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A Founding Member’s Perspective by Bob Ward

Hi, let me introduce myself, my name is Bob Ward and I am one of the original 4 archers who got together one warm sunny Sunday afternoon and decided that we needed an Archery Club in Stevenage. What better place to start it but in the grounds of Knebworth House? Below is an account of my archery career and how the Green Dragon Bowmen started.

I have been interested in archery since the age of 14. I became County Champion of Lancashire for 2 years running, then I moved to Norfolk and was County Champion there for a further 3 years. I moved again this time to Welwyn Garden City where I got involved with 3 other archers and started the Howard Bowmen. Due to the lack of a suitable shooting ground (our old ground was taken away from us for building on) we moved again and started the Hatfield House Bowmen. During a shoot at the house one of our archers unfortunately shot a cow belonging to the estate (the safety aspect was not as strict then as it is now as we shared our field with a herd of cows). Two years later I moved yet again to Stevenage. While walking in Knebworth Park I met up with 4 of my friends and we decided to start what is now the Green Dragon Bowmen.

I went to see the old Lord Cobbold and asked if it would be possible to start an Archery Club on his ground and behold the answer was that provided we made ourselves available at the weekends to put on a show for the public it would be OK. So we were off the 4 of us shot for 12 months before the club really got going in I believe 1962. About that time I took a GNAS Course and became an instructor. I designed the club logo (why we called it the Green Dragon I will never know). I think the 4 of us that started the club may have had too much to drink one evening when we were trying to think of a name. Anyway Green Dragon it was, as the years passed I became quite a good archer and was asked by the GNAS to officiate at the World Championships held at York in the 1970s.

I also at that time got very interested in the Medieval side of archery and with that in mind joined the Medieval Society making friends with a chap called John Waller. He was very much involved with the society and we both had plans to build a full set of armour from scratch, so I spent a lot of time studying armour at the Wallace Collection in London. I also spent time studying the aerodynamics of arrow flight at Cranfield. I designed the first take apart bow – we in the old days were fed up with the limbs breaking on a one piece bow so I decided it would be a good idea to have the limbs separate from the handle so I made one (I have the original still in my possession if anyone is interested). My biggest mistake was to take it to what was then one of the biggest bow manufacturers in the country – they looked at the idea and told me that there was no future in it. So there you go.

I stopped shooting in 1976 for personal reasons and I have not picked up a bow since. Now at the age of 64 my doctor has told me I have a back problem and taking up archery would do it good (well who would have thought it).

Memories of Green Dragon Bowmen by Allan Woodhams (received 29/06/20)

I started to take up archery in 1967 at the tender age of 10. The first club, and where I started beginners classes was at the British Aircraft Corporation sports and social club at Bragbury End. The coach at BAC was Denis Morris who was very encouraging.

Whilst at the club a few senior members decided to start a break-a-way club, this club they called ‘Green Dragon Bowmen’. I and others joined the club in 1969/70 just after its formation. My earliest memories of shooting at the club was in a cow field, behind the Knebworth house that housed an old barn. This barn was later moved in 1970 to its new position within Knebworth house. After the barn was moved we were given permission to continue shooting in the current location in front of Knebworth House. However when we were given permission we had to cut the grass as it was used for keeping animals in before we took over the area. The animals were subsequently moved! In the early days we had a locked shed attached to the gatehouse which when it rained flooded.

In later years we erected a stand-a-lone shed to house the straw boss’s, stand, targets and beginners equipment. In the early 70’s GDB did not have a large junior section so I used to practice with the seniors shooting York’s etc when it should have been the likes of Bristol, Great Western etc, for my age. This I found to be an advantage as when entering tournaments for my age group the targets seemed like a barn door!!!

I had a very successful time as an archer over a period of 12 years, I met many people on my travels and even shot with some of the British Team members of the 1976 Olympics such that I went to watch the Archery event in Montreal. The rules were very much relaxed there with participants and spectators able to interact. There are stories from that event that I would love to share but………… During my junior years I rose through the ranks to be a consistent member of the Hertfordshire Junior team and once I turned 18, a member of the gents team. However during my later junior years I was a member of the Hertfordshire gents Indoor team. As I progressed in my shooting years I achieved numerous inter-club, county and regional awards/trophies as well as GNAS Junior and senior Master Bowman and FITA 1200 star. I also completed my GNAS instructors course and also regularly attended 4 day events at Winchester, Warwick and Oxford. At the end of the ‘traditional’ tournament season there were various ‘Clout’ competitions to attend and as a Junior I held a National record for a number of years and notice that my score of 189 in a Double Clout 2-way (140yd) with a recurve bow in October 1973 still stands in the HAA Clout County Records as of 29/3/2020.

I recall that during the summer months I would practice 3 or 4 nights at Knebworth and whilst attending a tournament somewhere in the country over the weekend. Archery consumed my life. Apart from my own achievements during my shooting days the clubs biggest achievement was to hold the inaugural Green Dragon 500. Memories of attending meetings around the senior section houses planning the event was a mammoth task. Where would we get sufficient boss’s/stands? Would we be able to get 500 archers to turn up? What would the cost be to the club? Could we afford to put on such an event? The event took place at Picketts Lock, the nearest venue where this could all be accommodated. Local clubs loaned us Stands and Boss’s and without their generosity it could not have gone ahead. My memories of the whole logistics are somewhat vague now but seeing such a number of archers in one place was amazing. There was a hard core of archers who attended most inter club, county and regional events often winning the team, and some individual, awards. This put Green Dragon Bowmen on the ‘map’ in the early years. During the winter months we originally held our club shooting night in a church hall in Stanmore Road (now houses) moving to Barwell School and then onto The Leisure Centre. In addition to the club nights a few of us used to hire the Methodist Church (in Stevenage Old Town) for additional indoor practice.

I remember club meetings being held at various club members houses until the membership outgrew this and we would then use meeting rooms in various pubs in Stevenage Old Town high street, The Red LIon springs to mind! Once the club was established and winning competitions we found that archers from other clubs were wanting to join the club. Once we were established at your current location in front of the house we were approached by Lord Cobbold asking if we could ‘entertain’ Americans during Medieval Nights. I recall us shooting apples off polystyrene heads, splitting arrows and even shooting arrows, on fire, from Knebworth House Gardens over the top of the house to the shooting ground. Would that happen today? On occasions we would set up a field archery course in the tree line and around the shooting area. This event would often end in a club BBQ. Another event which was memorable was when a group of us decided to attend an event in Isle Of Wight. We hired a minibus with a roof rack, loaded up our equipment and tent and set off. I think there were about 10 of us that made the journey. I can remember if we won anything but I know we were made very welcome by the organising club for attending. I noticed on the current ‘history’ page on your website Bob Ward takes most of the accolade for setting up the club etc, unfortunately there are some inaccuracies. Therefore I think acknowledgement should also be referenced to the following founder members who started the club and had the foresight to establish GDB as a shooting force and for creating the GDB 500. Frank Bunyan Iain Fox John Hutchinson.