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Club History

A Short History of The Jolly Archers

As we, The Jolly Archers of Houghton and Wyton, celebrated our 50th Anniversary in 2012, perhaps it is time to admit we may have been a little late! The original club to bear the name was formed on August 11th 1954 and at that time was the only archery club in the County of Huntingdonshire. Unfortunately, after the initial enthusiasm which took the new club to the top of the Peterborough Archery League and produced a new national record for the Hereford round (A.H. Ruff, 859), support faded and in 1955 the club was disbanded.

The present club came into being on the 1st of August 1962 at a meeting held in the Three Jolly Butchers public house in Wyton, just outside Huntingdon. About twelve people were present at this inaugural meeting during which the landlord, Mr Fred Eastwood was appointed Chairman. In between pints of beer and games of darts, Mr Jeff Parry became Secretary, Mr P Ketteringham, Treasurer and Mr Bill Cursley, Club Captain and Instructor (Mr Cursley had been part of the original Jolly Archers in 1954). Also present were Mr Dennis Smith, Equipment Officer and Messers Wilde, Harradine, MacMasters, Ambrose and Roots. Items for discussion included general organisation, safety precautions, storage of equipment and membership. Subscriptions were set at 10 shillings per member and 18 shillings for a married couple. Visitors would be permitted to shoot on payment of a target fee of one shilling. Target Days were to be Sunday afternoons with Thursday evening and Saturday set aside for practice. Den Smith, later an Honorary Life Member and the clubs President, sadly passed away in 2013.

The shooting ground in those early days was a field at the rear of the pub. Not a neatly manicured area of grass that we associate with archery today, but a mass of long grass and thigh high weeds full of molehills and rabbit holes. It was due to the hard work of those first few members that the field became more useable with shorter grass and fewer weeds - though they didn't manage to get rid of the moles! (see the picture below). Visitors to the pub from the river had to pass through the shooting range, and so had to wait until the archers had finished shooting before they could continue on their way to quench their thirst. A small shed was already in situ and was adopted as the club hut and an unused chicken shed, donated by one of the members, was carefully re-located to become the target store.

The clubs first target day was attended by six archers on 16th October 1962, shooting wooden arrows from wooden bows at a distance of 40 yards. The first inter-club match, just five days later on 21st October, was the result of a challenge from archers at RAF Wyton. A team of six archers was selected, a Columbia round (two dozen arrows at 50, 40 and 30 yards) was shot and the Jolly Archers won by 2197 to 1260. They also won the return match with a slightly more convincing 3065 to 1898. This match also produced the clubs first six gold end shot by Den Smith. Quite a feat in those days, considering nobody had a sight!

The Jolly Archers circa 1965

The following year saw the club take a more serious approach to archery. Local clubs were approached for fixtures, some members entered open tournaments and pretty soon medals and trophies were being won. The Western Round quickly became popular among members, primarily because it was the longest round they could shoot in the available space on the field! The Jolly Archers held their first Open Western Tournament in August 1963 and have held an Open Western every year since though these days it's a month earlier.

The club began to expand as the members began to advertise their existence by attending local events and putting on displays of their archery skills. Among those new members were Den's wife Joan and their two sons. Joan in particular was quite proficient and in 1968, both she and Den were selected to shoot for their County - in those days it was Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire Archery Association.

The Jollys had always been in the news. Den's scrap book is filled with newspaper clippings reporting on the achievements of the club at local competitions, demonstrations at village  fêtes and fund raisers, both for themselves and for charity. One such clipping shows the Jollys at the St Neots carnival in 1971 playing darts against The Plough pub from Eynesbury. The archers shot from 20 yards while the darts team played their usual game. The archers won in two straight legs. The landlord of The Plough defended his teams defeat saying "the problem was the darts wouldn't stick in the board properly because of the wind".

The Club had it's first Grand Master Bowman in 1991 when Peter Shaw met the challenge shooting an unlimited compound bow. Shooting continued at the rear of the Three Jolly Butchers until GNAS introduced a new ruling dictating minimum standards for range safety. Since their existing ground no longer complied the Jolly's moved to the sports field at St Peters School in Huntingdon in 1992. This was not a happy time as the club's equipment store was broken into four times during their short residency. Fund raising had to be stepped up to replace stolen kit, jumble sales, and even a dinner/dance were the order of the day. 

Continuing the story..........

The Open Western has continued to be shot. At St Peters School (1992-1995) followed by St Ives Rugby Club (1996-2002) before we settled at Jubilee Park (2003 to date). We followed the success of this shoot by launching an indoor archery tournament in 1992 at the St Ivo Recreation Centre. The initial round shot was a FITA (WA) 18 but in 2000 we changed to a Portsmouth round leading to significant growth in entries resulting in the need for three sessions for 150 rounds to be shot. This tournament has incorporated the CAA indoor championships since  1998. The most recent open tournament to be started in 2011 has been the Autumn Shoot, a record status shoot of York, Hereford, and Bristol rounds. All three open shoots are successfully continuing.

Outdoor club shooting continued at St Peters until 1994 when we moved to the West Anglia Training/ Hartford Sports Club ground where we shared a football pitch. Like most archery clubs our availability of shooting time was limited and our security of tenure non-existent. This changed in 2001 when we agreed a 99 year lease to shoot at Jubilee Park from the Huntingdon Town Council.We have much to thank the then Town Clerk Ted Bocking, the Mayor Doug McIllwain and the members of the Town Council. The first arrows were shot in 2002. The legal work wasn’t finally completed until 2009 when we managed to obtain increased space incorporated into the lease for the ground as we now know it.

Good quality indoor shooting space has been difficult to find. In the mid 1970’s we started shooting in the Rifle Range at St Ivo Recreation Centre until with the development of the centre in 2012 there was no space for archery. Fortunately we had already started shooting at Victory Hall, Somersham in 2001 after we had the experience of being prevented from shooting at St Ivo for 9 months because of a risk of lead poisoning from the rifle club’s activities. Whilst continuing to shoot at Somersham we started shooting at the Huntingdon Leisure Centre from 2012.

Highlights of our club shooting are many. In 2000 we held a Fun Shoot to celebrate the 80th birthday of Den Smith a founder member who continued to shoot until his death in 2012. The Celebration Fun Shoot is still being shot annually. We managed to complete a 24 hour shoot in aid of the British Heart Foundation in 2002. Individual success has been achieved with many county champions. Linda Stevenson has represented Wales and England, and Joanne Orbell was the Under 18 Junior Girl National Indoor Recurve Champion. She has gone on to become a judge and has been officiating at many international tournaments. Our second member to achieve Grand Master Bowman was Paul Anthony, shooting compound, in 2012. An achievement he repeated in the following year

Perhaps our greatest achievement to date has been that we are still flourishing after over 50 years. We have secure tenure of our excellent outdoor shooting ground for our membership of about 100. Our finances are sound with money in the bank and enough volunteers (just) to run the club properly. I wonder what will happen next!!!