Icons of England
  • Introduction
  • The Icons
  • Nominations
  • News
  • Learn & Play
  • Your Comments

Robin Hood

Rival Claims

Hear the name Robin Hood and the place that comes to mind is Nottingham. But could the legendary figure actually have been a Yorkshireman..?

Evidence for Yorkshire

The very first ballads that feature Robin Hood place him in Yorkshire. The first time he is mentioned in English literature is in a line from William Langland's Piers Plowman, written in around 1377. 

He features more heavily in A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode, a 13,900-word ballad that was printed in about 1500, but written earlier. This ballad is very different from the version of the Robin Hood story we are familiar with today. In it, Robin isn't a nobleman but a yeoman (low-born freeman). However, the biggest difference is the setting: it is not Sherwood Forest. The poem is set in the forests of Barnsdale, between Doncaster and the village of Wentbridge in Yorkshire.

Many legends say that Robin operated in Barnsdale where many travellers were on their guard against robbers like Robin and the Merry Men. A tree known as the bishop's tree marks the spot where Robin robbed the Bishop of Hereford. Several place names around Barnsdale, like the Sayles Plantation, Wentbridge and Doncaster are mentioned in stories.

Robin Hood's Well

Robin Hood's Bay
Robin Hood's Bay village, North Yorkshire
© TopFoto.co.uk
A few miles from Wentbridge is more proof for Yorkshire's claim – Robin Hood's Well, near Skelbrooke. It is the earliest known place-name associated with the legendary outlaw.

Over the next 300 years, more places were named after the hero: Robin Hood's Bay, near Whitby; Robin Hood's Butts in Cumbria, Robin Hood's Walk in Richmond, Surrey – everywhere except in Sherwood. There, it was only in 1700 that a place was named after Robin Hood.

Loxley (or Locksley) in South Yorkshire is thought by some to be the birthplace of Robin Hood. The place-name is first associated with his birth in the Sloane Manuscript of about 1600, and reinforced by Sir Walter Scott in his 1820 novel Ivanhoe.

Here, the foundations of Robin's traditional birthplace were apparently visible in Little Haggas Croft. A nearby pub, called The Robin Hood, is locally said to have been where Robin Hood drank.

More evidence...

The Sloane Manuscript also says Robin Hood was born in Locksley, Yorkshire. However, some say that Locksley was in Nottinghamshire and there have been boundary disputes.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica
agrees that the early Medieval ballads such as the Geste, Robin Hood And The Monk, Robin Hood And Guy of Gisborne, Robin Hood And The Potter all show that the action took place in South Yorkshire rather than Nottinghamshire.

But it is possible that Robin Hood's adventures took place both in both because they are adjacent counties, and when the land was more forested than it is now, Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire continued into Barnsdale Forest in South Yorkshire.

Dispute in Parliament

John Mann, MP as Robin Hood
John Mann, MP for Bassetlaw, outside the House of Commons on February 11, 2004, where he defended claims by a group of MPs that Robin Hood was a Yorkshireman
© PA / TopFoto
In February 2004, the debate even reached Westminster when West Yorkshire MPs tried to prove that Robin Hood was from Wakefield. Labour MP David Hinchliffe put forward a Commons motion claiming the records show Hood was from his constituency.

But in a rival motion, a group of Nottinghamshire MPs said the claims are inaccurate, accusing their Yorkshire colleagues of being "confused".

Other places associated with Robin Hood are:

Blyth, Doncaster, Kirklees, The Greenwood, York, South Owram near Halifax, Huddersfield, Wortley, Barnsley, Rotherham, Wakefield, Bawtry and the Sayles.

And then there's Huntingdon, which isn't part of Nottinghamshire or Yorkshire. But Robin was said to be Earl of Huntingdon...