The Royal Toxophilite Society was founded in 1781 by Sir Ashton Lever with the Prince of Wales, the future King George IV as its patron. Archery had fallen into decline during the Puritanism that followed Cromwell’s reign. However it had a saviour in George IV who both of as Prince of Wales and as King was a keen Archer and revived the sport once more in England. King George IV was also the patron of the Royal Kentish Bowmen and Royal British Bowmen.
This royal seal of approval undoubtedly gave added impetus to the popularity of archery. His presentation of trophies to these societies and occasional presence gave added cachet to the sport. The King laid down the basis of modern archery as far as target colours and points and York rounds were concerned.
The Toxophilite Society was set up by a group of friends and by a few remaining Finsbury Archers. They first met and shot in the grounds of Leicester House close to where the Empire theatre now stands. By 1791 its membership had reached 168. However, by 1797 there were only 59 members. The Society had moved to Gower Street, which ground it lost in between 1801 and 1805. Records are either lost or incomplete after this date, but mention is made in 1811 that grounds in the Highbury were used. By 1821 the Society had become very small. The Society had close relations with the Honourable Artillery Company, which for a while made its Artillery Garden available to the Society when its first ground was lost to development. In 1859 the headquarters and shooting ground moved to Regents Park. It moved from there to its present location in Burnham near Slough.
The Society (also known as "the RTS") is of historic interest in the context of the evolution of certain archery entities in England. It was a founder member of the G.N.A.S. in 1861, but did not pursue the latter's mainstream support for archery.
The Society has an interesting collection of archery artefacts and also houses a small museum of bows. These are however not on view to the public. Although it does not publish a schedule of charges, the RTS does make its ground available for shoots several times during the shooting season. This includes its use by handicapped archers.
The Royal Toxophilite Society is a closed Society whose membership is drawn by invitation only. The Society does do not publish any of its shoots which are held in a closed forum.