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The famous sportsman Robert Smith Surtees, the creator of Jorrocks, was the driving force behind the initial publication. He saw a gap in the market for illustrated sporting literature, at a time when the rising wealth and leisure of the new Victorian industrialists and their offspring swelled a ready market for gentleman's literature. He envisaged a paper for sportsmen, landowners and farmers, as well as the haut ton, that gave the readers an overview of all that was important, including the unusual and eccentric. It was an instant success under the auspices of its first editor Mark Lemon.
The Field was started as a weekly magazine in 1853. The magazine had its own Crimean correspondent, trumpeting the view that the dashing deeds carried out on the field of battle were due in no small part to field sports and the following of manly country occupations. On November 18, 1854 The Field carried personal narratives of those involved in the Charge of the Light Brigade.
J. H. Walsh initiated a series of field trials for guns from 1858 onwards, a catalyst to the production of the modern hammerless shotgun.
In 1861 'Goalstick' impressed through the pages of The Field the importance of encouraging the game of football into general use, and pressed for an amalgamation of the rules. The Field obtained the school rules from Rugby, Eton, Harrow, Shrewsbury and Marlborough, and helped to create the modern game.
The Field was instrumental in instituting the first Field Trials and Dog Shows. In 1859 The Field was present at the Newcastle Sporting Dog Show taking a warm interest in the establishment of the exhibition of dogs on the same principles as cattle and poultry shows, and later in 1865 present at the first Field Trials of Pointers and Setters.
In 1873 the rower's sliding seat was tested extensively for The Field.
In March 1874 Gerald D. Fitzgerald wrote to The Field to inform readers about a new game called sphairstike, or Lawn Tennis. Over ensuing years the rules were thrashed out through the letters pages of the magazine, culminating with the printing of the rules of Lawn Tennis on June 16, 1877, followed by the inaugural Lawn Tennis Championship in 1877 where players competed for The Field Cup. The Field Cup is still on permanent display at Wimbledon Museum.
The Field covered the first Americas Cup in August 1879 and recommendations in The Field led to the official Lloyds classification of yachts in 1906.
Francis Francis campaigned against salmon netting and was a leading authority on hatcheries; today The Field still champions the cause of wild salmon and their rivers.
William Senior, an angling writer for The Field and later Editor, under his nom de plume "Red Spinner" was at the forefront of fishing advances and experimentation, primarily dry fly-fishing, although it was FM Halford - a Field contributor - who developed the dry-fly ethos.
During the 1920s the design of the modern golf ball was formalised on designs agreed after tests by The Field, leading to The Field Long Driving Championship of the World.
The launch of the Field Distemper Fund in 1923 resulted in the inoculation of dogs against distemper.
During the 1950s The Field improved racecourse safety through its campaign against dangerous racecourses. Among its contributors was Margery Fish, who went on to develop her own style of labour-saving cottage gardening.
During the 1980s The Field campaigned against mismanagement of shooting leading to the widely recognised "Code of Good Shooting Practice".