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The History of the National Shooting Centre at Bisley (1)
From origins on Wimbledon Common

The National Rifle Association (now the governing body of fullbore rifle and centre-fire pistol shooting in Great Britain) was founded in 1859, originally to provide a focus for marksmanship for the newly formed corps of volunteers which had been raised to meet the perceived threat of invasion by the French. The NRA was granted Royal Charter in 1894. This Royal Charter continues to this day for the "promotion of marksmanship in the interests of the Defence of Realm and permanence of the Volunteer Forces, Navy military and Air".

The Association organised the first set of competitions on Wimbledon Common in July 1860, on land where Earl Spencer and the Duke of Cambridge, founders of the NRA, held manorial rights. Queen Victoria fired the first shot and gave a prize of 250 for the best individual marksman. This set the pattern for the Annual Meeting which has been held every year except during the two World Wars. The Queen's Prize remains the premier award for the rifleman and the July Imperial Meeting is internationally famous. It also established the unbroken link between the Association and the Monarchy. The present Prince of Wales has held the office of President since 1977 and has shot for the House of Lords in the Vizianagram Match, held annually against the House of Commons.

The NRA Meetings at Wimbledon flourished but as the area developed there was increasing pressure to find an alternative site and the last Meeting at Wimbledon was in 1889. By that time a series of possible sites had been examined, including Richmond Park, Cannock Chase, the Berkshire Downs, Dunstable, Lewes and Staines. The Guards Camp had been at Pirbright since 1881 and the prospect of support from troops there and from Aldershot probably swung the decision. After much debate the members of Council voted to move to Bisley, and 15 months later the Princess of Wales, later Queen Alexandra, fired the first shot at the beginning of the 1890 Imperial Meeting.

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