Where Did Robin Hood Live?
Robin Hood lived in Sherwood Forest, near Nottinghamshire in the centre of England. In those 12th Century days a vast region of open tracts, woodland glades and great oaks used to stretch for many miles from the city northwards. The region was called Sherwood Forest.
Until the time of the Normans the forest was used for hunting by the people of that region, or shire, and thereby acquired its earlier name of Shire Wood. The common people’s right to hunt ceased when the Norman Kings took over the forest for their own use. Strict laws were passed and special courts were set up to preserve them.
Specific sites in the county of Nottinghamshire that are directly linked to the Robin Hood legend include Robin Hood’s Well, located near Newstead Abbey (within the boundaries of Sherwood Forest), the Church of St. Mary in the village of Edwinstowe and most famously of all, the Major Oak also located at the village of Edwinstowe.
The Major Oak, which resides in the heart of Sherwood Forest, is popularly believed to have been used by the Merry Men as a hide-out. Dendrologists have contradicted this claim by estimating the tree’s true age at around eight hundred years; it would have been relatively a sapling in Robin’s time, at best.
Whether Robin Hood and his merry band of followers, which included little John, Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet and Maid Marian, ever existed is difficult to establish. Certainly by the end of the 12th Century, with control of royal Sherwood in the hands of feudal barons, the common people deeply resented the harsh and oppressive rule under which they lived. The time was ripe for stories about a man who robbed the rich to feed the poor.
The character of Robin Hood represented the ideals of the common people of the late Middle Ages. Ballads about his exploits have been preserved and may date from the 14th and 15th Centuries. In 1795 Joseph Ritson first published a collection of these in book form.
Over the years stories of the carefree folk-hero and his band of happy followers, living an idyllic life in the woodland glades of Sherwood during the days of the Plantagenet kings, have become the subject of many books.
Nottinghamshire’s claim to Robin Hood’s heritage is disputed, with Yorkists staking a claim to the outlaw. In demonstrating Yorkshire’s Robin Hood heritage, the historian J. C. Holt drew attention to the fact that although Sherwood Forest is mentioned in Robin Hood and the Monk, there is little information about the topography of the region, and thus suggested that Robin Hood was drawn to Nottinghamshire through his interactions with the city’s sheriff.
And, the linguist Lister Matheson has observed that the language of the Gest of Robyn Hode is written in a definite northern dialect, probably that of Yorkshire. In consequence, it seems probable that the Robin Hood legend actually originates from the county of Yorkshire. Robin Hood’s Yorkshire origins are universally accepted by professional historians.
A tradition dating back at least to the end of the 16th century gives Robin Hood’s birthplace as Loxley, Sheffield, in South Yorkshire. The original Robin Hood ballads, which originate from the fifteenth century, set events in the medieval forest of Barnsdale. Barnsdale was a wooded area covering an expanse of no more than thirty square miles, ranging six miles from north to south, with the River Went at Wentbridge near Pontefract forming its northern boundary and the villages of Skelbrooke and Hampole forming the southernmost region.
From east to west the forest extended about five miles, from Askern on the east to Badsworth in the west. At the northern most edge of the forest of Barnsdale, in the heart of the Went Valley, resides the village of Wentbridge. Wentbridge is a village in the City of Wakefield district of West Yorkshire, England. It lies around 3 miles (5 km) southeast of its nearest township of size, Pontefract, close to the A1 road.
During the medieval age Wentbridge was sometimes locally referred to by the name of Barnsdale because it was the predominant settlement in the forest. Wentbridge is mentioned in an early Robin Hood ballad, entitled, Robin Hood and the Potter, which reads, “Y mete hem bot at Went breg,’ syde Lyttyl John”.
And, while Wentbridge is not directly named in A Gest of Robyn Hode, the poem does appear to make a cryptic reference to the locality by depicting a poor knight explaining to Robin Hood that he ‘went at a bridge’ where there was wrestling’. A commemorative Blue Plaque has been placed on the bridge that crosses the River Went by Wakefield City Council.