finsburyfields
coatofarms

The Fraternity of St George

1509
ILAA

Steeped in tradition, yet contemporary

A Fraternity that is not for gain
A Fraternity of archers that welcomes all
A Fraternity that organizes Europe's Premier International Longbow shoots

Affiliated to the International Longbow Archers Association

at the Marks
at Speed
in the Cloth of Gold

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March of the Archers 1530, in the City of London .
> 500th Anniversary 1509 -2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You do not have to be a member to join. Archers from all walks of life just turn up, pay their shooting fee and join the event – all thereby become shooting members of the Fraternity. Openness and welcome that originate in the ancient tradition of free association. Freedom to shoot in glorious surroundings.

The Fraternity of Saint George organises 9 shoots a year; always on the finest Estates that are Archer-friendly. Fraternity shoots “do exactly what it says on the tin”. Shoots are never cancelled. Safety and enjoyment are paramount. Events start, run and finish exactly as advertised.

Main activity is shooting at the Marks, but other traditional forms of archery are also encouraged; Speed-shooting; Distance (flight) shooting; the King’s Target; the Wand etc.

First ever to organize the International Championship at the Marks in 2005, the Fraternity was also the first to organise the British Longbow Society’s Flight Championship in 2007. It also runs the premier all-round competition for heavy longbows, known as the International Mary Rose Warbow Trophy (IMRWT).

On the scientific side, the Fraternity has developed the Universal Longbow Flight Scale (ULFS), which measures Archer’s loosing / shooting efficiency over distance. Data have been published and are available to Archers during the shoots. The Fraternity cooperates closely with the main archery structures both in the UK and abroad.  

It is affiliated to the I.L.A.A. one of the UK’s three mainline Archery Associations providing insurance cover. The International Artillery Archers Association  (I.L.A.A.) encourages and defines the benchmarks of shooting at the Marks as well as all other traditional forms of Longbow Archery; flight shooting, speed shooting, target and  clout shooting, field shooting and popinjay.

How it all began
In 1509 King Henry VIII commenced making annual payments to a small company of Archers called the Fraternity of St. George. These payments were made every 23rd April to encourage their practise of the Longbow. In 1537 King Henry VIII formalized these arrangements, granting a Charter in the name of the Fraternity and Guild of Saint George later known as the Honourable Artillery Company of London. The word artillery comes from the French “Arc tirer”, to pull or draw the bow. The longbow was indeed Europe's medieval artillery. The King's Bowman in France were called   “Artilleurs du Roy.”

From the early 1500’s the Archers of the Fraternity practised the longbow in the Finsbury fields, Moorfields and Spitalfields just North of London Wall. South of the Thames they shot in the fields of Southwark. They regularly organised tournaments in which many thousands of archers presented themselves. 

Shooting in the Longbow was greatly encouraged by the Sovereigns of England for obvious politico/strategic reasons. King Edward III enjoined upon the Sheriffs of London the general proclamation to learn and practise the art of shooting with bows and arrows. King Edward IV passed a statute limiting the price of Longbows. King Richard II passed an Act commanding all servants to exercise themselves at all times of leisure and on all holidays. Henry VII did the same. Henry VIII passed an act for the maintenance of archers and concerning the import of adequate numbers of bow staves into the realm.

In 1594 a book by the name “Ayme for Finsbvrie Archers” was published, describing in detail the activities of the archers using the above areas and the targets set out in the Saint George and Finsbury fields in the 1560’s. It was a complete guide as to the rules and distances of every mark in and around the fields of London. These marks enabled archers including those now in the Honourable Artillery Company to shoot and practise at various lengths. At that time the Longbow was a weapon of war and distance was all-important, so the marks were set out at a greater range than practised in modern times.

By far the most important aspect of the Longbow men's training from a military standpoint was the ability to keep a good length over any range. Consequently pricking, or shooting at a fixed target, was considered of less importance than roving, i.e. going across country shooting at marks of unknown and varying distances. Through this exercise Longbow men acquired a good judgement of terrain and became redoubtable all-round archers, good at keeping the length. The rules and various lists of winners of Easter and Whitsun meetings from 1653 are still to be found in the Guildhall library in London. These distances, the type of shooting and the scoring method are still the basis of shooting today when shoots of the Fraternity of Saint George are carried on in the grounds of great houses and country pastures.

Whitehall Mark

The Fraternity of Saint George, now known as the Honourable Artillery Company ceased shooting in the 1760’s. Surviving members became founder members of the Royal Toxophilite Society in 1781, at which time the Company of the Finsbury Mark also merged. 

The present day Royal Toxophilite Society was for a short time associated to the Honourable Artillery Company under the Saint George Bowmen, but subsequently reverted to its separate status. At present the Royal Toxophilite Society no longer shoot roving marks, but confines it's shooting to target and fixed clout rounds.

Scarlet Mark

The Fraternity of Saint George was reformed by its current Custodians under the captaincy of B. E. Mooyaart and commenced shooting in the County of Kent. Its home ground is at Godinton Park. The reforming of the Fraternity of Saint George was due to an upsurge in the demand by Longbow men and women for a revival of the traditional Longbow shoots in the manner of the Medieval Longbow men, but without the need for re-enactment and costume.


shoots

Aims of the Fraternity of St George

To encourage the safe use of the Longbow.

To seek to maintain the direct connection to the practise of the Medieval Longbow man, by upholding the traditional forms of longbow shooting.

To keep a low threshold of entry to shooting in the Longbow so that all may join. The Fraternity welcomes and encourages all practitioners of the Longbow from all races, creeds and abilities.

To make due allowance for women, children down to the age of five and the handicapped, so that all may have the chance to score and to enjoy themselves.

The Fraternity has updated its original Constitution so as to enhance safety and address the legal position of it and of its members. The emphasis on safety, behaviour during shoots as well as clear definitions and procedures, encourage best practise and serve as a benchmark for other Longbow Companies. 

SHOOTING TRADITION AT THE MARKS
Direct link with the past

Members of “the Fraternity” shoot long distances to drop their arrows as close to a designated mark as possible. A typical shoot has up to a dozen different marks set out at distances that often deliberately hard for participants to estimate.

The names and designs of the marks date back to those that used to be set out in the 16th Century Finsbury, Moorfields, Spitalfields and St. George fields of London. “Botless star”, “Sea-griffin”, “Kirby’s castle”, “Swan’s stake”, “Turke’s whale”; names many of which had direct associations with City of London establishments. The distances shot and a method of scoring are virtually unchanged.

The day's shooting is usually rounded off with a distance shot, known as the shot in the Cloth of Gold. It follows King Henry VIII ability to shoot 12 arrows into the Gold at 12 score yards, as he did in 1520. Shot in spectacular volleys of arrows, so too the archers of the Fraternity shoot at distance as well as aim

Rules of the Fraternity of Saint George

Each member shoots with bow and arrow of traditional type, with stacked belly, horn or self nocks, not less than 5 ft 6 in. long for men and 5 ft long for ladies.

Shooting is by the instinctive method and no artificial aids to aiming, rubber bands, tape, sight marks, or arrow rests are allowed. Shooting resembles as closely as possible the distances shot in the fields of London in the 1500’s.

Distances vary around an average that is comfortably within the Clout shooting distance for Ladies and Gentlemen. At least one shot is in the traditions and at the distance of the Cloth of Gold at 240 yards. There is also speed shooting and a volley shot in the tradition of the Agincourt arrow.

All members shoot three arrows at each mark. Scoring is not to hit the mark but to be the closest to it. Scoring at each mark is cumulative and is measured in segments in the Fraternity’s colours of white, red and blue. Arrows are measured nearest pile or feather; at 12 points within half a bow-length (white), 7 points within a further three-quarters of a bow-length (red) and 3 points within a further one and three-quarter bow-lengths (blue).