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Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Robin Hood Existed, book by Michael Reuel.
On 12th September, 2016, the Arctic Research Foundation claimed to have found the wreckage of HMS Terror, the second of two British ships supposedly “lost” in the disastrous Franklin Arctic voyage of 1845. The only problem with that story is that, according to the Inuit community, it was never lost in the first place. They knew where it was all along. They had passed on stories of it, based on eye-witness accounts, through many generations.
Oral Traditions should be more deserving of respect. Native American accounts of Custer’s Last Stand, originating from eye witnesses, tell us far more about the Little Big Horn than any number of propaganda based newspapers of the day. There was a time when Story and History were not so diverse in their intentions, and by appreciating that, it is possible to locate an English king beneath a car park in Leicester, and yes, it would indeed seem to be true that Shakespeare’s head actually is missing.
Sadly, where Robin Hood is concerned, academia has never risen much beyond the spectacle of Tony Robinson traipsing through the countryside looking for a 12th century gravestone bearing a name similar to “Robin”, and belonging to a known Knight with some degree of military experience. Why?
Michael Reuel in his book “Robin Hood Existed” takes a fresh approach. He goes right back to the earliest known 15th century tales and asks not just what are these stories telling us but, importantly, how those words and descriptions would be interpreted by people of that century and before. For example, what would they understand Robin and Little John to be from their clothing, their footwear (or lack of), and their habitat? The original storytellers went to considerable length to include such details, and for good reason.
Reuel then applies what he learns from this folklore account of the time to the known history of England, his knowledge of which is clearly considerable. The result is both fascinating and revelatory. Here then is surely the platform for all future serious research regarding Robin Hood.
This is not an ad. I have no incentive to promote this book other than my personal belief in, and agreement with, its content.
“Robin Hood Existed” by Michael Reuel is available on this link:
Well probably not in the heart of Sherwood Forest! Not only would it be rather cold and short on food, but the route known as the King’s Great Way would also have been relatively low on rich travellers during those months when snow, sludge and ice made the passage more arduous.
Robin Hood’s so called “Merry Men” were effectively a medieval gang, and popular gangs operate by providing in some small measure for the needs of the community which harbours them (albeit often illegal). Therefore, by stealing from the rich and giving some handouts to the poor, they could have gained both warm shelter and anonymity in the local villages of Blidworth, Papplewick, and Byrunsdale (called Bernysdale in the old tales, now known as Old Basford), during Winter.
Video shows Sherwood Forest covered in a blanket of snow, January 2013, featuring Robin Hood's tree the Major Oak. All video and photographs of the forest copyright www.robinhoodblog.com. Many thanks to the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre groundstaff for allowing me access to the statues when the centre was closed.
Above: The Major Oak, Robin Hood.s Tree, Winter 2012.
According to legend, Will Stutely was rescued from the gallows by Robin Hood at the base of Castle Rock, where the wooden walls of the original castle once stood. But a far more likely location would have been Gallows Hill at the northern entrance to the town. This post & related video will explain why.
The Galleries of Justice and St Mary’s Church:
In Saxon times the centre of Nottingham was where High Pavement is today, with the hugely successful Weekday Cross Market, and a Fort built on the site where now stands the Nottingham Contemporary Art Gallery. Beneath the streets are the remains of dark dungeons carved out of Nottingham's famous sandstone. Archaeologists believe they show evidence of links with prisons and punishment right back to Saxon times. Shire Hall, now known as the Galleries of Justice, stands where similar official buildings have stood since 600AD. After the Norman conquest the appointed Sheriff of Nottingham's duties were based here from 1125. He was required to collect taxes and keep the peace, and although written records before the 14th century are sparse, it is likely this site known then as Sheriff's Hall was always more connected with law and order than the Castle itself.
Public executions took place outside this hall between 1738, (James Gilders for Highway Robbery), and 1861 (Richard darker, for killing his mother). After 1868, executions were held out of view on the west end of the prison yard, but crowds would still eagerly gather to read the Death Notice on display.
Across the street from Shire Hall stands St Mary's Church, the place where Robin Hood is said to have been arrested by the Sheriff of Nottingham in a much earlier building, after breaking his sword in a duel. During the 15th & 16th centuries, prisoners condemned to hang were given their last rights here. Criminals were hung on the day after their conviction (unless that be a Sunday). Gallows Day (now known as gala day), was usually declared a public holiday, and persons owning a room above street level would hire it out to those thirsting for a better view of the grisly entertainment involved. But this is not the original place where Nottingham’s public executions were held. That dubious honour must go to Gallows Hill.
After a brief service in St Mary’s, the prisoner would mount the executioner's cart and begin his final journey towards Gallows Hill at North Gate. Sometimes a small choir would follow behind, and doubtless many noisy spectators. When the cart reached the bottom of Mansfield Road, (the North road leading out of the city), if the prisoner was of Jewish descent his cart would turn left down Shakespeare Street where the Jews were allotted a gallows of there own.
Nag’s Head Inn:
Half way up the hill, as the gallows just came into view, the hangman's cart would stop outside the Nag's Head and the prisoner would be offered one last drink: A pint of Nottingham Ale. On one infamous occasion the prisoner rejected his ale and asked to press on ahead to the gallows and get it over with. However, no sooner was his dead body hanging from the rope, than a full pardon arrived all too late!
Gallows Hill and St Andrew’s Church:
Gallows Hill is the junction of Forest Road East and Mansfield Road. The earliest surviving mention of these gallows dates from 1496, but centuries before that travellers entering this North Gate to the town would have witnessed bodies swaying here in the breeze, and therefore be deterred themselves from any lawbreaking. The original public gallows is said to have stood where St Andrew's Church now stands, high on a sandstone ridge so typical of Nottingham's landscape, and had to be moved when the church foundations were laid in 1869. However, other sources say a permanent gallows was erected across the road much earlier in 1558. This makes more sense, for who would build a church on the exact spot criminals had so recently been hung?
The Cemetery keeper's lodge marks the spot where these gallows once stood. (Not to be confused with the somewhat grander Lodge of 1857 further down the hill, built for the 19th century racecourse.) In 1800 the gallows were made of a portable construction, after a group of daring young men removed them on the day before an execution! The last execution to be held here was of 45 year old William Wells, in April 1827, for a highway robbery. Thereafter Gallows Hill had its name changed to appease local residents, but is said to remain the haunt of many ghosts.
The Church Cemetery was built on the site of a former sand mine, hence the varying levels in its lay-out. (There are no natural caves in Nottingham). In Robin Hood's day the area at the base of this sandy hill, now known as the Forest Recreation Ground, would have been the start of the once mighty Sherwood Forest.
Weekday Cross, Hen Cross, Nottingham & Robin Hood.
There are two sites in Nottingham particularly associated with tales about Robin Hood entering the city disguised as either a butcher or a tanner to sell his wares on the market stalls. The first is Weekday Cross, on what was once Garner's Hill. This area was the busy centre of the original Saxon town of Snottingham, and would remain so until the Normans chose an alternative hill on which to build their Castle, an act which effectively divided the town into "French" and "English" boroughs. (See THIS LINK). A stone column still marks the spot where a weekday market was held, the old cross long since gone. The steps surrounding the original cross were also used as a place for reading out public proclomations. Across the road the Nottingham Contemporary Art Gallery stands where once was a Saxon fort, with dwellings carved out of the sandstone below. A few yards up the road is the Galleries of Justice, (formerly Shire hall), which held public executions as late as 1861. A set of stocks stood in this area, and beneath Shire Hall were once dungeons believed to have been in use as far back as King John's time. If so, it is not unreasonable to suggest that these were the dungeons said to have held Robin Hood after his arrest at nearby St Mary's (see THIS LINK).
Hen Cross, situated the other side of Nottingham Town Hall from the Market Square (see THIS LINK), was an ancient Saturday poultry market. By the mid 16th century the road was known as Hencrosse Row, suggesting it still had an identity separate from nearby Market Square, but in 1800 all trace of a cross marker was removed. Stories about Robin Hood say he came here disguised as a chicken vendor in order to spy on events in the city.
Parliament Oak, an all but forgotten tree at the side of the A6075, in a small lay-by often littered by fast food wrappers and subject to some fly-tipping. And yet this was one of the most important sites in England.
Parliament Oak is thought to be c.1200 years old and hence probably the oldest tree in Sherwood Forest. In its heyday it marked the Hell Dale Gate entrance to the deer park of Clipstone, a much favoured hunting place for Royals from 1180 - 1830. Many large oaks defined the parameters of the park, with a fence running from tree to tree. This park was the sole reserve of Kings, who would stay at nearby King John’s Place (see THIS LINK), and woe betide anyone caught trespassing or poaching therein!
The tree acquired its name from the Parliaments which are said to have been held here. The most infamous of these, resulting in King John hanging several Welsh teenage boys, can be seen on THIS LINK. There is also a report in the "Manor of Warsop Perambulation Document of 1816", that the Ancient Barons met King John here in order to present him with the details of the Magna Carter, later signed at Runnymede. One further royals story linking this oak with Edward I tells of the King calling Parliament to meet here when on his way to Scotland in 1290.
During the English Civil War (1642 -46) many ancient oaks were felled and used for the Royal Navy, but happily this one survived albeit in a neglected state through the subsequent decades. Parliament Oak’s appearance of having two trunks only occurred over the last 300 years, after the centre became hollow, and split into two sections.
Pilgrim Oak stands in front of the gates to Newstead Abbey. This is the spot where pilgrims would stop and gather together to read from the bible before moving on to the Priory itself. On the opposite side of the road is the Hutt, where travellers would gather together in larger numbers before passing through the notorious Thieves Wood on their way to Mansfield and beyond. Beneath the road are still the remains of an underground tunnel linking the Abbey with The Hutt.
For obvious reasons Pilgrim Oak is also sometimes referred to as the Gospel Oak, and it is thought that the site was also the place where people would gather to celebrate various religious festivals during the year. Happily, it remains in a superb, healthy condition to this day.
The current building dates from 1671, but the church which originally stood on this site is said to be the place Robin Hood would both hide and use to worship. In the very earliest ballads about Robin Hood he declares bishops and archbishops (plus of course the Sheriff of Nottingham), to be his main enemies. But we also learn from those ballads that Robin would pray on a daily basis to the Virgin Mary.
St Nicholas Church stands in what was the predominantly Saxon part of Nottingham town after the uprisings which followed the Norman Conquest. If Robin Hood was indeed linked in some way to those who lost lands and property to Norman lords, then he may well have felt safer amongst the company he found here.
A terrible curse hangs over Nottingham Castle. One day, whilst King John was out hunting from his favoured place of residence at Clipstone, now known as King John's Palace (see THIS LINK), he received news from his sister Joan (wife of Llewellyn, Prince of Wales), of a Welsh uprising. Interrupting King John when he was engaged in such leisurely pursuits was never going to be a good idea.
He summoned those barons and distinguished persons based either in the Palace, or residing locally, to assemble under the Parliament Oak. Once there, and in a state of some considerable rage, he demanded they consent to the immediate execution of 28 welsh hostages already being held in Nottingham Castle. All were the young sons of welsh noblemen, some merely children. The King then rode directly to Nottingham and ordered the Castle Governor to have the hostages bound and tied, before hanging each of them one by one, kicking and screaming in a row from the Castle walls. After which, King John rode back to Clipstone in time for supper.
It is said that, if one walks by the Castle Gatehouse, on a winter night when the wind is calm, you can still hear the pitiful cries of the welsh boys, and their heels kicking against the old stone walls.
(Note: Internet sources dispute how many boys were hung, ranging from two in number to twenty eight).
For more information and video of Nottingham Castle see THIS LINK.
With no mention of a Nottingham Castle in the Doomsday Book, there is some debate as to when the castle was first built. The Romans may have occupied the hill as there are historic references to a "strong tower" or "Caesar's Tower" still standing here in the 8th Century. Following the invasion of 600 AD the town was named Snottingham ("home of Snot's people"), after the Anglo-Saxon chieftain Snot (meaning "the wise"). Whether the Anglo Saxons were involved in significant new construction or not is unclear, but there is speculation that the old Roman tower was used as a place for negotiations between Saxons and Danes.
In the 11th century the invading Normans met fierce resistance from the Anglo-Saxons in Nottingham, leading to a stalemate between two settlements: The "French Borough" , between Castle Rock and Market Square, and the "English Borough", between St Mary's and Goose Gate. William the Conqueror ordered the building of a Motte & Bailey Castle here in 1067, forcing the town's occupants to assist with the task, and bringing the timbers in from Thieves Wood / Harlow Wood. The 130 feet red sandstone cliff, within easy access of the River Trent, presented obvious military potential. The Normans built approximately 500 such castles across England in the first 20 years after the conquest to keep the Saxons in their place. In the winter of 1069 / 70, William carried out the notorious "Harrying (Harrowing) of the North", burning lands and replacing Anglo-Saxon lords with Normans. An estimated 100,000 died as a result, mostly from starvation. One popular theory in several films about Robin Hood is that Robin was motivated by the confiscation of his property. Had Robin been a Saxon Yeoman during the Harrying he may have owned a small amount of land, and would certainly have been expected to defend that of his superiors. Even as a descendant of such aggrieved land owners, Robin Hood's avowed dislike of "bishops, archbishops, and the Sheriff of Nottingham" (persons he may have perceived to benefit from Norman rule), might be explained in this way. But all this is just enjoyable speculation, and it should be noted that, unlike the movies, the old ballads make no mention of Robin Hood being so foolish as to enter the castle itself!
In the 12th century King Henry II ordered a stone Castle to be built here as his main Royal fortress in the Midlands, in close proximity to the leisurely pursuits of the hunting lodges of Sherwood Forest, and with its own deer park to the west, still known as The Park. That Castle began to fall derelict during King Richard's absence in the Crusades. (It may possibly have been occupied by the Sheriff of Nottingham at this time, but was never the Sheriff's normal place of business.) Supporters of Prince John captured Nottingham Castle in 1194, only to lose it again when Richard returned from Jerusalem with his "siege machines" and took it back.
In 1330 Edward 3rd staged a coupe here against his mother Isabella of France, thus gaining the throne. In 1346 King David 2nd of Scotland was held a prisoner here. In the early 15th century Nottingham Castle was the main residence of Henry IV's wife, Joan. During the 15th century Wars of the Roses, Nottingham Castle again became a military stronghold. Edward IV proclaimed himself King here in 1476. It remained a royal fortress during the reign of King Henry VII, when the castle was further reinforced and its garrison increased from a few dozen soldiers to a few hundred. But by 1600 it had stopped being a royal residence, and would have been unable to withstand 16th century developments in artillery. Though fast becoming a ruin, Nottingham Castle was the site where Charles 1st rallied his armies at the start of the English Civil War. However, no sooner had he departed than the Parliamentarians took it over. When Charles was executed the castle was burnt to the ground, effectively destroying its royal connections forever.
The first "ducal mansion" (i.e., Duke's Mansion), was built by Henry Cavendish, the 2nd Duke of Newcastle, between 1674 and 1679 on the foundations of the previous castle. But as Nottingham thrived during the Industrial Revolution, the mansion fell from favour with those Dukes deterred by the presence of the city’s slums. Much of that mansion was destroyed by fire as protesters rioted against the Duke of Newcastle's opposition to the 1832 Reform Act. The present mansion, which will ever be affectionately known as Nottingham Castle, is the result of an 1875 restoration. Some of the original stone castle's features still remain, including "Mortimer's Hole" (a passage from the upper medieval bailey to the rocks beneath), the foundations of the "Black Tower" (King Richard Tower), and traces of the bailey wall with its two round towers and large gatehouse (mostly of Edwardian reconstruction).
For information and video about the terrible Curse on Nottingham Castle see THIS LINK. For more about Robin Hood see THIS LINK. For more about the Sheriff of Nottingham see THESE LINKS.
The King's Great Way was a very important highway in medieval times, linking London, Nottingham, and York. Yet, for all it's historic importance, very little of it remains today. There are no signposts to tell you where it is, and seemingly no maps. And, it has to be admitted, there is much speculation as to the path it took in different centuries.
But one thing is certain: The King's Great Way was the route taken by aristocracy, merchants, and tax collectors, when they had business in the distant cities. It would also have been rather congested at times by Nottinghamshire's local pedestrian traders, travelling shorter distances between the villages and towns. For example, a similarly broad public footpath still exists linking Blidworth to this highway. One can imagine how it's soil and stones surface became difficult to negotiate in the wet months, especially for carts and coaches.
That part of the King's Great Way which linked Nottingham to Papplewick was known as Walton Gate, and is mentioned in the earliest ballads about Robin Hood. On this site, Little John, Much and Will Scarlet, are said to have stood and "looked South towards Brimsdale" (a.k.a. Byrunsdale, now Old Basford). This places the outlaws unequivocally in Sherwood Forest, and in the region where Robin Hood recruited his key men. (Little John, from near Blidworth; Friar Tuck from Lynhurst; Alan a Dale from Papplewick, all places within a short walk from here). Above: That part of the King's Great Way which passes through Thieves Wood will be of most interest to Robin Hood fans, and one can see it in this video plus a second video on THIS LINK.
Byrunsdale, Old Basford, Nottingham, & home of Robin Hood.
Robin Hood researchers quite naturally look to the late 14th century collection of tales “A Gest of Robyn Hode”, as a source of information. But this is not, and was never intended to be, a historical document. First circulated in printed form in the 16th century, it was and is today, a piece of entertainment bringing together all the most famous stories about the legendary outlaw.
However, the second verse of that collection states (translated here into plain English), that “Robin stood in Bernesdale, Leaning on a tree, And by him stood Little John, a good yeoman was he.” And it is this reference to Bernesdale, (or “Bernysdale“), when translated as “Barnsdale”, that is largely responsible for the theory that Robin Hood was a Yorkshire man. But the distances involved don’t seem to make sense. To take just one obvious example, why would a lad from a forest in Yorkshire have such an on going grievance with the Sheriff of Nottingham? And why would he spread his activities so wide? Robin Hood and his “Merry” Men were effectively a gang, and gang’s don’t do that. They operate within a very specific “territory”, marking it as their own, recruiting members from that same region to better ensure their security and loyalty.
In the late 80's Nottingham historian Jim Lees put forward the theory that Bernysdale was in fact Byrunsdale, a small region within Basford, Nottingham, now only marked on maps as Old Basford. Byrunsdale (also referred to in historical documents as Brinnesdal), was about 3 miles North of Nottingham Castle. Go just 7 miles further North from Byrunsdale and one is in the region where Robin Hood is said to have met Little John, Friar Tuck, and Alan A Dale, whilst robbing from the rich merchants and tax collectors as they passed along the Great King's Way through Thieves Wood. So there is a firm, practical logic to the belief that Robin Hood was indeed from Nottingham, and that this stretch of “highway” between Nottingham City and Blidworth, where there were riches to be had within walking distance of “home”, was his territory. Above: The River Leen as it flows through Old Basford in a somewhat modified state. It was over the River Leen which Robin Hood first met Little John in a location some 7 miles North of here. For more about Robin Hood and Little John see THIS LINK.
Sheriff of Nottingham was a Badge of Office, a Title bestowed on the role of a combined Tax Collector, Clerk, and Law Enforcer. So Robin Hood would have known more than one Sheriff in his day, although the term "Sheriff of Nottingham" had not yet come into use. It is thought that one such Sheriff may have been Simon de Headon, whose tomb slab lies in St Peter's Church, Headon. Exact dates regarding Simon de Headon are conflicting, but a Notts County Council document states he died in 1259, before being succeeded in the role by his son Gerard. He is depicted on the stone wearing chain mail, with armoured shoulder plates, and his feet resting on a small, long-eared dog. (See pictures below). For more information and pictures about the Sheriff of Nottingham follow the links on THIS PAGE.
Fountaindale is a small moat in the region of Lyndhurst, near Blidworth. Formed by a natural source of water springing from the ground, it was established as a Holy place long before the days of Robin Hood or even Christianity. Once the site of a Pagan Shrine, the moat was formed in order to protect its relics. Those relics were moved from the shrine and buried by a loyal priest to safeguard them from invading Vikings. They've never been found. During later Christian times a similar small shrine or chapel here was said to be maintained by Friar Tuck, no doubt attached to nearby Newstead Abbey (then known as Saint Mary's Priory.)
It was Will Scarlet who alerted Robin Hood to Friar Tuck's prowess with both bow and sword. Robin, feeling he must have such an accomplished fighter in his band of outlaws, was so wary of the Friar he even wore armour before making his trip to Lynhurst, possibly setting out from nearby Thieves Wood. The story of their meeting, carrying each other back and forth over the moat, became one of the most popular stories associated with the legend.
A Well on the Eastern edge of the moat became known as Friar Tuck's Well. By Victorian times this had become a stone and iron work structure, and popular for the "healing waters" it was said to contain. Sadly, The last stones from the old hermitage were apparently removed in 1875, and the scattered remnants of the Well were to fare little better. What remains of Friar Tuck's Well today is regarded as being on Private Property. But if one visits the site in Spring, before the unkempt greenwood obscures everything from view, traces of it may still be viewed from a respecful distance.
Note: End photograph in the video itself is copyright Andy "Holywell" of The Megalithic Portal, and I am grateful for his kind permission to use this. For more of his work visit THIS LINK. Below: Fountaindale "moat" looks more like a small lake today.
Little John was said to have been born in Hathersage, and a long grave in the churchyard of the Church of St Michael is reputed to be his. In a short Pathe News silent film clip from 1928, The Ancient Order of Foresters pay their respects with an annual pilgrimage to the site. See THIS LINK. In 1994 over 1,000 of them would make this same trip.
For more information and pictures about Little John visit THIS LINK.
Thieves Wood today has a much more cultivated appearance than it did in Robin Hood's day. This is because the storms of 1976 destroyed much of the original forest. But the track seen here, knicknamed Robin Hood's Way, still more or less conforms to the route it's timbers once took in order to build Nottingham Castle.
This Woodland once straddled each side of the route known as the King's Great Way, linking London with Nottingham, Mansfield, and on to Yorkshire. It became known as Thieves Wood due to the Outlaws and Thieves who hid here, awaiting unsuspecting travellers to pass by.
Robin Hood's Way as referred to in this video, is now a popular public pathway through the woods. Picnic facilities and guide map are available. A part of the original King's Great Way still exists in this region.
River Leen, Papplewick. Robin Hood meets Little John.
It was across the River Leen that Robin Hood is said to have met Little John. A once significant feature in the landscape, the River Leen ran down the valley into Nottingham on a route more or less where the A60 stands today. However, from at least the early 13th century, and in order to provide power for various Mills, it was dammed, diverted, and divided so much that today it has almost disappeared from the map on it way down from Kirkby, through Ravenshead, Papplewick, and on into the City of Nottingham itself. This video was shot as the river passes between Papplewick and Linby, where it was used to power various cotton mills. I chose this area because it has several connections with the Outlaws of Sherwood Forest.
Top picture: Robin Hood & Little John plaque, Nottingham Castle.
Above picture: Little John (Conrad Asquith) fights Robin Hood (Martin Potter) from "The Legend of Robin Hood" (1975). For more about Robin Hood's meeting with Little John click THIS LINK, and THIS LINK. For more about Papplewick and the Outlaws of Sherwood Forest click THIS LINK.
Robin Hood's Hill is clearly visible from the A6097 in Oxton. It was made in the Bronze Age, centuries before Robin Hood, when it was probably used as a burial mound. During the Georgian era it was christened Robin Hood's Piss Pot, because of a stone which was situated at the peek probably intended to hold some form of stone cross, but by then only gathered rain drops. However, Victorian sensibilities were easily offended by such a term, and Robin Hood fans of the 19th Century renamed it Robin Hood's Hill, (of which there are several).
Although only 18 feet high, the mound is situated in such a way that one can see as far as the horizon on all sides. It would indeed have been a familiar landmark and an ideal meeting place for 12th century outlaws with friends in nearby Papplewick. In recent times the hill on the left would appear to have become known as Little John's Hill, but this may only be a very local tradition.
Robin Hood meets Alan A Dale. Church of St James, Papplewick
The Church of St James, Papplewick, was rebuilt in 1795. But according to some versions of the legend, it was in the churchyard which stood here in the 12th century, that Robin Hood is believed to have first met a distressed Alan A Dale. Robin would go on to help Alan regain his sweetheart Ellen from an arranged marriage to an old nobleman not of her choosing. (I should point out that other versions of the story cite the church as Campsall, and that Alan A Dale's intended wife was Alice de Beauforest.)
Papplewick was the headquarters of the Royal Foresters who tended to the upkeep of the King's forests, and St. James' Church was their burial place. Several medieval graveslabs, showing bows, arrows and hunting horns, can still be seen here today. These foresters cut their bows from the surrounding yew trees and, according to legend, Robin Hood did the same. See Robin Hood & his bow on THIS LINK and THIS LINK.
For more information about Alan A Dale follow the links on THIS POST.
King John's Palace is situated on a low hill beside the B6030 in Old Clipstone (a.k.a. King's Clipstone). Once surrounded by forests, the humble ruins of what had been an impressive Royal Hunting Lodge in the 12th century, are amongst the first buildings ever to be "listed" and protected in the UK. The fact that Richard the Lionheart chose Clipstone as the place for a meeting with King William of Scots in 1194, gives us some idea of just how favoured this Lodge and the hunting opportunities it presented, were by the Royalty of the day. Sadly, all that remains now is a shadow of its former self.
King John, Richard’s brother, first acquired such properties in Clipstone while he was still the Earl of Mortain. They were then taken from him because he tried to usurp King Richard whilst Richard was away at the Crusades. However, after John succeeded in gaining the throne, he took back the property and made several visits there. According to legend, it was during one such visit that, rather than hunt for game in the surrounding forests, King John set out to hunt for Robin Hood in the caves at Creswell Craggs (see THIS LINK). But Robin heard of his intentions, and seized the opportunity to sneak into the palace whilst John was away, releasing all the prisoners from the dungeons there!
It was from this palace that Prince John road out to Nottingham and mercilessly hung a band of Welsh prisoners to quell a welsh uprising. An act which brought a curse down on Nottingham Castle. (See THIS LINK).
Saint George and Robin Hood, Nottingham Market Square
Robin Hood made an impressive appearance alongside Saint George for the Saint George's Day celebrations in Nottingham Market Square on 23rd April, 2010. The Merry Men were in fine voice, singing of their outlaw leader's exploits, but the poor horse amused the crowd when he practically bolted at the sight of the Dragon!
Above: Robin Hood (Richard Todd) in front of his cave hideout in "The Story of Robin Hood".
It is not certain who gave Robin Hood’s Cave at Creswell Crags, its name. Certainly not the Spotted Hyenas who made their dens there during the Ice Age, nor the hippopotamuses and narrow-nosed rhinoceroses who's discovered remains date from even before that. But the name does pre-date the Victorian archaeologists who excavated the caves in the late 19th century, discovering much important information there about our Neanderthal ancestors.
According to legend, Robin Hood was amongst the outlaws who took shelter in the caves at Creswell during medieval times. Furthermore, one of the stories about Robin Hood tells of how Prince John heard Robin was hiding in the largest of these caves (the one now bearing the outlaw’s name), and made haste to catch him there. However, Robin Hood heard of the Prince’s advances and turned the occasion to his advantage by riding into nearby Clipstone, and releasing all the prisoners from the Royal Palace! (To see that Royal Palace click on THIS LINK).
Note: There are other caves named after Robin Hood. but this is the most significant.
Robin Hood's Stride, in Matlock, Derbyshire, is an impressive Bronze Age stone formation. In truth I doubt Robin Hood ever ventured here, but because of its name I thought all fans of the outlaw might like to see the view from the top.
The Bell Inn is situated at the opposite end of Nottingham Market Square from the Council House. This area became known as Beastmarket Hill, because of the open air cattle market that once occupied the Market Square. But decades before that it was known as Friar Row, due to the boundary wall of a Carmelite Friary.
The Carmelites originated from a congregation of hermits which formed the Order of Our Lady of Carmel, on Mount Carmel in the 12th Century. After being forced to leave Mount Carmel, they moved to Europe, coming to England in 1240. The first English Carmelite Friary was built in Kent, and their habits were white, hence the nickname of the "White Friars".
The Carmelite Friary in Nottingham was established c.1272 between Friar Lane and St. James's Street, even though the Friars had already been in the town some years beforehand. By February 1539, when the Friary closed, only the prior, Roger Cappe, and six friars were still in residence. In 1541 the Crown granted all rights to the building to James Sturley of Nottingham, (probably a descendant of the Sturley who had been joint founder of the Friary in 1272.) During the road widening works of 1923, several significant archeological items were found, together with skeletons, proving the site also incorporated a burial ground for the Friary.
The Bell Inn stands where the Carmelite Friary once stood. That Friary is one of the places often named in the tourism documents as a possible home to Friar Tuck, but is a far less likely candidate for that role than Foutaindale, Lynhurst, near Newstead Abbey.
According to some local legends the real Maid Marian was simply a girl from Blidworth Village. Other stories state that she only stayed here in a house on this hill on the night before her marriage to Robin Hood. On her wedding day, Will Scarlet (also thought to have been a Blidworth man), is said to have escorted Marian from this house to Edwinstowe, but this is perhaps unlikely considering the distance involved. There is also a story that Robin Hood's Outlaws used a nearby cave on the hillside to hide their stolen loot.
Note: According to at least one Nottingham Tourist Information website this house is situated opposite the Black Bull Pub. But the correct location is further up the hill, and almost opposite the Church where Will Scarlet was buried. To read more about Maid Marian click THIS LINK.
Angel Row, Nottingham, the Sheriff of Nottingham lived here.
Contrary to popular belief, most persons who took on the Office of Sheriff of Nottingham probably wouldn't have lived in Nottingham Castle. That would have been home to the Constable and his soldiers. According to legend the Sheriff, in his duties as Tax Collector and Clerk, lived with his wife in "The Red Lodge" which once stood at the end of Angel Row, a narrow street leading down into the Market Square from the opposite side to the Council House. It is interesting to note that, although the Sheriff's wife appears in the old tales about Robin Hood, she is totally absent from the films and television programmes.
Robin Hood encountererd more than one Sheriff of Nottingham in his day, although the title "Sheriff" wasn't quite in use at that time. You can find more information and pictures about the Sheriff of Nottingham by following the links HERE.
Market Square, Nottingham, site of the Golden Arrow competition.
Long years after the Norman Conquest, Nottingham remained a divided town. The English, or Saxon contingent, continued to dwell around the site of their original fortress and hugely successful market at Weekday Cross. Not to mention their churches where the present day St Mary's now stands. The French, or Norman population, based itself around Peveril Castle, the castle ordered by William the Conquerer, and which we now refer to as Nottingham Castle. Each community had its own laws and officers.
Peveril was wise enough to see that force alone could not unite these two communities. So he initiated the establishing of a new market place on the derelict land between them, and which both communities would have safe access to. The place we now know as Nottingham's Market Square. The Saxon Weekday market would move there on Saturdays, along with several other small markets. A convenient old manorial wall ran across the site, and Peveril determined that the northern (Long Row) side was for the English and all the rest would be for his French supporters. But he also happily saw to it that goods could be easily sold across the wall, or even through it at various points. All this happened in the late 11th century. By the middle of the 12th century, when Henry 2nd was on the throne, Nottingham's Market Place was a thriving enterprise for all involved. But readers might be surprised to learn that a Saxon - Norman divide in law existed in Nottingham until the 18th century.
According to Robin Hood folklore, Nottingham's Market Square is the place where the famous Golden Arrow competition took place, a competition devised by the Sheriff of Nottingham to lure Robin out of hiding. There is speculation that such an archery display would have been part of the St Mathew's Fair, which was held each September. St Mathew's Fair then became the famous Goose Fair, the latter of which now operates outside the city centre. There are several archery contests mentioned in the earliest ballads of Robin Hood. In one of the very first, Robin Hood makes his escape and hides in the castle of Sir Richard of Lee. When Sir Richard is taken prisoner by the Sheriff of Nottingham, Robin rescues him and kills the Sheriff in the process!
In recent decades a regular open air market has been replaced by occasional craft fairs and fairground rides. Varioous tales about Robin Hood tell of him coming to markets at Weekday Cross and Hen Cross (see THIS LINK), disguised as a stall holder. One tells of him coming to this market as a potter, selling his wares to the Sheriff's wife in an attempt to get her to lead her husband out into Sherwood Forest.
Above:The Rogue Of Sherwood Forest (1950), before he reunites his father's merry men. Below: Richard Greene at the very start of the 1950s TV show The Adventures of Robin Hood. "The Trip to Jerusalem" stands at the base of a sandstone rock, beneath Nottingham Castle. It is the oldest Inn in England, and served as a favourite drinking place for King Richard's Crusaders across the midlands before departing for the Holy Lands. The word "trip" in fact comes from an old English term meaning "stopping place".
Of course, as with numerous historical sites across Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, Robin Hood and his Merry Men are said to have been frequent visitors of this establishment. That may be so, but as it is situated so very close to the soldiers in the castle, such an act of shear audacity would have required much courage indeed.
Whether or not Robin Hood actually went on the crusades is open to debate. It is highly unlikely. During those decades when the ballads were being written King Richard was seen as a much more heroic figure than today, so placing the much loved noble outlaw in his company made for a good story. Even as late as the 1950s Richard Greene's version of Robin Hood saw him returning heroically from the Holy lands in his Crusader tunic (see picture), and singing the praises of King Richard. These days people take a more balanced view of history, placing Richard's actions within context, and more recent films such as "Robin and Marian", and the 2006 BBC series, portray a Robin rather sickened and disillusioned by what happened on the Crusades.
In the grave yard at the rear of the Church of "St Mary of the Purification", Blidworth, just inside the iron gates, lays Will Scarlet's grave. In actual fact this oddly mismatched assembly of old stones was formed using the original apex of the church tower, and is not really a grave stone at all. But was Will Scarlet buried here? There are graves on this hill side, within the boundaries of Sherwood Forest, which are much older than the present building, and no doubt some of the men buried here had disputes with the Sheriff of Nottingham. Possibly one such man was Will Scarlet himself. Whatever the truth, these unmarked stones serve as an appropriate focal point for those wishing to pay their respects.
For more information about Will Scarlet click here and here.
Above: A light hearted portrayal of Will Scarlet in his later years, from "Rogues of Sherwood Forest" (1950).
Blidworth Village has several connections to Robin Hood via both Will Scarlet and Maid Marion. The present Church of St. Mary of the Purification in Blidworth dates from 1739, but a wooden church stood on the crest of this hill since time immemorial. The Saxons replaced that wooden structure with stone, and it was that stone building, the Chapel of St Lawrence, which Will scarlet, his friend Robin Hood, and Maid Marian would have known. In the rear graveyard one can still see the beautiful remnants of this Saxon stone building (above). According to legend Will Scarlet was buried in this graveyard up against the church wall.
In the 15th century, during the reign of Richard 3rd, a tower was added and it became the church of St Mary of the Purification. When the building fell down in the early 18th century that tower was left intact, and the current building added on to it. A part of the tower was used as a marker for Will's grave. Probably not the actual spot, but a well intended and respectful tribute nevertheless. To see a video of Will Scarlet's Grave click THIS LINK.