Back to when the Prime Minister said "a rifle should be kept in every cottage in the land."
I was very pleased last night to in my own little way to mark the centenary of the Bingham Hall, Cirencester
The hall complex included a rifle range to encourage the responsible and skilled use of firearms by the local menfolk. So importantly was this viewed by Mr Bingham that the Trust document included provision for a rifle club to be based there in perpetuity.
The range was very much ‘state of the art’ for the Edwardian period. 100 feet long, it was equipped with a Solarno target incorporating variable landscapes with both static and moving targets. Over the years the range became a very popular competition and practice venue for the Cotswold Rifle Club. Of course, more recent legislation has changed the character of such clubs but the Cotswold Rifle Club has adapted to the changes and is still in existence today, as Daniel Bingham decreed.
An hour of shooting the Lee Metford (tubed to .22) in the surroundings it was modified for, an Edwardian club endowed by a patriot after the Boer War so that never again would Englishmen be unprepared. More on similar ranges here and in these links....
The Parable of Boy Jones - Land & Sea Tales - For Scouts and Guides - Rudyard Kipling
The Parable of Boy Jones
THE LONG shed of the Village Rifle Club reeked with the oniony smell of smokeless powder, machine-oil, and creosote from the stop-butt, as man after man laid himself down and fired at the miniature target.....
NRA-ILA :: Articles
Rudyard Kipling and Arthur Conan Doyle both witnessed the lethal fire that Boer farmer-riflemen rained on British troops in 1899. They returned home to promote civilian marksmanship through the expansion of rifle clubs in England. ...
"What the `clothyard shaft and grey goose-wing` effected, when guided by an English eye and an English hand at Crecy and Agincourt, the rifle bullet will do in any future contest...." wrote Hans Busk in The Rifle and How to Use it.
The London Times went so far as to editorialize: "The change from the old musket to the modern rifle has acted on the very life of the nation, like the changes from acorn to wheat and stone to iron are said to have revolutionized the primitive races of men."
Despite the NRA`s best efforts during the previous 40 years, the war in South Africa demonstrated clearly that England was not yet a nation of marksmen. In May 1900 Prime Minister Lord Salisbury called for the formation of civilian rifle clubs to redress the shortcoming. In a speech to the Primrose League, he stated his goal was no less than that "a rifle should be kept in every cottage in the land."
Writing to the London Times in June 1905, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle presented his case, making the inevitable comparison to the Middle Ages: "The first point which is worth insisting upon is that a man trained at a miniature range (whether Morris Tube or otherwise) does become an efficient shot almost at once when he is allowed to use a full range. What with the low trajectory and absence of recoil in a modern rifle the handling of the weapon is much the same in either case. I am speaking now of an outdoor range where a man must allow for windage and raise his sights to fire . . . It was skill at the parish butts which made England first among military powers during the fourteenth century. My suggestion is that the parish butts be restored in the form of the parish miniature range."