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Bridlington's Archers

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Bridlington's Archers

From Bridlington Quay and Neighbourhood by Thomas Cape

Printed and published at Furby's 'Observer' Offices, King Street. 1877

Bridlington's Archery Butts

Shooting with the cross-bow as well as with the long-bow was among the most popular pastimes in former days, but in the fifth year of the reign of Edward IV, an Act was passed, commanding every able-bodied Englishman, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five, to be furnished with a bow of his own height. Butts were thrown up in many parishes, where the archers of the time practised and were taught the use of the bow, as the Volunteers of our own day are instructed in the use of the rifle or carbine. Defensive, rather than aggressive warfare, might equally be the object of the exercise in ancient as in modern times, but a comparison favourable to our own days, may certainly be drawn: that, inasmuch, as the bowmen in the days of yore, were under compulsion to practise on feast-days and holidays, our volunteers, as their name implies, need no coercion, the promptings of patriotism alone, having sufficed to fill their ranks.

The two archery butts erected in this parish may still be seen, they are about one hundred yards apart, not far from the old Church, adjoining the foot-path over the fields from the Church to the Quay. These butts or mounds were raised for a double purpose, namely, that of fixing a target at which the marksman could aim and that of hindering the arrows from snaking and being lost in the grass.

Although, as stated, the Bridlington Butts are one hundred yards apart, that was by no means the entire distance to which an arrow could be sent. Some of the strong-armed bowmen could accomplish 200, 300, 400 yards, and even still more. It is probable that the target hills acquired the name of 'butts' from the fact that a butt of wine was, among other prizes, set up to be won; the performer who drove in the bung was the winner: a round-headed arrow, called a bolt, was used for the purpose.

An old gentleman, who, a few years ago, was a resident in Bridlington, gave the derivation of his family name, Plummer, from the business of one of his fore-elders, who was a 'plume-er' of arrows -- no mean occupation at the time.

Butts Close is named after this area and despite all the upheaval at the former St George's School site on St Mary's Walk to make way for the new college, townsfolk were promised that the mounds would be kept to reflect this aspect of the town's history. The photograph shows one of the butts during February 2011, with its brand new information post. The author remembers that in his youth the butts were quite prominent as part of the school's playing fields. On Easter Mondays, decorated hard-boiled eggs were rolled down the slopes.

This piece appears in "Bridlington Remembered," a book which has photographs and short articles on Bridlington's history. 

Article By Mike Wilson 

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