History of the Society
The Early Years
We don’t have a lot of information about early Leamington archery societies as our only surviving club records date from when the Society was restarted after the Second World War. However it is known that archery was well established in Leamington by 1833 when plans were drawn up for Newbold Gardens, later known as Jephson Gardens, as they specifically included an area for archery. Several engravings and early photographs show archery being practiced in Jephson Gardens.
Another early venue was Parr and Wisden’s Cricket Ground, named after the proprietors, George Parr and John Wisden. Most of this area has now been built on although part still exists as Victoria Gardens. Archery Road was part of the development which occurred around the 1880’s. The first notable Archery contest held in Leamington, the 1851 Grand National Archery Meeting, was held on Parr and Wisden’s ground. See the newspaper report.
Also in 1851 it was proposed by Mr Bown to form a new archery club, to be known as the “Royal Leamington Archers” and the following year they held their “First Annual Meeting” on Parr & Wisden’s Cricket Ground on 15th June. One of the prizes, a silver arrow, was won by Mrs James Sharp along with the title “Lady Chief for the Season”. See the newspaper report.
This was probably the 9cm arrow pictured here, which was discovered in 1999 in a field near Orpington in Kent. The arrow is inscribed “Royal Leamington Archers 1852”. How the arrow got there is unknown but it is believed that the ground had been used for archery tournaments in the past.
On 11 October 1949 Bernard Lee and Bob and Hylda Parsons, the founder members, met in the Warwick Restaurant, Castle Hill, Warwick and discussed the idea of forming an archery club. Then on 15 November they met there again, along with 9 others, the new club was formed and a committee elected with Bernard Lee as chairman, Bob Parsons as secretary and Mr E C Perry as treasurer. Initially the club was called ‘The Warwick Archery Club’ and the annual subsciption was set at 10/- (50p). The Warwick Restaurant was adopted as their headquarters for the time being.
Their first shooting ground was next to the river on land owned by the Old Mill Club in Warwick New Road. However, this was always considered temporary and the following January they moved to Heathcote Lane and then in June to the corner of Banbury Road and Bridge End, which became their ground for the next five years. The initial rent was £5 per year.
In 1955 the club asked if they could become sole tenents of the Bridge End field, so that cattle would not be grazed on it and they could mow the grass, but as that was not possible they looked around for a new ground. Cricket Meadow, next to the river on Mrs Butlin’s Newbold Comyn Farm in Leamington, had been used by the Gas Board Cricket Club but had recently become vacant. The field would be accessed via a pontoon across the river from St Mary’s Allotments on Radford Road. The decision was made to move to the new ground and at the same time rename the club ‘Royal Leamington Spa Archery Society’
In 1956 the treasurer, Peter Cooper, died aged only 30. His father and employees of Triumph Engineering in Meriden presented a trophy to be known as the Peter Cooper Memorial Bowl. It was agreed that this would be shot for on a handicap basis at the Peter Cooper Memorial Shoot each September, the round being an Albion.
In 1957 the annual rent for Cricket Meadow was £7-10-0. Indoor shooting was in a gym at Leamington Boys College, free for members, 2/6 (12½p) for visitors. Bernard Lee was chairman of the committee and Bob Parsons was the secretary and Club Coach. Among shoots held by the club most years was the Peter Cooper Memorial Shoot. AGMs and the Annual Dinner were often held at the White Lion in Radford Semele.
In 1958 the ‘Leamington’ round was introduced and was first shot on 19th October. The highest score was 328, shot by Leamington member and National Champion, Roy Matthews. The following year Lt Col Boehm, of the Southern Counties Archery Association donated an arrow to the club which it was decided to use as the Gentlemen’s prize. He had discovered the arrow, marked Leamington 1852, in a second hand shop. The Lee Horn was then the Ladies’ prize. In 1962 Mr Jack Flenton donated an arrow dated 1834 which was thereafter used as the Ladies’ prize.
In 1960 Roy Matthews was elected Mens Captain and Beryl Letts (who had achieved MB the previous year) was elected Ladies Captain. At this time it cost 5/- (25p) to join the club and the annual fees were £1-10-0 (£1.50) to shoot outdoors and £2-2-0 (£2.10) to shoot indoors.
Problems with trespassers and the increase in boating activities led the club to negotiate with Mr Willes for the use of his field on the corner of Willes Road and Newbold Terrace East. The club moved there in April 1961 and their inaugural shoot was a York/Hereford on May 28. However the increased rent, £45, led to the outdoor fees being increased to £3. The Warwickshire Field Archery Society, started by RLSAS members Bill and Beryl Letts, were granted the use of part of the field which was unsuitable for target archery, for field practice at a cost of 10/- per member, payable to RLSAS.
Members of the club watching Roy Matthews at their indoor venue, Leamington College for Boys, December 1961
Back Row (L-R): David Reeves, Ken Jerrim, Les Lenton, Malcolm Quinn, Bob Parsons & Maurice Nash
Middle Row: Thelma Osbourne, Mrs J Williamson, Betty Lenton, Hilda Parsons, Beryl Letts, Margaret Grunau, Shirley Nash, John Ward, Frank Rawlings, Colin Sanders & Bill Letts
Sitting: Guy Osbourne, Gail Grunau & Timothy Williamson
In 1962 Roy Matthews attained Grand Master Bowman.
At the 1963 AGM there was discussion about range safety and it was agreed that in future they would have just one shooting line and move the targets!! A laminated bow, made by member Charles Jamieson, was presented to Stoke Mandeville Hospital Archery Section. It was also discovered that the field the club rented was to be sold so a new venue had to be found. Later in the year they moved to a field at the Radford Semele end of Offchurch Bury which was rented from Mr Johnson for just £2 per annum. Mac and Catherine Pritchard, previously members of Meriden AC, joined the club in April 1963. Roy Matthews and Mac Pritchard were among the top 10 british archers in 1963 and Beryl Letts in the top 10 ladies. Mac Pritchard was selected to shoot for the British team at the World Championships in Helsinki.
In 1964 the BBC sent a team to film archers practicing at the club’s field. This was for publicity for the forthcoming Midland Counties shoot, which at this time was organised by the West Midlands Archery Association and held in Victoria Park.
In 1965 Roy Matthews was top of the GNAS archers rankings and Mac Pritchard was fifth. Both were selected for the British team to shoot at the World Championships in Västerås, Sweden.
At the 1966 AGM membership stood at 15 gents, 6 ladies, 6 honourary members and 5 juniors. Later that year a new pavillion was purchased as a replacement and an equipment store constructed on one end.
The ground at Offchurch Bury was not without its problems. In ’66 and ’68 the ground flooded causing damage to the mower and some bosses. There was a series of break-ins to the pavillion and for some of ’67 and ’68 there was restricted access to the field because of the ‘Foot & Mouth’ outbreak. Even without the flooding there were often problems with a ‘boggy shooting line’!
In 1968 Ted Gamble came 2nd in the International trials in Southport and Roy Matthews won GNAM with a World Record double York score of 1046 and 1092. Both were selected for the European Championships.
Towards the end of the ’60s Roy Matthews and Ted Gamble were regularly being selected for the British Men’s team and Mary Matthews was the team manager. Both Roy and Ted were selected for the Olympic training squad. Leamington archers were playing their part within the administration of archery at all levels; Roy Matthews, Mary Matthews and Catherine Pritchard were all vice-presidents of GNAS.
In 1971, although the club had only 21 shooting members, it could boast one Grand Master Bowman, Roy Matthews, and four Master Bowmen; Mac and Cath Pritchard, Ted Gamble and Ernie Pennington-West. Roy matthews and Cath Pritchard each held 5 Natioinal Records, Roy’s including the FITA and the Albion. In terms of performance, RLSAS was arguably the most successful club in the country at this time.
Frank Rawlings presented a cup, to be known as the “Rawlings Brothers Cup” for use at the Peter Cooper shoot. A Victorian silver ladies quiver was presented to the club by Fred Spoor, a dutch businessman who had joined the club so that he could shoot when he was in Leamington on business.
In 1972 Ted Gamble achieved GMB and set a new National record for the FITA round. Roy Matthews set a new National record for the double FITA, and was one of the 3-man team at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, West Germany. He scored highest of the British men, coming 17th in the individuals with a score of 2385 for the double FITA. Membership of RLSAS increased to 30 during the year and it was noted that newcomer Greville Adkins was making excellent progress.
However, 1972 was not all good news for the club. During the summer Roy Matthews announced that he and Mary would be moving to Worcestershire; he was given Life Membership in honour of his contribution to the success of the club. Mr Johnson announced that he was terminating the lease on the Offchurch Bury ground as he needed it for other purposes so the club had to look for another ground for the 1973 season. At the Peter Cooper memorial shoot, which that year was held at Stoneleigh as part of the Town & Country Festival, The Peter Cooper Bowl was returned in a poor condition and had to be repaired. As a result it was decided that the Peter Cooper Bowl and the Rawlings Brothers Cup would, in future, be retained within the club.
1973 started no better as Bill and Beryl Letts moved to Suffolk and Ted and Lydia Gamble emigrated to Canada. The club moved to a new ground at Bishops Tachbrook Sports and Social Club which was not very satisfactory, but the best that could then be found. They had problems with children vandalising the clubhouse there. The club were also told they could no longer use their indoor venue and for the next two winter seasons had nowhere to shoot indoors. They were invited to shoot with Courtaulds at their indoor rifle range in Matlock Road, Coventry (Mac and Cath Pritchard worked for Courtaulds) but this did not suit many of the members.
Cath Pritchard and Greville Adkins were successful in both County and Regional tournaments in 1974 and Greville also took part in the National Trials. They both also represented Warwichshire along with Mac Pritchard and Philip Charlton. Later in the year the club awarded honorary life membership to Frank Rawlings, a member since 1950, who had to give up archery following an eye operation.
In February of 1975 the club agreed a move to Bishop Bright School (now Trinity Catholic School) in Leamington where they could shoot on the school field and have the use of the gym for indoor shooting during the winter, the latter in return for giving archery lessons to some of the older school pupils. Cath Pritchard and Greville Adkins both achieved MB during the year and Greville had been selected for the Olympic training squad. Cath had won county, regional and national clout titles. Martyn Ellis had achieved Field MB and held the National record for the Hunter round. Membership, which had declined while they were at Bishops Tachbrook, increased again and stood at 29 affiliated members by the end of the year.
In 1976 the club formed a junior section for children of members, who were then allowed to shoot on Sunday afternoons. Greville Adkins and Mac and Cath Pritchard were having a lot of success at clout shooting; Cath setting a new national record for the single clout.
In 1978 Martyn Ellis was selected to shoot in the Field team in Sweden and the World and European Field Championships in Switzerland.
Greville Adkins was invited to join the GNAS Pre-Olympic Squad in 1980.
By 1982 the club was using the Old Leamingtonians ground for the Midland Counties shoot and they were offered the use of part of the ground as a permanent home for the club. However at this time the offer was turned down.
In 1985 Dave Stranks and his wife joined the club. Dave was an MB and promptly won the county outdoor and indoor championships. It was also around this time that Compounds began to appear in the club.
In 1989 Joanne Edens joined the club. She was a GMB and had competed at the Seoul Olympics the previous year. She went on to shoot at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. Richard Broughton and Tony Wager attained MB status.
In 1990 Bishop Bright School reviewed their policy on the use of the sports field and decided to charge £240 for its use, where previously it had been free. As the field was no longer felt to be ideal, negotiations were reopened with the Old Leamingtonians RFC and it was decided to move there in 1991. The first shoot was held at the new ground, where we still shoot today, on 1st April 1991. Indoor shooting continued at the school, as it still does, but from then on the club had to pay by the night. Later that year Tony Wager made GMB and Joanne Edens was a member of the British team at the World Championships.