Fonthill is proud to have been in existence for more than 60 years. We were founded in 1945 with our earliest records showing that a meeting was held on 14th December 1944 at the home of Lieut A Burrow where it was decided to form a Rifle Club from the nucleus of 2131 Devon M.T. COY. Home Guard. Fonthill started under the encouragement of the Government so that the shooting skills of troops returning from the Second World War would be retained in the event of further hostilities. The club’s name “Fonthill” has always been a bit a mystery as we have always been located in Exeter, although we understand the name was taken from that of Lieut Burrow’s house. In those days subscriptions were fixed at 3/- per annum and bullets were 2d for 5 rounds.
Soon after Fonthill was located in the basement of the local bus station where it shared the range with the city’s Police Gun Squad. Members in those days could easily be recognized by a distinctive crease in their foreheads caused by repeatedly coming into contact with a very low hung concrete lintel on the entry door! Early memories are of BSA rifles, single-point slings, cotton jackets and elbow pads.
With the relocation of the bus depot, the City Council offered Fonthill its present range beneath the Pyramids Swimming Baths in Heavitree Road. One benefit of this which is taken for granted, is that we have never suffered from any cold temperatures – with a million gallons of warm water above heating is never a problem!
The premises move was made in the mid 70’s when Fonthill members gained only an empty shell in the swimming baths basement and work promptly started in constructing the range and the club-room facilities we now enjoy. Many hours went into making the firing positions and target frames with unique bullet catcher – robust steel plates from an obsolete warship were purchased from Plymouth dockyard and angled into the back of the range with such skill that we never suffer any splashback.
A feature of Fonthill’s membership has always been their enthusiasm to partake in summer open-air shoots. Past records show participation at a range at Starcross and also at Okehampton. Over the years members have travelled the South-West together with South Wales and the Home Counties shooting in open competitions. This ‘scalp-hunting’ reached a peak in the mid-90’s when we always had to hire a mini-coach to transport all members and equipment to the Bisley Open Meeting. On one memorable week-end a party of Club members managed to shoot in 4 venues – East Grinstead and Wembley on a Saturday, and Chippenham and the Bromyard Cider Shoot on the Sunday, returning home ‘shot-out’ but with a clutch of trophies and a few bottles of cider.
Fonthill has built on this aspect and established relationships with Exeter’s twin town of Bad Homburg where we have been feted as visitors on 4 occasions – one being their 600year Shooting Anniversary during which we joined their parade and carried the Union Jack. In return they have sent parties to enjoy our shooting and local countryside. Members have also represented Exeter as shooting parties to Rennes and Lille in France several times, whilst we regularly have representatives at the Isle of Mann, Bisley and Scottish National shoots.