Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

Butts and bullets: A bimble up Butt Lane

Walking up Butt Lane (right of centre in the photo), I couldn’t help but notice the “tree-mendous” (sorry) amount of felling that’s taken place in Guisborough Woods in recent years. And, lo and behold, I saw an obvious path leading upwards. I had never seen it before, which turned out to be the work of daredevil downhill mountain bike riders. Fortunately, it was too early in the day to be used by bikers, but from that path, I got a view of Guisborough from a viewpoint that was totally new to me!

Butt Lane, as I have mentioned before in these posts, probably gets its name from the place where the town’s archery butts used to stand. In 1363, King Edward III ordered that every man should practise his archery skills at the butts on Sundays and holidays, since all other forms of sport were outlawed1‘Mediaeval Mythbusting Blog #10: Arrow Stones – Triskele Heritage’. 2021. <https://triskeleheritage.triskelepublishing.com/mediaeval-mythbusting-blog-10-arrow-stones/> [accessed 27 February 2023]. It was later reinforced by King Henry VIII’s decree, which mandated that all able-bodied men under 60 had to have a bow and arrows for shooting purposes2Wikipedia Contributors. 2023. ‘Unlawful Games Act 1541’, Wikipedia (Wikimedia Foundation) <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unlawful_Games_Act_1541#cite_ref-4> [accessed 25 March 2023]. The Daily Express says that law has never been repealed!3Mulherin, Lizzie. 2016. ‘Here Are 11 of the Most BIZARRE British Laws That You Probably Never Knew About’, Express.co.uk (Express.co.uk) <https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/life/650388/11-bizarre-British-laws-have-not-been-repealed-illegal-to-drink-in-pub-citybaseapartments#:~:text=All%20males%20over%20the%20age,with%20a%20bow%20and%20arrow.> [accessed 25 March 2023]

Fast forward to the year 1859 and the French were apparently planning to invade, leaving the population of England in a state of panic4Wikipedia Contributors. 2023. ‘Volunteer Force’, Wikipedia (Wikimedia Foundation) <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volunteer_Force#Creation_of_the_Volunteer_Force> [accessed 25 March 2023]. So, the good folks of Guisborough decided to form a local militia and, thus, the 20th North York (Guisborough) Rifle Volunteers were born. But, when they needed a place to polish their shooting skills, maybe it was their collective memory of the archery butts that led them to Butt Lane.

This 19th century rifle range was in the field to the east (right) of Butt Lane, and was still shown on the 6″ O.S. map, 1938 survey, as 600 yards. It was in use at the time of the Boer War5 Annis, Richard. GUISBOROUGH FOREST: An Archaeological Survey. May 1992: May – June 1994. Tees Archaeology..

In the next edition of the O.S. map, there was a rifle range on the west (left) side of Butt Lane, out in the fields. You can still see the earthworks where the targets were set up in the nearby plantation. I’ve heard several stories from some born and bred Guisborians about finding old bullet shells when they were kids. And one online reminiscence says that “For many years there was a shell of an armoured vehicle at the bottom of the shale.”6Cam_s. 2015. ‘Ranges at Guisboro’, The Great War (1914-1918) Forum (Great War Forum) <https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/226635-ranges-at-guisboro/#comment-2306802> [accessed 25 March 2023]






2 responses to “Butts and bullets: A bimble up Butt Lane”

  1. John Clark avatar
    John Clark

    I can confirm Mick, that finding old bullets was an easy pass time as a kid growing up in the 70s.
    My dad was in the territorial and would use the range in the 60’s. I believe it was active prior to the building of the Hunters Hill and Whitby Lane estates.

    1. Fhithich avatar

      Thanks, John.

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