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The History of Company Of St. Crispin

The Club History by Jan Bowen.

The East Anglian Longbow Tournament is known as a friendly fun shoot, where the judges rule is.

"Archers will enjoy themselves"

    During the latter half of 1991 several longbowmen met to discuss their views on the way archery in general was treating the longbow, which was just beginning to re-emerge at various matches.
The main feelings were that due to the relaxed style of shooting in the bow and the fierce competitiveness of recurve and compound archers, they, the longbowmen were not enjoying their shooting, so tended to form small groups away from their high-tech cousins. This in itself fostered a them and us situation. Also the longbowmen shifted emphasis slightly and went towards re-enactment.

    So the seeds of the EALT were sown, members of the City of Cambridge Bowmen and the Jolly Archers met and formed the Company of St. Crispin Archers. In order that neither of the parent clubs stood the cost of running the event, we went to four sponsors, Quicks, Targetcraft, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and Rattee & Kett, each donated £25 to get up and running.

Targets.    One of the main attractions of the EALT is the targetss. Cardboard castles populated with little cardboard knights. Pye TVT, who Jan Bowen worked for, donated all the cardboard for the knights, shields, castles and the target faces.

First Year.     The format of the first EALT was a two-way clout in the morning and a two-way Western in the afternoon. 29 hardy souls ventured out that first year, including Patrick and Jayne Moriarty, who travelled all the way from Ayrshire! Wind and a few drops of rain didn't detract from a good shoot, and we even had a radio Cambridgeshire radio reporter to interview us!
After the match, a postmortem highlighted teething problems, and plans for the 1993 event were amended. By now, word of mouth was helping the entries, 36 archers on the field, format still the same, wind still the same. The wind problem forced an instant decision to shoot the Western one way, this has stayed to this day.

1994.    1994 saw a virtual doubling of the entries, up to 69, and the format had now settled to the now familiar pattern, one way target round of 5 dozen arrows into a 3 zone scoring face set at ground level. The clout and target round distances are paced! (judge, My Lord Bishop Barham, does the pacing).
1995    Bottisham Village College now entered a period of rebuilding, alteration and upgrading, which meant that the venue was unsuitable for hosting our match, a new venue at Impington Village College was planned. Due to the uncertainties caused by the move, the 1995 EALT was made an invitation only match, purely because we didn't know if the ground would support a large crowd, and, if the venue had to be switched at the last moment we had the means of informing everyone quickly. As it turned out the venue was superb and the 89 archers who turned out, left us in no doubt how much better the venue and tournament was.
1996     During one of our planning meetings an idea for relaying the field was proposed, we had had trouble stepping over the targets on our way upto and back from the clouts, so we decided for the 1996 match that the bosses would be in a line running down the field, that is parallel to the clout shoot.
Bosses.     On the subject of bosses, it was at this time that the state of the square Olympic bosses was giving cause for concern. So taking a suggestion from Geoff Barham, Starmit Industries were contacted and we were overjoyed when the sponsorship came in the form of 18 Practice Backstop Bosses. We formally asked Mr Granville Holmes to attend as our guest and hopefully to present the Ladies prizes.
    During the week leading up to the shoot, the weather forecast was the main topic of interest, doom and gloom abided as the weather fronts slid in, each worse than the previous.
    Sunday, 5 am, the car packed with all the essential bits and pieces, sign posts last in, although on the Saturday we had put in the majority of the route markers. As we drove in we added extra signs and re-sited two, to improve the visibility. On the field, the Company quietly went about the job of erecting the four clouts and siting the targets. As all organisers know something always gets forgotten and I'm no exception, I forgot to erect the sponsors banner, so assembly was a bit delayed but in keeping with the laid back style of the shoot, who cared!!
An Audience!!    By the time the shoot was under way the weather had cleared into a perfect day, calm and sunny. The morning clout was interrupted briefly by some footballers who arrived to find that one corner of their pitch overlapped into the ladies clout, after first demanding that we moved out of their way, so that they could get on with some serious practice!!!! Actually they moved!!! Geoff Barham's a big lad and with 90 odd medieval archers, most sporting various bits of ancient armament, certainly brought a new meaning to the phrase, "hostile audience!"

The 6th EALT.   Following on, the 6th EALT came and went, another 95 satisfied archers including one very happy ex-recurve archer, who on her first EALT took the overall Ladies trophy, well done Denise Dixon. I also have to apologise to Graham Knight, in fact grovel, might be more reasonable.
    During the lunch break, we organise a two arrow shoot, one small target (aiming point) at 200 paces, nearest gent, lady and junior. 50p to enter, all proceeds to St. Johns Ambulance, who provide first aid cover. This year I was about to shoot and as I was talking to Graham, he offered to lend me his bow to try out. Yes you've guessed it I beat him and won the Gents prize! very sorry Mr Knight Sir. (but at least I did buy one of your bows)

    So there you have it, the lowdown on the East Anglian Longbow Tournament, a very satisfying tournament to stage, hard work especially for the paperwork lady, Pat Bowen who swears each year is going to be the last!! She produces all the score sheets, collates the clout scores, enters those scores onto the target sheets and after the match, checks all the sheets and sorts out the winners before the raffle!!
    And of course the hard work that the members of the Company put in to ensure success of the EALT, Den Smith of the Jolly Archers for the wonderful hand made disc and arrow trophies, also the spoon trophies, which seem to be more fiercely contested for than the main prizes.

Castle Hedingham     Taking the theme of the EALT a bit further, a visit to Castle Hedingham and a long chat to the curator, the first Defence of Hedingham Castle was held , shooting around the valley walk, our little Knights lurking in the trees with several; other "nasties". Again, by good luck and a lot of patience by the archers, we fumbled our way through the shoot, we seem to have hit another winning combination. But more about that in a later page update.

Conclusion.     Back to the EALT, now that we had refined the format of the event, the years slipped by, each tournament getting easier, the setup of the field happening almost by magic, all members knowing just what to do.
    The competitors too, had caught the "bug", every year around the indoor circuit, I was being asked for entry forms. The numbers of entries kept about the same. Each year there were tales of woe and bad luck, most of which can be found in every archers book of excuses! But the most often heard phrase was "Archers Are Enjoying Themselves" and that is all that the Company Of St. Crispin Archers want to hear.

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