The English VIII Clubhouse




The objects of the English Eight Club are to foster long range rifle shooting in the interests of National Defence and in particular to organise the English Team in any International Match shot with the Match Rifle.


The English Eight Club was formed in 1878 but its origins go back to 1861 and the Elcho Match which was first shot in 1862. It was not until 1978 that the rules specified the objects of the Club quoted above which occurred at the time the Club was accepted as a charity (registration number 277108).

The Challenge of 1861

A letter was published in the Edinburgh Courant on 30 July 1861 and repeated in the Montrose and Brechin Review on 2 August 1861. It was a challenge to the Volunteers of England on behalf of the Volunteers of Scotland. The number 11 was possibly based on the size of a cricket team.

The Angus and Mearns Rifle Association held their Prize Meeting from 6 to 8 August 1861 at Montrose situated on the East Coast of Scotland between Dundee and Aberdeen. This gave insufficient time to organise the proposed match. However on 7 August 1861 a match at 700, 800 and 900 yards was held for Scotland's Cup at the Prize Meeting which was open to all Scotland (Volunteers and non Volunteers). They could use any rifle not exceeding 10 lbs weight and had to fire 5 shots at each distance. The winning score was by Edward Ross of Cambridge University with 8 points at 700 yards, 7 points at 800 yards and 6 points at 900 yards for a total of 21 points out of a maximum possible of 30 points. Edward Ross' father was Horatio Ross the first captain of Scotland in the Elcho Match.

Later the same day a match at 900 and 1000 yards for the Strangers' Cup was shot open to all comers with 10 shots at each range. This too was won by Edward Ross with 12 points at 900 yards and 6 points at 1000 yards for a total of 18 points out of a maximum possible of 40 points.

Match for the Elcho Shield

The Scottish challenge was picked up by the Volunteer Service Gazette (VSG) who publicised the idea on 7 September 1861 only regretting that it had been published in some provincial papers first. The following week on 14 September a letter was published in the VSG on page 747 :

Sir:- Will you permit me to suggest that instead of a competition for so costly an annual stake as £200 a similar sum should be provided by Scotland and England jointly to purchase a Challenge Vase to be shot for by ten marksmen chosen by the Angus and Mearns Rifle Association and ten by the National Rifle Association. The Vase to be held by the Council of the Association whose nominees become the winners. The competitors to pay a trifling entrance fee to provide for each of the winning party an illuminated record of the match or other appropriate trophy.

I am Sir, your obedient servant, CB

The writer CB has not been identified.

By 21 September 1861 the VSG reported on page 766 that 'Lord Bury and Horatio Ross have been appointed, the former to represent England and the latter Scotland, in settling the preliminaries of the Scotch Challenge. Lord Spencer and Lord Dalhousie have been named as umpires on each side respectively.' The rules were completed by December 1861 and the first contest was to be at the NRA Meeting at Wimbledon in July 1862.

Lord Elcho on hearing of the proposed Match offered the Shield that he had already commissioned as a prize. He had decided in 1859 to give a prize 'for annual competition as an encouragement to international small-bore shooting and also that my name might be perpetuated in connection with the (National Rifle) Association and the Volunteers and thus it will be, long after I have left this sublunary scene, when otherwise all personal remembrance of one's work would be forgotten'. He persuaded George Frederick Watts to design a suitable trophy. The shape of the Shield was designed by Mr Cayley the son of Edward Stillingfleet Cayley who was MP for the North Riding constituency of Yorkshire from 1832 to his death on 25 February 1862.

The first match was held on 9 July 1862 on Wimbledon Common and was won by England. The Shield was not ready so a drawing of the Shield was presented instead. In 1863 a model of the Shield was displayed in the Exhibition Tent at Wimbledon but the winners, England, were only given the small silver individual shields. However in 1864 when the Scots won, the Shield although still only a plaster model, was carried off by the Scots. In November 1864 the plaster Shield was presented to the Lord Provost of Edinburgh and hung in Parliament House. The iron Shield was ready for the 1865 contest so the plaster Shield stayed in Edinburgh. In 1866 Horatio Ross wrote to the Faculty of Advocates offering to present the model of the Shield which was then still hanging in the lobby of Parliament House. They accepted and the plaster model remains to this day hanging over a doorway in the Box corridor of the Faculty.

It should perhaps be mentioned that a third Shield [1] was made in 1879 and presented to Lord Elcho when he left the active command of the London Scottish Regiment. Today the Shield in an ornate carved frame forms the centrepiece of the back of a sideboard some 15 feet wide and 12 feet high at Gosford in East Lothian. It is the only Shield that resembles what Lord Elcho and GF Watts envisaged.

Miniature Elcho Shields

The 1861 Rules specified that each of the successful champions would receive a small prize paid for by the losing side. This small prize was to be a miniature Elcho Shield, similar to the ones still awarded. Seven Scottish ones are known. One from 1864 is in the NRA Museum and the plain front is engraved with the names and scores of the winning Scots while the back is rough. The front was plain because the manufacturer did not have a copy of the detailed design and only the plaster model was available. One for 1866 also with a rough back is owned by the descendants of George Wilken of Ellon. A third of unknown provenance was bought by JA Crawford and this too has a rough back.

Four are located in the Inverness Museum as part of the collection of medals of William Ferguson. He was in a winning team in 1869, 1874, 1892 and 1894. Two of these differ from the others. According to History of the NRA 1859 – 1909 by Humphry and Fremantle page 211, the Elcho Rules were changed so that from 1877 the miniature shields were provided by the NRA in return for an entry fee from each team of £4 and a die purchased by subscription from former team members. So far as is known this change in the Elcho Rules was not actually published until 1883.

The quality of the miniature Shields provided by the NRA changed over the years. In the 1930s they were hollow with a back. Then the back was scrapped and the miniature got thinner until it looked like a piece of tin foil with much detail of the design missing. JA de Havilland decided in 1994 to fund the purchase of a better quality miniature solid Sterling Silver Gilt Shield for the winners with Silver Shields for second place and Bronze Shields for third place. From 2002 others took on the funding.

Elcho Match Rules

The rules of the match for the Elcho Challenge Shield were first published in the VSG on 28 December 1861. Rule IV stated that as soon as possible after the annual match in each year, the eight competitors on each side shall hold meetings, and each side shall choose a captain who shall be responsible for arranging the details of the next annual match, conducting the business and correspondence connected with it, and selecting the competitors. The captain of each side so elected shall remain in office until the close of the next annual match, and shall then resign. He may, however, offer himself for re-election. The captain of each side, on his appointment, or within a week thereafter shall nominate a substitute, who shall replace him in case of death or illness during his year in office.

The first part of this rule for choosing the captain continued unaltered until 2007. A team from Ireland was admitted in 1865. But it was not to be until 1991 that a team from Wales was admitted.

The Rules are known to have changed in 1873, 1883, 1909, 1910, 1913, 1937, 1947, 1955, 1957, 1981, 1991, 2000, 2007. It is clear that many of the Rules from 1861 must have changed or fallen into abeyance between 1861 and 1873. For instance the admission of Ireland to the Match in 1865 required a change to Rule I. The change from Any Rifle to Match Rifle in 1897 does not appear to have been included in the Rules until 1909. The current state of research in this area could probably identify when the Rules ought to have changed. The changes may just have been agreed between the captains without being formally published.

Any Rifles, Smallbore Rifles and Match Rifles

The Elcho Match rules of 1861 specified that 'the rifles used shall conform to the regulations laid down by the National Rifle Association for Any Rifles'. The NRA rules for 1862 stated that 'all prizes not restricted to Volunteers may be shot for with any description of rifle provided its weight does not exceed 10 lbs'. They went on to say 'in all competitions neither hair triggers nor magnifying sights shall be allowed' although a footnote added that 'no objection will be made to spectacles either in the case of volunteers or all comers'.

It should be noted that the Any Rifle generally used in the Elcho Match in the early 1860s was the Whitworth muzzle loading rifle with a calibre of 0.45 inches which was often called a smallbore rifle when compared with the long Enfield muzzle loading rifle which was the bona fide Government pattern rifle used by the Volunteers with a calibre of 0.577 inches. A definition of the latter rifle was given in a letter dated 30 April 1861 to the National Rifle Association by General Hay which can be found on page 12 of the Proceedings of the National Rifle Association 1861.

Breech loading rifles started to be used in 1878 and by 1881 all competitors were using them.

A further restriction on the calibre came about in 1897 when the maximum was restricted to 0.315 inches and a rifle complying with this was now called a Match Rifle. A Match Rifle also had to have a full military stock. In practice the calibres used were either 0.303 inches or 0.256 inches.

It was these expected changes that caused the Welsh VIII Club in 1896 to defer a decision about competing in the Elcho Match as they did not wish to buy rifles that could only be used for one year. Once the rule change had been made there is no evidence that the Welsh VIII Club continued in existence.

Telescopic and magnifying sights were allowed for the first time in 1905 and generally were of the Galilean kind. A more powerful version of the 0.303 cartridge, the 0.375 / 0.303 was permitted from 1907. This experimental phase with first Any Rifle and then Match Rifle ended with the First World War.

In 1919 the calibre was specified as 0.303 inches and this remained unchanged until the 7.62mm calibre was specified for 1964 which has continued to be the requirement until today. In this period experimentation has been restricted to barrels, actions, telescopes and ammunition.

Back or Supine Position

The back or supine position began to be popular in the 1870s taking over from the traditional prone position. The placing of the back sight on the heel of the butt considerably increased the sight base and improved accuracy. In the 1950s telescopic sights in the prone position were used by some competitors but these were not considered to be robust enough as illustrated by what happened in the Elcho Match of 1955 when AC Hale missed the target at 1100 yards for 6 consecutive shots. However by the 1980s telescopes had become more robust and the dominance of the back position began to fade so that by the 1990s the back position was confined to a few traditionalists. Even these traditionalists had to accept that a telescope in the back position was more effective than Galilean sights.

Competition for the English Eight

Each year there was a competition to help the captain select the English Team for the Elcho Match. The competitions in 1862 and 1863 were held on the beach at Hythe but no scores are known. A request in 1877 in connection with the Elcho Book failed to produce these scores (see section on Elcho Book). Extensive searches of national and Hythe newspapers in the 1980s failed to uncover the scores in the trials for 1862 and 1863.

The VSG announced that the competition for 1863 would be at Hythe on Wednesday 1 July until Saturday 4 July 1863 for the 18 competitors whose registers and public shooting placed them highest on the list of the Captain (VSG 23.5.1863 page 490). The VSG of 26.6.1863 on page 571 published a letter from Alfred Z Palmer, Officer Commanding Firing Party, listing the 18 competitors and giving a further 3 names of people prevented by unavoidable circumstances from taking part. He made it plain that the selection of the Eight was entirely in the hands of the Captain and that the trials at Hythe were for the purpose of verifying the shooting entered in the registers. He added that a good score at Hythe would not necessarily be considered as of greater value than a long series of good shooting as shown by previous registers, well ascertained practice and public competitions.

The trials for 1864 were held at Cambridge which had earlier in June held an invitational match that led to the formation of the Cambridge University Long Range Rifle Club – a club that still exists today. They were held over 2 days with 15 shots at 800 and 900 yards and 30 shots at 1000 yards on each day.

Cambridge was used again in 1865, 1866, 1874, 1877. Gloucester was used in 1867, Epsom in 1868, 1872, Altcar in 1869, 1873, 1876, York in 1870, Bristol in 1871, 1875, 1878 and Sandwell Park, Birmingham 1879.

From 1880 the team was no longer chosen by competition but by track record and performance in the NRA Annual Meeting competitions for Any Rifle and later Match Rifle.

The Elcho Jewel

Members who shot for England in the Elcho for the first time were entitled to an Elcho Jewel. This was in the shape of a shield with a red and white enamelled cross of St George over it. The whole was surrounded by a pattern of roses. On second and subsequent occasions a bar was given. The medal was supported on a ribbon with red stripes down the outside and a white stripe down the centre.

Elcho Book

The Elcho Match results are recorded each year in the NRA Prize Lists. In 1876 it was decided to create the Elcho Book and a letter appears in the VSG of 27.1.1877 on page 194 from Martin R Smith requesting information about the competitions for selection of the English Eight of 1862, 1863 and 1865. Only information for 1865 was forthcoming. However in the 1980s it was established that the 1863 competition was held at Hythe.

The Elcho Book page size is between A1 and A2 size. Each year the Book has been illuminated by hand with the results of the Match. The Book includes the competitions for selection of the English team except for 1862 and 1863 and from 1879 the competitions for the Annual Jewels.

It had been planned to publish the records of the Club in 1907 but this was postponed due the the high cost. However in 1926 200 replica copies of the Elcho Book with a page size of about A4 and giving the Match Records 1862-1926 were produced. It is believed that about 100 copies were pulped during the Second World War leaving about 30 copies unsold. By 1966 it was decided that a new edition should be produced. This was done by Dr CH Roads and 100 copies covering 1862 to 1966 were produced.

Each year from 1927 loose sheets were provided giving the results of that year's match. After the 1966 edition, these sheets were produced from time to time perhaps with 4 or 5 years results at a time. The last set of sheets was for 2003. In 2004 the Elcho Book was scanned onto a Compact Disc (CD) by CN Tremlett.

The Elcho Book was completely filled by 1990 and a second Elcho Book beginning in 1991 was procured with funds provided by the Irish shot Eileen Pizer, formerly Cooper, née Bell.

Elcho Photographs

Since photographs of the English Eight exist from 1862, it is assumed that photographs were taken of the English Eight every year. However no copies have survived (so far as is known in 2009) of the years 1864, 1867, 1869, 1872-1880 and 1882.

Strand Magazine 1893 Volume VI p531-541 had an article on Lt Col Sir Henry Halford Bt which described a room in his house with “photos of the English Eights of the early days of shooting abound”. When Halford died in 1896 this house at Wistow in Leicestershire was bequeathed to Tom Fremantle (later Lord Cottesloe). In 1980 R Pizer talked to Lord Cottesloe (formerly John Fremantle) and wrote to the occupant (Tim Brooks - a son in law of Lord Cottesloe) but the photographs (if they still exist) could not be found.

Photograph Albums existed from the early years but were in such poor condition that in 1979 a new album was procured by JH de Havilland and the photographs remounted. At the same time a replica album was produced and presented to Lord Cottesloe to mark the 25th year of his captaincy and the 50th occasion on which he had been a member of the English team. In 2004 their contents were scanned onto a Compact Disc (CD) along with photographs of Scottish, Irish and Welsh VIIIs by CN Tremlett.


A list of photographers of English VIII and English XX teams was produced in 2008. The official NRA photographers changed regularly in the early years and not all are known. An advertisement in the VSG Wimbledon Daily Edition of 12.7.1880 on page 7 stated that Messrs W and AH Fry, photographers, 68 East Street, Brighton would be in attendance at the Camp in a spacious marquee. Their earliest remaining English VIII photograph is of 1885 and bears the name W&AH Fry. Fry remained as photographers until 1908 when they took the English VIII photograph for the last time (check this).

In 1908 Gale & Polden Ltd of Aldershot started to take over from Fry. By 1909 they had superceded Fry and continued until their last NRA Meeting in 1965. Several photographers followed in quick succession until 1983 when Peter Hicks of Woking took on the task. He was still taking photographs in 2008.

Presentation of the Elcho Shield to the Lord Mayor of London

The first presentation to the Lord Mayor of London did not take place until 1870. A report in VSG of 13.8.1870 on page 582 states :

At a meeting held in the Office of the National Rifle Association, Pall Mall East, Mr Wells MP, who was requested to take the chair, explained that the Elcho Shield, when won by Scotland, had been always received with great distinction by the municipal authorities of Scotland, and upon a communication with the Lord Mayor he expressed his readiness to receive the trophy with becoming ceremony, and that he would take the occasion of stimulating the feeling of the metropolis in favour of the Reserve Forces.

Captain Field having made a statement of a similar character with respect to the International Enfield Trophy, it was moved by Colonel Wilkinson, seconded by Colonel Warde, and resolved unanimously -

'That a deputation be appointed, consisting of Mr Wells MP, Colonel Wilkinson, Major MacDonnell, Captain Field and Mr Parsons to wait upon the Lord Mayor at once to consult his lordship upon the time at which this ceremony should take place.

That a meeting of the Metropolitan Commanding Officers be summoned on Thursday next at three o'clock to receive communications from Mr Wells MP and Captain Field respecting the reception of the International Trophies.'

William Wells MP was captain of the English VIII from 1868 to 1877. Captain JWP Field was captain of the English XX from 1866 to 1878. Captain H Parsons was the adjutant of the English VIII from 1869 to 1877 having formerly been adjutant of the English XX in 1864 and 1865. The International Enfield Trophy is now known as the National Match Trophy.

On Saturday 20 August 1870 at 4pm on the Victoria Embankment, the procession began to form. At 5pm the procession moved off along the Embankment to Blackfriars Bridge, along Bridge Street to Ludgate Hill and St Paul's and thence along Cheapside and reached the Guildhall by the grand entrance. The procession consisted of the Band of the Honourable Artillery Company Light Cavalry, the Honourable Artillery Company, the Regimental Band of the Honourable Artillery Company, the Elcho Shield on a gun carriage drawn by six horses, the English Eight, the Enfield International Challenge Trophy on a gun carriage drawn by 6 horses, the English Twenty. The trophies were protected from the public by squads of 4 men from many of the Metropolitan Corps. The rear guard was composed of Infantry of the Honourable Artillery Company.

The VSG of 27.8.1870 devoted 57 column inches to the procession and speeches on pages 616 to 618.

The Elcho Shield was presented to the Lord Mayor again in 1871 on Saturday 4 November. This time the procession formed up in Finsbury Square near the headquarters of the HAC. The Shield was again on a gun carriage. The procession arrived at the Guildhall soon after 5pm. Following the presentation the English Eight, Lord Mayor and Sheriffs were entertained at a banquet by the HAC. The VSG of 11.11.1871 pages 792 to 794 devoted 64 column inches to the event.

On Saturday 27 July 1872 about 4pm a procession formed up on the Thames Embankment near the Temple Gardens. The Elcho Shield and the Snider International Trophy (now the National Trophy) were each mounted on gun carriages provided by the HAC and escorted by the HAC to the Guildhall. The presentation to the Lord Mayor only took half an hour after which the assembly dispersed. The VSG of 3.8.1872 page 567 devoted 29 column inches to the event.

England did not win the Elcho Shield again until 1876 when a presentation was made to the Lord Mayor on Saturday 7 October. The Elcho Shield was again on a gun carriage supplied by the HAC. The Shield was hoisted to its place over the porch at the Guildhall. Details can be found in VSG 14.10.1876 page 795 in 12 column inches.

There was a gap of 5 years before England won the Shield again. On 29 October 1881 the procession formed on the Embankment close to the Temple with the Shield on a gun carriage provided by the HAC. It was accompanied by detachments of the HAC and the London Rifle Brigade to the Guildhall. The Shield was hung up over the north door of the Guildhall. The VSG reported the event on 5.11.1881 page 10.

Further victories that resulted in presentations to the Lord Mayor were reported in the VSG on 16.12.1882 page 99, 24.10.1885 pages 874-875, 22.10.1887 pages 829-830 (70 column inches) when the National Challenge Trophy was also presented. After the 1887 presentation the Lord Mayor Sir Reginald Hanson invited HRH the Duke of Cambridge, the President, with the chairman and officers of the National Rifle Association, the Captains, Adjutants and members of the English Eight and the English Twenty of 1887, a large number of the NRA Gold Medallists and many other guests to a state banquet in the Egyptian Hall of the Mansion House.

VSG of 24.10.1891 page 589 records the presentation of the Elcho Shield at the Guildhall on 17 October. The Shield was taken to the steps leading to the Council Chamber and raised to its old place opposite the entrance. This was followed by a state banquet.

The Elcho Shield was won again in 1893 but no VSG report has been copied. The VSG of 12.10.1895 included a sketch of the Lord Mayor receiving the Shield and another showing the Shield being put in position over the doorway arch. The Mackinnon Cup was also handed over to the Lord Mayor who entertained the teams to dinner afterwards.

The 1895 presentation and banquet on 17 October is recorded in VSG of 24.10.1896 p846, but reports for 1897, 1898, 1899, 1901, 1902, 1904, 1906, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912 are still to be researched.

After the First World War the presentation and dinner continued until 1926 – the year of the Railway Strike. Unfortunately on this occasion only 2 members of the English Twenty were able to reach the Mansion House and from then till ??? a lunch was given. From ???? the ceremony of handing over the trophy to the Lord Mayor has taken place either about noon or 3.30pm. This information comes from an unpublished history of the English Twenty Club written in the years leading up to 1964. For some years in the last 20 (need to research when), the Lord Mayor has declined to host the ceremony. At some stage the trophies were taken back to Bisley rather than put on display at the Guildhall.

The Formation of the Clubs

In due course national clubs were formed to promote the type of shooting carried out in the Elcho Match. The earliest to be formed was the Irish Rifle Association in January 1867 in Dublin to promote shooting with both the Enfield and with the smallbore rifles as used in what are now called the National and Elcho Matches. This Association had ceased by early 1921. Teams for the Elcho continued to be selected by the Irish VIII in accordance with the Elcho rules. The Irish VIII was not a club – just the people who shot in the Elcho. It was entirely similar in character to the Scottish Eight and the English Eight in the years before the formation of the National Rifle Club of Scotland and the English Eight Club. In 1934 the Irish Rifle Club (Bisley) was formed by combining the Irish VIII with the Irish Twenty Club. That club continues to this day.

A letter dated 7 March 1873 in Scottish archives states that 'At a meeting of Scottish riflemen held at Wimbledon last July, you will doubtless remember that a Club was formed under the title of the National Rifle Club of Scotland etc etc.' The first 'Laws of the National Rifle Club of Scotland, Instituted 1872' were sent out at the beginning of December 1872. That club continues to exist to this day to promote the type of shooting carried out in the Elcho Match.

A proposal to form the English Eight Club was made at the competition for the English Eight held at Avonmouth near Bristol on 5 and 6 June 1878. The captain, Sir Henry Wilmot, and the adjutant, Major CB Waller, were asked to draw up the rules. The earliest surviving copy of the rules is undated but was clearly produced in 1881. Changes to the rules were made in 1882, 1902, 1912, 1936, 1951, 1954, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1971, 1972, 1976, 1977, 1978 1980, 1984, 1988, 1991, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2005.

The Annual Report and Accounts exist for 1881 to 1907, 1909 to 1920, 1921 (accounts only), 1922 to 1939, 1940 to 1945 (accounts only), 1946 to date.

A limited edition of all known copies of the rules and the report and accounts was produced in 2004.

From a letter in the VSG Bisley Daily Edition of 9.7.1895 page 3, it seems that a Welsh Eight Club had been formed with the intention of shooting in the Elcho Match of 1895. Its secretary was Capt W Denman of 4 Serle Street, Lincoln's Inn, London. The Welsh did not in fact compete in 1895 and another letter from W Denman now at 42 Bishopsgate Street Within, London EC in VSG 24.10.1896 page 847 explained that although they had hoped to enter in 1895, they had not done so as some of their prospective shooters were 'breaking down hopelessly in their practice at Bisley'. Since then he added that reports had circulated that the conditions for 'Any' or 'Match' rifle competitions would undergo material alteration and be adopted for the Elcho. As this could involve purchase of rifles which would become obsolete, it was felt that until it was decided what the new rules would be, it would be impossible to expect any one to incur a heavy outlay which might, and most probably would, be found useless if the conditions were altered within the next year or two. As soon as the new rifle was served out to the Welsh regiments, the Welsh VIII Club hoped to adapt them to use match sights. He ended by saying he hoped a Welsh team would compete the following year (1897). But it was to be nearly a 100 years later in 1991 before that happened when the Welsh Rifle Association entered a team. The Welsh Rifle Association had probably been founded in 1904 but ceased after World War I as it is alleged that all their Association officers had been killed. It was not resurrected until 1976 at the insistence of the Welsh Sports Council.

Membership of the English Eight Club

Membership Lists exist from 1878 to today. In the 1980s the earlier lists were consolidated into a single list giving addresses, dates of membership of the Club and of the Eight as well as competitions won.

Early Lady Members

While the bulk of the membership has been male and remains so, occasionally in the early years a lady joined. One such was Miss B Thompson who became a member in 1879 when she lived at Bickley. She lived at Bromley Common from 1886 and Hayes Common from 1894. All these places were in Kent. On a number of occasions one of the men would shoot for the Honorary Members Prize on her behalf. So far as can be told she did not shoot as a member of the Club. It is not clear whether she was related to a founder member EV Thompson of East Sheen, London.

Mrs AB Culf of Manchester, the wife of CS Culf, was the first lady to shoot in English Eight Club competitions in 1950 followed by Miss Marjorie Foster in 1955. Mrs Culf became the first lady to win the Albert Prize in 1953. The Culf's emigrated to South Africa shortly afterwards. Miss Foster was the first lady to win HM The King's Prize in 1930.

Disabled Members

No records are kept of disabled shooters but some can be identified from photographs. The earliest appears to be Henry Evans of Derby who shot for England in 1866. He is shown in the photograph standing on crutches and it is quite clear that he has lost part of his right leg.

Members' Badge

The author of these notes has a vague recollection that a Members' Badge with a number on the reverse was found in the 1970s. This sparked a search of Club Minute Books which confirmed that such a Badge had been issued prior to 1900 (check this). Kirkwood's in Edinburgh, who then had the dies for the Club Jewels, found a die in their possession in the shape of a small shield with the cross of St George inscribed English 8 Club in three rows but in a slightly different design. Elcho photographs up to 1914 do not show anyone wearing one.

As the Club centenary was approaching it was decided to have some medals struck in silver for sale to members. The medal was supported on a maroon ribbon as a suitable ribbon in red and white stripes could not be procured. There was a small date bar engraved 1878-1978.

The centenary shoot at Bisley in May 1978 ended in a tie between Lord Swansea an honorary member and R Pizer with scores of 223 out of 225 at 800, 900 and 1000 yards on targets of 1878. Part of the 900 yards and the whole of the 1000 yards had been shot in heavy rain with R Pizer scoring 75 at 1000 yards. The tie was won by Lord Swansea with 25, 5 to R Pizer's 25, 3. Both were then awarded a silver gilt version of the Members' Badge.

The English Eight Club Jewels

The first competition for the English Eight Club Jewels was in 1879 at Sandwell Park, Birmingham in conjunction with the competition for the English Eight. In 1880 the range used was at Hounslow belonging to the Long Range Club. The range for 1881 is not recorded but Hounslow was used again in 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886 and 1891 to 1898, Avonmouth near Bristol in 1887, 1890, Altcar in 1888, Lord Wantage's new range at Churn in 1889. From 1899 the Bisley ranges were used and this has continued to today.

This competition has been known since 1879 as the Annual Competition for the Club Jewels. But with the advent of the Autumn Meeting in 1953, it has sometimes been called the Spring Meeting.

Prior to 1968 the National Rifle Club of Scotland competitions were held independently of the English Eight Club. But in 1968 they were held alongside as part of the Spring Meeting with their members shooting as honorary members of the English Eight Club. From 1969 the meeting has been advertised as a joint English Eight Club and National Rifle Club of Scotland meeting with some trophies from each open to those of the other who pay the appropriate entry fee. Normally the meeting has been organised by the English Eight Club except in 1977.

From 1992 the Spring Meeting was also held jointly with the Welsh Rifle Association.

The Jewel in gold, silver or bronze had a circular centre with the cross of St George encircled by the words English Eight Club with the date at the bottom surrounded by a wreath. Suspended below the main body of the Jewel was a miniature St George on horseback. The ribbon was striped with red edges and a white central stripe.

The Jewel and bars belonging to Sir Henry Halford were presented to the Club. What is so remarkable about this is that he is shown having won a Gold Jewel in 1862 and 1878, a Silver Jewel in 1882 and 1883 and a Bronze Jewel in 1865, 1872, 1877, 1880 and 1885. This shows that when the English Eight Club was formed in 1878 and the Jewels first awarded, they were backdated to 1862 and awarded to those who took the three leading places in the competition for the Eight. There is no mention of this in the minutes of committee meetings.

All Comers Meeting

The English Eight Club organised an All Comers Military Breech Loading prize meeting at Sandwell Park near Birmingham on 23 and 24 May 1883. This was got up at the instance of the American Match Committee to assist them in the organisation and selection of their team for the forthcoming International Match (for which see section on American Centennial Trophy). The event was poorly attended but VSG gave the results on 2.6.1883 on page 302.

English Eight Club Autumn Invitation Shoot 1952-1954

During these years younger match riflemen were invited to shoot in teams with more experienced members without the pressure of a formal match. The day started with a sweepstake at 900 yards after which two or three teams were formed with shooting at  900, 1000 and 1100 yards in 1952. In 1953 a second day was added with teams shooting at 1000, 1100 and 1200 yards. In 1954 the 1200 yards shoot was included on the first day and only 1000 and 1100 yards shot on the second day.

English Eight Club Autumn Meeting from 1955

It appears from the notice announcing the 1955 meeting that something similar to 1954 but with a second 1200 yard shoot on the second day was originally planned. However the results do not record the formation of any teams and appear to be a normal competition. The results sheet is annotated “the first of its kind”. Various arrangements for the meeting were tried out and it was not until 1971 that the meeting settled down to be 15 shots each day at 1000, 1100 and 1200 yards.

The meeting has always had an experimental flavour with handloaded ammunition allowed from 1966. In 1975 the meeting was given over to an ammunition trial with half the competitors using Raufoss ammunition (14Ra75) on the Saturday and Radway Green target ammunition (24-4-75A) on the Sunday with the other half of the competitors doing the opposite.

From 1985 any rifle could be used. In 1991 following the visit to Coalinga in California  earlier in the year, USA target centres were used with a central bullseye scoring 10 points. Unfortunately that meeting was rained off during the 1100 yards shoot on the Saturday. In 1998 only, the V bull was given a score of 6.

From 1986 the Autumn Meeting was held jointly with the Irish Rifle Club (Bisley) and two of their trophies were open to all who paid the entry fee.

Results of English Eight Club Competitions

The results of English Eight Club competitions were initially recorded in Club score books shot by shot with the Jewel Shoots being recorded in the Elcho Book with range totals only. They were usually also published in the Volunteer Service Gazette which changed its name in 1908 to the Territorial Service Gazette until its demise in 1914.

The earliest known printed results produced by the Club are for the 1911 Annual Meeting but this may have started in 1909 when Col WJ Perkins of Guildford became Honorary Secretary – a post he retained until 1933. Even so the Club does not have the printed results for 1912, 1914, 1920 to 1925, 1927, 1928, 1930, 1931. Thereafter the results appear complete although results for Spring 1968, Autumn 1969, Spring 1972, Autumn 1972 and Autumn 1973 remained in manuscript until 2004 when typed versions were produced to include in a limited edition of results of English Eight Club Competitions 1862 to 2004.

The Long Range Club at Hounslow

The Long Range Club used a range at Hounslow from July 1864 (VSG 2.7.1864 p492). The treasurer was Martin R Smith and by 1879 he was president. Martin Smith died on 8 November 1908. SW Block was secretary in 1895. Results of their competitions have not been searched for but one should expect to find a few results in the Volunteer Service Gazette. Some records from 1908 to 1914 were compiled in 1963 by the English Eight Club but the original source is missing as at 2004.   It seems likely that for some years prior to his death Martin Smith had given a cash prize. From 1909 the Martin Smith Prize was competed for during the afternoon of the first day of the English Eight Club meeting. A cup was presented in 1911.

From 1882 (and probably from 1879) the English Eight Club members living in the Metropolitan area were able to use this range at Hounslow. In 1882 the Club could use the range on Monday mornings from 9am to 1.30pm and on Wednesdays from noon to sunset. This must have made it impossible for any working men in the Club to practice. This agreement expired on 1 July 1885 and was not renewed. However the Club did negotiate a new agreement to hold their Jewel competitions there.

The Long Range Club amalgamated with the English Eight Club in 1920 and it is believed that the cup presented in 1911 for the Martin Smith Prize then became known as the Martin Smith Cup. It is of Persian origin.

The origin of the Long Range Club Cup is not known but one guesses it was used for the Long Range Club's championship. None of the early winners are known. In July 1920 it was said to be in the custody of the North London Rifle Club. From 1921 it was used by the English Eight Club for the best score on the first day of the Jewel shoot. It was stolen after the 1992 English Eight Club Spring meeting and has not been recovered.

The NRA Journal of June 1924 page 137 has 3 photographs of the Long Range Club House at Hounslow and two club stalwarts “Old” Todd and L Chadwick.

Club Accommodation

In 1879 the English Eight Club had accommodation at Wimbledon as evidenced by a report on page 5 of the VSG Wimbledon Daily Edition dated 17 July 1879. There it is recorded that the English Twenty held a meeting at the English Eight Club. This accommodation will have been a tent.

The earliest remaining letter from the English Eight Club to its members is dated 3 April 1882 and records that the Club Tent at Wimbledon was again the source of great convenience and comfort to members but entailed considerable expense. All members who used the tent were in future encouraged to contribute to its cost.

Following the move of the NRA to Bisley Camp in 1890, the Club decided in 1890 that a permanent Club House be erected in lieu of a tent. The NRA were approached and agreed to erect a building for which they charged a rent of £29 8s per annum for 7 years. The building was constructed by the Wire Wove Roofing Company for a cost of £182. It's style is reminiscent of Colonial buildings with a verandah at the front. It was ready for the 1891 NRA Meeting.

A plan (illustrated below) from NRA records shows an area marked B which is described, elsewhere on the document containing the plan, as a lean-to consisting of an armoury and a bedroom. The plan is undated but records the rent as £24 10s per year with the tenancy running from year to year (which was correct from 1898 to 1925). It must have been produced about 1925 as the gun room was enlarged in 1925-26 to include that part of the area marked B on the plan that is on the side towards the rear of the Club House.

Initially there was no bedroom on the front left side of the Club House as can be seen from Elcho team photographs. The Elcho photograph for 1909 shows no side extension but the 1910 photograph appears to show a corrugated iron wall but without the external door. One wonders if this was built by Col WJ Perkins for use as a bedroom when he became honorary secretary/treasurer in 1909. The committee minute books should confirm this although no expenditure appears in the accounts. If Perkins used the bedroom until he retired in 1933, then CF Hill who took over from him also probably used the bedroom until he too retired in 1953. Folklore has it that Wing Cdr AT Whitelock, honorary secretary from 1953 until his death in 1964, had a bedroom at the clubhouse although he must have moved out when the Oxford and Cambridge Universities moved in about 1960. [check with Chris Roads]

From 1891 the Club's accounts show income from locker rents, so there was a gun room at the rear to the left of the area marked kitchen in the plan which shows a cleaning bench against the back wall. This gun room and the kitchen were still in use for these purposes in the 1970s.

Then in 1925/26 an extension to the gun room was built as marked on the plan at the side of the club house and to the rear in part of the area marked B. The bedroom must have been converted to a gun room about 1960 when Cambridge University moved in.

During the First World War, the Club House was taken over by the Motor Machine Gun Corps who did considerable damage and refused to pay up. In the Second World War the building was taken over by the Small Arms School who built a Nissen Hut in the garden which was removed after the war.

From 1946 to 1963 the club caretaker was Mr JW Matthews of the Army Rifle Association. Mrs MJ Roker of Woking was caretaker from 1970 to 1997.

From 1954 to 1957 the Club extended the privilege of Honorary Membership of the English Eight Club to undergraduate members of the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, London and Nottingham. From the early 1960s the Club House has been used by members of the Cambridge University Rifle Association and the Oxford University Rifle Club in recognition of the fact that they provided the bulk of new members to the sport of match rifle shooting.

Other International Matches

Irish American Matches

The Irish following their winning of the Elcho Shield in 1873 challenged the Americans to a match. The challenge was accepted on behalf of the NRA of America by the Amateur Rifle Club which had been formed for non military shooting and specialised in long range. The match held on 26 September 1874 at Creedmore on the north shore of Long Island near Bridport. The conditions were teams of 6 firing 15 shots at 800, 900 and 1000 yards. The Americans won by 934 to 931. [2]

A return match was held at Dollymount near Dublin on 29 June 1875 under the same conditions and won by the Americans with 967 to 929. The 1876 match was at Creedmore on 21 September when Americans won by 1165 to 1154. The last in this series of matches occurred at Dollymount on 30 June 1880 when the Americans again won by 1292 to 1280.

American Centennial Trophy

It seems that the Americans intended to invite England, Scotland and Ireland to this match to celebrate the centenary of their Declaration of Independence in 1776. It appears they sent the English invitation to the NRA, who decided without consulting the Scots or the Irish, to send a Great Britain team under Sir Henry Halford. Scotland accepted their invitation causing Great Britain to refuse to take part at which point the Irish decided to accept their invitation. William Wells, captain of the English Eight, tried to raise an English team (letter in VSG 8.4.1876) but this did not succeed. The match was held at Creedmore in September 1876 with the result USA 3126, Ireland 3104, Australia 3096, Scotland 3061 and Canada 2923. The trophy presented is now known as the Palma Trophy.

The Americans planned this match to be an annual event and for 1877 a Great Britain team under Sir Henry Halford visited Creedmore. The Americans again won with 3334 to 3242 where teams of 8 fired 15 shots each day at 800, 900 and 1000 yards. This led to a lengthy report analysing what had happened and lessons to be learnt by Lt Col CL Peel, the NRA Executive Officer, published in the 1877 Proceedings of the NRA.

Invitations from the Americans were declined in 1878 and 1879. In 1880 an unofficial USA team under W Frank Hyde as captain first visited Ireland (as described above) and then came to Wimbledon. The match at Wimbledon was for teams of 8 each firing 15 shots at 800, 900 and 1000 yards. The British team captained by Sir Henry Halford won with 1647 to 1568.

Another invitation was issued to the British for 1881 but declined.

International Matches with Military Breech Loaders

From 1882 the match took on a military nature with 7 shots at 200, 500, 600, 800, 900 and 1000 yards using military breech loaders. Great Britain captained by Sir Henry Halford won the 1882 match at Creedmore with 1975 to 1805 and also the 1883 match at Wimbledon with 1951 to 1906. Great Britain declined an invitation to visit Creedmore in 1885.

These matches with a military nature were not considered to be Palma matches and the next Palma match was not until 1901 at Seagirt USA where only USA and Canada competed.

As they were of a military nature, Any Rifles could not be used but rather Military Breech Loaders. Thus the matches have no direct connection to the English Eight Club but are noted here as Sir Henry Halford was captain and several club members shot.

Match with Canada 1881

A match between the United Kingdom and Canada was shot at Wimbledon on 23 July 1881 with 6 men each firing 15 shots at 800, 900 and 1000 yards. The UK captain was Lord Brownlow and match captain was Sir Henry Halford. The UK won with 1222 to 1105.

English Visit to Dollymount 1881

A friendly match was held at the North Bull Range Dollymount near Dublin on Friday 1 July 1881 between teams of eight each firing 15 shots at 900, 1000 and 1100 yards. The English under Sir Henry Willmott (who was unable to attend at the last minute) won with 1360 to 1327.

Coalinga California USA 1991

It was to be over 100 years before a UK match rifle team went overseas again. It was organised by the English Eight Club. In Feb/March 1991 JA de Havilland led an unofficial team to compete against the Olympic Club of California. The trip was noteworthy for the amount of rain and mud in an area that had had no rain for several years. The match was settled by a single shot at 1000 yards from the captains on each side preceded by unlimited sighters. John de Havilland won by scoring an X to Larry Wilkins 9. Rosemary Meldrum reported on the trip in the NRA Journal of Autumn 1991 page 39 and 40.

Woomera, Australia 1993

Two club members PB Saul and MH Davis shot at Woomera in Oct 1993 and recorded their experiences in the NRA Journal of Spring 1994 on page 4.

Woomera Matches

Campbell Town Range, Tasmania 1997

An official Great Britain Match Rifle Team visited Tasmania in Jan and Feb 1997 and recorded their results in the NRA Journal for Spring 1997 page 45 and Summer 1997 pages 37 to 41. Great Britain won the first Woomera Match with 1693 and 124 Vs to Australia's 1667 and 102 Vs.

Stickledown Bisley Camp 2001

The second Woomera Match was held at Bisley in July 2001 when Great Britain scored 1637 and 131 Vs to Australia's 1616 and 115 Vs.

Lower Light Range, nr. Adelaide, South Australia, 2004

A second official Great Britain Match Rifle Team visited Victoria in Sept and Oct 2004 and recorded their results in the NRA Journal for Spring 2005 on pages 22-26. The warm-up matches were held at Stawell Range, Victoria and the match itself was at Lower Light Range near Adelaide.  The team won the Woomera Trophy with 1744 and 141Vs to Australia's 1722 and 139Vs.

Stickledown Bisley Camp 2006

The fourth Woomera Match was held at Bisley in July 2006 when Great Britain scored 1762 and 220 Vs to Australia's 1722 and 166 Vs.

Belmont, Queensland 2010

Stickledown Bisley Camp 2012

Campbell Town Range, Tasmania 2016

Stickledown Bisley Camp 2019

Very Long Range Shooting

A brief list of shooting at very long ranges with references to further information is provided.

1850s 2000 yard range at Jacobabad (then India now in Pakistan)

NRA Journal Winter 1958 pages 5, 6

Guns, June 1959 p22

1857 1850 yard range at School of Musketry in Hythe, Kent

Guns, June 1959 p22

400, 900, 1800 yards Monday 27 August 1860 at Montrose

Montrose Standard and Angus & Mearns Register, 31 August 1860

NRA Journal April 1957 pages 27, 28.

2000 yards 26 May 1865 Gravesend

“History of the National Rifle Association” p96

NRA Report 1865 p x, full report in Volunteer Service Gazette of 3 June 1865

2000 yards 20 June 1866 Milton Ranges, Gravesend

NRA Report 1866 p x

Wistow, Leicestershire range built in 1860s

NRA Journal Oct 1956 p 103, 104, NRA Journal Autumn 1980 p48-54, Autumn 1994 p38, NRA Journal Spring 1996 p39

1883/84 North Bull Sands, Dublin : long range shooting including Tom Fremantle

The Englishman and his Rifle by Lord Cottesloe pages 51,52.

1884 Springfield Armoury, USA     1500 to 2000 yards  (see article below)

2800 yards during the South Africa War 1899-1902 by the British Army in India     NRA J Winter1958 pages 5, 6; Guns, June 1959 p22

Canonffrome, Ledbury Col John Hopton's 1400 yard (by 1931 1500) range at his home in Herefordshire. NRA J July 1934 pages 148, 149. Hugh St G Maxwell's scrapbook (held by Mrs RA Meldrum), NRA J Jan 1957 page 7, 8, NRA J Winter 1958 pages 5, 6

1400 yards 17, 18 June 1926              NRA J July 1926 page 156

1500 yards 23, 25 May 1931              NRA J July 1931 page 165

1500 yards 13, 15 May 1933              NRA J June 1933 page 136

Barry Ranges, Angus  near Carnoustie      NRA J Jan 1957 pages 7, 8, NRA J April 1957 pages 27, 28; “2100 Yards Achieved at Barry”       NRA J Winter 1958 pages 5, 6;  NRA J Winter 1959 p21; “Rifles at 2100 paces”, Guns, June 1959, p21-23, 50-52;  NRA J Autumn 1959 p102; NRA J Winter 1961 p23;  NRA J Autumn 1980 p48-54,   NRA J Spring 1996, pages 39-42

“Rifles at 2000 Yards” -         Proof and Experimental Establishment Pendine, South Wales

Sept 1963        NRA J Oct 1964 p78-81, NRA J Spring 1996, pages 39-42

“British Bulleyes at 2100 Yards” -     by W John Farquharson; The American Rifleman Feb 1977 p34-37; reprinted in NRA J Spring 1977 pages 52-57

“British Bull's-eyes at a Mile” -         by W John Farquharson; published in another USA magazine in 1977

Dunlossit, Islay

“A Mile and a Half”    - Dunlossit       NRA J Autumn 1980 p48-54; NRA J Summer 1986 p17; Great Britain Match Rifle Team Tasmania 1997

Summary of above

NRA Journal Spring 1996, pages 39-42; brochure Great Britain Match Rifle Team Australia 2004 p16,20,24

[1] Rosemary Meldrum has written a detailed article entitled 'The Three Elcho Shields' which was published in the NRA Journal in Summer 2004 on pages 34-37

[2] NRA Journal Summer 1991 pages 19, 20 Creedmore and the Early International Matches by WS Curtis

Robin Pizer
January 2009

With additions on recent Woomera matches from Chris Law, Feb 2021