Club History

This is a brief history of Manydown Rifle Club which should prove interesting to Club Members.

The history is broken down into two parts and covers a period of over one hundred years. Part one deals with the original Manydown Rifle Club which existed for over thirty years.

The second part focuses on the current club and how it came into existence in 1972. It should be pointed out that the two clubs really have little or no connection, apart from the same name.

It is difficult to establish exactly when the first Manydown Rifle Club came into being, but it's thought to have been some time in the late 1880's or early 1890's. It was formed by Mr Sydney Bates of Manydown Park at the insistence of his son Arthur who was later to become an excellent shot. He, like many of his cousins, shot in the VIII while at Winchester College. In the records of the English Twenty Club Books, Captain/Colonel A S Bates is shown as being a member.

The club range was built on a large field, still called Rifle Butts, at Manydown Park, near Basingstoke, which is still part of the 5,000 acre estate currently owned by The Manydown Company and farmed by the Oliver-Bellasis family. Charles and Hugh's Mother, Anne Oliver-Bellasis, was the only child of Arthur and Mary Bates. Arthur was the Great Nephew of Sir Edward Bates MP who bought The Manydown Estate in 1871.

The range consisted of firing points on the north side of the carriage drive with a large bank at the end which acted as a stop butt. The safety standards then were just as rigorous as they are today.

Competitors were able to shoot at distances up to 300 yards on appropriate targets. The club was really a family one where friends and guests were invited to participate in the various events.

The first documented existence of The Manydown Rifle Club is from a cutting of the Hampshire Chronicle of 1907, which reports the Club's prize meeting held at Manydown Park. The prizes were presented by Lt. Col. R Crosse, then Secretary of the NRA, whose daughter, Mary Crosse, married Arthur Bates in 1905. Their grandson, Charles Oliver-Bellasis and his sons, John and Richard, are all active members of the current Manydown Rifle Club. Two of the cups which were presented at the above meeting are still in existence and are housed at Wootton House.

Mrs Anne Oliver-Bellasis, (Charles' Mother), presented a trophy in 1980 to the current club as a tie between the old and the new Manydown Rifle Clubs. This trophy is presented annually to the Club Champion.

The original club continued to operate until around 1920 and at about this time, Arthur Bates stopped attending Bisley. There is a photograph of him, together with other members, commemorating the visit of His Royal Highness Prince Albert at Bisley in 1919. And he features in the large painting in the NLRC Dining Room.

From 1939 to 1945, Colonel Bates used the range to teach the Home Guard to shoot, where employees of the Estate, tenants and his sisters all had to become proficient with a rifle.

Then, after a long period of silence and inactivity, The Manydown Rifle Club was re-animated. This was in March 1972 and had little in common with the old club apart from the name and that it was a shooting club. Like many other clubs, the formation of the current Manydown Rifle Club came about as a result of an idea by one person.

At Bisley one day, during a lunch time drink with some friends, Phillip Rowell mentioned that he had thought about forming a full-bore rifle club and would anyone care to join? The idea seemed to gain favour the longer We discussed the possibility. It was agreed that it should be a Hampshire club, which would form a base from where Future County shots, could be selected. (This has proved most successful and it is estimated that 50% of the current membership have shot for Hampshire at some time or other). Whereupon, it was decided to investigate the proposal further Apart from the many other details relating to such a venture, the question arose as to what to call the new club.

The club title came about in the most unusual way. Phillip Rowell happened to be looking through the Deeds of his cottage whereupon he noticed that the property was at one time part of The Manydown Estate. "Ahh", thought Phillip, 'we will call the new club Manydown, and that's how the club was re-borne We weren't aware that there was ever a previous Manydown Club -what a small world!

During the next few years, the club was not very active and only shot in team events at Hampshire meetings. Total membership was seven. In 1974, the club won the County Astor and were duly invited to represent Hampshire in the Bisley Astor. To everyone's surprise, we won, despite having just enough members to make up a team of six - no selection problems here! To date, the club has won the Bisley Astor four times, the last time being 1994. We have also been runners up twice.

In 1980, we felt it was time to extend the club's activities and to recruit more members. An AGM was called on 13 April 1980. On the Agenda was a proposal for the club to amalgamate with the Yately Rifle Club, who at that time was also having membership problems. This proposal was unanimously agreed and that the combined clubs were to be called The Manydown Rifle Club.

This has proved an excellent marriage and currently, the club has a membership of 54. The standard of shooting within the club is now pretty high and on paper we can turn out some very strong teams. We have nineteen members who have shot internationally, both in Great Britain and national teams. Also, there are several ex-Athelings. The future of the club looks pretty good and we've attracted several young shooters which odes well for the coming years.

That concludes the brief history of the two Manydown Clubs, which I hope our readers found interesting.

Bill Hanna




THE MANYDOWN PLOUGHMAN'S SONG

An old man ploughed on Battledown Farm
in a springtime long ago;
and betimes he sang as he followed
the horses to and fro.

His song was often a sad one,
of a lover seen no more.
Or of men who longed for their country,
on some far, foreign shore.

Apart, he toiled with his furrows,
as he added one by one,
with an even tread and steady
until the day was done.

A young man ploughs on Battledown Farm.
It's springtime once again,
and a strange new "yoke" he's guiding,
with wheel but not with rein.
This lad hears music from headphones,
on a rhythm loud and strong.
He can talk to the man in the farmyard,
the time seems never long.

Not one, but many furrows
does he made on each swift run.
And the field, green at mid-day,
is brown at the setting sun.

Yet still the vision is with me
of that ploughman long ago.
And with memory's ear I can listen,
to his singing soft and low.
WJH