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For the love of archery

The Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds displays several archery prizes. One of which is a medal from the Stockwell Archers, presented to George Ellis Esq. The inscription reads “for the skill displayed by him in Archery on the 9th July 1832”.

A round archery medal embossed with the coat of arms of the Stockwell Archers, flanked by two uniformed archers, the arms surmounted by an arm grasping five arrows

Stockwell Archers archery medal. 1823. XVIII.420.

Archery has a long-standing place in history as both a method for hunting and for warfare but by the 17th century, because of the introduction of guns, the bow was no longer used as a primary weapon.

It developed into a competitive sport with the first known organised competition held at Finsbury in 1583 which had 3000 participants. It was later revived in the 18th century due to the interest of the Prince of Wales, later George IV, who took up the sport. Consequently, he became patron of many societies established during the late 1700s in which both men and women took part.

Early 20th century woman competing in an archery competion

Female toxophilite (a student or lover of archery) in competition

Competitions have always formed an important aspect of the sport with the most significant being the Grand National Archery Meeting. This was first held in York in 1844. Prizes have included engraved arrows, archers bracers, and medals.

The museum’s collection includes medals from:

The sport was introduced into the 1900 Olympics but then dropped after 1908. Apart from a single appearance in 1920, it was not re-introduced until 1972. At the London 2012 Olympics the archery contest was held at Lord’s Cricket Ground with 128 competitors taking part.

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