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Perhaps the greatest event of the Middle Ages was the telling of Robin Hood. Considered by many to being the most successful and entertaining Swashbuckling story, Robin Hood remains prominent in the world of literature, poetry and the modern movies. It is my guess that Errol Flynn, Hollywood actor extraordinaire, was the one who placed Robin Hood in the top brackets. With his portrayal of the outlaw hero in 1938, The Adventures of Robin Hood (in Technicolor) remains, by far, the greatest of all the Swashbuckling classics. Even though Errol Flynn made Robin Hood a superstar, he was not the first actor to portray the legend, or indeed was the legend created for Errol in the late 1930's. The legend of Robin Hood has lasted, at least, since the early thirteenth century, when local historians in Mediaeval England made references to the ballads of Robin Hood. But it is major controversy, even to this day, whether or not the outlaw had ever actually lived. Even as this webpage is being written, there are some historians in England who are on a quest to unlock the mysteries of the elusive legend. So far there have been many names that are identifiable with Robin Hood that have turned up in ancient records, but none are as of yet a far gone conclusion of the man's existence. One of the earliest accounts we have of the legend is a manuscript of poetry (that cannot actually be called a ballad), that was dated either late 1480's or early 1520's that has for its title: "A little Gest of Robyn Hode". Hode, in old English, is another way of writing Hood, and the letter "y" in Robyn, was a Medieval placement for the letter "i". The Gest, from its appearance, was concluded to being a copy of some other original manuscript, of which, by now, is widely accepted as being actually written in or around 1400, making it the oldest poem on Robin Hood. And where does this old poetry place Robin? In Sherwood Forest, in the reign of King Richard the Lion-Heart, in the 1190's - wrong!! To my utter surprise, the oldest stories from the Robin Hood legend (including a small handful of others written in the late 1400's and early 1500's) place Robyn Hode in, not Sherwood Forest, but a Forest located approximately 40 miles north of Sherwood called Barnsdale Forest. And Robyn Hode of the Gest is not within Richard the Lion-Heart's reign, but that of "our good king Edward". Which king Edward? well, that has not yet been settled, but 95% of the clues lean toward king Edward II. And a time period leans towards the 1320's and not the 1190's.



Has There Been Two Distinct Robin Hoods in History?


Robin Hood:


The hypothesis was considered that the Hod/ Hode/Hudd/Hood surname is of Scottish or Yorkshire origin. Robin/Robyn is supposedly a contraction of Robert [French phonetic Rober] which is a particularly Scottish first name. It was widely used and introduced by the Norman-French, it is not a Christian name. Professor James C. Holt noted that the diminutive Robin was more popular than the name Robert in the 1200's. Certainly Robert would have become a more popular name from the time of Robert de Bruce onwards. Hood is a very common surname in Scotland and some northern English counties [i.e. Yorkshire and Durham]. In fact the magnitude of the Hood surname background  in each county is higher in Scotland than England.



Locksleah, Locksley, Loxley are all synonymous with the claimed place-name for the birth-place of Robin. Surely then following naming patterns his name would have been Robin or Robert de Loxley?

If it can be relied upon, the 'Sloane Manuscript' of 1600 gives Robin's birthplace as Loxley.  However, although the inspiration for the ballad character was granted 'Loxley' he was not born there. There is a Loxley in Warwickshire and one in Yorkshire. Locksley/Loxley near Sheffield is reputed to be his birthplace. However there is no corroborating written record of this. If his name was Robert de Hode, could he not just as easily have been a native of Hodresfeld (Huddersfield)? or Hotham [D.B. Hode] in east Yorkshire? Just as in the words neighbourhood, knighthood or priesthood, could not the word "hood' represent a "state of being". In fact I find that the modern word 'Hood' has been completely  hijacked by the allusions to hooded clothing, whilst hoods have become synonymous with criminals wishing to hide their identity. Yet the name for the inspiration of the ballad character was not Hood, Hode or Hod &c. 

Little John


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 grave was reported to be two stones 13 feet apart which were erected by the Ancient Order of Foresters in 1929.

The reputed bow of Little John hung on the walls of Hathersage church until 1729. From here it was taken by the Spencer-Stanhope family caput,  Cannon Hall in Cawthorne. Here it remained until the early 1950's. The bow was hung below the minstrel gallery in the Cannon Hall ballroom [built 1891]. The bow that was personally observed in the early 1950's hanging in the ballroom was more like a recurved heavy, thick bow, one end broken and with the other end tipped with a horn. It looked nothing like the bow shown in the photograph [below] taken in the grounds of Cannon Hall during the inter-war period,. This purportedly shows 'Little John's bow', a six foot long, thin, tapering weapon, held by an archaeologist, H.C. Haldane of Clarke, Hall near Wakefield.


Sherwood or Barnsdale Forest?


Ask anyone to think of the Robin Hood story and they will no doubt mention the Merry Men, Maid Marian, The Sheriff of Nottingham and, of course, Sherwood Forest. But is this really the place which was the central location for the exploits of our great hero?

But still the debate rages on, centered mainly on the question, does the historical evidence and research point to Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire or Barnsdale Forest in Yorkshire as the principal haunt of Robin and his men?

Barnsdale's claim to the Robin Hood legend derives from references in the very early Ballads. The Ballad of "Robin Hood and Sir Guy of Gisborne" refers to "Robin Hood of Barnsdale".

The Ballad of "Robin Hood and the potter" tells of Little John meeting the potter at "Wentbreg" or Wentbridge in Yorkshire. Furthermore, the "gest of Robin Hood" mentions Sayles in Pontefract near the Great North Road in Yorkshire.

Add to this the death of Robin at nearby Kirklees Priory and his alleged birth at Loxley and you can begin to see why this justification for the Barnsdale and Yorkshire basis was developed. Add to this the evidence of "Robin Hood's" deriving from the Wakefield area eg. Robin Hood of the Wakefield Rolls and the claim for a Robin Hood - Brave outlaw of Barnsdale, became to some, quite compelling.

However, those championing a Sherwood Robin Hood are able to draw on substantial evidence to counter these claims. Again, a good starting point is evidence from the early Ballads.

In "Robin Hood and the Monk" the city to which Robin Travels is Nottingham where he is captured and eventually rescued by Little John. And, whilst the story of "Robin Hood and the potter" starts in Yorkshire, the main events take place in Nottingham where another encounter with the Sheriff ensues.

In other stories including the association with Sir Richard of Lee, it is clearly Sherwood Forest that is the "Greenwood" of the tales.

Also important is the role of the enemy who is synonymous with Robin Hood. The Sheriff of Nottingham, as the holder of this office would clearly have no juristriction outside Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire thereby excluding the Yorkshire location of Barnsdale.

Finally, of the two locations, only Sherwood Forest lay claim to the designation of Royal Forest favoured by English kings. In contrast, Barnsdale in Yorkshire was in fact a sparse, lightly wooded area of no great renown.

A.D. 1110 – A.D. 1165


In a fascinating recent book, local author Tony Molyneux-Smith put forward a new theory about the origins of the Robin Hood legend. This new approach placed the outlaw firmly back in Nottinghamshire but broke with tradition regarding his true identity.

Molyneux-Smith's conclusion is that Robin Hood was a pseudonym used by succeding generations of a family named Foliot who held the Lordship of a place called Wellow through to the late 14th. Century.

The author believes that Wellow's proximity to Sherwood Forest, together with a range of historical and geographical clues provides ample evidence for his theory. Here, it is postulated that the Foliot family used the name of Robin Hood to hide their true identities as protection against the lawless society in which they lived. These clues, together with the family's strong belief in chivalry and fair play convinced the author that Wellow and the Foliot family held the key to uncovering the truth behind the Robin Hood legend.


A.D. 1138


In 1138, the Scots had taken advantage of the civil war between the factions of King Stephen and the Empress Maud to cross the northern border and raid into English territory. Archbishop Thurstan of York appealed to the 'Men of Sherwood' to come and help an improvised army beat the Scots off - this they duly did, and at Northallerton the Scots retired after being peppered by deadly arrows from the bows in the hands of these enigmatic 'Men of Sherwood'.


A.D. 1141

In the subsequent battle of Lincoln in 1141, though both opposing factions appealed to the same 'Men of Sherwood', it appears that not many of these turned out in support of either during the civil war. Fighting a foreign enemy for your country's sake obviously had a different appeal to these Men, though the civil war dragged on for almost twenty years and saw almost complete anarchy take over - including Nottingham Town being destroyed twice, burned by the Earl of Gloucester in 1140 and burned again by the future Henry II in 1153.

In 1140, a new bridge over the River Trent at Newark offered a safer passage north-south. Much of the traffic heading north to York formerly using the road known as The Kings' Great Way from the bridge over the Trent at Nottingham kept to the Great North Road and crossed the river at Newark : it avoided the expensive Nottingham bridge tolls, offered an alternative to the road in the form of seats on passage boats up-river - and avoided passing through the southern end of Sherwood Forest under the threat of robbers and outlaws. By 1190, the Forest road had seen a drop in merchant and trading traffic but a rise in travelers having a religious connection.


A.D. 1157


Richard I was born at Oxford in 1157.


A.D. 1160


Traditionally 'Robin Hood' was born in Loxley, Locksley or Lockesley, a village in Yorkshire in the year 1160, claimed locally that he was outlawed after an argument for wounding his father with a scythe. The young man ran off towards nearby Barnsley rather than face judgment and punishment - when South and West Yorkshire became too hot to hold him, he made his way down The Great North Road and sought shelter with robbers and outlaws hiding in Sherwood Forest, further enhancing his existing woodcraft and natural skill with a bow and a sword. He rose in reputation to lead these men, but replaced their code of daily brutality with a revenge theme of targeted thefts.


A.D. 1187


When the truce in The Holy Land was broken by the Christians and unarmed Moslem merchants were attacked, Saladin led his forces to defeat the Christian armies and Jerusalem was captured in October 1187; most of the Christian leaders taken prisoner in Jerusalem were duly executed.


A.D. 1189


Richard I, The Lion-Heart was crowned in 1189 . . . Richard saw himself born to become the leader of a new Crusade and recapture the Holy City of Jerusalem from the Infidel. Richard I left on this Holy Crusade in December 1189, naming the son of his deceased elder brother - his nephew, Prince Arthur - as his heir should he die whilst abroad and getting a sworn oath from his brother John not to travel to England in Richard's absence for a period of three years

Their mother - Queen Eleanor - shortly afterwards persuaded Richard to release his younger brother from this oath. Before Richard I left England, he divided England in two and gave the job of ruling in his absence to two of his most loyal Justices - Hugh Bishop of Durham would care for the northern part ; and William Longchamp, his Chancellor and Bishop of Ely administering the southern part. Within a few months of Richard's departure, Longchamp had marched north with an army and displaced Hugh. For six months, Longchamp lorded over England gaining the reputation of 'an overbearing and intolerable tyrant'.


A.D. 1190


Richard I left France for the Holy Land in July 1190 - until March 1194.


A.D. 1191


When Prince John after spending Christmas in Normandy returned to England in early 1191, he found himself the immediate focus for the baronial opposition to Longchamp. When Longchamp besieged Lincoln castle in order to remove Gerard Camville, the Constable there and replace him with one of his personal supporters, Prince John countered the attack by moving into royal Nottingham castle - a move which was completely unopposed - and garrisoning that castle and nearby royal Tickhill castle with his own supporters.     

John threatened that if Longchamp did not end his siege, he would march over and "visit him with a rod of iron and such a mighty host that he (Longchamp) could not withstand." Longchamp answered with a demand that John hand back the two castles and surrender to Longchamps' justice. John erupted in a terrific rage which set his nearby courtiers scurrying for cover and the scene was set for a battle - then Richard's emissary arrived. Richard I had heard of Longchamps' upsets and troubles, and sent the Archbishop of Rouen all the way from Messina back to England to sort it out. The Archbishop in the kings' name was to order four knights Richard had left behind to form a council and sort out the trouble. The Archbishop arranged a compromise - Longchamp left Lincoln and John gave back control of the two royal castles, returning things to the state they were before tempers flared. As soon as the Archbishop left England to report to Richard, Longchamp tore up the agreement and he ordered one of his powerful supporters named Roger De Lacy to hang the two Constables that had handed over Nottingham and Tickhill to Prince John, which he duly did.

John retaliated by attacking De Lacy's lands and confiscating his estates that lay within John's own jurasdiction. A second arbitration by the ruling council was necessary and duly agreed : the two royal castles would revert to the ownership of the Crown, but be held for Richard I under a Constable appointed by Prince John - and as preferred by most of the barons present at the arbitration, in the case of the king dying abroad on Crusade, Prince John would succeed Richard I on the throne of England. These terms agreed, both sides retired to glare at each other : then John's half-brother Geoffrey landed at Dover in late September 1191.

Geoffrey had also sworn not to travel to England in Richard's absence, and Longchamp seeing Geoffrey as a threat to the throne tried to arrest him on a charge of treason. The farce resulting in Geoffrey after a stake-out of four days being dragged out of 'Holy Sanctuary' by Longchamps' impatient soldiers led to every person involved in the unlawful capture of Geoffrey being excommunicated by the Bishop of Lincoln with Longchamp being first denounced and then excommunicated and deposed by the ruling council. Longchamp locked himself in the Tower of London, but was forced to surrender to Prince John after a few days. Longchamp was tried ; his defence was he had not been disloyal or a traitor to Richard but in his zeal he may have been tactless and overbearing. He was deposed and imprisoned. On the last day of October, Longchamp was permitted to leave England - he had tried to escape earlier dressed as a woman but an amorous and rather impudent seaman 'felt' rather than saw through Longchamps' disguise.

Prince John was begged by the barons to get rid of the despotic Longchamp - not the other way around, as depicted in the 1938 feature film. John also had the support of all the English freemen and burgesses, without which the struggle between him and Longchamp would have probably degenerated into a similar civil war such as between Stephen and Matilda between 1135 and 1155, resulting in wholesale anarchy.


A.D. 1192


In February 1192, Queen Eleanor returned to England after hearing of her son John plotting with the King of France, Philip Augustus, to get hold of Richard's lands and castles in France. Philip's sister Princess Alice was bethrothed to Richard I but he had jilted her in favour of marrying Princess Berengaria of Navarre. Because of this, a rather disillusioned Philip had left command of the joint Crusade to Richard I who remained in the Holy Land. Hearing of the recent troubles in England, Philip decided to revenge himself on Richard I and made approaches to Prince John to marry his sister Alice instead and get hold of Richard's lands in France. The fact that John was already married was not seen as a problem by either Philip or John. Queen Eleanor narrowly managed to get John barred from leaving England by the ruling council in order to clinch the deal with Philip.

At the same time, Longchamp returned to England demanding a re-trial and through a go-between offering John a bribe to enable Longchamp to get his old job back : Queen Eleanor then used Longchamp to forestall John's deal with Philip. The ruling council was left in a quandary as they didn't like what they were hearing about John or Longchamp. Leaving the ruling council to fret and worry for a time, Prince John then made it known he really needed the money Longchamp was offering him and would be forced to accept the bribe through necessity - but - if the ruling council matched Longchamps' offer to him John would cheerfully accept it from them instead, which would then solve everyone's problem. As a result, the ruling council paid Prince John the money but out of King Richard's treasury and re-asserted their oaths to him to succeed Richard. Longchamp was forced to return to France to await the fury of King Richard when he returned from the Holy Land.

John had broken the independence of the ruling council and destroyed Longchamp - all John had to do was be patient for the throne to drop into his lap.

King Richard had been arrested at Vienna in December 1192.


A.D. 1193


Nine months later, the devastating news arrived in February 1193 that King Richard had been arrested at Vienna in December 1192 and was at that time in prison in Germany, held to ransom for the immense sum of a hundred thousand marks or 㿮,000 : at the time a quarter of England's wealth. The news was followed shortly afterwards by a rumour that Richard was in fact, already dead.

Prince John could not be prevented from sailing over to France to meet Philip 'to find out the truth'. It is often implied but never proven that the rumour of Richard's death was circulated by John and Philip in order for John to be crowned and Richard's lands shared out between John and Philip. John's offer to Normandy to defend it from the threat of a French invasion in return for their allegiance was rejected : John returned to England to recruit an army to crush any opposition to him being crowned and Philip planned an invasion of Normandy and England.

The temptation at this time to the ruling council to give into Prince John - the man they had all sworn would succeed Richard anyway - was terrific as it would keep the Peace and avoid a almost certain French invasion supported by John's troops in England. Seeing the council wavering, Queen Eleanor pointed out that Richard's death was only a rumour and the ransom demand still stood, and reminded the council of their outstanding oaths of loyalty to King Richard. The Lionheart's past reputation and his recent exploits in the Holy Land were widely known and when Eleanor and the council put the problem to the people the response from them was both immediate and overwhelming in support of a tremendously popular King Richard. Prince John was faced down by the council as a result and troops raised by them to both counter John's threats and guard against a French invasion. The ransom demand would be paid if proof of Richard being alive was given.

Prince John was forestalled but two problems remained - the first, Richard's release due to the political situation in Europe was uncertain - if Richard was already dead or killed later, the council would have to crown the man they were threatening ; and secondly, Prince John controlled large parts of England's income and his help in collecting the ransom money was absolutely necessary. The collection of the ransom money was arranged by the Bishop of Salisbury, Hubert Walter, under an agreement that any castles not controlled by Prince John at that time would be turned over to Queen Eleanor's caretaker-ship for a specific period on the understanding that if Richard wasn't released by the end of that time the castles would then transfer to Prince John - an agreement tantamount to offering John complete control of England and hence the throne.

Things in Germany weren't as bad as thought ; Richard had worked his charm on his jailer, Emperor Henry VI. Duke Leopold of Austria had arrested Richard I under circumstances that were contrary to the code of chivalry and crusading : Richard had offended Leopold in the Holy Land on a military matter and revenge was the main motive for Richard's detention. Richard had been transferred to Henry VI of Germany for safe-keeping and a half-share in the ransom but since that time Henry and Leopold had fallen out to the extent that Henry VI had used the French threat of buying Richard and holding him to ransom in exchange for all his lands in France to raise the ransom demand by fifty thousand marks but planned to give Leopold only twenty thousand marks as his share. Richard had secretly agreed a portion of his French lands would go to Philip upon his release along with twenty thousand marks if Philip kept quiet and caused no further upsets ; Henry VI then showed Richard private letters from both John and Philip offering him money to continue keeping Richard a prisoner.


A.D. 1194


On 4th February 1194 - twelve months and six weeks after his arrest and a substantial portion of the ransom demand having been paid -Richard I was released into the arms of his mother, Queen Eleanor. On 7th March he landed at Dover after an absence from England of four years. His welcome 'home' was outstanding and widespread. By comparison, Philip in France and John in Normandy were quiet : Philip had heard the news of Richard's release first and sent a warning to Prince John that is traditionally said to read simply "Look Out ! The Devil is Loosed !"

Though London threw open its doors to give Richard a hero's welcome, the gates of most of the castles controlled by Prince John remained firmly shut. Nottingham was the last castle to hold out, though invested and surrounded by troops loyal to King Richard. King Richard himself had to batter his way into the castle gatehouse to then burn it down - it was made of wood at this time - hang the survivors and make several blood-curdling threats of what he would do to the defenders when he got into the castle itself before Prince John's two constables finally saw wisdom and surrendered, throwing themselves on Richard's mercy and blaming Prince John for everything. Richard issued a command to John from the Great Hall on the Middle Bailey of Nottingham Castle that John appear before him within forty days to answer the charges against him or "suffer the loss of all his lands and any claim to the throne". John sensibly ignored the summons and remained in Normandy with his mother until Richard's anger cooled. Most of the other supporters of Prince John who had incurred Richard's displeasure and knowing of Richard's plans to raise an army and immediately attack Philip of France in Normandy to get his lost castles back, paid over hefty sums to keep their positions through attaining "the Kings' Pardon".

Richard was desperate for money, and began auctioning off many official posts to the highest bidder. Three sheriffs who had opposed Longchamp - including his former 'northern' Justice and poor old Gerard Camville at Lincoln - were sacked and their posts put up for sale. Richard is said to have remarked that "he would have sold London had anyone been wealthy enough to afford to buy it." Richard's callous and ruthless quest for cash to raise an army was privately remarked upon in turn as a "return of Longchamps' tyrannical and overbearing methods." The Lionheart left Hubert Walter in charge of England and sailed for France on May 12th 1194, never to return. He and his younger brother met in Normandy in the presence of their mother and Richard quickly forgave John "for being a child led astray by evil advisers.”

In 1172, yet another monastery had been founded in Sherwood Forest and endowed by the King himself with the village, mill and church of Papplewick as a sort-of gift regarding the penance placed on Henry II by the Church resulting from the murder of Thomas a Becket. The new St Mary's Priory was situated in the Leen Valley roughly ten miles north of Nottingham and already in the area of Sherwood Forest lying to the north and south, east and west off The Kings' Great Way were the monasteries of : Blyth (founded 1088) Lenton (1109) Worksop (1123) Thurgarton (1140) Rufford (1146) Shelford (1154) and Felley (1156) to be followed by the founding of Welbeck Abbey (1189). The wealth of these great monasteries lay in their involvement in the wool trade ; each had outlying granges where one or two brothers or lay-monks looked after a small flock of sheep and the production of fleeces brought in a good source of revenue for the monastery concerned. From 1140, complaints were made to the Sheriff of Nottingham concerning robberies perpetrated against the monks 'by outlaws' ; by 1194 the complaints from local priors and abbots had grown something had to be done about the pestiferous outlaws.

The Leen Valley was dominated by a range of hills lying on the western border. To the east, the ground rose - but not as prominently - before the rising and falling undulating contours of the dales here were lost in the densest part of Royal Sherwood Forest. The Kings Great Way ran north from Nottingham around the western edge of Bestwood Deer Park, through Papplewick and past St Mary's Priory on the eastern edge of the Leen Valley, disappearing into the leafy glades of the old 'keeping' of Lyndhurst with Blidworth hill to the east and continuing towards Mansfield, onto Worksop and Blyth. Richard I attacked and captured the last of his younger brothers' castles - Nottingham - in March 1194 then relaxed by hunting in this part of Sherwood Forest, resting for a time at St Mary's Priory (later renamed Newstead Abbey by the Byron family) before meeting and entertaining his friend, King William of Scotland. If Richard heard any of the complaints about robberies from the religious houses, he would have ordered the Sheriff of Nottingham to sort the problem out as it was his responsibility to do so - as Richard needed money badly, and was looking to the Church to provide a good proportion of this though they'd already contributed to a major part of his ransom. Richard I wanted the church to stay firmly in support of his reign.

Though plans to outwit the robbers were laid in 1194, the demands on money and soldiers made by Richard I and after his death by King John meant that these plans were postponed for over ten years. That the plans were not shelved or abandoned completely is an indication of their importance. Between 1205 and 1209, work began on an extension of Nottingham Castle : a new fortress actually in Sherwood Forest, and placed on the western borders of the Leen Valley, built on a commanding height overlooking the St Mary's Priory. Built by the Deputy-Constable and garrisoned by soldiers, these men would patrol the area to prevent and hopefully catch the robbers - and if the robbers and outlaws weren't willing to submit, to exterminate them. The isolated fortress was not wanted by locals - obviously the robbers weren't bothering them, or they'd have welcomed the protection - but their complaints were ignored though a large part of common land was legally 'aforested' and became the property of the Crown. The position of the new fort was very isolated and rather unsupported and instead of catching the robbers, the hidden robbers turned their attention to the fort and probably made life miserable for the garrison. By 1220 the new fort had been seen as a failure and abandoned with the garrison disbanded or re-deployed elsewhere or simply returned to duty at Nottingham.

In the Legend, he [Robin] met Richard I in Spring 1194 during the attempted rebellion led by his younger brother - Prince John - and declaring his loyalty to the king and entering his service as a retained archer, gained a Royal Pardon. He served abroad with Richard I for some time before retiring once again to Sherwood where he married or re-married a girl named Marian, Mary or Matilda. When his wife died some years later he built a chapel to her memory and stayed close by it. As an old man, he went to a female relative for medical aid but died - either murdered or from natural causes - and was buried by her in an unmarked grave. But - that's just one version of The Legend of Robin Hood.

Similar names appear in medieval records all over England from the year 1200 ; beyond that the records themselves are fragmentary. In and around Wakefield in the first half of the 14th Century, there are a cluster of such names which coupled with the Contrariants of the Lancaster rebellion against Edward II are offered as evidence that these records contain the real Robin Hood : but these have been examined several times by leading historians and found 'inconclusive'. They are also pre-dated by other references in records to a Robin, Robyn, Robert Hod, Hode or Hoode. Place-names associated with Robin Hood in attempts to date them are complicated by a possible previous ownership by woodland deities or gods named for 'Robin Goodfellow', 'The Green Man', 'The Horned God' or foreign imports such as Esus, Odin or Wotan. Before the 14th century, records of Robin Hood the Outlaw are pretty rare : manuscripts dated before 1500 down to 1330 become pretty scarce after that date.


The last week of March to the first week of April, A.D. 1194

On Richard’s return from the Crusades


Richard attacks the only place to offer him any real opposition : Nottingham Castle. He breaks into the Gatehouse after Prince John's two Constable's refuse to recognise him and order arrows to be shot at him and his mounted retinue, wounding some of them. Richard orders and immediate assault, leading it personally : they break into the wooden gatehouse, setting it on fire. The walls on the Middle Bailey are stone and these are too powerful to be attacked. Richard summons the castle to surrender, backing up the threat by hanging the survivors from the defenders of the gatehouse in full view and telling the rest of the garrison he will have them excommunicated before battering them all to death with siege engines when they arrive. The two Constable's wisely surrendered to Richard I the next day and they and the garrison were spared. Three days later, Richard I summons his younger brother to appear before him from the Great Hall on the Middle Bailey.

In his novel Ivanhoe this is the time-period chosen by Sir Walter Scott for Robin Hood to meet Richard I (though for a great portion of the time they are together Richard is in disguise and the outlaw doesn't name himself Robin Hood but calls himself 'Robin of Locksley'). Locksley and The Black Knight are the joint leaders of the attack on the castle - a re-named Nottingham Castle is featured in the novel - and as King Richard reveals his true identity to everyone so in return does Locksley reveal himself as Robin Hood. Not everybody goes onto 'live happily ever after'. Both Ivanhoe and The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) contain references to Saxon and Norman but by the year 1200 it is unlikely that this distinction was made as a form of prejudice by one class to another.

In the oldest stories of the meeting between the Outlaw and the King, Robin Hood meets the King in Sherwood Forest ; but the featured King is in disguise when they meet. Robin Hood recognises the King through his physical strength when blows are exchanged during a contest. Though the King reveals his true identity later the Kings' actual name is never given in this story (in other stories the king is named Henry or Edward rather than Richard). The pair become 'friends' and set off for Nottingham where Robin Hood is diplomatically seen with the King in public and a Royal Pardon is assumed to have been granted to all and sundry of his band of fellow outlaws. It isn't likely that The Sheriff of Nottingham - if he ever met Robin Hood - would regard the outlaw with any feelings of friendship at all as previously in the Legend in one account had murdered a previous Sheriff, embarrassed the legal authorities several times and been a real nuisance in many other ways.

But - no records of a real person named Robin Hood living in the vicinity of Sherwood Forest exist before the year 1220. That such a person could have lived there many years previously isn't impossible as only felons are named in the records used in evidence during a trial. If 'Robin Hood' didn't come to trial or was noted under that name he couldn't have been outlawed under that name. Similar names do exist, with the earliest said to be dated to 1213. The first mention outside local tradition of Robin Hood meeting Richard I is in a history book of 1521. No source of original reference is given, but the statement struck a chord and was developed by a popular play in 1598 and another poem and play in 1632. These set the precedent for Robin Hood existing as a Saxon outlaw of noble birth persecuted by Norman overlords. When the King is named in slightly later Robin Hood stories, the name Henry or Edward is given - not Richard. King Edward II did visit Nottingham in 1323 after crushing the Lancaster rebellion but is not recorded as having any ex-outlaws in tow.

After the assault and capture of Nottingham Castle in March 1194, King Richard is recorded as hunting for relaxation in Sherwood Forest and probably made a few 'house calls' on important personages to renew an acquaintance and receive a renewed vow of loyalty in order to tap them for cash. Word this would have swept through the glades by the strange ethereal means of communication that existed at the time following the account that would have circulated in Sherwood about Richard's exploits at Nottingham Castle. The King stayed or rested at St Mary's Priory as is recorded. If Robin Hood had been working for Richard in the years of his absence, then if the opportunity did arise for Richard and Robin to meet, with regard to their individual characters both men would have seized it as both men had a lot to gain from each other.

The famous painting Robin Hood entertaining King Richard the Lionheart in Sherwood Forest by Daniel Maclise currently hanging in Nottingham Castle Art Gallery (The Long Gallery) depicts the meeting between Richard I and Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest. In the picture, the initial formalities have obviously having been dealt with and both men are seen amidst scenes of drinking and feasting under broadleaf trees surrounded by woodland folk, all paying great attention to Robin Hood and King Richard though one of the audience in particular in the foreground looks decidely dodgy. 'Little John' looks Herculean in style and carries a deer over his shoulder ; Marian sits demurely at the base of nearby tree crowned with woodland flowers. Robin himself - looking a little worse for drink - postures in front of the king whilst Richard sits in mail armour covered by a white surcoat attended by a Moorish page with his armoured guards standing in the background (one of whom appears to be taking the opportunity of secretly knocking back a pint of ale). Very much the 19th century Victorian-period 'romantic ideal' of the relaxed proceedings after the initial meeting between the two men.

A meeting between Richard and Robin could have been arranged by a go-between prompted from either side. Large numbers of itinerants in Sherwood Forest - not all of them robbers or outlaws - had existed for years and would be a valuable source of trained military manpower if tapped (Edward I later recruited skilled longbow-men from Sherwood Forest for his Welsh and Scots wars in the latter half of the 13th Century). That both the leading parties were past experts in charismatic stage-management has already been established, but any arranged meeting would be conducted with great care on both sides - trust had to be earned - and at a site approved by both parties with a fixed number of attendants from both sides. Whatever was said, an oath of loyalty from Robin Hood to Richard with in exchange for a royal pardon from Richard to Robin for his past crimes would have occurred for them to go forward from the first meeting as both men still had many enemies lurking in the shadows and it would be in the interest of both men to advertise the new entente cordiale.

Richard left Sherwood in 1194 to greet his friend King William of Scotland for a parley. By mid-April that year the King was in the south of England and by the end of May crossed the Channel into France. If Robin Hood went with him from Sherwood, it isn't recorded anywhere but in the Legend, Robin Hood gets a bit homesick after a year serving the King and obtains a leave of absence to go on a visit 'home' - in part of the Legend this leave is granted on Crusade in the Holy Land - but after doing so he never returns to court. Four years later, King Richard is dead and the Legend picks up again as King John comes to the throne and a new and more ruthless Sheriff of Nottingham - Philip Marc - takes over.

It's not recorded anywhere outside the Legend that Robin Hood was present at the storming of Nottingham Castle in March 1194 or at Runnymede for the signing of Magna Carta and The Charter of the Forests in 1215. Robin Hood - if you add up the evidence in years within the Legend - supposedly lived on in the greenwoods for over forty years until 1247, making him a real veteran when he died at an age between eighty and ninety years old when despite several premonitions and warnings, Robin Hood left the safety of Sherwood and at Church Lees, Kirkesley, Kirkby, or Kirklees - different names are given in the oldest stories - passed into legend in a final blaze of glory



No story of Robin Hood is complete without its setting, Sherwood Forest which in
Robin's time covered about 100,000 acres . . . Sherwood Forest was of course home for the Kings deer which the outlaws hunted for their illegal feasts. People in Robin's time saw the forest as a dangerous place and travelled mostly in large groups for fear of ambush and robbery. To Robin and the outlaws Sherwood Forest was a
place of safety from the Sheriff's, men . . . Today, Sherwood Forest Country Park covers about 450 acres.

A.D. 1199


Richard I was born at Oxford in 1157 and crowned King at Westminster Abbey in 1189. When he died in 1199, Richard's heart was buried at Rouen in Normandy, his brain at Poitou and his body next to his father Henry II at Fontevrault - England got no remains, despite providing most of the financial means for Richard's military adventures throughout his reign. Throughout the ten years of his reign, only a few months were spent actually in England. During one of these periods Richard I could have met - or heard - of the outlaw, 'Robin Hood'. . . . He [Richard] died in France.



A.D. 1200’s



If Robin was alive in the 13th Century, he would have been a product of a violent and repressed society. Most people lived the life of peasants and corruption and exploitation by those charged with upholding the law was rife. Thus, for the likes of Robin and his men, it was better to risk life as an outlaw than face a justice system open to bribery and intimidation.

As an outlaw of the most "most wanted" variety, Robin would know that a Royal Pardon represented his only real chance of redress. Given the plight of most people in 13th Century England, it is not in the least surprising that a people's hero who spurned authority and Noble rule would become a figure of folk-lore to be celebrated and held up as a champion of the poor.

A.D. 1224


The first Franciscan friars, named after St. Francis of Assissi, arrived in England in 1224 during Henry III's time. Franciscan friars were itinerant and denied themselves worldly goods. If  Friar Tuck were a friar then he would not have been, as often stated, of Fountains Abbey as this establishment was manned by monks of the Cistercian order who became wealthy and lived within the cloistered walls.

Friars did not belong to any particular monastic house but to a general order, working in the secular world as individuals.




Papal approval

Appearance in England


Grey Friars
Friars Minor.




Black Friars*
Friars Preachers




White Friars




Austin Friars
White Friars





A.D. 1225


The York assizes of 1225 refer to a "Robert Hod" - fugitive who was a tenant of the Archbishop of York.


A.D. 1226


Robert Hod appears in court records.



In 1936, L.V.D. Owen put forward another candidate for the identity of Robin Hood. This theory is based on records of the York assizes which, in 1226, included 32 shillings and 6 pence for the chattels of Robert Hod fugitive. The account occurred again the following year in which the name now appeared as "Hobbehod". Through notes in the margin it can be deduced that this Robert Hod was a tenant of the archbishopric.

Whilst there is no other evidence for this Robin Hood candidate, he was clearly an outlaw who had fled the juristriction of the court and remains the earliest reference discovered to date who might just be the man who sparked the legend we know and love today.



The eldest son of William de Kyme, Robert de Kyme was of Saxon blood. He was outlawed in 1226 for robbery and disturbing the King's peace and pardoned in 1227. According to Nottingham author Jim Lees, events in de Kyme's life bear a resemblance to events in the "Little Geste" ballad including his return to the forest as an outlaw following his pardon.

According to Lees, Robert de Kyme had claim to the pretended earldom of Huntingdon through ownership of land. Lees gives credit to Stukeley for being on the right trail to the identity of Robin Hood but claims to have uncovered new evidence for the family pedigrees which points conclusively in Lees's opinion to the de Kyme connection rather than that of fitz Ooth.


A.D. 1227


Robert Hod becomes "Hobbehod" in the records.


A.D. 1247 – or is it A.D. 1347?


According to the legend, Robin journeyed to Kirklees Priory where he was eventually killed by his cousin the prioress and Sir Roger of Doncaster.

It is at Kirklees Priory that the supposed grave of Robin Hood can still be seen to this day.

Sadly, much of Kirklees Priory is now ruined but roughly 600 metres from the gatehouse a medieval gravestone was found bearing a partial inscription "here lies Robard Hude..."


"Syr Roger of Donkestere

by the pryoresse he lay

and there they betrayed good Robyn Hode

through theyr false playe.

Cryst have mercy on his soule
That dyed on the rode!
For he was a good outlawe
And did poor men much good"
~ Final verses of "A gest of Robyn Hode"


A.D. 1261


In 1261, records show a William de Fevre was made an outlaw and one year later in 1262, a royal official renamed him on case records to "William Robehood" or "Robinhood".


A.D. 1262


Royal records show William Robehod's name changed to the nickname "Robinhood." . . . . The significance of this is that as early as 1262, Robin Hood had achieved such fame throughout the region that other outlaws were starting to be named after him. Thus, Robinhood was becoming a generic nickname for outlaws of the time.


A.D. 1266


William de Grey - Sheriff of Nottingham, in conflict with outlaws in Sherwood Forest.


A.D. 1280


Another interesting reference came to light in the 1850's with the discovery of a historic document giving details of a forester, Robert Hood, the son of Adam Hood. He was born in 1280 and lived with his wife Matilda in Wakefield, Yorkshire. Could Robert and Matilda have moved to Sherwood and become known as Robin and Marion?


A.D. 1300’s


There are at least 8 people before 1300 [A.D.] who were given the "Robinhood" nickname, at least 5 of whom were outlaws or people accused of criminal activity. One could speculate that this was a period of time where the activities of the real Robin Hood were well known.


A.D. 1304


Robin Hood named in folio 103 of registrum premonstratense.


A.D. 1316


Marriage of Matilda Hood to Robin Hood mentioned in the Wakefield Court Rolls.



Robin Hood was actually Robert Hood who appeared in the Wakefield Court Rolls in 1316 and 1317.


A.D. 1317


In 1317, the Earl of Lancaster began to form his own army gathered from tenants of the Manor of Wakefield to fight King Edward and his favoured nobles.


A.D. 1322


Robert Hood became an outlaw not through theft but through his support for Thomas, Earl of Lancaster who rebelled against King Edward II. at the battle of Boroughbridge in 1322.

Robert Hood was born at Loxley near Sheffield and, at the age of fifteen, killed his stepfather with a scythe during an argument. He fled to Barnsdale and then on to Wakefield where he appears in court roll entries for a string of minor offences.

In 1322, the army attacked Royalist forces at Boroughbridge and was defeated and consequently executed. All men loyal to Lancaster were stripped of their lands and possessions and those not present were declared to be outlaws. Thus were Robert Hood and a gathering of poverty stricken fellow men reduced to seeking subsistence and survival in nearby Barnsdale Forest. Could this have been the basis of the Robin Hood tales we know today?


A.D. 1323


Robyn Hood mentioned as a porter to "jornal ole la Chambre" of King Edward the second.


A.D. 1341


John Fordun, the canon of Aberdeen, in the Scottish chronicles, dates Robin Hood & Little John to 1266.


A.D. 1377


Piers the plowman published.



The earliest reference to Robin Hood is in William Langland's poem
"The vision of William concerning Piers Plowman" which was written in 1377.
The poem says:

"I do not know my paternoster perfectly as the priest sings it.
But I know the rhymes of Robin Hood and Randolph, earl of Chester".


A.D. 1376


John Gower has the characters of Robin and Marian in his poem.


A.D. 1400


Clearly, for the Gest of Robin Hood to be compiled by 1400, the stories must have been in circulation well before that date.


A.D. 1420


Original chronicle of Scotland by Andrew Wynton dates Robin Hood and Little John in Sherwood in the year 1283.



A.D. 1450


Robin Hood and the Monk published



A.D. 1475


Robin Hood and the Sheriff Published.


A.D. 1500


Robin Hood and the Potter Published.


A.D. 1508, 1548, and 1594


The little geste of Robin Hood and his meyne, and the proud Sheriff of Nottingham by Wynken de Worde published; based upon four separate oral ballads.


A.D. 1510


A major development in Robin's story came in 1510 with the publication of a poem entitled "a Lytell Gest of Robin Hood". This document gives any researcher seeking the identity of Robin a wealth of clues and information with its references to Nottingham, Barnsdale, Sherwood and the Sheriff of Nottingham.



A.D. 1521


John Major's History of Great Britain places Robin Hood in the time of Richard the Lionheart.



A.D. 1535

William Tyndale publishes his New Testament, giving the world a clearer English than England previously had. Three times more readers read his version of the scriptures than was read of Chaucer.



A.D. 1598


A play makes Robin a nobleman, the Earl of Huntingdon. 16th century Maid Marian is May Queen in the May games.16th century Evidence that Robin was born at Loxley.


A.D. 1746


In 1746, Dr. William Stukeley put forward the theory that the true identity of Robin Hood was Robert fitz Odo (or Fitzooth). According to Stukeley, he was born at Loxley and lived for 87 years. Robert fitz ooth was outlawed in the 12th. Century with his lands being transferred to Ranulf, Earl of Chester, the name associated with Robin Hood in the "Vision of Piers the Plowman" ie "I do not know my paternoster prefectly as the priest sings it, but I know the rhymes of Robin Hood and Randolph, earl of Chester."

This theory has come in for strong criticism by Professor J.C. Holt who believes that Stukeley confused the whole family pedigree to fit his theory and arrived at a wholly ficticious and fanciful account of this particular claim to the identity of Robin Hood. However, this did not prevent another researcher called Jim Lees following up Stukeley's claims and providing a new candidate for Robin's identity.


A.D. 1822


Robin is found as a character in "Ivanhoe" by [Sir Walter] Scott.


A.D. 1852


In 1852, Joseph Hunter's examination of historical documents led to the postulation that Robin Hood was actually Robert Hood who appeared in the Wakefield Court Rolls in 1316 and 1317. According to this theory, Robert Hood became an outlaw not through theft but through his support for Thomas, Earl of Lancaster who rebelled against King Edward II. at the battle of Boroughbridge in 1322.


A.D. 1938


Release of the famous film "The Adventures of Robin Hood" starring Errol Flynn.


A.D. 1991


Release of "Robin Prince of Thieves" starring Kevin Costner.



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