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History of Abbey Bowmen

This small London Club can trace its history back to the late sixties, April 1967 in fact, when archery was very different than it is today. The emergence of Abbey Bowmen had been the result of some archers splitting away (the reason for which isn't known) from the then Barking Archery Club who met at Gascoigne Road School, Barking. A representation of a local landmark, Barking Abbey, was adopted by the new club and is still used to this very day (see above). The fledgling club which at this period included Steve Wall and Geoff Haagman, had now to find an alternative venue to Gascoigne Road. Luckily for us, a field was available adjacent to Upminster Windmill. Members who remember those early days, tell of club equipment having to be taken across the main Hornchurch to Upminster road, risking life and limb in the process. There we remained until about 1972 when an unfortunate incident with a lost arrow forced us to move again.

After this, finding a new ground was slightly more difficult and it was Graham Sibley, amongst others, who managed to convince the local council that we were responsible people and so we obtained our current field at Harrow Lodge Park, Hornchurch. Things after that began to settle down and we could get on with some competitive shooting, which we did by taking the Pilgrims Cup in 1975 and again in 1977.During the mid to late ‘70s we had some remarkable people as members. Like Louise Deller, who not only managed to change the rules so that women archers could shoot wearing trousers, but also was a driving force in founding The Essex Bowmen (sadly now no longer produced). Together with Barbara Huxtable, Louise was a recipient of the Red Tassel Award. There was also Derek Wallace, who liked Field Archery so much that he helped form the Bad Penny Archers (yes, you guessed it, turning up everywhere like a bad penny).

Mention should also be made of our late President Thelma Davison who had been one of the founders of our Club and who probably held more club and county posts than there are months in the year. This commitment continued even up to a few months before her death in 1990, when Thelma was made Life Vice President of Essex County. Some time in the ‘90s, we managed to hire, an indoor venue at Warren School, but due to increasing hourly charges and the club membership decreasing, this venue was no longer affordable. We now shoot our indoor season at Bretons Barn, which can be a little chilly sometimes, but is a very friendly atmosphere.

Abbey have for some years now hosted both an indoor shoot held in February (sadly stopped in 2011 due to escalating venuecosts) and an outdoor event in May, both of which do a great deal to promote archery in Essex. Club membership fluctuates between 30 to 60 members, who have been a pretty loyal bunch over the years. The same Graham Sibley who helped us out all those years ago, was also our club President for many years until he passed away in October 2015. Graham was also the ECAA secretary 1957 to 2014, and County & Regional Judge 1960 to 2013. We were very pleased when Betty Sibley agreed to take over the position of Club President. During the ‘90s, ‘00s and beyond, the club has had many memorable and interesting members (including an international flavour from Australia, France, Italy and South Africa), with many a story to tell of their archery experiences.

We continue to be influenced and moulded as a club by our general members and new committee members, and mention should be made of Chas and Hazel Gooding who, as Chairman and Secretary for many years, enhanced the discipline, integrity and format of our club, which continues to this day. This period has been built upon and subtly enhanced by each of the succeeding Chairman - Bill Lyons, Eve Line and Dave Livings (chairman during our 40th Year celebrations), Andy Richardson and our current Chairman Lee Ayris who will be our Chairman during our 50th Year celebrations).

2018 was another period of major upheaval for the club when Havering Council were granted planning approval to rebuild /re-site Hornchurch Sports Centre onto our field at Harrow Lodge Park. After much correspondence and meetings between the club and council representatives, in particular regarding transfer of our lease agreement terms to the new venue, it was agreed that the most suitable site for our relocation that provided similar adequate facilities is at the Noak Hill Sports Complex, which is where the clubs outdoor range is now based since 21st July 2018.

Finally, we would like to thank the following people for their assistance in preparing the original article, Dennis Cadman, Brian and Carole Davis, Graham Sibley, David Squibb, updated in 2007 and again in 2017 by George Charnick. 2018 update by Joe Cordaro.

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