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Archery compulsory for All in Reading 

Archery at the Butts in Reading -  Nash Ford Publishing


  • The area around St. Mary's Church is where Reading was first set up in Saxon times.
  • The church was a Saxon Minster and then a Nunnery.
  • The road alongside was the original market place, before this moved to the present Market Place. There was a stone preaching cross for the grey friars to use at the top end.
  • In the reign of King Edward IV, a law was passed forcing every man in the country to practice archery (shooting arrows), so they could defend the kingdom if need-be.
  • Berkshire men had been famous for their archery skills since they wore their 'Berkshire Stag' badges whilst helping to win the Battle of Agincourt in France in 1415.
  • The 'butts' were the thick straw stands that archery targets were placed on.
  • In Reading, they were set up in the Old Market area, immediately west of St. Mary's Church. People would meet there every Sunday, after the church service, to practice.
  • The area is now the road called St. Mary's Butts.
  • In 1477, the man in charge of the Abbey's food stores, John A'Larder, founded an almshouse (old people's home)  in the middle of the road. The rebuilt house was finally demolished in 1884.
  • After guns were invented, arrows were not needed for battle any more. In 1631, the town paid a fine so they didn't have to practice any more.
  • In 1688, St. Mary's churchyard was at the centre of real shooting during the Battle of Broad Street.
  • In the 18th century, Frances Kendrick (descended from John Kendrick's brother) met her future husband at St. Mary's Church. There is an extraordinary old story about their own wedding soon afterwards.


    Nash Ford Publishing 2015. All Rights Reserved.