Just been reading the Rules & Regulations of Thirsk Bowmen*, an archery club in Yorkshire, England, published in 1845. Thirsk Bowmen exists today, but the current club apparently has no direct connection with the 19th century club. The committee structure, voting in, and roles and responsibilities are entirely familiar to any member of a sports or social club today. But there were some interesting sections:
1) The official ‘season’ was outdoor only and ran from the first Tuesday in May to the last Tuesday in September. Only gentlemen were allowed, and the cost per year was ten shillings and sixpence – approximate cost relative to wages in 2014: around £400. No word about indoor shooting.
2) Shooting was permitted on Tuesdays and Fridays starting at 5 o’clock. All arrows had to be marked with their owners initials or they did not score – a rule that persists in the UK and worldwide.
3) Every Tuesday archers shot nine dozen arrows – four dozen at 100 yards, three dozen at 80 yards, and two dozen at 60 yards. (A similar imperial round called a St. George, which has three dozen at each distance, is still shot in the UK). Maximum score using five zone scoring would be 972. Archers shot three arrow ends. Given that sunset in May in Yorkshire is around 8pm, they would have to get moving pretty quickly to get the round in before dusk.
4) The highest score each week would be made ‘captain of the target’, and get to hold a silver medal for the week. To encourage all archers, a handicap system existed – if you had won once in a season, you got four points removed from your score for the next and all subsequent weeks – twice in a season, eight points removed; three times, sixteen points and so on.
5) These Tuesday shoots were compulsory – unless you could prove you were at least ten miles outside of Thirsk, you were fined sixpence (relatively, about £20) for every shoot you missed! Swearing incurred a similar penalty. Turning up without all your equipment incurred a stiffer fine of a shilling (about £40).
6) Every year in September there was a ‘Grand Annual Meeting’. The highest score of the day would receive a silver bugle and the title ‘Captain Of The Year’, the best gold (nearest the centre) would receive a silver arrow and the title ‘Lieutenant Of The Year’ – and the last place finisher would receive a ‘Wooden Spoon’ and the title ‘Master Of The Green’. Yes, that’s right – archery puns haven’t improved much in the past 170 years.
7) Gambling on results was clearly a problem – the rules go into some detail about not letting betting corrupt the ‘manly amusement’, and a rule existed that any wagers discovered would have to be forfeited to club funds – although sweepstakes of up to five shillings (about £200) were allowed with prior permission of the Secretary.
*A copy of these rules sold at Bonhams in Harrogate for £192 in 2007.