From the late 1490’s the Finsbury Archers practised the longbow in the Finsbury fields just North of London Wall. They regularly organised tournaments in which many thousands of archers presented themselves. In 1594 a book by the name “Ayme for Finsbvrie Archers” was published, describing in detail the activities of the various archery associations and the targets set out in the Finsbury and Southwark fields in the 1560’s. Although succeeded as a weapon of war, distances shot closely followed those needed to bring down enemy cavalry. Distances to the Marks were therefore much greater than those practised in modern times.These distances, the type of shooting and the scoring method are still the basis of shooting today when the Society of Finsbury Archers shoots are carried on in the grounds of country estates.
There were a great many marks set out permanently in the fields of Finsbury. The last of the marks called “Scarlet” was removed in 1881 to the Honourable Artillery Company in whom the ownership of the marks was vested.
Indeed it is the HAC who had maintained and renewed the marks from the very beginning.
The Finsbury Archers ceased shooting in 1761. Surviving members became founder members of the Royal Toxophilite Society in 1781. It was Philip Constable who in the name of the Finsbury handed over the three Finsbury Archers silver arrows (now lost) and the 25 oz. silver Catherine of Braganza breastplate. Now a closed society the present day Royal Toxophilite Society confines it’s shooting to target and fixed clout rounds. It is however the lineal descendant of the former Society of Finsbury Archers.
Two of the arrows were hallmarked 1751/1752, weighed 11 oz each and were 27 in. long with parallel points. The third was fitted with a barbed point 11/4 inches long made of solid silver fitted to a 27 in. silver plated steel shaft with three silver feathers. It was inscribed “Sir Reginald Foster Kt and Bart. Warwick Ledginham Esq. Stewards in Finsbury. Anno Dom. 1781.” The Braganza shield is still in existence and now on permanent loan to the Victoria and Albert museum.
The company was started again in 1974 under the Captaincy of John Whitmore and commenced shooting in Warwickshire. John Holder carried on the company until 2015, after which it lapsed without further shoots.
In December 2017 Roger and Emma Erry re-established the company under its original name and correct Heraldry as used by its members in the 1490’s as, “The Society of Finsbury Archers” of which they are joint Captains. Lieutenants of the Society are Ian McRoberts and Jullian Edwards.