Bowmans Lodge and the Toxophilites


1785 - 1802
Not far from Maypole Estate and on the edge of Dartford Heath, closest to Crayford, lies a road called Bowmans Road. This is a cul-de-sac road that once bordered an old sand and gravel pit. It lies at the top of the hill off Station Road, Crayford. A short way further up Station Road, coming towards Maypole Estate and bordering the Heath itself, lies Swan Lane. This borders the north side of the football pitch and cricket ground on the Crayford side of the old A2 (Rochester Way) adjoining Denton Road. As one travels up Swan Lane from Crayford, towards the direction of Shepherds Lane, there is to be seen a new house on the left. This occupies the site of an older house which I remember quite well. It was a rambling, slate roofed, dilapidated building with fading, cracked, green paintwork and shabby curtains. I remember that this house was on the edge of the sandpit which lay to the rear of the house. I am led to believe that at some time the 'Heath Keepers' may have been housed there. The adjacent pit was eventually used to bury Dartford's' rubbish and was completely filled by about c.1974. The old house was finally pulled down c. 1978 and the new one built some time thereafter.

Bowmans Lodge and the Toxophilites - History of Maypole, Dartford Heath

The original house was called Bowmans Lodge and two hundred years ago was the regular meeting place of the Royal Society of Kentish Bowmen. This Society was instituted by Mr. J. E. MADOX in 1785 when he was once resident at Mount Mascal in North Cray. This is where the first meetings were held. At the formation only eleven gentlemen enrolled their names, but in 1786 their numbers increased to thirty. In 1787 the meetings were transferred to Bowmans Lodge and they would meet opposite the lodge to practice their sport. It is interesting to note that of the original members their is a reference to Simon FRAZIER and S. FRAZIER junior. This person is also referred to, in this account as having been once an occupier of Baldwyns Manor. In 1787 the membership totalled sixty one.

They would meet every Saturday morning on the heath during the months of May, June, July and August. Shortly after the transfer to Bowmans Lodge the Prince of Wales became a patron and the numbers swelled to one hundred and twenty three. Extract from DUNKIN History and Antiquities of Dartford:- " The heath became the favourite resort of youth and beauty assembled to behold the splendid costume of the members, and witness their skill in archery, particularly on target days.

In January 1789 His Royal Highness having been elected President issued an order for the following uniform to be worn by every member of the society :-

A grass green coat with buff linings, a buff waistcoat and breeches; black collar uncut velvet in winter; tabby silk in summer, with yellow buttons according to pattern sent to NUTTINGS, 16 King Street, Covent Garden. By the established rules, a white dimity waistcoat and breeches might be worn at all meetings, but the uniform coat was indispensible, together with an R.K.B. button with a gold loop to a black round hat, and small black feather, without which no member was allowed to shoot. The fine for non conformity was 7s 6d .

Bowmans Lodge and the Toxophiltes - History of Maypole, Dartford Heath

Bowmans Lodge c1925

.The meetings were accompanied by appointed standard bearers in full costume. Every target day the entire gathered membership would walk in a procession to the allotted ground

Bowmans Lodge and the Toxophiltes - History of Maypole, Dartford Heath
HRH Prince of Wales in RSKB uniform

Every member on election would pay ten guineas. The annual subscription was £1 11s 6d. In addition he would pay one guinea yearly for his four largest dinners. The greatest part of the society ungallantly professed celibacy; for in a splendidly bound manuscript book of their accounts is an entry, wherein each member engaged to pay a "stipulated fine of £100 upon committing matrimony " The house was traditionally said to have been the scene of many midnight revels and orgies.

Prior to the break up of the society in 1802 the members fitted up one of the rooms in which they frequently acted plays and other dramatic pieces, to which the inhabitants of the neighbourhood were invited by tickets. They also gave a grand ball on Shooters Hill, at which most of the gentry attended - the three daughters of Sir John **** D Y K E (AOL doesn't like the word!) of Lullingstone Castle attended this. It is purported that a large mirror once belonging to the Prince of Wales (which had once come from this house) was presented to the landlord of the Bull Inn at Dartford

Death of FOOKS - who lived there after the Toxophilites - as reported in the South Eastern Gazette August 12th 1899

Bowmans Lodge and the Toxophilites - History of Maypole, Dartford Heath

A court case regarding damage to one of Fooks' trees - South Eastern Gazette June 17th 1876

Bowmans Lodge and the Toxophilites - History of Maypole, Dartford Heath

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