In 1879 the archers of the NORTHERN COUNTIES awoke to the fact that they were not so well cared for regards public meetings as in other parts of England. Possibly some enterprising archer, having wandered westward, had brought back a glowing account of a GRAND WESTERN MEETING visited by him under more genial skies than his own, and on his return expatiated on the delights he had partaken?
However this may be, the expediency of having a meeting of their own was canvassed, and in “The Field”, September 1879 Mr. J. Foster Jnr. wrote a letter suggesting that one should be started for the North on the same lines as the Western. The idea took hold and a month later Mr. Foster again wrote to “The Field” saying he had received so many promises of support that he felt justified in calling a meeting of archers at Leeds Archers’ Hall on October 30th to consider whether a Grand Archery Northern Meeting should be established and if so to form a Committee.
The meeting was well attended and a resolution was passed “That an archery meeting to be called The Grand Northern Archery Meeting, for the six Northern Counties, and the Counties of Chester, Derby, Nottingham and Lincoln, shall be held in one of the said Counties and that a Secretary and Committee to run the same, be appointed”. (Please note the mention of six counties. The current Northern Counties now have a constitution bearing only five counties and the Isle of Man.)
A strong committee was appointed, Mr. Foster being the first secretary and the next year the first meeting was held on The Gentlemen’s Cricket Ground at York, both of Northern and other Archers. At the Meeting held on October 30th the chairman predicted that the Northern Meeting would be largely attended by the best archers in the country ‘ that would greatly benefit the young archers of the Northern Societies by enabling them to study the style of form of the crack shots and hear many bits of good advice and wrinkles. ‘ – (Extracts from the Badminton Library Volume on Archery.)
The first meetings were held at York, Liverpool, Harrogate and Derby with no scores of any consequence being recorded but much comment upon the inclemency of the weather particularly at Harrogate & Derby. In 1886 at Lincoln, ‘the wind was so strong that the Ladies tent was blown down’. Mr. Perry Keane made a score of 1,499 for the Tournament on that occasion though the scoring was somewhat different from that of the present day. These early Tournaments did not attract much enthusiasm from Press or Public as this extract from a Newspaper circa 1890 concerning the Grand Northern Meeting of that year makes clear:
“THE GRAND NORTHERN ARCHERY MEETING was not, from a popular and local point of view, a success. As regards the number of competitors and the character of the shooting it may have given satisfaction to the ladies and gentlemen who took part in the proceedings, but even they must have felt the depressing character of the weather and certain it is that the town as a community was scarcely aware, or if aware of, did not very openly recognise, their presence in its midst The elements were of course very adverse to the gathering, but even on Thursday, when there were several hours without rain, the attendance of the public was but slight The archers came like shadows and so departed without, we fear, having made much if any impression upon the public mind in Derby.
For this we confess we are sorry but perhaps it will be difficult to interest the local public in any outdoor sport so long as it necessarily takes place in a locality so out of the direction of ordinary locomotion as the County Cricket Ground.”
In the interim period between the start of the Grand Northern and the parallel organisation of a society, archery declined in popularity as other leisure activities developed. However after the termination of the Second ‘World’ war a new generation of archers developed and the Northern Counties Archery Society re-organised much in it’s present form. The ‘Grand Northern’ still remained and is still presenting many of the original awards. The tournament was a three-day tournament until the 1970’s.
A double York/Hereford was shot on Thursday and Friday and a Western Round Handicap Shoot on Saturday morning. The annual General Meeting was held on Thursday evening and the Annual Dance on Friday.
Many archers appear to have been less than enthusiastic at “sighters” at 9.30 a.m. on the Saturday! The awards ceremony was after lunch on Saturday and it ended a civilised and pleasant tournament with “as I remember” much liquid refreshment and emphasis upon enjoyment of the occasion.
In 1955/57/58 the Northern was at Abbeydale, Sheffield, in 1956 it was held in Morecombe. Keswick hosted the Tournament in 1959/60 and in 61/62 it went to Durham. In 1963 it was at Winnington Park, Cheshire, and in 64/65 back at Sheffield. Southport, Lancs, were hosts in 1966/67 and in 1968/69 it went to Adel, Yorks. The number of archers, able and willing to participate in a three-day mid-week tournament, declined after this and thereafter a two-day (Saturday and Sunday) double York/Hereford Grand Northern replaced the earlier shoot. Lancashire hosted the 1970/71 ‘Northerns’ at Nelson and Preston and in 1973 it was once again at York (Ebor).
Here history was made when at the Annual General Meeting after the Tournament there was much discussion regarding the low attendance at the Tournament. Paul Taylor of Cheshire led a successful proposal to change the round to a double F.I.T.A. (The same international style round shot at the ‘Olympic Games’ until the late 1990’s.)
There was much opposition! Until 1980 the Grand Northern (F.I.T.A. Star) Tournaments were held in Manchester and as at this time few F.I.T.A. Star tournaments were organised, it flourished! The majority of the participants were not N.C.A.S. archers and this resulted in a move for a reversal to a Grand Northern for N.C.A.S. archers with the emphasis once again upon enjoyment rather than qualifying scores! The result was a very successful Grand Northern Championship Meeting at Harewood House, Yorkshire in 1980/81, with a return to the traditional York/Hereford rounds.
Since then it has travelled round the Region, in 82/83 at Norton (Durham & Northumberland), 84/85 in Cheshire, 86/87 in Lancashire, back to Norton in 88/89 and now circulating, by agreement between the five counties on rota. As would be expected the attendance is better in the south of the region where most archers live, but all those who attend, especially those who do so for the first time, are impressed with the friendly, relaxed atmosphere created at this particular shoot. This is a tournament where good company is more important than good scores but those shooting well are rewarded by some of the oldest and most splendid trophies in the country.
For a list of Awards and winners, where known, please follow the menu item Target
Regrettably the land used in Manchester, which had then been the venue for hosting the FITA star(s), was lost to our use and the contract was terminated. With a payment to the Northern Counties Archery Society for the enforced termination of the contract the society then decided on a course of action which would reward any club which was willing to host a tournament on behalf of the regional society. Thus the hosting and running of tournaments by the regional society was delegated to it’s constituent counties. The society has now become more of an administrative body, however, the Grand Northern is still shot as a double York / Hereford round(s) but now hosted by a club in one of the ‘five counties’, sometimes associated with a tournament of their own.
The FITA stars are similarly hosted although the regional society is needed to permit these shoots to go ahead as the managing body which the GNAS and FITA recognise. For their part, the regional society now acts as the regulatory body for the coaching and judging control within the regional counties. Also the funnel through which member affiliations are routed to the National Governing body, and in part provide the funding for the English Archery Federation to participate in Archery competition as a home nation.