Bulls-eye: Historic 120-year-old Lancashire archery club still adding new strings to its bow and looking to the future

With a history stretching back to 1902 and a membership of around 200, The Bowmen of Pendle & Samlesbury are not only one of the country’s most historic archery clubs, but one of its largest too. And, over the past decade or so, it’s been nothing but bullseyes.

This year marking its 120th anniversary, the club has a vibrant membership ranging from eight-year-old juniors to experienced competitive adult archers. And two people at the forefront of the club’s development are Di and Pete Clarke.

“We got involved in archery by going to night school in 1983,” says Di, from Preston. “It was something we could do together, which was important, and it was just something new to try.”

Pete agrees. “I’d always been interested in trying my hand at archery and Di was the same, but we’d never gotten round to doing it,” says Pete, who was born in Barrow and grew up in Blackpool. “I loved it - I’d even dream of arrows hitting a target!

Bowmen of Pendle & Samlesbury teaching members of Galloways Society for the Blind - Di Clarke

“After we finished the night school course, we joined the Bowmen in 1984,” Pete adds. “Our coach was a member of the club, so he encouraged us to join.” From the start, according to Di, they were made to feel very welcome indeed.

“The atmosphere was great,” she explains. “Everyone was very welcoming but, sadly, most of the people who welcomed us are no longer with us. But it’s been lovely to see the club become what we dreamt it’d become.”

Those dreams have come to fruition and then some: previous based at the 14th-century Samlesbury Hall for 72 years, the club moved to its current home in Nab's Head Lane in 2006 and now boasts a 20-lane outdoor range and a purpose-built indoor range.

“We had a vision and we’ve accomplished that, even though it took 19 years from idea to opening,” says Di, with the Bowmen having recently held a free archery shoot to give people the chance to channel their inner Robin Hood during Archery GB’s Start Archery Week.

Bowmen of Pendle & Samlesbury - Leslie Bellinger

“We have a thriving visually impaired group, a strong junior club, and several disabled members who shoot regularly,” adds Di. “We also run regular taster sessions, Try Archery events, and are part of Archery GB’s On Target programme.

“After membership fell considerably during Covid, we’ve regained members and attracted new ones,” Di says. “There are people shooting every day and we’re back to running club competitions again.”

What’s more, Pete says that their love for archery has never left them. “Until the mid-2000s, we’d go away to competitions all over the country in our caravan and we got into coaching in the mid-’90s, which we still enjoy to this day,” he says. “There’s a lot of pride in the club.”

Agreeing emphatically, Di adds: “The club has grown steadily over the last 10 years, membership has increased, and our facilities are excellent. And, while we’re equally proud of a tradition that reaches back 120 years, we are always looking to the future, too.”

Bowmen of Pendle & Samlesbury - Christine Bellinger
Bowmen of Pendle & Samlesbury teaching members of Galloways Society for the Blind
Bowmen of Pendle & Samlesbury
Bowmen of Pendle & Samlesbury teaching members of Galloways Society for the Blind