The Three Arrows

The motif of the three arrows is to be seen all around Heaton Hall, the one shown above being on the weather vane above the stables. This motif also features in the interior decoration in various places in the Hall, as shown in the next picture below.

The choice of this decorative motif at Heaton Hall arose from Thomas Egerton’s keen interest in the sport of archery. He was a member of the Lancashire Archers, and was a serious competitor in archery competitions at a national level. A report in The Star newspaper in July 1791 describes one such competition held over five days, in which Lord Grey de Wilton (Lord Wilton’s title before he was created Earl in 1801) was one of the leading contenders.

The following is an account of the Archers’ meeting held at Hagley Hall near Rugeley, under the patronage of the Earl of Aylesford, Lord Grey de Wilton, and Ashton Curzon Esq. On Monday, from the severity of the weather, the meeting was but thinly attended; but on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, there was a great assemblage of Ladies and Gentlemen of the first distinction. The Archers, the Woodmen of Arden and Broughton for Warwickshire, and the Lancashire Bowmen, shot three grand matches on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; the Lancashire Archers won onWednesday and Friday; and the Warwickshire Archers on Thursday – which three days were well contested on both sides. The ladies shot till dinner time on Wednesday and Thursday, and the whole was a sight truly elegant. The Archers and company were very satisfied with the spot of ground which they have for seven years; and the annual meeting will be held on the first Monday in July, which is expected to be more numerous and splendid than any similar one in England. The Gentlemen and Ladies breakfasted and dined in the booth, very dry, and the Gentlemen Archers continued shooting till nine o’clock at night. Among the most expert were the Earl of Aylesford, Lord Grey de Wilton and Sir Nigel Gresley.’

Such was Lord Wilton’s love of, and prowess in, competitive archery that he commissioned a portrait of himself dressed as an archer, in the pose of the Apollo Belvedere, a sculpture he saw in the Vatican Museum while he was on his first tour of Europe in 1784-85 and which he greatly admired. For many years this portrait hung in the entrance hall at Heaton, though now it is kept in Manchester Art Gallery.

Lord Wilton as an archer

This is a somewhat idealised view of the landscape at Heaton, with Heaton Hall to be seen in the background.

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