A Brief History

The Club was formed on 10th August 1968 by Elaine and Don Hughes who then shot at St Kingsmark School.  It was decided to move to the then new athletic club a few years later where we have remained ever since. The Club was originally a field club shooting on the weekends in Piercefield Woods. Don was a tournament judge for many years and Elaine was a well known Regional Coach.  Both were made life members of the club in light of their hard work in keeping the venue open for so many years.  Sadly Don passed away in January 2014.

In the Beginning – 1965

The club really began during the summer of 1965 when after much badgering the Chepstow Community College finally gave way to constant demands for adult archery classes.  A tutor, who had spent one afternoon at a club learning how to shoot, arrived and assured them this was all the knowledge he needed to turn them all into MBs, whatever they were.  Targets were then set out between sixty and eighty yards at his instructions, and briefly he told them all they needed to know – “point your bow at the target, pull the string to your face and let go, and with any luck you may hit the target“.  No advice concerning the bow weights or arrow lengths was given, which was just as well because their four bows were 40lb draw weight each and their five boxes of arrows all 26” in length.  As to the rules, he did not seem to know they existed for he never mentioned them and indeed got very annoyed when they hesitated to collect their arrows whilst others were still shooting.  Such was their introduction to archery.

After three weeks of turning purple in the face and boggle-eyed from trying to pull those bows and getting nowhere fast, they tutor gave them all up as a dead loss, walked off the field and was never seend again, for which they were very grateful.  They continued to help each other during the next eighteen months and referred to themselves as the “St. Cynmks” after a famous Welsh hermit who lived in the area during the middle ages, for like him, they had been left very much on their own.  St Kingsmark, as they later called their club, is the English translation of this monk’s name.  Once the college found that their tutor was gone, the classes were stopped and to make matters worse, the caretaker was convinced they were vandals out to shoot all his alsation dogs, he being a breeder (well, they decided, he should know).

Officially Founded – 1968

Around that time they made contact with the S.W.A.S. and a whole new world opened up for them.  They decided it was time to go legitimate and on August 10th, 1968, the club was officially founded, as is known now as St. Kingsmark Bowmen. Don Hughes became their Chairman and Elaine Hughes was chosen as the Club Secretary. Their new shooting home was to be in the grounds of the St Michael’s Catholic Hall, which although very small, some 35 yards by 30 yards, they received the blessing of the father, this time because they kept the vandals away from the hall; it was nice for them to be back among the godly again.

In 1969 Don was given the use of some 14 to 20 acres of ground for field archery at the back of the Chepstow Race Course, and with it permission was granted to shoot on the hallowed track.  This gave them a longer target range.  So using the starting gate as their shooting line, they would shoot towards the finishing post and God help any archer who missed, for being on a slope their arrows would bury themselves some three feet deep in the thickly matted grass.  When this happened, the luckless soul would spend the night with the aid of car headlights looking for the offending shaft, knife in hand, knowing it must be found before the races the following day.  What a picture this must have made to any passing motorist, who must wonder to this day what form of Celtic magic was being performed.

Chepstow Athletic Club – 1970

In 1970 they joined the Chepstow Athletic Club and was given the use of the St Mary’s Football Field to shoot on three days a week.  This field was surrounded by a bank some 15ft high on three sides and a factory on the fourth, so if they felt a gale down there, it was blowing a gale up above.  This then was their home for the next two years but it had its drawbacks:

  1. Gnats as big as mothballs bred there and if not off the field by 5pm they were eaten alive.
  2. The large St Mary’s Norman church hung above the grounds to their left and shooting nights were also used for bellringing practice.
  3. Above the bank on their right ran the main railway line with Brunel’s Bridge on one side and the station on the other.  Every fifteen minutes a train would rattle past, whistle shrilling loudly against the noise of the church bells.
  4. The football team and their supporters would not only hurl abuse down on them every time they decided they wanted the field for an unscheduled game, but any stone, can or rotten apple they could put their hands on.  Finally tempers broke and the bows swung from the targets to their tormenters.  No arrows were shot but the tormenters left the field quicker than they came and so did the archers – for good.

In 1972 they now shot alongside a different sort of ball player, at the Athletic Club’s Bulwark Sports Ground.  Over the next six years they had small “running” battles with those gents (common species: Hopperitus, known as Cricketers) which the archers usually won, and they now had a Sportsman Agreement, namely they will not put their balls onto the archers’ range and in exchange the archers will not put their arrows into them!

Tenth Anniversary – 1978

August 1978 saw the tenth anniversary as a club within the South Wales Archery Society and for Don and Elaine Hughes some thirteen years in archery.  As officers they had their moments of anger and sorrow within the club, but mostly the friendships they made and the laughter they shared made it all worth while.

St Kingsmark the Saint

Father Kingsmark (also Cynfarch, Cynmarch, Kynemark) was a monk, Scottish chieftain, and disciple of St. Dubricius of Caerleon in the 5th century. He later lived in Wales, where he grew to such renown for his holiness, that soon after his death he was glorified by the Welsh faithful. St. Kingsmark is said to have been married to a granddaughter of St. Brychan of Brecknock.
Many churches are dedicated to him in the English West Country and Wales. His feastday is celebrated on 8th September.

St Kingsmark Priory

About one mile north of Chepstow lie the remains of another small monastic house. St Kynemark, Kinmarchus, Kinmarch seem to be Norman corruptions of ‘Cynfarch’ as some sort of approximate pronunciation, and this house was the one situated a mile North of Chepstow, but was not a church administered from Chepstow Priory.
It lies on the road from Chepstow , but the church lay on high ground.
The ridge reaches a height of 250 feet above sea level providing extensive views over the lower Wye and the Bristol Channel. To the North is Chepstow Park and to the west the view is blocked by St Lawrence’s Hill and by Cophill. Butler says in his excellent paper for the Historical Journal of The Church in Wales, that the priory lies close to the cliffs bordering the Wye and the head of a steep side valley from the river; It also commands the head of a more gentle valley sweeping down into Chepstow from springs near Kynemark farm, which was built with many of the ruined building stone.

There is a Church dedicated to Cynfarch at Llanfair Dyffryn, Clwyd, which used to have a ‘Sanctus Kynvarch’ represented in a stained-glass window (Benedictine Records, Farmer). Smashed up in the ravages of the 17th century, precious shards have been put together and replaced in the window. There is another church dedicated to St Cynfarch at the Hope Parish at Flint in North Wales.

A map dated 1828 shows St. Kynemark near Crossways Green.