The Robin Hood Legend
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Robin Hood
an alternative view
by Frank Dennett MBE
Sheriff of Nottingham 1980 - 81 and 1984 - 85
To those 'who know', there has never been any doubt that Robin Hood, of Nottingham, outlaw, bane of successive Sheriffs enemy of the rich, benefactor of the poor and eternal hero of the English people, at home or abroad, really existed.

To say that Robin was not a real person is to make a profound statement for which no evidence exists to substantiate it. Many have written in support of our hero and many against; the latter being of the opinion that he was a myth, a creation of ballads and a figment of the imagination, but evidence has been presented, mainly by Jim Lees, Nottinghamshire, who has researched the history over nearly forty years, to prove, beyond a doubt, that Robin Hood lived; but not during the period indicated by the legend made popular by the American film makers.

England, prior to the Norman Conquest of 1066, was inhabited by Saxons and, when William I took control of his 'new lands', the area of land central to our story was in the hands of a Saxon Lord by the name of William Anschetil. The land in question was the Kyme lands of Lincolnshire which, coming under the control of the Conqueror, became the responsibility of Gilbert de Grant (Gaunt) 1086 who, as one of William's Knights, managed it for the King. The said Gilbert died without issue and the Kyme estate passed into the hands of Ralph Fitzooth (Knight) (1106-1147) who had been the Steward of de Grant. Ralph married Maud, from which association one child, a daughter named Hawise (Avice) (1147-1194), was born, who married the Saxon, Philip de Kyme, still styled Lord of Kyme.

A quirk of history came with the marriage, for, Philip was the greatgrandson of William (Lord at the time of the Conqueror) and grandson of William Fitz Anschetil (1066-1115/6), tenant of Waldron, the engineer, and son of Simon Fitz William (1115-1161/2), the founder of Bollington Priory; note the change of name which was common in those times. Philip de Kyme's son, Simon, Sheriff of Lincoln, 1197, supported the Barons against John; he married Rohese, co-heiress of Robert de Maltby, and died in 1220. Simon had a son, Philip, supporter of the Barons, until 1217, who married Agnes Welles (Walleys) from which marriage came another Simon, Lord of Kyme, and he married Maud de Ferrers (daughter of William de Ferrers, Earl of Derby, Lord of Loxley), but he died in 1248 without issue, so that the title, Lord of Kyme, passed to his brother William whose first wife Rohese, presented him with a son, Robert, and a daughter Margaret.

Around the period 1240 to 1250, Rohese died and William took a second wife, Lucy, who was the daughter of William de Roos, at one time Lord of the Manor of Warsop, North Nottinghamshire, and grandaughter of William, the Lion of Scotland, Earl of Huntingdon. William's second marriage resulted in two sons, Philip and Simon. The eldest son, Robert, as a minor, held lands in Oxcombe, Lincolnshire, of his Uncle Simon who held them of the Earl of Chester. So it is correct to say that, in all, there is some substance in the notion that this Robert had pretentions to being 'a noble man' with connections to the Earl of Huntingdon.

However, Robert de Kyme, whose father William, Lord of Kyme, lived at Bilborough Manor, Nottingham, never succeeded to the title for, in 1226, he was accused of crime(s) and, failing to respond to the demands of the courts, under the jurisdiction of the Sheriffs, on behalf of the King, he was, eventually, declared an outlaw; his father disowned him.

It appears that Robert, fearing for his life, due to his family's action in the Baron uprising against the King, changed his name to Robin Hood and took to the Sherwood Forest. Following his successful battle against the Barons (Evesham 1265), King Henry III, and his son Prince Edward, visited Nottingham to flush out the remnants of their opposition; it is here that we get the basis of the story of Robin Hood. King Henry III made another visit to Nottingham, on 23rd. August 1268 and, in the years 1269, 1270 and 1290, Edward 1 visited the town and, along with the Sheriff's organised the search and capture of Robin Hood.

In the Calendar of Patent Rolls, Public Records Office, "In 1272 by the King's writ of February 11th. at Westminster, Reginald de Grey, Sheriff at the time, waged war on Robin and was paid one hundred marks to rid the counties of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire of robbers, on horseback and on foot, who molested religious and other persons and spoiled them of their sport".

As indicated earlier, the Sheriff was a local officer, appointed by the King and, during Robin's lifetime, there was several, some being: -

1214 Phillip Marc
1224 Ralph filius Nicholai
1236 Hugh filius Radulfi
1246 Robert Vavassur (Lord of Bilborough)
1260 Simon de Aslakiston (Aslockton)
1264 John de Grey
1266 Reginald de Grey
1279 Sir Gervase de Clifton

These Sheriffs were successful noblemen and lived at the Red Lodge, in what is now Angel Row, in Nottingham City Centre. It can be said that many of the exploits of Robin Hood, his outlaws, the Sheriff's, the King's and the Clergy were 'embroidered" by the legend but, sufficient information indicates that they emanated from similar, less flamboyant, activities.

One feature of Robin Hood's character was that he was extremely pious and devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary; he was fearless in his strength of her protection. Because he so respected womanhood, it was the law of the outlaw band that no harm be done to any woman, or man in woman's company - a command that he reminded Little John of at the time of his death.

Today, we cannot seperate Robin Hood from Maid Marian, who remains a chaste lady - usually in the castle under "house arrest" by the 'wicked Sheriff', and warned Robin of danger, but the fact is that there never was such a person. The Maid Marian was originally created by the Morris Dancers, on the occasion of the May Festivals (and others as time went by), as the personification of the Blessed Mary; Robin Hood also featured in these festive activities.

Little John, so called for his heavy stature, was, in fact, John Nailer (Naylor), a nail maker, originally called John of the
Little; tradition has it that John lived in a cottage on Peafield Lane, between Mansfield Woodhouse and Edwinstowe, which is the Site of old Roman Road,

Friar Tuck was a character representative of many people, over the years, and, unlike Robin Hood, never existed as a real person for friars were not established until some time later. It is suggested that the name is derived from "Frere Tucke" (Brother or friend Tucke) a name given by locals to a person who misbehaved and was a troublemaker. Another story is that some person, in Robin Hood's band of outlaws, had a close assocation with the monks at Lenton Priory, in Nottingham, and this led to his christening as Friar Tuck.

George '0' Green was a local pinder, a person who looked after the animal pound and Gilbert of the Lilly White Hand was so named for his "purity". Will Stukely, Right Hitting Brand and others would, no doubt, be names given by the people where they lived.

Will Scarlet (Scathelocke) is reputed to have been buried near a church at Blidworth but no record of his death, or burial, nor have any remains been found. Scathelocke is a nickname derived from "scathe" to burn, and "locke" meaning hair; Scarlet was a red head.

Much the miller's son was a close friend of the Kyme family and
thus had to be local for, as Robin's father owned Bilborough
Manor, which included a mill, on the River Leen - Boburmilne (now
Bobbers Mill), Nottingham; it could be that Much (Mycel or
Mulohel) was the son of the miller.

Alan a Dale was "the man who lived in the dale". History has it that, in the village church, of Papplewick, where Alan lived, Robin and his men took from the Bishop the sweet maiden he was to marry to an old and wealthy Norman, and restored her to her true love Alan. On the Bishop's insistance that the marriage could not be legal, as the banns had not been called, Robin took from him his cope and mitre and gave them to Little John who called the banns seven times to make sure the matter was legal.

Guy of Gisborne, styled by some as Sir, may have come from the market town of Gisburn, in Yorkshire, though people there have no knowledge of this, but a Knight of Derbyshire and Staffordshire certainly does have a claim, for a family of that name lived who are certain that this man was of their blood.

Nottingham, Sherwood Forest and Robin Hood are synonymous, it would take more than a day to visit the locations in Nottingham that are associated with our hero and at least a week to travel the forest to take a look at the many sites with tales to tell of the greenwood outlaws.

Sherwood Forest (a Royal Hunting Forest) was some twenty five miles from east to west, filled, in the main, with English Oak and, near Edwinstowe, is to be found Robin Hood's trysting tree (Major Oak), used mainly for hiding from the Sheriff's men; it is possible for some eight, or ten, grown men to get into the trunk of this tree.

Unfortunately, another large oak (Robin Hood's Larder) was blown down in a gale during the 1960's; this tree is reputed to be the main one to house the King's venison and other animals and wild fowl. On a road from Larch Farm (A60), near to Newstead Abbey gate entrance, there is a footpath to Fountain Dale where, on a bridge crossing a stream, Robin Hood and Little John fought at their first meeting; in the same area is Friar Tuck's well.

On the same road on which Little John is reputed to have lived, opposite Red Brick House Farm, now a restaurant, there stands Parliament Oak, so named after King Edward I, who, on one of his sorties to search for Robin Hood, held Parliament there with his nobles. This meeting took place in 1290 and indicates that Robin Hood was still alive at that time.

In Papplewick Church (The Foresters Church), so named because Robin and his men used it, there are old gravestones in the floor which bear carvings of bows and arrows, along with the belt and hunting horn of a forester and, nearby, there are stables used, in secret, by Robin Hood. In Warsop, some miles north it is said that the locals never locked their doors as Robin Hood was always welcome; an examination of the derivation of the name of Warsop tells us that the first part comes from the Old English "waer" - meaning cautious or "Waerg" - meaning outlaw and the second part "hop"-meaning valley; thus we have "Waers-hop" meaning the home of the outlaw.

Distempered by cold and age, he had great pains in his limbs, Robin found himself, with Little John, in Kirklees, of the parish of Staynton. And a woman of that parish, named Elizabeth, is the one who bled our hero. It is not certain whether or not she was trying to ease his pain or, in the pay of Roger of Doncaster (Red Roger), a King's man, took his life. It is not possible, however, for Elizabeth Staynton, (his kinswoman - later to become Prioress of Kirklees Priory) to have done the deed, for she was only twelve years of age at the time.

It seems fairly accepted, that Robin shot his last arrow and was buried where it fell, by his friend Little John, who kept his promise not to harm the woman concerned. The end of the story came between 1290 and 1295, which does mean that Robin Hood died between seventy five and eighty five years of age.

Frank Dennett MBE,
Honorary Alderman,
Sheriff of Nottingham
1980-81 and 1984-85.

16th. January 1991.

Our thanks to Alderman Frank Dennett for his permission to reproduce this article.

Honorary Alderman Frank Dennett was first elected to the ancient and historic office of Sheriff of Nottingham on 12th. May 1980.

Together with his wife, Honorary Alderman Francis Dennett, they have been instrumental in promoting Robin Hood and the city of Nottingham throughout the world.

In addition to Robin Hood, Frank Dennett has also compiled a history of the Sheriffs and Lord Mayors of Nottingham and comprehensively catalogued the art of T.W. Hammond whose paintings hang in many of our city's most historic buildings.
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