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Dec
05

The "Lost Treasures" of Robin Hood!

The "Lost Treasures" of Robin Hood!

Mysterious tales and missing artefacts are "the stuff that legends are made of!" Strange events and puzzling disappearances all help add an element of intrigue that ensures any legendary folklore lives on - so BOB WHITE takes a closer look at some of the "lost treasures" surrounding Nottingham's outlaw hero, Robin Hood.

One of the most mystifying occurrences relates to the ballad in which Robin kills the Fifteen Foresters who refused to pay him the wager that he won fairly with his archery skills and the last verse states:
"They carried these foresters into fair Nottingham, as many there did know; They digged them graves in their church-yard and they buried them all in a row".

Then, according to the author and historian Joseph Ritson, the following extract appeared in the "The Star" (probably a Sheffield newspaper) on April 23rd 1796: "A few days ago, as some labourers were digging in a garden at Fox-lane, near Nottingham, they discovered six human skeletons entire, deposited in regular order side by side, supposed to be part of the fifteen foresters that were killed by Robin Hood." The news story goes on to say that the garden stood on the site of an ancient church that had been dedicated to St. Michael and had been totally demolished in the Reformation ,so no doubt the bones had been properly buried in the churchyard. The proprietor of the garden ordered the pit where the bodies were found to be filled up, "being unwilling to disturb the relics of humanity and the ashes of the dead!" The original site of St. Michael's church and its graveyard secrets have never since been discovered.

The location of St Anne's Well in the Wells Road in Nottingham's St. Ann's district is also the site of another buried "treasure" connected to the Robin Hood legend. Known over the centuries as "Robynhode's Well" - this holy well was linked to a charitable hermitage run by the Brothers of Lazarus, who were associated with the Knights Templar. Its spring water was believed to have substantial healing properties and an additional attraction was a selection of artefacts, including Robin Hood's bow, cap, chair, arrows, boots and bottle. During the 17th and 18th centuries, it was one of the most popular tourist attractions in England and remained so until 1825, when it had its liquor licence withdrawn and the Robin Hood artefacts were sold at auction to Lionel Raynor, a famous actor on the London stage. Before moving to America, he was said to have offered the items to the British Museum but they can find no record. A tea room operated on the site until 1855 and when the buildings at the well site were subsequently demolished, the town council commissioned a gothic style ornamental monument to mark the spot but in 1887 it was taken down by the Great Northern Railway to accommodate the 30ft deep foundations of an essential bridge. In 1987, local historian David Greenwood sank a shaft behind "The Gardeners" public house which had been built at the site and confirmed that the well was still there, saying "It's a treasure trove waiting for the next person with the nerve and the money to fully excavate it."

Another local story that claims to have located Robin Hood's Hideout is highlighted in actor Sir Bernard Miles 1979 book about the outlaw hero. In the epilogue, he refers to an incident in the 1820's when, somewhere near Bolsover in Derbyshire, two pitmen were sinking a shaft for a new coalmine when the earth alongside them fell away revealing a yawning gap through which there was a fireplace full of wood ash, cooking pots and utensils, blacksmiths tools and a storeroom with sacks and barrels. Against one wall was a rack of bows, broadswords and quivers full of arrows and at the end of one of the galleries was a tiny chapel with a cross still on the altar. The miners then found a skeleton wrapped in an old woollen habit, lying at the base of a flat wall with one hand holding a crucifix and the other a chisel. A long list of names was roughly scratched on the cavern wall and painfully scored at the bottom was, "I was the last – Michael Tuck." The skeleton was supposedly Friar Tuck's who appeared to have just managed to crawl there and scratch these few words before he collapsed and died. As the two miners climbed out of the shaft they had cut, to tell the world about what they had found, it triggered a huge rock fall that totally buried everything under hundreds of tons of stone and the story of their amazing discovery became just another local legend! However, Sir Bernard claimed that Robin's cave is still there, only a little way below the ground, close to one of the worked-out pits and that "one fine day it will be found again!"

For many years, local historian and Robin Hood enthusiast, Jim Lees, worked tirelessly to prove that the legendary outlaw was born in Nottingham and believed that a lost ancient manuscript was the missing link in the quest. The authentic, historical document was said to record a court appearance by Robert de Kyme, a nobleman born in what is now known as Bilborough and actually referred to him as Robin Hood. Mr Lees stated that the ancient court record was the most conclusive piece of evidence in existence that proved that "Robin Hood was real, that he was a local man and that Robin Hood was only a nickname." He said that Robert de Kyme was well documented in local archives and he was 99% certain that de Kyme and Robin Hood were one and the same, as their lives ran virtually parallel. The missing document was believed to be in the possession of a former research scholar who had previously been at the University of Nottingham and who they only knew as a Mr. McJohnson. Having failed on numerous occasions to track down the elusive academic - with the technological birth of the internet, Mr Lees enlisted the help of his nephew, Robert Henshaw and put out a global appeal to try to make contact with Mr. McJohnson and hopefully trace the whereabouts of the vital document that he believed held the key to historically proving that Robin Hood really had existed and was born in Nottingham. However, the task proved to be the proverbial "needle in a haystack" and to-date, neither Mr. McJohnson, or the ancient manuscript have ever come to light!

Local tradition has it that Little John's Cottage was once situated on Peafield Lane, between Mansfield Woodhouse and Edwinstowe, near the site of the old Roman Road but its precise location cannot be authenticated. Mockingly called Little John because of his tall, heavy stature, he was in fact John Nailer (Naylor), a nail maker originally called John of the Little. After Robin Hood's death at Kirklees Abbey in Yorkshire, Little John returned to the village of Cromwell, near Newark where he was said to have been given lands by Alan-a-Dale. His grave however, is in Hathersage in Derbyshire in the churchyard of St Michael's and All Angel's but his trusty Longbow is another of those "lost treasures" of the Robin Hood legend that seems to have disappeared! The 6' 7" bow was made of spliced yew, tipped with horn and needed a pull of 160 pounds to draw it. Originally brought to Cannon Hall, near Barnsley in 1729 it apparently hung on display there until the late 1960's, when on the death of the last owner of the hall, a Mrs Elizabeth Frazer it was given to the Wakefield Museum. However, Mrs. Frazer's son later took it to a manor house in Scotland where he died in 2004 and the current whereabouts of the bow remain a mystery.

When, in 2009, author Richard Maynard published his book "Wolfstrike: the Chronicles of Robyn Hode" he added another twist to the legend by claiming in the appendix that his story was based on a bundle of old manuscripts written by a Friar John in 1320, that had been discovered at a Derbyshire building site in 1948, buried beneath a coffin in an abandoned family crypt. They apparently came into Maynard's possession through an inheritance from his great uncle and he undertook the translation of the original text by trying to balance the integrity of the Friar's words with a modernised dialogue. The result was an intriguing version of the Robin Hood story that leaves the reader to decide the authenticity of the author's claims - or if it was just another clever marketing ploy?

The plain facts are that the entire Robin Hood legend is riddled with confusion - as artefacts and stories appear in a scattering of locations all around the region and far beyond. There are villages of Loxley or Locksley in Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire and an abundance of wells, woods, caves, stones, hiding places and lookouts etc. that bear Robin Hood's name stretching from Robin Hood's Bay, near Whitby to Robin Hoode Walke down in Richmond Park, Surrey? In July, 1992, the infamous Sunday Sport newspaper even claimed that Robin's body had been found buried in his beloved Sherwood Forest – supposedly clutching Maid Marian's knickers!

Everyone loves a mystery - and, from the historically significant to the weird and bizarre, a miscellany of "lost treasures", intriguing tales, strange events and places continually weave their colourful strands into the rich tapestry of Robin Hood folklore, breathing new life into the traditional stories that all help ensure that the legend lives on !

Dec
04

Where is Robin buried?

Where is Robin Buried?


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..."

Robin Hood's Gravestone at Kirklees.

"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"

Dec
04

The Darker Side of Robin Hood!

The Darker Side of Robin Hood!

History has been particularly kind to the legend of Robin Hood. Popular culture has made him a symbolic icon of freedom and social justice, and blessed him with a wealth of virtues and attributes appropriately befitting his global status as a worthy Peoples Champion!

However, if you peel away the numerous layers of myth and fantasy that have contributed to his international fame, you soon discover that underneath the glossy veneer of his Lincoln Green profile lie some very "dark" roots and unsavoury connections to violence and evil that add a sinister edge to the origins surrounding the familiar Robin Hood character!

Academics are quick to point out that, first and foremost, Robin Hood was an "outlaw" and that many of the "real life" bandits that various historians believe his exploits may be based on, were nothing more than merciless, murderous thieves who showed no compassion or ethics other than for their own self preservation. Medieval outlaw gangs such as the Bradburns in Yorkshire and the Folvilles and Cotterels, who terrorised Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, still enjoyed public admiration, despite having committed some horrendously despicable crimes. In fact, over the centuries, many hardened criminals deliberately drew comparisons with the traditional Robin Hood legend to generate popular support and "soften" their image to gain unwarranted public sympathy!

We know Robin Hood has long been associated with the mysterious spirits of forest folklore surrounding the Pagan and Celtic gods, such as the Green Man and Herne the Hunter but there are also plausible suggestions that he may even have been a member of the Knights Templar – the heroic, soldier-monks who guarded pilgrims on their journey to the Holy Land during the Crusades and became defenders of the Holy Church and fought alongside Richard the Lionheart. When their mysterious Order was ex-communicated by the Catholic church in 1307, many Templar's fled to the forests of middle England which was already a haven for gangs of outlaws resisting the authorities. To help their inconspicuous appearance and to avoid detection as they moved from place to place, they often wore little more than the hooded attire befitting a monk – from which the words "hood" or "hoodlum" are derived and which some historians believe are the true origin of the name Robin Hood or Robin of the Hood – or even Robbing Hood!!

Cloaked in a secrecy that hung over their Order like a shadowy veil, the Templar's were also regarded suspiciously by their critics as "an esoteric brotherhood, hungry for forbidden knowledge" and considered to be "the witches next of kin" who forged links with occult groups in the Arab world and became involved in diabolic practices. The celebrated author, Sir Walter Scott believed their military-style organisation to be truly evil and he made the Templar's the villains of his classic novel, "Ivanhoe" - which also featured Robin Hood and his band of Sherwood outlaws.

In the early thirteenth century ballad, "The Geste of Robyn Hode", we get a glimpse of Robin's cruel streak when he mercilessly kills the Fifteen Foresters in cold blood to avenge his anger for them failing to pay him their due wager for a test of his archery skills.

Television historian, Michael Wood, states that by 1300, the term "Robehode" was commonly used to describe any local villain and several Hods and Hoods appear in court registers of the day with the first name Robert – including a family from Wakefield, in Yorkshire, who between 1270 and 1340, were notorious for their casual, brutal violence and anti-social behaviour and became the medieval version of modern-day "neighbours from hell" !

Even present-day criminals still aspire to likening themselves to England's Sherwood folk hero but fraudster, Ian Pass, must have regretted bragging "Robin Hood used a bow and arrow. I use a laptop" on ITV's Trisha Show, as it led to him being jailed for four years for deception!

Dec
04

Where did Robin live?

Where did Robin live?

No story of Robin Hood is complete without its setting, Sherwood Forest which in Robin's time covered about 100,000 acres. At the heart of the Greenwood encampment lies the famous Major Oak, the "council tree" of the outlaw band.

"Robyn hod in scherewod stod
hodud and hathud and hosut and schod
four and thuynti arows
he bar in hits hondus"

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 and attracts around 3/4 million visitors a year who flock to see the Major Oak and the Visitor Centre.
Each year in August the Forest plays host to the Robin Hood Festival where enthusiasts can recapture the spirit of Robin Hood in the beautiful surroundings of the Greenwood.

Dec
04

Ghostly sightings at Robin Hoods grave!

Ghostly sightings at Robin Hoods grave

Surprisingly, Robin Hood’s longest running connections with the occult and “dark arts” focus on the many claims of supernatural sightings and vampirism that in later years have become associated with his most well-known, presumed gravesite at Kirklees Priory, in Yorkshire - where, according to the traditional tale, Robin’s treacherous cousin, the Prioress, deliberately bled him to death, in league with her evil, forbidden lover, Red Roger of Doncaster.

Frequent ghostly apparitions, a succession of paranormal investigations and numerous books written on the subject, have resulted in an endless stream of media stories that have constantly fired public imagination. There are hundreds of reported sightings in and around the grave-site and probably thousands more that were not reported by people who feared they might not be believed!, Roger Williams described a typical encounter that he and a friend experienced in the 1960’s, when the figure of a woman, (believed to be the evil Prioress), silently glided towards them. At a distance of five yards, they could see her face with its brooding, annoyed expression and dark, mad, staring eyes, then, without looking back, she was gone! Amazingly, this all took place at 2.30pm on a bright, sunny afternoon!

Up until the early Twentieth Century, Kirklees Park, the private home of the Armytage family, was in its prime and considered to be an area of particular scenic beauty but as the grounds and buildings on the estate fell into decline and became in need of repair, the overgrown and isolated environment surrounding the site of Robin Hood’s Grave developed a more corrupt atmosphere and a spiritual “sense of place” that over the last 50 years has evoked an abundance of supposed supernatural and paranormal associations, including claims of being cursed by vampires!!  

Dec
04

When did Robin live?

When did Robin live?

Historians and researchers have a range of views but generally believe that Robin Hood was alive around the thirteenth century. 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".

Other historical evidence places Robin anywhere between 1190 and 1307.

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

Dec
04

“Debunking Robin Hood!“ Respected historian gives London talk on the factual and mythical origins of the legendary outlaw hero

"Debunking Robin Hood" Respected Historian gives London talk on the factual and mythical origins of the legendary outlaw hero

Genius professor and exuberant lecturer Prof Ronald Hutton returns to the Crick Crack Club following January's brilliant exploration of the figure of the Hero. This time, he's here to examine Outlaws, and how Outlaws becomes folk heroes. The best example of just such a hero is the world's most famous outlaw, Robin Hood, a figure as surrounded by legend as he is by historical fact. What does Robin have that the others don't?

With customary intelligence and humour, Professor Hutton will dissect the Robin Hood story we know and love. He'll give Maid Marian a once-over, and – over wine and nibbles - scrutinise Friar Tuck's waistline, too. He'll muse over which roads are best for a good highway mugging and ask: Why is Robin Hood so famous? How long has his legend been in existence? What has been added to it and when? And finally, the awkward matter of: Did Robin Hood ever actually exist?

RONALD HUTTON is the Professor of History at Bristol University, where he has taught for thirty-three years after winning his degrees at Cambridge and then Oxford and being elected to a Fellowship at an Oxford College. He has since been made a Fellow of the British Academy and of three other learned societies. He has broadcast regularly on radio and television for thirty years, writing and presenting his own work as well as being a regular contributor to documentaries: his most recent series, "Professor Hutton's Curiosities," explored London museums for the Yesterday Channel. His most recent publication is Pagan Britain (Yale University Press, 2013).

The talk was given on Wednesday 8th April 2015 and was the first event of the Crick Crack Club's Spring Events.

CLICK HERE TO READ OUR REVIEW

THE CRICK CRACK CLUB is England's premier promoter and programmer of performance storytelling. It has led the revival of performance storytelling in the UK since 1987 – focusing on the contemporary performance of international folktale, fairytales, myth & epic for predominantly adult audiences. It collaborates actively with numerous theatres, arts centres, festivals and music venues across the UK. It also tours work nationally; offers practical training, and mentors emerging artists.

Dec
04

Who was Robin Hood?

Who was Robin Hood?

Robin is famous for his gallantry, robbing the rich to feed the poor and fighting against injustice and tyranny. Anyone who knows of Robin has also heard the stories of his outlaw band. The names of Little John, Friar Tuck, Maid Marion, Allan a Dale, Will Scarlet, Much the Miller and the evil Sheriff of Nottingham are as much a part of the legend as Robin Hood himself.

The stories of Robin portray him as a fearless outlaw leading his band of "merry men" (and women) against the tyranny of Prince John, The Sheriff of Nottingham and Sir Guy of Gisbourne. A brilliant archer, Robin lived a life of adventure - poaching the King's deer from the outlaws' retreat in Sherwood Forest.

Stories about the adventures of Robin have been told and retold for over six hundred years. In Robin's time, few people could read or write and consequently little was written down about the exploits of our hero. Instead, people learnt about Robin and his band through the ballad and song of wandering minstrels who weaved a patchwork of fact and fiction into the contemporary culture of the time.

Dec
04

Parliament bans the riotous ribaldry of the traditional Robin Hoods day customs

Parliament bans the riotous ribaldry of the traditional Robin Hoods day customs

In their quest to find the true origins of the Robin Hood legend, historians often link it to the early pagan festivals of “Robin Hood’s Day” (May 1st) and “Midsummer’s Day” (June 30th).

Celebrated to signify the arrival of Spring, a feature of the traditional event was the customary performance of a play in which a youth acting as Robin Hood would take the Queen of the May or “Maid Marion” into the woods where the Abbot of Unreason (otherwise known as Friar Tuck) would “bless” their coupling! The lewd and immoral content of these performances was greatly enjoyed by the common people and became the excuse for loutish behaviour and riotous feasting and drinking.

Inevitably, the authorities in England and Scotland grew increasingly concerned over the ribald tone of the celebrations and the fact that the parody of matrimony, combined with all the drink-fuelled merrymaking, gave Robin Hood’s Day a notorious reputation for producing an increased number of illegitimate children born around the end of each January! Often referred to as “the sons of Robin”, some historians claim this was how the surname Robinson may have been derived?

Even though the Scottish Parliament decreed in 1555 that “ no one should act as Robin Hood, Little John, the Abbot of Unreason or Queen of the May”, it wasn’t until the Puritanical influences of the 17th century that the English Parliament banned Robin Hood’s Day outright. The festival was re-introduced during the Restoration period but the celebration became known as May Day and the Church and Civic authorities could finally acknowledge that they had successfully erased Robin Hood’s Day from public memory!

Dec
04

Man or Myth? – It no longer really matters!

Man or myth? – It no longer really matters!

Man or Myth? Invariably, that is the most frequently asked question about Robin Hood and because there is no conclusive, undisputed historical evidence that categorically proves his actual existence or who he really was, Robin has become an extremely divisive figure and the elusive mystery as to his true origins only adds to the intrigue and fascination. Whether he lived or not, no longer really matters.

Over the centuries, fiction has triumphed over fact and the tales of England's famous outlaw have become a worldwide legend establishing Robin Hood as "the People's Hero" and elevating him to "international celebrity" status as an icon of popular culture with a fan base that stretches back over 500 years!

As a retired public relations and marketing professional, my own personal interest in Robin Hood has never been about the historic "man or myth" issue but has been more practically focussed on how Nottingham's legendary figurehead evolved into a powerful global "brand" and how that phenomenal promotional potential might be more effectively harnessed for the benefit of his home city and county.

The recent discovery of Richard III 's remains under a Leicester car park inevitably sparked off some rival comments about the "historic credibility" of the find compared with Robin Hood's "fantasy existence" but fact or fiction should make no difference when it comes down to effective marketing.

The Walt Disney Organisation attributes it's highly successful marketing mantra to being based on the fact that they treat their fantasy creations as "real commercial brands or personalities" and actively exploit every opportunity to vigorously promote their marketing and publicity potential. A glance through any of the promotional and media packs that accompanied some of their animated classic movies shows just how seriously they adopted this practice and their success proves how effective this strategy was.

Other examples of how you can successfully market a "fantasy" are the Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker Street, London; the Harry Potter studio experience in Hertfordshire; Peppa Pig World in Hampshire and the Tintin museum in Belgium – all proving that the "man or myth" debate should NOT be seen as an obstacle preventing Nottingham and Notts from fully capitalising on their legendary Robin Hood connections. On a recent visit to London, I also noticed the building in Leicester Square that houses M&M's World, a visitor attraction that is based entirely on the popular chocolate and candy confectionery brand – and with that bizarre example I rest my case!