Shooting at the Marks
A brief history
FFYNEFBURY FIELD 1st September 1521
.... and who shall come hither and take a longbow in his hand having the standard therein therfor appointed and ffayest draweth, clenyest delyvreth and farest of ground shoteth, shall for his best game of shootyng at the mark, a crown of gold will be to hym ......
Shooting at “Marks” is often considered one of the oldest forms of archery competition still in existence today. From the early part of the sixteenth century and throughout the seventeenth century the open areas of north London, commonly known as The Fields of Finsbury were set aside for ordinary citizens to practice the art and skills of archery. During the early era of shooting in the Finsbury fields, the targets or “Marks”, as they were commonly called, were nothing more than painted stakes placed in hedgerows and open ground with the distance between the marks set to reflect the distances required to shoot arrows during warfare. Shooting at the marks became a popular recreational pastime and soon attracted the patronage of King Henry VIII and other later monarchs who formalised the distances to be shot. The range of the marks were set out between 7 and 9 and a half score yards, which equates to between 140 and 190 yards. During the early years of the seventeenth century the wooden marks were replaced with carved stone pillars, each identified with a unique name such as “Kings Kindness, Baines his Needle, Swans Stake, Carters Whip and Wells his Phissick. At the height of its popularity there were 137 marks recorded with formalised rules of shooting and recorded distances to other marks. The last of the marks “Scarlet” was removed in 1881 and is now housed in the premises of the Honourable Artillery Company.
The Field and Roving Archery Society seeks to perpetuate this ancient form of archery competition by organising Roving Mark events around the U.K.