Robin Hood search for the Truth | Robin Hood Places | Hood surname statistics | Robin Hood of Wakefield | Robert Hood of Newton | The Pinder of Wakefield | Marian | Friars | Loxley and 'Huntington' | Myriads of Robin Hoods | Ballads of Robin Hood | Kirklees | The Armytages of Kirklees | Little John | Roger De Doncaster | The Penurious Knyght Our Comly King | Shire Reeve | Priory of Kirklees | Wakefield Rolls | Saylis of the Geste- a new site | Robert III Butler of Skelbrooke | Barnsdale and the Geste | De Lacis of Pontefract | Alice De Laci and John of Gaunt | Barnsdale Gallery | Stephen II Le Waleys a suspected compiler of the Geste
Did a person by the name of Robin Hood
ever exist? I have evidence that he did not. The reason being
that this was merely a ballad name. There are persons in history
who are named Robert Hod, Hode, Hoode, Hood &c. but these are legitimate
names that in all probability bear no relation to the ballad hero,
particularly those that pre-date the popularity of the Robin Hood ballads.
A DOUBLY REFRACTED CRYPTIC PALIMPSEST
of Cambridge University made a study of the tales of Robin
Hood for thirty years But he never identified the person upon whom
the ballads were based. He has stated
that "Little John's" grave was 14 feet long. However,
I find that this ballad name was not
necessarily based upon
the character's height or lack of it, but upon a word-play using his
real name. Such doubly refracting palimpsests are typical of the
thieves that lie in wait for the unwary and cursory researcher.
I support the contention that Robin was not an earl of
Huntingdon nor any earl but there is a good reason why this
attachment was made in folklore. The person upon whom the ballad character
was based was not from the ruling descendant Norman classes but
as the Geste insists, a tenant farmer.
Note:*Sometime before 1120 Ralph Alave the chaplain & confessor to Henry I fell ill at Pontefract on the way to a Scottish campaign with the king. He hunted in the wood around Nostell and came across hermits, Saxon monks who had dedicated their church to St. James the fisherman and a fish pond "Nostell Lake". Impressed by their life he asked the king for an Augustinian Priory dedicated to St. Oswald king of Northumbria, this was granted. In 1650 Nostell was granted to the Winn family who came from Wales.
were a particularly strict form
of the Benedictine rule established
by Robert de Molesme in 1098 at Cistercium or Citeaux, south of Dijon, Burgundy, France.
The Cistercians established sites in inhospitable places
such as Fountains Abbey, these places later became
luxurious and the clergy powerful.
Other religious groups which entered England were the :
or Grey Friars,
in 1209 by an Italian, St. Francis of Assisi
who arrived in England in 1224 and spread the credo
MAPPA MUNDI - IS THIS HOW ROBYN HODE OR A MEDIEVAL FORESTER WOULD HAVE APPEARED?
In the cathedral at Hereford is a 'curious map' which shows in the bottom right hand corner a forester leading two large hounds possibly 'gazehounds', a precursor to the greyhound. The forester is carrying a bow, a broad sword, a hunting horn, an arrow sheaved in the belt and a cudgel. He wears a tight fitting curte pie or short coat and hose, probably both of wool. The forester appears to be allowing the passage of a horseman with the words passe avant or 'go ahead' between them. Although in traditional colloquial depictions Robyn is shown wearing what is known as a Tyrolean hat, here the figure appears to have a feather and cloth bound to the head by a band. The map itself is dated to 1290- 1310 by M.B. Parkes, some hazard about 1306.
The Friar of Skelldale
There is also a reference to Fountains Abbey holding the bow and arrows of R.H. which were held by the Armytage family of Kirklees after the reformation.
Robyn's other companions
Some records which may relate to our
25th July at York Assizes there is a reference in court papers
to Rob. Hod, Later referred to as to Hobbehod, others later took the
1247 Date given
by John Major as the death of Robin Hood, although
no source for this statement is provided.
1262 The name
Robin Hood was first used as a criminal alias for a
KNOWN criminal. 5
~1275 birth year for Robert
III Butler of Skelbrooke.
The Crusades ended.
death year for Robert III Butler of Skelbrooke near
the vill of Barnsdale.
1307 Edward II
Acceded to the throne, he was king to 1327 ( murdered
at Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire)
1322 Thomas Plantagenet defeated
at the Battle of Boroughbridge by Edward II's army, 'contrariants'
1 who it is suggested by Joseph Hunter, hid in Barnsdale 'Forest'
in South Yorkshire. However there was no royal forest here, this
mythical forest seems to have
originated, at least in
print, from John Leyland,
Henry VIII's librarian and
chronicler when he wrote 'the
woodde and famose forest of
1323 Edward II visits
Yorkshire, Lancashire &c. and spends two weeks
1324 Edward II's household expenses
shown for "Robyn Hod" and "Robert Hood" who were
described as being in the King's Service.5
1347 date given by Joseph
Hunter for the death of Robin Hood but was this the
death date for the originator of the Geste narrative? For
not only is this the death year for John 8th earl Warrene who
held the manor of Wakefield, within which lay Kirklees priory.
1348-9 Half the population of England
died from "The Black Death", this caused much unrest
as labour became scarce.
1360 Margaret Savile was the prioress of Kirklees,
it is considered that Margaret ['who was of Robyn's
have been used as the basis for the balladic Prioress
of 'Church Lees' [Commonly associated with Kirklees] who appears
in later verses of the Geste that were probably
1362 The official language of the law courts were
changed from French to English.
1360-1377 It is predicted that the Geste was
finally compiled and later appeared in print from the
presses of 'Wynken De Worde' in 1510.
1866 John Matthew Gutch wrote "Robin Hood a collection of Poems , Songs and Ballads". There were over 40 poems, the oldest one published about 1380 but speculated to be composed about 1280.7 This would make it contemporaneous with the living person if we take it that he lived in the latter part of the 1200's and early 1300's.
The King's Court Balladeer
The Ballads gave place names as follows:
the miller supposedly came from here
(north of Robin Hood's Bay)
I find that there is an historical reason why these North Yorkshire places are associated with Robyn Hode, but this association developed at least a generation after Robyn rode and strode in this part of England
**Lastingham is about a 1.5 miles S.E. of Hartoft End. Rosedale Abbey lies about 2 miles to the north of Hartoft. To the south is Cropton which has a Norman Motte & Bailey ('Castle Mound') and about 5 miles to the south lies Pickering Castle, originally Norman which had additions in the late 1100's and early 1200's. The castle includes towers, walls & dungeons.9 In 1323 Edward II spent most of August here after an abortive campaign in Scotland and many other kings visited here for hunting purposes. In 1399 Richard II was temporarily held prisoner here by Henry Bolingbroke who had landed in Holderness after being exiled.11.
in Derbyshire was an estate formerly
belonging to the Spencer Family and was
left by the last Spencer to the son of his eldest daughter,
John Ashton Shuttleworth. In this churchyard was
the head and footstone of Little John; and his bows,
arrows and a cuirass, according to Ashmole, as I am told,
used to hang up in the chancel of Hathersage Chuch.
LITTLE JOHN'S THIGH BONE
At 28.5 inches
long this thigh bone (femur) would
be 28.5 x 2.5 cm = 71.25 cm long. From the
photograph the length of an ordinary thigh bone
is 51 cm long and the height of the skeleton is 174
cm i.e. the ratio is 51:174.
X = 170 x 71.25/50 = 122112.50 = 242.25 cm height
= 8.08 feet
On a map from the 1600's a forested area lay between Wakefield, Sheffield and Chesterfield. This area is crossed by a Medieval ridge top road (Packhorse Route) from Castleton and Hathersage and passed up the Derwent valley, across Midhope Moors, through Langsett, Penistone, Cawthorne, High Hoyland, Clayton West, Emley, West Bretton, Midgley, Milnethorpe, Sandal Magna and thence to Wakefield.
"Wakefield is described as the Birth Place of Robin Hood -The researches of that learned and accomplished antiquary, the late Joseph Hunter of the British Museum, the historian of Hallamshire and of South Yorkshire, led him to the conclusion that the old tradition of the existence and the exploits of Robin Hood, the famous outlaw of Sherwood Forest, was founded in fact, and that Robin Hood was a real personage,and a native of Wakefield, whose name appears in several transactions in the court at that place".
Court Rolls for the manor of Wakefield
for 1331-3 refer to a Robert Hood15.
This is an unusual name as almost exclusively people
in these rolls were referred to as "[First name] de
[place of origin]"
investigations of Hunter, whilst
they leave little doubt that Robin Hood was
a real person, bring the date of his exploits down to
a somewhat later period than that at which they are
fixed in Walter Scott's incomparable "Ivanhoe," which,
it will be remembered, places his life and times in the
reigns of Richard I. and King John, or between the years
1189-1216. According to the researches of Hunter, Robin
Hood lived in the reign of Edward II, 100 years later, and
was one of the Yorkshire followers of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster
(who was at that time the lord of all this part of the West Riding),
in his unfortunate insurrection against Edward II. in the year
the rebel earl, Humphrey De Bohun, Earl of Hereford
and Essex, was speared 'in the fundament'
from below the Borough Bridge whilst his son-in law, Roger
de Clifford of Skipton, was captured and hung in chains
in York Castle tower, now known as Clifford's Tower. It is considered
here that it was at Boroughbridge on the morning of 17th March
1322 that the father of the author of the Geste was captured [not
'Robyn Hode'] in the town by the surprise arrival of the
then sheriff of Yorkshire, Sir Simon Ward, along with about 400
men of the Yorkshire Array from York under the control of Henry
De Faucumberg. Henry had been a sheriff of Nottinghamshire and
Derbyshire a few years earlier. After the Battle of Boroughbridge
Edward II gave him the task of disspossessing the 'contrariants'
after which Faucumberg was both sheriff of Yorkshire and Notts.
to Hunter's opinion Robin Hood was born
in a family of some station and respect- ability,
seated at Wakefield or in one of the villages near to
it: and he, with many others, partook of the popular enthusiasm
which supported the Earl of Lancaster, the great baron
of these parts. When the Earl fell there was a dreadful
proscription, but some of the persons who had been in arms,
not only escaped the hazards of battle, but the arm of the executioner.
Robin Hood was one of these, and he protected himself against
the authorities of the times, partly by secreting himself
in the depths of the woods of Barnsdale
(between Campsall & North Elmsall),
or the forest of Sherwood, and partly by intimidating
the public officers, by the opinion which was abroad
of his unerring bow, and his instant command of assistance
from numerous comrades as skilled in archery as himself".
supported himself by slaying the
wild animals found in the forests, and by
levying a species of black mail on passengers along the great
road from London to Berwick; occasionally seizing upon
treasure which was being conveyed along the road, but
with a courtesy which distinguished him from ordinary
highway-men. He continued this course for about twenty
months, from April, 1322, to December, 1323, when he fell
into the hands of the king (Edward II.) personally, and
was pardoned and made one of the valets, porteurs de la
chambre, in the royal household. This office he held for
about a year, when he again returned to the "greenwood shade,
where he lived for an uncertain time. At last he resorted
to the prioress of Kirklees, his own relative, for surgical
assistance, and in that priory he died and was buried."1.
Annals of Yorkshire:
There is a gravestone
in the corner of Kirklees wood, about a good bow-shot from the Priory, which
bears the following inscription :-
WHAT ROBYN HODE THE KNIGHT WOULD HAVE LOOKED LIKE IF HE HAD AN EFFIGY:
Unfortunately there is no effigy of Robyn. Note that the chain-mail coif may represent the 'hood' so often referred to in the Geste. In all likelihood he would have sported a moustache, popular throughout the early medieval period.Recent Discoveries
In March 2009 Dr. Julian Luxford of St. Andrews University in Fife, Scotland, announced the finding of a manuscript note which he estimates to have been added to the document by an unknown monk sometime in the 1460's. One of the points made in the short note, which mentions 'Robyn Hode', makes it clear that Robyn was not well thought of in some sections of English society. The tenor of the note indicates that the monk was using hearsay when it stated that it was 'according to popular opinion'.
During Edward III's reign. Alternative terms such
as 'rebel' or 'evildoer' were perhaps more common before this time.
A different model for our legendary folk hero
Much of the hearsay places
Robyn Hode into the popular historical location
of the reigns of Henry II, Richard I, John
and Henry III. Recent efforts have brought
him forward to the 1300's with an identity in 'Barnsdale'
South Yorkshire, the epicentre of the narrative and
ballad hero, Robyn Hode.
1. Hunter, Joseph; Hallamshire and South Yorkshire.1815.
2. Dictionary of Yorkshire names 1822.
3. Winsoar Churchill & Alan Klehr.
4. Picard, B.L. Hero Tales from the British Isles.
5. Ohlgren, James; Cambridge University.
6. Pratt, C.T. History of Cawthorne. 1882. pp 39-40
7. Miles, Bernard, Sir; Robin Hood, Life & Legend.
8. Changing Face of the River Skell, The Dalesman July 1974
9. Treasures of Britain AA Drive Publications 1968
10. Guardian Weekly 31st March 1996
11. Yorkshire Castles Dept. of Environment 1973
12.The Robin Hood Project, University of Rochester.
13. Annals of Yorkshire.
14. Wrenthorpe Web pages, Edward Green
15. Walker, Sheridan, Sue. Wakefield Court Rolls of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society vol. iii, 1331-1333, Leeds, 1983.
16. Toulmin-Smith, L. The Itinerary of John Leland, 1906-1910, p. 13.
M.B. The Hereford Map, (2006), p. 110.
Copyright © Tim Midgley, page est. 1998 revised 11th March 2023.