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The Worlds longest established and oldest recorded sporting event, The Antient Scorton Silver Arrow, is due to take place at Hull, in the East Riding of Yorkshire this year, on Saturday 19th May when some of the finest Long Bow Archers will descend take part in this historic annual event.

This years Tournament will be the 299th recorded annual meeting in the Tournaments 335th yea. Shooting commences at 10.00 when, in keeping with tradition, the ancient bugle rallies the Archers to assemble under the Banner of the Society 'at 10.00 of the morning'.

The Tournament itself is named after the village of Scorton, where the first Archery Tournament was held in 1673 and a Silver Arrow was awarded to the winner, who becomes 'Captain of the Arrow' for that year.

Gentlemen Archers of the Society of Archers will take the customery interlude for Luncheon, in keeping with the traditions, dining with the Captain of the Arrow and making the Loyal Toast to Her Majesty the Queen and The Antient Arrow.

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Today the original Silver Arrow is deposited with the Royal Armouries in Leeds and the winner is presented with a replica Silver Arrow to keep for one year.

The Tournament is organised by The Society of Archers whose original authentic records dating right back to the first competition in 1673 can be found on their website, www.scortonarrow.com - which contains a wealth of historic information and attracts tens of thousands of 'visitors' a year.

The Tournament is open to all Gentlemen Archers aged 21 (not modern compound bows) and there has been many occasions when English Longbow enthusiasts have travelled from all over the World to take part in this prestigious event.

Although accurately described as an Archery Tournament, the Antient Scorton Silver Arrow Competition itself has become more of a special institution over the years, seeped in historic tradition.

The targets are set at 100 yards and the winner is the first Archer to pierce a small 3 inch diameter black spot in the centre of the 4 foot target with his Arrow.

It is the participation in the event and special unique atmosphere of the Scorton that lies behind its success and a longevity that spans over three centuries, where competitors enjoy both a camaraderie and friendly rivalry on the field, followed by an excellent luncheon, fine table and good company, to resume back on the field until afternoon tea and the presentation of Trophies.

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There has, as one might expect with a trophy aged over 300 years, been a variety of stories down the ages concerning the true origins of the Scorton Silver Arrow.

In truth, no one really knows the origin of the Arrow up until 1673, for despite historical research, no documented evidence has, as yet, ever been found to substantiate or disprove for that matter, any of the 'mysteries' or theories of where the Silver Arrow first originated from.

What we do know from recorded documented evidence, is that on the Sunday morning of the 14th May 1673 at Scorton in North Yorkshire, twenty two gentlemen archers gathered to compete for a Silver Arrow trophy. This was won by Henry Calverley, M.P. a gentleman from the village of Eryholme on Tees, who had coincidentally, also provided the trophy.

The tournament proved such a success that a new society was formed: The Society of Archers and ARTICLES OF RULES laid down to hold the competition on an annual basis. The winner of the Silver Arrow became the Captain of the Arrow and would be largely responsible for organising the next tournament in the ensuing year, assisted by the Lieutenant, who had been the first archer to
pierce the red circle.
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But what of the origin of Arrow before 1673?

Ben Hird, former Captain of the Arrow in 1900 and author of that excellent book 'THE ANTIENT SCORTON SILVER ARROW' Published in 1972 by The Society of Archery-Antiquaries (now out of print but available as a free download file on this website - see main history index page). Says that of all the stories about the origin of the Arrow, in his opinion, the most likely one is the so called 'Scorton Story'.

This tells of the Waistell family who bought Scorton Manor, Scorton, North Yorkshire in 1616 and where they lived with two sons; Leonard the eldest and a younger son, John.

Both Leonard and John went to Cambridge University in 1647 and 1653 respectively.

John reputedly won a silver arrow in an archery tournament whilst 'down south' and brought it back home to Scorton, Yorkshire with him. Whether he was allowed to keep the Arrow permanently or should have returned the trophy the following year is a matter of conjecture.

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In any event, not long after his return to Yorkshire, John fell in love with a young maid servant in the household and despite what must in those days have been intense pressure from his family not to marry beneath his station, he ended up eloping and marrying the young lady.

As a result he was disinherited and left the family home, leaving many of his possessions behind - including his Silver Arrow, which was then given to a family friend Henry Calverley M.P., on condition that he makes a solemn vow never to divulge the origin of the Arrow.

This prompts several questions: It is clear from the profession of John Waistell Senior that he is a respected and prominent member of the community, being both a Lawyer and Magistrate; but why would he make any secret that he had given away a trophy belonging to a son who he felt had so disgraced his families name?

Why on the other hand did Henry Calverley wait a minimum of 14 years (John Waistell Senior died in 1659) before calling the first Tournament in 1673?

At St. Mary's Church, Boston on Swale, near Scorton, North Yorkshire there is a memorial wall tablet which is inscribed:

"Here lyeth John Wastell of Scorton Esq.
Councillor of Law. Justice of the Peace and Master in Chancery
who dyed December 4th 1659.
Also Lady Ann Relict of Sir Richard Tanckred of Scorton
and wife of the above John Wastell, who dyed April 1st 1665.
Also Leonard Wastell, Esq who dyed 1st October 1664.

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There is no mention of the disinherited son John.

(The village of SCORTON today, retains much of its historical character and picturesque charm. Their website is well worth a visit - see the Links index page for more information)

Another story handed down over the ages, talks about Queen Elizabeth 1st (born 1533) who ruled from 1558 to her death in 1603, and who had presented a Silver Arrow for the English Archery Championships, most likely held in Oxford.

We know from documentary evidence that Queen Elizabeth I, like her father before, King Henry VIII was a very keen and enthusiastic Archer.

This Silver Arrow was won by the celebrated English Archery Champion,
the Roger Ascham. (So famous in his time, even a hold-all bag was named after him).

It is an historical fact that Roger Ascham became the Queens private Archery tutor, spending many leisurely hours with the Queen where it is said he became quite a close and trusted confident of his patron.

Roger Ascham had a house at Oxford but his main residence was at Kirby Whiske in North Yorkshire - 15 miles from Scorton!

He died in 1568 and the English Championship Silver Arrow disappeared, never to be seen or heard of again.

105 years later, Henry Calverely M.P., produces a Silver Arrow from 'persons unknown'. When asked how he acquired the Arrow, he states that he has made a solemn vow never to divulge the origin of the Arrow!
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To prove how serious and important the Long Bow was considered, examine the Statue imposed by King Henry VIII and written by the King in the 6th year of his reign - 1515

Item: Whether the Kinges subjectes, not lame nor having no lawfull impediment, and beinge within the age of XI yeares, excepte Spiritual men, Justices etc. and Barons of the Exchequer, use shoting on longe bowes, and have bowe continually in his house, to use himself and that fathers and governours of chyldren teache them to shote, and that bowes and arrowes be bought for chyldren under XVII and above VII yere, by him that has such a chylde in his house, and the Maister maye stoppe it againe of his wages, and after that age he to provideb them himselfe: and who that is founde in defaute, in not having bowes and arrowes by the space of a moneth, to forfayte xiid.. And boyers for everie bowe of ewe, to make two of Elme wiche or othere wood of meane price, and if thei be founde to doe the contrarie, to be committed to warde, by the space of viii daies or more.

And that buttes be made, in everie citie, towne and place accordinge to the law of auncient time used, and the inhabitantes and dwellers in everye of them to exercise themselfe with longe bowes in shotinge at the same, and elles wher on holy daies and other times conveniente.

And that al bowstaves of ewe, be open and not solde in bundels nor close.

And that no stranger not being denizen, shall convey oute of the kinges obeilance (?) anie bowes, arrowes, or shaftes without the kinges speciall license upon paine of forfaiture, and also imprysonment nor use shotynge in anie longe bowe without the kinges license, uppon paine to forfaite the bowes and arrowes to the kinges subjectes that will Seaze them.

The Statute thereof is ANNO 6. H8. Cap:2.

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There is no evidence or record that this Act has ever been repealed - so fathers ( or 'governors') with children over the age of 7 - you face a fine if you have not provided them with a bow, two arrows and taught them how to shoot!

Finally, another story by Hugh D Soar, the much respected Archery Historian and Author, who mentions yet another 'lost' Arrow, in his work 'SEVENTEENTH CENTURY ARCHERY' ( reproduced on this website) this time belonging to The Society of Finsbury Archers, which disappears in 1670 and has to be replaced in 1672.

Hugh draws some interesting parallels and similarities, which appear more than just coincidental between the two sets of Rules of the Society of Archers (Scorton) and The Society of Finsbury Archers.

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Whatever the origins of the Arrow, we do know that the first tournament took place in 1673 and the Silver Arrow was won by Henry Calverley M.P., who does not appear to have shot for it again. The Lieutenant was William Wheatley and it was here that the original parchment setting down the Rules of the Society of Archers and for future meetings, were drawn up.

As one might expect for a trophy of such antiquity, the Silver Arrow has had somewhat of a chequered history; Gilded sometime between 1750 and 1760, it then becomes the Golden Arrow. After a few years, when the gilding wore off, it reverts back once again to being the Silver Arrow.

It has been reputedly stolen once in Leeds and then fortunately recovered. Pawned and redeemed by members of the Society just in time for the next competition. Mislaid by a Captain "who lost his reason" (mental breakdown). Accidentally left on a park bench by a Captain who had celebrated his win rather too well and was returned by the park keeper next morning. It has also been believed to have been shot from a bow, broken and repaired.
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Following a doubt by sceptics over the years as to the true authenticity of the Arrow, who suggested that it might possibly be of Victorian origin and obtained in 1873 as a souvenir of the bicentenary of the formation of the Society, it was decided to submit the Arrow to the Assay Master at Birmingham Assay Office for analysis in November 1966.

The main extract from that report states:

The main tube and point seem to be the oldest part of the Arrow and could date back to circa 1600. The flights and flight end tube are more likely to date from circa 1700. (Remember it had been repaired at sometime). However, it is possible that the whole existing Arrow was made at one time from two different pieces of silver during the 17th century"

The Birmingham Assay Master's full report is with the 1967 Records in Volume IV.

Today the Antient Scorton Silver Arrow is deposited for safe keeping on loan to THE ROYAL ARMOURIES in Leeds, Yorkshire where it is on permanent display and can be enjoyed along with its history by the many thousands of visitors who visit the Royal Armouries Centre each year.

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It is taken out annually for one day of the year to be competed for by the members of The Society of Archers who continue with this historic and most prestigious of all Archery Tournaments and then returned to the safety of The Royal Armouries.

A replica Silver Arrow, generously commissioned by former Captain (1951) Frank Newbould of Knaresborough in 1952 is awarded in its place to the winner.

It is the responsibility of The Society of Archers to ensure the perpetuity of the tournament continues in the same time honoured way, adhering to the codes and practices of our gentlemen archery forebears.

© Philip Rolls, The Society of Archers. The above article may be copied or extracted from for Editorial purposes as a Press Release for newspapers and/or magazines.