History

The Archery Gardens.

In common with the Subscription Gardens, The Archery Grounds had a number of Grande Villas placed around the site (since demolished). 

In the 1930s, thanks to the Mackay Ladies this land became one of the greatest Archery Grounds in BritainThe Mackay ladies were good friends of town founder James Burton and resided in St Leonards from its earliest days. They could almost be described as co-founders of the town, as they helped set up many of its institutions and societies.

All the siblings engaged in archery, a very popular sport at the time and one of the few opportunities women had to mix with men informally. Eliza’s and Charlotte’s lives seem to have been dominated by archery competitions. They became acquainted with Princess Victoria when she visited the town in 1834 and so perhaps it was they who persuaded her to be patron of The Society of St Leonards Archers, which they had co-founded in 1833.

They planned, ornamented, improved and maintained the archery grounds, which Burton donated for the purpose, until they were among the best in Britain. All three ladies were fiercely competitive; Eliza won many of the Royal Victoria prizes, and when she first achieved the top prize, in 1837, Queen Victoria, who had just ascended the throne, renamed the society ‘The Queen’s St Leonards Archers.’ Emma enjoyed attending rifle fetes, although no lady competed.

Plan for St Leonards Gardens.
One of the Mackay Ladies practising, around 1835.
Drawing of the Archery Ground, around 1850.
Visitors to the Archery Ground, around 1840.
The Archery Ground, 1836.
The Archery Ground, around 1850.