The Fletcher’s Company Library at Guildhall Library

Archery

An illustration of an archer from Archery its Theory and Practice by Horace A. Ford

First established by the Worshipful Company of Fletchers in 1973, this unique collection of items relating to archery is one of our lesser known collections. It comprises of a variety of items on the history and practice of archery. While most of the items focus on the history of British archery, books on Japanese, Turkish, Arabic and Native American archery can also be found in the collection.

Royal Company of Archers David Earl of Wemyss

A copy of a painting of David, 4th Earl of Wemyss from The History of the Royal Company of Archers by James Balfour Paul

The word fletcher comes from the French word ‘fleche’ meaning arrow. Therefore, a Fletcher is a person who makes arrows, in particular the feathers attached to the end of the arrow which help keep it aerodynamic. A number of books in the collection contain illustrations of various arrow types in particular the different types of arrow heads.

Archery Its Theory and Parctice arrow heads

Illustrations of the various types of arrow heads from Archery its Theory and Practice by Horace A. Ford

The Fletchers and Longbowstringmakers of London by James E. Oxley is an account of the history of the Fletchers’ Company. There is no mention of the company until 7th March 1371 when the Fletchers petitioned to the Lord Mayor to separate the trades of Fletchers (arrow makers) and Bowyers (bow makers). With their petition granted, the Worshipful Company of Fletchers was founded. As far as we know the Company has never received a charter and is therefore a Company by prescription. A Grant of Arms was awarded to the company on the 12th of October 1467.

Fletchers Coat of Arms

The Fletchers Company Coat of Arms (MS 21116)

The military importance of the bow is a key theme running throughout the collection, in particular British battles in which archery played an important role. A good book to look at is The British Archer or, Tracts on British Archery by Thomas Hastings which lists some of the important battles which were won by British archers. It also lists some of the Monarchs killed by an arrow, such as William II who was accidentally killed whilst hunting in the New Forest and Richard I who was mortally wounded whilst besieging a castle in France, as well as a brief description of some of the monarchs who were noted to have had great skill in archery.

Book of Archery Henry VIII and Elizabeth I

Illustrations of Henry VIII and Elisabeth I from The Book of Archery by George Agar Hansard

Another theme which runs through the collection is the story of Robert Fitzooth. More commonly known as Robin Hood, his story mentioned in several different books in the collection. Anecdotes of Archery by E. Hargrove, for example, includes a family tree of Robin Hood and explains why his name changed from Fitzooth to Hood. In the Ballads of Archery by James William Dodd a number of songs about Robin Hood, Marian and Little John.

 

Robin Hood Family Tree

The family tree of Robin Hood from Anecdotes of Archery by E. Hargrove

 

By Lindsey Keeling

Customer Services Apprentice

Guildhall Library