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  Where you are: Local History - Snippets - Tickhill Castle Archers' Society
  Tickhill Castle Archers' Society
 

Once a weapon of war, after the 16th Century the longbow retained its popularity through archery clubs dedicated to sport. The Tickhill Castle Archers’ Society, founded in 1833, was one of a growing number of archery clubs created in the 19th Century by the leisured classes interested in the sport of using the longbow and in socialising with their peers in congenial surroundings. Initially an all-male activity, by the 1830s the sport became popular with lady archers including unmarried ones who had the opportunity to meet prospective partners while being chaperoned by their parents. Princess Victoria gave archery for ladies a royal seal of approval through her own participation before becoming Queen.  

A record of the inaugural Committee meeting of The Tickhill Castle Archers held in Doncaster on 16 July 1833 gives various details. Of the 79 original members, 42 were men and 37 women including 16 unmarried daughters of other members. The men were a mixture of land owners (such as William Wrightson of Cusworth Hall), army officers, ranging from captains to colonels, and clergymen. One of the 12 clergymen was the Vicar of Tickhill, the Revd. Edward Hawke Brooksbank. Why should the group call themselves The Tickhill Castle Archers? Frederick Lumley, his wife Charlotte Mary and three daughters, Frances, Henrietta and Anne Georgina who lived in Tickhill Castle House were members, but the club did not meet solely at Tickhill Castle. Perhaps the name had a certain cachet and was a link with the longbow’s medieval past: archers defended the Castle during times when it was besieged. 

The Committee meeting resolved that four archery meetings should be held annually. Each meeting was to commence at midday for business, such as holding ballots to decide on new members, and then shooting would begin promptly at 1 p.m. Whoever was hosting the meeting, called the Lady Patroness and the President just for one particular meeting, would decide the time when archery finished and dinner could begin. Dinner was to be ‘furnished in the manner usually called Pic-nic’. This was more modest than the arrangements made by some archery societies: some used a series of marquees, including a butler’s tent, for refreshments while Frederick Lumley’s kinsman, the Earl of Scarbrough, let the Nevilles Cross Archery Society use the grounds and dining hall of Lumley Castle for their meetings. Post-boys at these meetings had to leave the visitors’ carriages at the Castle but take the horses to stables in Chester-le-Street and wait with them until summoned at the end of the meeting. The only proviso made for servants by The Tickhill Castle Archers’ Committee was that no servants could enter the house where the meeting was held without a ticket from the master of the house or the President.

Membership fees were fixed at an initial entrance payment of one sovereign for all except members’ unmarried daughters; they paid no initial fee. Annual subscriptions were set at one sovereign for gentlemen and ten shillings for ladies. Members could bring guests to a meeting provided they lived more than 20 miles from Tickhill Castle and provided three days’ notice was given to the meeting’s hosts. Members of other archery societies in Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire could attend as honorary members but could not claim any prizes. Unlike in some archery societies, ladies were not represented on the Committee consisting of seven gentlemen appointed annually.

 The Shooting Rules show that The Tickhill Castle Archers did not take their sport too seriously in terms of the distance they were required to shoot. Whereas in some clubs the men had to shoot their arrows at targets 80 to 120 yards away, this club only had to aim at targets 70 yards away. Similarly the targets for ladies in some clubs could be 60 yards distant but the distance for ladies of The Tickhill Castle Archers was a comparatively unchallenging 15 yards. Ladies began their competition once the gentlemen had finished theirs. It was up to the Lady Patroness to select and then distribute prizes, two for ladies and two for gentlemen. Prizes at archery clubs could range, for example, from silver bows, arrows or bugles to gold medals or jewellery. As in all archery clubs, the contestants shot three arrows during each turn and kept two scores: one for the number of arrows which hit the whole target area and one for where the arrow landed on the target. It was George IV, fond of archery when Prince of Wales, who helped to create the scoring system still in use today with marks of 9,7,5,3,1 according to which of the target’s concentric circles was hit.

 

Information about The Tickhill Castle Archers can be found in their inaugural meeting notes held at Sheffield Archives Ref. No.: WWM/H/263. For more details about archery clubs see H. D. H. Soar’s The romance of archery: A social history of the longbow (2008) and G. A. Hansard’s The Book of Archery (1840).

 

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