Finsbury Marks Supper 15 November 2007
On Thursday 15 November, 20 goodly Bowyers, including the Master, gathered at Davy's 'Grapeshots' wine bar in Artillery Passage, near Liverpool Street, for a very convivial and enjoyable 'Finsbury Marks Supper'.
The Finsbury Marks were a series of archery targets positioned around the Finsbury Fields, in what was then open land north of Chiswell Street, for archery practice during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. In the late 16th century there were 194 marks, with several thousand archers regularly practising, but by 1737, with the decline of archery, just 21 marks remained.
From left to right: Tony Kench, The Master and Richard Head The evening began with a glass of wine and short presentations by Tony Kench and Richard Head. Tony described the history of archery in the Finsbury Fields, which had enjoyed strong royal support from Henry VIII and Charles I, long after Agincourt. Maps were published of where the archery marks were; new research by Tony had identified the precise locations of the last 21 marks on the current-day London map, stretching from Old Street roundabout northward to the Regent's Canal in Islington.
Richard brought with him a very impressive example of the sort of full-size war-bow the Finsbury archers would have been using. Its 100lb draw-weight was too much for most present; the distances shot at the Finsbury Marks ranged from 200 to nearly 400 yards, well beyond today's sporting distances. Richard described how the objective was not to hit the mark but to land your arrow nearest to it; then whoever landed nearest had the honour of choosing the next target for the shooting party to aim at.
The choice of Artillery Passage as the venue for the evening had not been a coincidence; it was named for its proximity to the HAC's 16th century Artillery Gardens, where archery had been practised (the word artillery being derived from the French 'arc tirer', to draw a bow). The Bowyers present were well looked after by the Grapeshots' staff, and the social discourse continued happily beyond closing time.