BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014

BBC Homepage
»BBC Local
Things to do
People & Places
Religion & Ethics
Arts and Culture
BBC Introducing
TV & Radio

Sites near Wiltshire


Related BBC Sites


Contact Us


Timeline Wiltshire

The Medieval Machine Gun

Will Walder
The longbow, the national weapon of the English army, was the machine gun of the Middle Ages...

Timeline Wiltshire

The longbow was one of the most devastating weapons of medieval times.

Not only could it travel further than any other man powered weapon, at the time, but could fire an arrow through sheet metal like a hot knife through butter.

Nowadays the making of longbows seems to be pretty obsolete (with the invention of guns, missiles and grenades) but there are many people who still practice the skill of archery.

Timeline Wiltshire

In fact in some parts of the country the practice of archery by all men on a Sunday is still a legal requirement as the law, set by King Edward III in 1363, has yet to be repealed.

Will Walder met with one of England's only longbow makers Richard Head at his workshop in Melksham...

Listen: An interview with longbow maker Richard Head:
audio Listen: Richard Head longbow maker in Melksham >
Audio and Video links on this page require Realplayer
last updated: 28/06/06
Have Your Say
Your name: 
Your comment: 
The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

I think Richard Head is a great man for keeping the english tradition alive until today. I´m from Argentina, and from here erery archer knows about his job and what does he do. Thank you Mr. Richard.

Alain Sunyol
I agree with Mr. Head on one point: the power of penetration of the longbow is real: with my 55 lb longbow and an arrow fitted with a bodkin I shot all the way through an old car. On an other hand the Turkish composite bow couls easily withstand the English rain as it was able to withstand the hungarian climate which is nearly as bad .

Michael Leedham
You mentioned in one of your web pages that Victorian Longbows should never be used. I have been shooting a Buchannan self yew for 35 years and an Aldred self yew for 40 years also a Turner (at least 150 years old and a F.H Ayres lancewood and Muir and Aldred footed arrows.Victorian Bowyers new their wood and they were made to be used not hung on a wall.

in your article you say "one of England's only longbow makers" there are infact many people you make longbows and i agree with jakob is wasnt easy for an arrow to go into armour it normaly skimmed off.

destin brown
ive been trying forever to make a bow and ive failed every time

with a bodkins point you can use a 50lbs pull bow and put an arrow trought a 5gal pail filled with sand the same pail will stop a shot from a 38cal hand gun

HUNPAYON - Santdhai
I think that Mongolian Composite Bows are superior to English Longbows. However, concerning about simplicity in their construction, English Longbows might be more economic than Mongolian Composite Bows.

Philip Head
In response to the person who left a posting on this page...Its a shame you have decided to pick at the above light hearted local BBC interview, particularly as your comments are not accurate. Mark Stretton has proved the penetration power of the Longbow and War Arrow, of which footage is available on a DVD and in his latest book. The Turkish bow of which you speak would not have lasted 5 minutes in our wet climate (the laminations would have come apart) and is therefore hardly a fair comparison.

HinKraka - Jakob
Except for the fact that the arrows did not cut through steel like butter, but rather had a hard time slamming home but yet did a devastating damage to the foe, and the fact that at the same time the English Longbow/Warbow was at it's peak, they had flightshooting competitions in Turkey where they shot almost 2.5* as long as the longbow, but with shorter arrows and not the same penetration. The longbow/warbow is a fantastic weapon in the hands of an expert, and I am sure it penetrates most modern day bullet proof armour, but there are some exaggerations about it over time.

Go to the top of the page

Timeline Wiltshire - 360 History
Timeline Wiltshire - 5,000 years at a glance

Timeline Wiltshire - Historic Walks

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy