The Society of Finsbury Archers

One of three Longbow Companies practising in the fields of London in the XVI Century

Affiliated to the International Longbow Archers Association

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.


Born again

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.

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Aims of the SOCIETY fINSBURY ARCHERS

To encourage the safe use of the Longbow.
To seek to maintain the direct connection to the practise of the Medieval Longbow man into the 16th Century, 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, by making 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 Society welcomes and encourages all practitioners of the Longbow from all races, creeds and abilities in accordance with its dictum; for everyone, “Tout Monde”.

SHOOTING TRADITION to THE MARKS

In a direct link with the past members of “the Society” 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 by the call.

Rules of the SOCIETY fINSBURY ARCHERS

The Constitution and Rules are available at the Society's events.

In summary:
Shoots are strictly for longbows only. These conform to the definition of the International Longbow Archers Association to which the Society is affiliated.
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 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 to each Mark. Scoring is not to hit the Mark but to be the closest to its stake. Scoring to each Mark is cumulative and is measured in segments in the Society’s colours of white, green and light-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 (green) and 3 points within a further one and three-quarter bow-lengths (light-blue).