Thursday, August 25, 2011

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 But this is not, and was never intended to be, a historical document.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 Byrunsdale (also referred to in historical documents as Brinnesdal), was about 3 miles North of Nottingham Castle.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 King's Great 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.

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