I have tried to compile a brief history of the archery club whilst there are still some of the original members around who can remember how it all started. Little did they know what great pleasure there initial efforts would give so many.
I was introduced to Ray Wright at a Perris Field shoot, by Pete Griffith (Iffy Griffy). He provided two big albums of old photo’s and put me in touch with Sam Doherty. Sam Doherty very kindly provided more photos on CD & DVD and the following History of the Original Tudor Archers ‘TUDOR FIELD ARCHERS’.
The idea of Tudor Archers was started by a Judo instructor named Pete Tawnsley who in the autumn of 1979 at Sudbury Sports Centre ran three taster evenings for archery, not having enough free time himself, it was up to anybody interested after trying the sport to band together and form their own club, independent of the sports centre. This task was taken up by Mary & Sam Doherty (who lived directly across the road from the sports centre) and were joined by Ray Wright and Phil Streeting. The name of the club was to be the Tudor Archers, owing to the fact it was born in Tudor Road Sports Centre.
A little story that never went down in the records whilst shooting in the sports centre.
A club member of several months standing, and a police constable to boot, strung up his bow with string upside down, knocking point being low etc. etc. and put his first, AND SECOND arrow through the boards, and the outer cladding of the hall. The first any of the others present knew of this disaster was when an irate gentleman returned them. He had been walking his dog across the pitches at the back of the hall, when they landed close to him.
Don’t know if it has ever been changed, but the walls above the brickwork consisted of cladding which will not stop an arrow from a 38lb bow.
The club continued shooting using the cricket practice nets in the sports centre, but with a dwindling membership, until the Suffolk Free Press did an article in January 1980. Membership then rose to around the 20 mark but it was still a struggle to meet the cost of the hire of the area (Half the main hall) in the sports centre.
A new venue for practice was found at Polstead, which first had to be mown as the grass was about a foot high. This was done using two 18” standard petrol lawn mowers, and the grass (hay !!) was hand raked to the sides.
The over shoot at 100 yards was about 10ft, then it was 4ft high nettles backed by woodland, so arrow loss from misses was imminent and high. This was remedied in 1981 by moving to the rugby club at Great Cornard. Winter practice was in the Drill Hall in Gainsborough Street.
In 1982 practice meetings moved to Sudbury Wanderers Football Club and winter indoor practice moved to the Sudbury scouts hut down quay lane.
The interest in Field Archery was attracting a few of the club members, which led to them hiring on a long term basis a 7 acre wood at Boxford. May 15th 1983 the Tudor Archers put on its first open Field Shoot.
The Summer of 1983 saw the founder members together with Ted Harman, break away from Tudor Archers and form Tudor Field Archers.’
At this time, Tudor target archers club almost folded, but was rescued by Iffy.
Tudor Field Archers continued putting on regular shoots at Boxford, which became such a popular venue with turn outs close to 200 on the two day events, eventually out-growing Boxford’s 7 acres and moved to a 68 acre area of a 266 acre wood at Halstead, where they built a club hut with a kitchen for catering shoots, and a permanent 40 target field coarse.
Unfortunately Tudor Field Archers eventually finished. Mary & Sam were moving to Wales. Ted wanted to join the Territorial Army before he was too old (having served 15 years in the army prior to joining TFA). And Ray was getting more and more committed to his plane restoration project at Duxford.
The positions were offered to other club members, but none wanted either the work or the responsibility.
The woodland with permanent 40 target course and club hut was offered to the Colchester Club, who declined.
In the end the club equipment was split between the members and Sam had the training bows and arrows etc, which he continued to use regularly until 2001 at local Fetes and the Llanberis Carnival in North Wales. Proceeds going to the mountain rescue.
The bows etc are still in good use at the Beaumaris Archery Club on Anglesey.
Mean time the few remaining archers that wanted to continue Target archery, from what was after all, a very small club, were not in any position to continue on there own.
With Tudor Target Archers affectively disbanded, just after Iffy had bought himself and his wife Sue a new bow, he agreed to pay the £100 for the years rent at the Wanderers Ground, just so he could continue to shoot himself. Then over the following couple of weeks he contacted one or two others and the club got off to a rather faltering start again.
The reborn club consisted of Iffie & Sue, Dennis & Marion Savil, Chris Hunn, Dave & Helen Marsden, Dave Hodges and Dennis Morgan.
When the funds eventually permitted, the Old School Hall at Long Melford was hired for the winter season, with the Wanderers Ground continuing to be used in the Summer.
As the club got stronger, a larger hall could be afforded, so Tudor Archers moved to the Yellow Dot, which had a superb hall. And in the summer, the field at Great Cornard Upper School was used.
The Club went from strength to strength, with a consistent membership of about 40.
Then (Bringing us up to 1988) with the help of Funds raised at ‘Have-a-gos’, which we had two or three times a year at country fairs in Long Melford and Stow Com Quay etc. a container was purchased to store equipment in, on the Field (In place of the old wooden hut we shared with the net ball team that kept getting broken into).
Then a Marquee of our own, so we did not have to borrow one from the Red Cross for fund raising events. After all, the last time we had borrowed it for the Fenland Fair, it had been ripped down the middle by the hurricane.
Then we ordered a custom made trailer, sign written, to put all of our now considerable equipment for fund raisers in (BBQ’s, Gazebos, Toilet Tent, Signs, rope, nets, stakes, foam bosses, gas stoves, tables etc. etc).
Then another disaster struck. 2004 We turned up one day to find that the Yellow Dot had gone bankrupt and closed. We had the outdoor season to find a new venue, but other clubs using the Yellow Dot had been quicker to react, and had booked up any available halls in the area. We did however manage to get the use of the Great Cornard Gym for the winter. This was only just long enough to shoot a very cramped 15 yds, but was a place to meet up.
The club membership started to drop off rapidly as members started to get frustrated by the halls limitations. Even the out door season did not do much to get people back, because it was hard to see a future in the club. Membership dropped to about 20. But a few of us refused to give up, and with some pestering, we were lucky enough to get the hall at Sudbury Upper School just in time for the winter season 2005, and moved the club there totally. For outdoor and indoor shooting.
Only then did we realize we had come back. When some one mentioned what a coincidence it was that Tudor Archers was now based in Tudor Road.
None of our existing members had been in the club long enough to remember that Sudbury Upper School was were it all started. With new energy and enthusiasm about our superb new home, the club has gone from strength to strength, and within a year the membership topped 60, with a waiting list of people wishing to do the beginners course.
We remained at Tudor Road until 2021, when we were given 3 weeks notice that the Sports centre was closing - after much searching around we found a room long enough to do 25 yards ( at a push ) at the Old School, Long Melford and moved in there from October 2021 using 2 rooms to accommodate archers. If you look back in the History you can see that this location was also used back in the 80's.
Although numbers dropped during the move we had people waiting for beginners and taster sessions so were hopeful for the future of the club.