Leamington and Midland Counties Archery Meeting
Some Notable Winners of the Tournament
Horace A Ford (1822–1880)
Horace Ford is known as one of the greatest target archers of all time. He took up archery in 1845, and only four years later won the Grand National Archery Meeting. He went on to win an unmatched eleven consecutive championships, including the three held in Leamington between 1851 and 1853, and also won many of the early ‘Leamington and Midland Counties’ meetings which grew out of those three Leamington GNAMs. His score of 1251 for the double York at the GNAM in 1857 remained as the unbeaten record for 72 years!! No other archer even shot over 1000 at a major tournament until Major Fisher achieved 1060 at Sherbourne in 1872. Ford is believed to have shot 809 for a single York in practice.
His skill as an archer was partly down to his scientific approach and attention to detail, which turned archery from being principally a social pastime into a serious sport. When he started shooting there was little guidance for archers and styles varied widely. Ford developed his system which enabled him to shoot so successfully and in 1856 published a book “Archery: Its Theory and Practice” detailing his system and theory of shooting. The full text of the second edition can be found at The Archery Library.
Ford, a member of the Royal Toxopholite Society, shot 29″ arrows, made by Muir, from 54lb yew bows made by Buchanan of London. One key to his success was his insistance that the anchor point be at the centre of the chin rather than at the side of the face, thus giving a more consistant draw length. He also appreciated that archery is a mental game and was said to have shot each arrow as though his life depended on it.
Sadly he eventually gave up shooting because of an injury to his draw hand.
Mrs Horniblow was the most successful archeress of the mid 19th century. She was GNAM Ladies champion ten times and won at the Leamington Tournament on twelve occasions.
Major Charles Hawkins Fisher
|Major Fisher was one of the best archers of the late 19th century. Earlier in his career he had frequently practiced with Horace Ford in Cheltenham, and was known as the inventor of the “Fisher Loose”. The height of his career appears to have been the early ’70s when he won GNAM 4 times 1871-1874 and Leamington in 1871 and 1872 (no L&MC in 1873 as GNAM was in Leamington that year). He was not a regular at the Leamington shoot, but when he did attend he usually won.
In 1885 a cup was purchased with money donated by tradesmen and residents of Leamington. It was to be competed for by the gentlemen and retained by anyone who won it three years running. Major Fisher won it in each of the first three years, so another trophy had to be found. However, in 1891 he presented it back to the tournament, to be competed for annually in open competition. Although the original “Fisher Cup” went missing in 1933, a replacement was found and has been awarded ever since.
Alice Blanche Legh (1855-1948)
|Alice Legh was by far the most successful lady archer of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and dominated the Leamington shoot and GNAM for four decades. Of the 15 names on the front of the Lady Champions Mirror 13 are Miss Legh, which was Alice. The others were her sister, Miss B M Legh, and Miss Q Newall (see below). Her mother, Mrs Piers Legh had also been a prominent archer and previous winner at Leamington and GNAM. The family lived in Cheltenham and were members of Cheltenham Archers.
From 1881 to 1922, she won the national ladies’ archery championship twenty-three times and Leamington & Midland Counties at least twenty. In 1908, she declined to compete at the London Olympics in order to prepare for her defense of the national title a week later, in which she beat Queenie Newall, the Olympic gold medal winner, by a large margin. Still at the top of her form in 1922 she won the Leamington and Midland Counties and GNAM, following which she retired from competitive archery at the age of 67.
Sybil Fenton ‘Queenie’ Newall (1854-1929)
|Queenie Newall was another archer from Cheltenham, where she lived with her three younger sisters. Not quite as successful as Alice Legh, she nevertheless won the Leamington & Midland Counties in 1907 and was National Champion on three occasions. She also won the 1908 Olympics, beating Lottie Dod, an excellent sportswoman, although better known for her success at tennis, and sister of William Dod, who won the men’s archery. Queenie Newall still holds the record for being, at 53, the oldest woman ever to win a gold medal at the Olympics.
Queenie continued shooting almost until her death in 1929 at the age of 74. Shortly after her death, her sister Victoria presented the “Newall Silver Challenge Belt” in her memory, to be awarded each year at the Leamington & Midland Counties Archery Meeting.