Does This Make My Butts Look Big?

When my sister and I were in England to research a novel, on the outskirts of many a quaint village we saw signs that read “The Butts.”   Needless to say, this caused much speculation.  Walking around Shaftesbury in Dorset, we met an elderly woman outside her stone cottage, and  joined her as she watched workmen re-thatch her roof.

“That’s a woman who appreciates tradition,” I thought.  I asked if she knew the significance of The Butts.  Of course, she did!

In 1363, a law was enacted requiring all men to own a bow, and to focus on their archery skills every Sunday, so the king might call upon each village for archers in time of war.  This law forbade “on pain of death, all sport that took up time better spent on war training, especially archery practice.”   The places assigned for this were called The Butts, after the mounds of earth they leaned the targets against.  To avoid accidents, The Butts were usually situated just outside the village.  But wherever there are weapons, there are accidents.  King Henry I passed a law absolving anyone who accidentally killed someone during target practice.

The longbows were made of the strong flexible wood of the yew tree.  In every churchyard there was a yew.  One of many explanations for this is that in a churchyard the yew would be protected until many new longbows would be needed to defend the kingdom.  But the yew trees are still there, shading the churchyards.  Nowadays there are so many better ways to spend a Sunday, and so many better things to focus on.

c2013 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of Cee’s Oddball Challenge: Week 9.

73 Comments

  1. Haha! So if you were one of the unlucky souls who got hit by an arrow during Sunday practice, you could legitimately say you got shot in The Butt!

    I love learning something new from your posts, Naomi. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. I love Shaftesbury! We set our novel, The Keeper of the Crystal Spring, in Shaftesbury and Enmore Green, at the foot of the outcrop Shaftesbury is built on. Whereabouts are you? I traveled over there three times to get to know the terrain and the history well enough to write the book.

  2. A very interesting an entertaining post, Naomi. Love all your pics, especially the daisy chain one. It brought back memories of the seemingly endless, long summer days of my childhood. 🙂

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Lesley. I got your book, The Wishmas Tree, a couple of days ago. I think the delay was due to the zip code mix-up. Thank you so much for sending it. I love that you illustrated it as well as wrote it. You have captured the longing in a child’s heart.

  3. This is fabulous, Naomi and a great post for the challenge. I didn’t know about The Butts. Sunday archery practice would have been a good way to get rid of someone you disliked without being prosecuted!

  4. I love your posts Naomi! Just learned what the purpose of The Butts was. But I still love your interpretation of it! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Kourtney. I am really enjoying going through old notes and photos as I gear up to do another historical. I came upon this photo and decided to have a little fun with it.

    1. Hi Lynne,
      I love traveling just for fun, but when I am researching a novel, maybe not even knowing quite what I am looking for, it pushes me out of my comfort zone, I meet people I otherwise wouldn’t speak to, and there is the satisfaction of knowing I will be able to use that bit in my story. I always love learning about new places and periods in history, but I love the added sense of purpose.

  5. We were just last week introduced (by a Canadian) to a wonderful English hard cider called StrongBow. It’s got a great logo and a mellow buzz. I wouldn’t recommend drinking it during archery practice, however!

  6. Interesting. How did they know someone was accidentally shot during target practice or murdered? I’ll keep my eyes open for butt signs when I’m out rambling.

  7. Oh, Naomi! I love you and your butts story! I’m supposed to go offline now but really I just had to look at this post…take care and thanks for this! 🙂

    1. Mary, you have made me laugh more than once tonight. You are so funny. I guess I should resort to potty talk more often! I am SO glad you stopped by. Give your little ones a hug for me.
      Love,
      Naomi

  8. Your post reminded me of Ranger’s Apprentice. You see, in the Kingdom of Araluen, there are plenty of archers because each village was required to train some of its men in archery. This ancient English law and practice must, of course, be the model for the story. Oh well, my head is full of details from the book since I had just finished Book 10.

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