Club History

The History of Aire Valley Archers

Founding Years

Our archery club was initially formed as Baildon Archers on 2 December 1958. As a suitable shooting ground was not available, founder members shot at Sharp and Griffiths Garage using straw bales as targets. The membership subscription was set at two pounds and two shillings per year.

Regular practice nights ran throughout the year, with monthly and annual shoots taking place during the outdoor season, between 1 April and 30 September. In the winter, social events were held, with an annual dinner dance and presentation of trophies.

In June 1959, the club began shooting on land at the rear of the rugby ground on Jenny Lane in Baildon. The club had bought shooting equipment, bosses and stands, and plans were being made to buy a clubhouse. The wooden building that was eventually purchased is still in use at our ground at St Ives today.

During August 1959, Ben Hird, a renowned archer, founder member of ‘Ye Greene Company’ and a past captain of the ‘Ancient Scorton Silver Arrow‘. Club members had met Ben at the 1959 Scorton Arrow tournament (the oldest sporting event in the world) and he had expressed an interest in visiting the club. When the visit took place, Ben was made an honorary member of Baildon Archers and an illuminated parchment was presented to him.

By December 1959, the club had twenty-six members and a bank balance of £52.

The Club Grows

In 1972 the club had to find a new home, as the Jenny Lane ground was developed for housing. They briefly moved to a ground on Cliffe Lane in Baildon, before moving to the current site on the St Ives Estate. On 4 May 1973, the club was renamed St Ives Bowmen and began shooting at St Ives, although the ground was originally only half the size it is today. Over the years, the top fence of the ground has been moved twice, allowing for more targets and increasing in size to the layout that we currently have,

New membership fees were set at £4.50 per year in April 1973 and the subscription year was changed to bring it in line with the GNAS subscription year, with subs being due by 1 June each year.

By 1974, the club was receiving a many applications from people who wanted to attend a beginners’ course. The club decided to limit the courses to a maximum of twelve people for the coming year, and the small strip of land next to the pond was designated as the beginners’ area. This meant that the main shooting line could be kept open for competent archers. During the year, eight beginners completed the course and were accepted as members of the club.

In order to increase the outdoor shooting season, and allow archers to shoot all year round, the club introduced field archery during the winter of 1974/75. A group of members created a twenty-eight shoot field course in the wooded area at the end of the shooting ground. During 1976, the British field archery team visited the club and were very complementary about the course. As well as field archery, ‘roving marks‘ were also held in the winter for a number of years. However, by mid-1977, the safety of the field course was becoming hard to control. Bradford Council had opened St Ives for leisure pursuits and the public had begun to intrude on the course. Because of this, the club decided that other field shooting facilities would need to be found.

During 1977, members of St Ives Bowmen formed an offshoot field archery club (called Chiricheck Archers) in Hollins Wood on the far side of the St Ives Estate. They took their name from an historical figure: a local archer who was declared an outlaw by the Abbott of Rievaulx Abbey. Due to constant vandalism, the club had to withdraw from Hollins Wood around 1983.

A New Name for Modern Times

By 1999, the club had grown in size and a number of changes were required.  Because of the club’s wide geographical catchment area, its members decided that a second site, in the Skipton area, was needed. To coincide with this, the club changed it’s name to Aire Valley Archers.

At the end of 2005, the Skipton ground became unavailable, so an alternative was arranged for summer shooting in Cross Hills.

The club is now going from strength to strength, with around 80 novice archers taking part in beginners courses in 2014, and over 130 members. Work has been carried out at St Ives to make the site more accessible to archers of all abilities – including wheelchair users – and further plans to make improvements are well underway.

With thanks to Keith Morrison for the majority of the information used in this article.