History Notes

1954 ?Crystal Palace Bowmen formed, meeting in Crystal Palace Park.
1962 ?Moved to Virgo Fidelis Convent in Crown Dale.
(Crystal Palace National Sports Center opened in 1964.)
1970 ?Moved to Old Dunstonian's Sports Club, St Dunstanís Lane
1973First Open Tournament.

Contents:
Mike Schroll's Comments
Tom Foy's History of CPB

From Mike Schroll

I've just had a look at your website which is of interest to me as I was a member of the club in the 1960s. I thought I'd pass on a little bit of "useless information" in that at that time the club shot in the grounds of the Virgo Fidelis Convent in Crown Dale, near Crystal Palace. The convent also had some extensive woods and the club put on a few very successful field shoots under the BFAA rules, at that time the only governing body for field archery as GNAS wasn't interested. The shoots were generally 14 forester and 14 big game. It was my introduction to field archery having joined the club from Kingswood Junior Bowmen, a target only club which had been using a school playground nearby.

We weren't able to use the woods very often and as a target archery club this wasn't pursued. In the winter months we used to take part in the British Archer postal league which meant a short round of something like 3 dozen at 50 metres once a month. They were always very well patronised and were followed by short sessions at a local hostelry. At monthly intervals in between the postal shoots we used to put on a simplified field shoot round the edge of the field, a few targets in and out of some trees which edged it. Very basic but another good one for bringing us out in the winter months.

I don't have firsthand information, but shortly before I joined I understand there had been a major schism in the club between field and target archers culminating in a "target coup" at the agm, after which it was decreed that field would only take place by means of organised open shoots and the rest of the time would be predominantly target oriented. The field archers went off to form another club called Sagittarius. It's always very sad when such things happen and I'm glad to see the club thriving.

Ah, happy days!

The History of the Crystal Palace Bowmen by Tom Foy

Tom was the owner of the Archery Centre (once in London, then Croydon and then Hawkhurst), author and Champion Shot.


Tom Foy (left) and Barry Armstrong
If you go back far enough, by a very circuitous route, you will find that the Crystal Palace Bowmen was started by Adolph Hitler. This is how it came about.

When I was a little lad and living in Penge, Herr Hitler was dropping bombs on us night after night, and every morning more houses had been flattened. My dad was in the army, and had been posted to a place called East Retford, in Nottinghamshire, so to get me and my mum away from the bombing he found a little room in Retford and me and my mum went up there to live. I was about six years old at the time, everything was a great adventure to me, including the war, and I loved Retford. One day I was taken on a Sunday School outing to Sherwood Forest, and for a little London lad this was bliss. We were told to find the Major Oak, which was somewhere in the forest. Today all the fenced-in paths lead to the Major Oak, but in those days there were no visitors or visitor centres, and you had to search the forest to find it. When we found this special tree we came across a man sitting beside it selling postcards of the tree, and he was a retired army major, so it was actually the Majorís Oak, not the Major Oak. Not a lot of people know this. He told us about Robin Hood, and I was hooked. Robin Hood was my hero from then on.

The years went by, and one day I left school, the Beckenham and Penge County Grammar School for Boys, which was then the big school where Penge becomes Beckenham, and I went to work at W.H. Smith in Bromley High Street. My exam results had all been in the sciences, but I liked W.H. Smiths, so against all advice I went to work there. What a mistake! The one good thing about it was that a customer there had a magazine put by for him each month called ďThe British ArcherĒ, and I used to read it before I told him it was in. From this I managed to find an archery club at Herne Hill, called the Dulwich Archers, which I joined. This would have been in 1952, and I was very pleased to win an award for the most promising newcomer for that year. For a moment I had forgotten that I was the only newcomer for that year. Then I had to do two years National Service, and when I came back home again I found that the club was closing down because the ground where we shot belonged to a remand home for bad boys, and the governors there wanted the boys to play more sport, so we had to go.

The only items the club had of any value were two target bosses and stands, and I pushed these all the way from Herne Hill to Penge on a trolley. The things you can do when you are young; I certainly couldnít do it now.

I met a man who was a member of the Nonsuch Bowmen at Ewell, which I joined and had a great time, but it was a long way to get to on my little motor bike, and I really did want to start a local club.

I started looking for a new ground nearer to home, and this proved to be very difficult. I thought I had succeeded when I was offered a ground just off Croydon Road in Penge, a little way from the Pawleyne Arms junction. The rent was very cheap, but there turned out to be a big snag. We would be shooting on a Sunday, and we would have to pay the caretaker double-time for the whole time we were there, not just to open and shut the gates. Impossible!

Many months went by, with many letters sent and received, but finally I was offered a small patch of ground in Crystal Palace Park, right up the top end, near the roundabout. A letter about the new club to the Beckenham and Penge Advertiser brought in a lot of replies from interested people and we were off! The Crystal Palace Bowmen came into existence.

The place where we shot was not very big, and we had to shoot between some of the statues left over from the Great Exhibition. I donít mean the giant monsters, I mean soldiers with huge swords, and naked women with no arms. There were also two large ornamental ponds which we could shoot over, but had to walk round. The one good thing about it was that there was a very high grass bank there, which made a good butt behind our targets. We never lost an arrow!

We had a small but enthusiastic group of new archers, all of which I have now lost touch with. The secretary was Ron Sharp, a tall good-looking accountant, and his friend Tony Greenfield, who was a really good shot with a rifle. Once one of us brought an air-gun along, and shot at a metal post sticking up out of the ground about thirty yards away. Not one of us could hit it, but Tony got a ping off it with every shot. The Treasurer was Wally Abbott, he was the boss of a transport firm at Forest Hill, Albany Transport I think it was called. He was a very quiet, slow-speaking man who was a great help to us helping with transport. A young man from Forest Hill was also a member, Ron Graysmark, and a very jolly young man who worked with me at Sherwood Archery Products at Forest Hill.

The place where we shot was not very big, and we had to shoot between some of the statues left over from the Great Exhibition. I don't mean the giant monsters, I mean soldiers with huge swords, and naked women with no arms. There were also two large ornamental ponds which we could shoot over, but had to walk round. The one good thing about it was that there was a very high grass bank there, which made a good butt behind our targets. We never lost an arrow!

We had a small but enthusiastic group of new archers, most of whom I have now lost touch with. The secretary was Ron Sharp, a tall good-looking accountant, and his friend Tony Greenfield, who was a really good shot with a rifle. Once one of us brought an air-gun along, and shot at a metal post sticking up out of the ground about thirty yards away. Not one of us could hit it, but Tony got a ping off it with every shot. The Treasurer was Wally Abbott, he was the boss of a transport firm at Forest Hill, Albany Transport I think it was called. He was a very quiet, slow-speaking man who was a great help to us helping with transport. A young man from Forest Hill was also a member, Ron Graysmark, and a very jolly young man who worked with me at Sherwood Archery Products at Forest Hill was Brian Foreman, who later left to join the Royal Navy and went into submarines.

One man much older than us also joined, Pat Clayton, and he was a distinguished-looking man who could have been a top accountant or lawyer if looks were anything to go by. He lived in Crystal Palace Park Road, which was a fairly wide and fast road, and one day he was drawing his bow in his bedroom in front of a mirror to check his style, and he accidentally loosed, and the arrow went through his window. This distinguished-looking man had to go across the road to apologise and ask for his arrow back, which had gone through their window and stuck in a wardrobe.

At this time news was heard that a new sports centre was to be built in the Crystal Palace grounds, and we would have to leave. Before we left there was one thing we had always wanted to do, and that was to lift up some metal manhole covers that we walked backwards and forwards over to get our arrows, just out of curiosity. We did this, and found very rusty iron ladders, so we carefully climbed down, and found ourselves in rooms with lots of brass and copper switchgear, still there from Victorian times. The ornamental ponds we were walking around all the time were actually only a few inches deep, and the bottom of them was not concrete or stone, but coloured glass, and we were now underneath them. All the electrical gear was to shine lights through the ponds from below to make a display, and it was all still there after all that time.

One day we turned up to shoot, and found that the earth bank we used to catch the arrows that missed had all been removed, so we took the hint and gave up the ground. A mile or so away there was a convent, called The Virgo Fidelis Convent, so I went along there to see if we could use their sports field, and the Mother Superior was agreeable to this when the children in their school were not using it. A rent was agreed, and we went to our new home.

We had some happy times there, slowly increasing our membership and entering more and more competitions. I happened to meet one of the top people running London Weekend Television, Graham Turner,and started to tell him about the CPB, and he asked me to see if I could come up with any ideas for a TV programme. I thought of the top London archers taking part in a normal archery round, but while the archers would be taking their scores and collecting their arrows we would demonstrate other types of archery to fill in. One of the things I thought would be good for TV was Popinjay, so I decided to make a mast for this. I ordered three great long lengths of wood and bolted them together, with a pulley at the top of one of them to take the birds up, and the stronger members of the club attempted to get this up with guy ropes attached to it. Instead of going up, it just bent in the middle, which was not going to be any good at all. Back to the drawing-board!

I bought another length of wood and bolted it to the lowest piece, and made it telescopic. Back the members came to try it again, and this time it worked; we got it up. I am telling you all this because of what happened on the day of the broadcast. We had all the TV people there, with all their cameras and cables, and we got the first part of the mast up. The producer, a very helpful man called Jim Pople, said that it was fine. I told him that we had got another twenty foot to go, because it was telescopic, but he told me that his cameras wouldn't go to any greater angle. All that work for nothing! I was lucky in that the members were as daft as I was to get involved in all this, and my wife Rose was beginning to think she had made a mistake in her choice of husband. This popinjay was really a waste of time anyway, because I had allowed ten minutes of programme time for it, but Tony Greenfield popped all the birds off in a couple of minutes.

Anyway, we got through it and it all went well, but this was before the days of TV recording machines, so none of us saw it and we had no record of it, but it was the first and probably only live outside broadcast of an archery competition.

When the Crystal Palace Sports Centre was finally finished, the club was invited along to shoot in the grounds outside, and Prince Philip would be the guest of honour and open it. What a thrill it would be to meet Prince Philip!

We set up our targets and started shooting, when suddenly a huge crowd of officials and other important people came onto the balcony to watch us, but they were so far away that we couldn't recognise any of them, and after about one minute they all turned round and went back inside! Rose and I were going on holiday to Bideford that day, and we had given up the first day in the hope of meeting Prince Philip, so we drove down in the dark afterwards. He will have to make an appointment if he ever wants to meet me.

On another occasion, and I can't remember what it was for, we were asked to put on something interesting for a huge crowd in the sports centre. We were to be a sort of hors d'oeuvre for this special event. As it had to be interesting for a large audience I decided to make it a knock-out competition, where the archers would shoot one at a time at the full size target, and would be knocked out of the competition as the scoring colours were taken out. This went down quite well with the crowd, who applauded each archer who managed to stay in after each shot, and the winner was actually a young woman, whose name escapes me, who wasn't supposed to be much of a shot, who just kept on banging them in the middle. Some of the master bowmen were quite peeved about this!

We had one disaster about this time. I booked the football field at the Sports Centre for the London Championships, and one of our members, Henry Allera, and myself spent the day before the shoot putting up the targets and laying out the field. We stayed there until late at night just in case vandals got over the fence to smash it all up. Yes, we had such people even then.

The big day arrived, and all the archers started shooting at 100 yards. Suddenly, without any warning, a huge crowd of cyclists sped past behind the targets! To cries of "Fast" from all the archers, I blew the loudest blast I ever had done on my whistle! One of the officials who ran the sports centre was called, and I asked him what on earth was happening; what the hell were these cyclists doing? He calmly told me that his organisation was responsible for the field, but the race track was run by an entirely different organisation! What a system, what idiots! We got over the problem by moving the shooting line way back, and moving the targets forward after each distance, but it was difficult for the archers to shoot when they could see cyclists behind the targets even though they were then a long way off. The big bunch we had at the beginning soon turned into a long procession of cyclists according to their speeds, so this must have been the worst London Championship ever.

We always had trouble with the Indoor Championship. On one occasion Beryl Heath and I drove a long way to a sports centre in Essex for an appointment with the director of the place, and when we got there he was too busy to meet us. On another occasion we went along to a sports centre at Wallington to talk about holding the Indoor there. All went well until the man we were talking to suddenly told us that we could only have half the hall, because the half alongside the shoot would be used for football!