Bisley Camp: a brief history

The National Rifle Association was established in 1859 and held their first Annual Rifle Meeting on Wimbledon Common in 1860, where it remained for nearly 30 years. By 1887 Wimbledon was a rapidly growing suburban neighbourhood. The residents were disturbed by the crowds from London, and were upset at having their rights of access to the Common curtailed. With the NRA about to embark on some costly repairs and enlargements, the Duke of Cambridge, who had long suffered the danger of bullets going over the butts into his grounds, this year gave the NRA notice to quit the common prior to any commitment to large expenses. Due to difficulties associated with finding and preparing a suitable location for a rifle range, the prize meeting remained at Wimbledon until 1889.

Having examined a number of possible sites, in February 1889 the NRA Council met and voted in favour of Bisley as the site for their new ranges. Much work was necessary and authority was given by the War Office for military assistance in the building of the Camp and ranges. All the portable buildings which had, for over a quarter of a century, been permanent features at Wimbledon were transported, and re-erected in the autumn of 1889, at Bisley.

Bisley Opening 1890

The Princess of Wales firing
the first shot at Bisley

A railway line constructed by the London and South Western Railway Company ran into the heart of the Camp. The line was opened on 12 July 1890, when it was first used by the Royal train which carried the Prince and Princess of Wales from Brookwood Station to Bisley Camp for the opening of the first Bisley meeting.

After the opening speeches the Princess was conducted to the point where a Lee-Metford rifle carefully sighted by Colonel Sir Henry Halford was placed in a rest. Firing at a target 500 yards distant, the Princess pulled a silken cord attached to the trigger and struck the bull just two inches off centre.

Bisley has carried on the great tradition of Wimbledon and 2010 saw the NRA celebrating the 150th Anniversary of their First Annual Rifle Meeting.

Today classic arms shooting continues on the ranges; muzzle loading and breech loading black powder rifles along with military classics such as the SMLE will be seen along side the modern full-bore target rifle and sporting rifles.

Kings Prize, 1907 The Pavilion

Firing at 600 yards during the Kings Prize, 1907

The Pavilion, Bisley Camp, 1909
The Pavilion was first erected at Wimbledon in 1871 and later moved to Bisley. It was demolished in 1923

Stickledown Range, 1913

Stickledown Range, 1913

Bisley Today

Bisley, the headquarters of the National Rifle Association (NRA), is the world’s best known and most varied shooting centre.

Century Range, Bisley,
from the 600 yard firing point
Century Range, Bisley
Stickledown Range, Bisley,
from the 1200 yard firing point
Stickledown Range
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