsafed to archers, and archery, by those renowned monarchs Henry VIII., King James and Charles I., as by their several gracious commissions here recited may appear, &c. &c." and from other authorities, we collects that a patent was granted by King Henry VIII. in the 29th year of his reign, dated at Westminster, addressed to "Our trusty and well-beloved subjettys, sir Crystofor Morres, knight, master of our ordenauncys; Anthony Knevett, and Peter Mewtas, gentlemen of our prevy chambre, overseers of the fraternitye or guylde of St. George," and which constitutes them "Overseers of the Scyence of Artyllery,[3] that ys, to wyt, for long-bowes, cross-bowes, and handgunes;" a body corporate with perpetual succession, allows them to use a common seal; gives them licence to shoot with their longbows, cross-bows, and hand-guns, at all manner of marks and butts, and at the game of popinjay,[4] and at all sorts of wild fowl and game, except within the royal parks, warrens, and chaces, without especial warrant, and except at herons and pheasants, within two miles of royal manors and residences. These privileges, however, are not extended to the servants or private members of the company. With regard to their dress, liberty is granted to the guild to use any cognizance of silver or embroidery on their coats, and to wear dresses of any colour except purple or scarlet. They are also enjoined, by the same charter, not to wear furs of a greater price than those of the marten; and moreover, whenever any of the masters or commonalty of the society, shooting at a known and accustomed mark, shall have pronounced openly spoken the usual archers' word, fast or stand fast, and after such word spoken person passing shall chance by misadventure to be slain, they shall not be impeached or troubled in any way for such mischance. These letter-patent passed the Great Seal without fine or fee, as a mark of the King's favor towards the practice of archery. It appears that, previously to this grant, a society of archers already existed at Mile End, called the Fraternity of Saint George; and hence, sir Christopher Morris, master of the ordnance, Anthony Knevett, and Peter Meutas, gentlemen of the privy chamber, were constituted overseers of the science of artillery, with the express permission "to knit and establish a certain perpetual fraternity of Saint George," for the use of long-bows, cross-bows, and hand-guns. Such was the origin of the present Artillery Company of London.

The archers of St. George used at first assemble in Lolesworth or Spital Fields, which, according to Stow, was the burial-place of Roman London. The name of their place of exercise at this spot was "Teasel-close," so called from the thistles with which it abounded. On that spot they had built themselves an armoury, and Marshal Petowe, of their company, who was probably a much better archer than poet, has thus quaintly versified its history:

"The ground whereon this building now doth stand
The Teasel Close hath heretofore been named,
And William Prior of the Hospital,
Then of our blessed Lady, which we call
St. Mary Spittle, without Bishopsgate,
Did pass it by indenture, bearing date
January, third day, in lIenry's time,
The eighth of that same. The Convent did conjoin
Unto the guile of all artillery
Cross bows, hand guns, and of archery,
For full three hundred years excepting three,
(The time remaining we shall never see!)
Now have the noble Council of our King
Confirmed the same,[5] and under Charles's wing
We now do exercise, and of that little
Teasel of ground we enlarge St. Mary Spittle.
Trees we cut down and gardens added to it,
Thanks to the Lords that gave us leave to do it.
Long may this work endure and ne'er decay,
But be supported to the latest day.
All loyal subjects to the King and State
Will say Amen, maugre all spleen and hate.
Honour and her Citizens' approved Love,
exercising arms in the Artillery Garden, London."

It is worthy of note, that a street leadingfrom Bishopsgate Street to Spital-Fields still bears the title of Artillery Lane.

When Spital-Fields was broken up for bricks and buildings, the Artillery Company possessed themselves of a plot of ground in Bunhill-Fields which they still retain under the title originally betowed upon it of the New Artillery Ground.

When the Company added to its ranks musqueteers, and cannoneers, in compliance with the changes in the mode of offensive warfare, the society of St. George, on which they were engrafted, still formed the Archers' Division. In course of time, this division was abolished, but on the revival of archery (as an amusement), which took place in England about the year 1780, it was again established for a short time, by the Artillery Company's permitting the members of the Toxophilite Society to attach themselves to their battalion, under the appellation of "Saint George's Bowmen."

The monarch (Henry VIII.) who granted the privileges to the Artillery Company, which we have before enumerated, was himself very partial to the exercise of archery. It is recorded that he appointed a meeting of the society at Windsor, with the promise of a grand prize to him who should excel the rest. A capital shot having been made on this occasion by one Barlow yeoman of the guard, the king addressing him said, "If you still win you shall be duke over all archers." Barlow having succeeded, was invested with the mock title of Duke of Shoreditch, at which place he lived. Of this dignity the man appears to have been proud; he long piqued himself on the distinction, and was in the habit, as the commander of the company of London Archers, of summoning the officers of his several divisions, by the titles of Marquises of Clerkenwell, Islington, Hoxton, Shacklewell, Earl of Pancras, &c., all places in the open fields about London, where archers were wont to assemble for practice on the bow.

On another occasion, the king, attended by Queen Katherine and his whole court, is reported to have met two hundred archers at Shooters-hill, which is thought to have been so named from the fact of archers assembling tie to shoot at marks.

As an amusement, therefore, archery was extremely fashionable in the time of Henry VIlI., and Hollingshedd reports that that prince shot as well as any of his guard. That the bow was also effective during this reign as a military weapon, is attested by the details of the celebrated battle of Flodden-field, which was fought on the 9th of September, 1513, between the Scots under King James IV., and the English under the Earl of Surrey. On this occasion, the English are described as having galled the Seats with perpetual and irresistible vollies d arrows; and when the Scottish monarch was found dead after the battle, with two mortal wounds, it appeared that the one on his head was caused by a hall, and the other, through his trunk, by an arrow.

Edward VI., as we learn from his own journal as well as from Mr. Barrington, was very fond of the exercise; and in the succeeding reign the statutes of Henry VIII. for its promotion were much commended, with directions to enforce them.

Under Elizabeth and James I. other statutes were ordained, from which, and other circumstances, it seems clear that the art was still deemed of importance.

A curious manuscript of the time of Queen Elizabeth, contains the following account of an archer, and all his necessary appendages. "Captains and officers should be skilful of that most noble weapon, and see that their soldiers, according to their draught and strength, have good bows, well notched, well strynged, every strynge whipped in their noche and in themyddes rubbed with wax, bracer, and shutynge glove; some spare strynges, trym'd as aforesaid; every man one shefe of arrows, with a case of leather defensible, against the rayne; and in the same four and twentie arrows, whereof eight of them should be lighter than the residue, to gall or astoyne the enemye wtth the hail shot of light arrows, before they shall come within the danger of the arquebuss-shot. Let every man have a brigandine, or a little coat of plate, a skull, a huskyn, a mawle of leade, five foote in lengthe, and a fusee, the same hanging by his girdle, with a hook and a dagger. Being thus furnished, teach them by musters to marche, shoote, and retire, keeping their faces upon the enemy's. Sum'tyme put them into great nowmbers, as to battle appertayneth; and thus use them oftentimes practised till they be perfecte; for those men in battel or skirmish cannot be spared. None other weapone may compare with the same noble weapone."

Charles I. appears to have often recreated himself with archery, and is represented in the frontispiece of Markham's Art of Archery, (1634), in the attitude and dress of a bowman. He likewise issued a proclamation to the chancellor, lord mayor, and privy council, to prevent the fields near London from being so inclosed as "to interrupt the necessary and profitable exercise of shooting;" as also to lower the mounds where they prevented the view from one mark to another. The same commission directs that bridges should be thrown over the dikes, and that all shooting marks which had been removed should be restored.

During the great rebellion the practice of archery seems to have received no encouragement, but rather to have fallen into disrepute. Sir William Davenant, in a mock poem, entitled "The Long Vacation in London," describes the attorneys and proctors as making matches in Finsbury Fields:

"With loynes in canvas bow-case tied,
Where arrows stick with mickle pride;
Like ghosts of Adam Bell and Clymme,
Sol sets for fear they'll shoot at him."

Adam Bell and Clym of the Clough, above referred to, were noted outlaws, whose skill in archery rendered them as famous in the North of England as Robin Hood and his contemporaries were in the midland counties.

In 1566 the price of bows was again regulated; and in 1571, it was enacted, that bowstaves should be brought from the Hanse Towns and the Eastward. Ten years after this, a society of archers existed in London, who, from the fame which Arthur, elder brother to Henry VIII. had acquired at the long-bow, were termed Prince Arthur's Knights. John Lyon, who founded Harrow School in 1590, two years before his death drew up rules for its direction, whereby the amusement of the scholars were confined to "driving a top, tossing a hand-ball, running, and shooting; "the last-mentioned diversion is in a manner insisted on by the founder, who requires all parents to furnish their children with "bow-strings, shafts, and breasters, to exercise shooting."

In the century to which we are now referring (the 16th), we meet with heavy complaints respecting the disuse of the long-bow, and especially in the vicinity of London. Stow, in his "Survey of London," speaks of this neglect, and informs us that "before his time it had been customary, at Bartholomew tide, for the lord mayor, with the sheriffs and aldermen, to go into the fields at Finsbury, where the citizens were assembled, and shoot at the standard, with broad and flight arrows for games, (i. e., it is conjectured, for sport sake); and this exercise was continued for several days; whereas now (that is, towards the close of the 16th century, for Mr. Stow died in 1605), only one day is allowed."

In the 17th century, says Strutt, archery was highly becoming a gentleman to practise, and greatly conducive to health. Peacham's celebrated and now very rare work, entitled "The Compleat Gentleman," recommends the exercise to his readers in the strongest terms. The ladies also were fond of the amusement, and were in the habit, it seems, of shooting at deer and other animals of the chace, as well as at marks. It was usual, as we are informed by Leland, in his "Collectanea," on occasions when the ladies exercised with the bow,, for the beasts to be confined by large enclosures, surrounded by the hunters, and driven in succession from the covers to the stands where the sportswomen were placed, so that they might readily shoot at them, without the trouble and fatigue of rousing and pursuing them. It is reported, by the same author, of Margaret, the daughter of Henry VII., that when she was on her way towards Scotland, a hunting party was made for her amusement in Alnwick-park, where she killed a buck with an arrow.

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