Johanas Littel, John Le Litel, John Littel, John Little, Littel John, Little John all names synonymous with the legendary figure. As for his birthplace, the Geste places this in Holderness, East Riding of Yorkshire/Humberside. Some suggest he was the son of William de Faucumberg of Catfoss manor in Holderness.
Local tradition at Hathersage in Derbyshire says that Little John retired and was buried here in the churchyard. No other place has claimed this, although the same could not be said for his commander.
Eliza Ashmole writing in the late 1600's first recorded that Little John's bow hung in the church chancel and that he was buried at Hathersage with a stone set at each end with a large distance between.
In 1784 the local church vicar, Charles Spencer-Stanhope (d.1874) wrote that the squires brother, William Shuttleworth hung a thigh bone, reputedly from Little John's grave in his room. However as it was thought to be bringing poor fortune to its owner, it was ordered to be reburied by his clerk. But the clerk kept the labelled bone in his window as a curio.
When the father of Charles Spencer-Stanhope (Walter Spencer-Stanhope of Cannon Hall and Horsforth Hall 1749-1821) and Sir George Strickland were visiting Hathersage, Strickland* is reported to have "run away with it" and it has never been recovered.
It was William Shuttleworth who in the late 1700's had the grave
body exhumed, the thigh
bone was measured at 291/2
inches by the woodsman Mr. Hinchcliffe.
The bow in this photograph above looks similar
to the one housed in the Cawthorne Museum today.
The bow could now be scientifically dated if a portion were to be sacrificed for carbon-dating. The Stone of Scone was removed from Scotland by Edward I and has been returned.
A bawdy gathering in an English hall, complete with minstrel gallery
Recent research has shown that the man who inspired the author of the Geste to include the character 'Little John' was not necessarily named in the ballad from his height or lack of it. The author of the Geste has been far more cryptic than this. In fact if we look at the Geste as a cryptic political song rather than a 'ballad' it would serve us well. In the case of Hathersage, speculation based upon a folk-tale has become a factoid. However, I have found that the man who was immortalised as 'Little John' was a forester whilst there is a link to Hathersage and another 'merry man' who has yet to be announced.
See: Spencer-Stanhope page
Copyright © Tim Midgley 2000, revised 20th December 2016.
Hood search for
the Truth | Robin
Wakefield | Robert
Hood of Newton
of Robin Hoods
of Robin Hood
Kirklees | Little
| Roger De
Doncaster | The
Reeve | Priory
Rolls | Saylis
of the Geste- a
new site | Robert
III Butler of
and the Geste
Pontefract | Alice
De Laci and John
of Gaunt | Barnsdale
Gallery | Stephen
II Le Waleys a
compiler of the