Astbury’s Longshoots

In times gone by it would have been almost compulsory to attend church services, as would have been the archery practice which would have followed the service in a nearby field usually called “The Butts”. Traditionally children as young as seven years old as well as adults were expected to attend archery training and a series of statutes were passed in the 14th and 15th centuries which banned many field sports and games in order to give archery priority and ensure a continuation of archery skills among the general population.

It was Edward VI who passed a law making it compulsory for every man aged between 16-60 to own a Longbow and practice every Sunday and on feast days. Also in 1542 an act was past in that anyone over the age of 24 was expected to hit a target 220yds away (no pressure there then!)

All men aged 16-60 had a duty to defend their country if called upon, so training with a lethal Longbow and practice would have been needed to maintain the skills and strength which would have been needed to master this weapon. The Longbow would have been up to 78 inches in length and would have been lethal up to nearly a quarter of a mile, at short range an arrow could penetrate up to 4 inches of seasoned oak, and an arrow could kill a knight in full armour at up to 200 yards away.

Archery Butts would have comprised of a flat grass covered area of about 200 yards in length where archers were able to practice their skills, the photograph on the left shows an area close to Astbury church which is known as “Longshoots” and would have been used many hundreds of years ago for target practice. The targets that the archers would have aimed at would have been circular flat topped and covered with turf and were normally created in pairs, they were anywhere from 2m-8m in diameter and 1-3m in height, it is thought that these targets are where the name “Butts” originated from. It is said that archery went into decline during the 15th century due in part to labourers moving from the country to towns, this had an impact on the strict training needed to maintain the skills that an archer required to be proficient in the use of a Longbow. Added to this was the fact that the Musket was introduced in 1520 which sounded the death knell for the Longbow, although an archer could fire off more shots than a Musket user, all Longbows were replaced by Muskets by 1595.

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