The power of the English bow

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In medieval times, thousands of archers passed through Winchelsea to and from the wars in France and Flanders. On Saturday, September 19, the Ancient Town will welcome the first archer back there for some time, when the Winchelsea Archaeological Society (WAS) hosts Mark Stretton, one of the country’s leading longbow practitioners.

Mark will be giving a talk on the power of the English “warbow” and will be demonstrating the sheer power of this most feared of medieval weapons by shooting bows at various targets, including a piece of armour.

Mark is by trade a master blacksmith, but is internationally renowned as an archer and is chairman of the English Warbow Society. He also holds the world record for pulling back a longbow, having managed a draw weight of some 200lb (90kg).

This achievement required some intensive training and it broke a record that had stood for 50 years. The strength and skill required to draw a 200lb bow led many historians to dismiss the idea that such powers were ever used, until bows were recovered from the wreck of the Mary Rose.

Mark’s talk will take place in the New Hall in Winchelsea, starting at 3pm. The demonstration will take place afterwards on the cricket field outside. All are welcome. Entrance is £4 for non-members.

The theme of the longbow is particularly apposite this year, which is the 600th anniversary of Agincourt. Appropriately, WAS will be pursuing the theme by hosting a talk on Saturday, November 21, on the Battle of Agincourt by Dr Anne Curry of Southampton University, who is the leading academic expert on the subject.

Photo: Mark Stretton

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