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Robin Hood and the Heart of Sherwood Forest

September 18, 2012

‘Old Tom’ In Clipstone Old Quarter would have been a fine tree in Robin Hood’s Time

Robin Hood legends from the heart of Sherwood Forest. Did Richard the Lion Heart meet the bold outlaw here?

Robin Hood walk RH1     11.2km

Robin Hood walk RH2    12.8km

Robin Hood walk RH3    15.1km

In mediaeval times the Sherwood Forest  (old English Shirwood – the wood of the shire) was 20 mile long and 8 miles wide. The land was poor and sandy so it was sparsely populated with most of the villages on its boundary making it an ideal place for outlaws.

One of only two villages completely within the forest, Kings Clipstone and its Royal Palace and Hunting Park were at the heart of the Forest. In Robin’s day it would have been a mixture of woods, wet and dry heathland and scrubby trees (‘shrogges’).

King John’s Palace

To make it an important provincial royal palace, Henry II added the Great Hall in 1180 and  enclosed the Royal Hunting Park with a 7 mile long pale(fence). Local folklore is that this may have given rise to some of the tales of Robin Hood. It was already a difficult place to make a living because of the poor sandy soil and the fierce forest laws controlling hunting, gathering timber and firewood, grazing animals and even gathering bracken. Villagers must have found the loss of so much forest pasture a savage blow. Some may decided to break the law. Discovered, they may have fled and become outlaws. Even a Vicar of Edwinstowe and a Bishop of Lincoln were caught poaching!!

Legend has it that Robin Hood and his men released peasants imprisoned in the Palace undercroft by King John. Robin tricked the King by letting it be known that he was hiding in the caves at Creswell Crags. Once the King led his men off to capture the outlaw, Robin and his men raided the palace and released the peasants.

Another Palace tale has Robin either proposing to Maid Marion through, or rescuing her from, an upstairs window of the palace.

One of the earliest pieces of land to be enclosed in the village, close to the ruins, was called Robin Hood’s Close tocelebrate the connection.

The stone marking the site of Robin Hood Whetstone, recorded on the 1630 Clipstone Estate map.

Sherwood Pines Forest Park – Robin Hood’s Whetstone

Whetstones were used for sharpening blades and arrow tips. Robin Hood’s Whetstone was recorded on the 1630 estate map of the parish as a boundary marker or ‘meer stone’. The stone can be found next to the old Mansfield to Tuxford (Great North Road) coach road shown below.

The old coach road at the top of the ‘Long Stoop’ in Shwerwood Pines. Robin Hood’s Whetstone is just beyond the heathland on the right.

Pittance Dale in Sherwood Pines.

Pittance Dale – it is easy to imagine Richard the Lionheart meeting Robin and his men here as he rode from Nottingham to the Palace in Kings Clipstone in 1193. A few days later Richard is recorded as having crossed the dale at the bottom end, riding from Kings Clipstone to Southwell with King William the Lion, King of Scots.

 Archway House – the Duke of Portland’s Lodge

Archway House with its forest folklore figures adorning the front and back.

Straddling the Green Ride through the forest, the lodge was sited so that the Centre Tree, a mile and half away, could be seen through the arch. The design is based externally on Worksop Priory Gatehouse. The gatehouse is an important building because it still has the original mediaeval sculptures adorning the outside, very rare survivors of the Reformation.

The Lodge’s niches contain statues of the forest’s folklore heroes. On the south side(front) there are figures of Robin Hood, Little John and Maid Marion. On the north  King Richard, an old friar, and Allen-a- Dale appear.

On the ground floor were two homes for Estate workers, one either side of the arch. The upper storey started life as a banqueting room but was quickly converted to a schoolroom, the first school for children on this part of the estate.

 St Mary’s Church St Mary’s church, Edwinstowe

Each year hundreds of visitors flock to Edwinstowe parish church, drawn by the legend that Robin Hood and Maid Marion married at the church door. There is a sculpture of the pair outside the library.

The church, built by Henry II, slightly predates the Great Hall of King John’s Palace but a lot of rebuilding was carried out in the 19th Century. Inside the church there is a decorative screen commemorating Forest folk law.

The Major Oak – Robin’s secret hiding place?

‘The Major Oak’ or Major’s Oak was called the Queen Oak and the Major’s Oak during the 19th century . The tree was named after Major Haydan Rooke, an important 18th century historian and early archaeologist, who surveyed many Roman & mediaeval sites. He also surveyed and recorded all the ancient oaks of Sherwood and often walked to the tree from his Mansfield Woodhouse home.

According to tales,  Robin and his men met under the tree to make their plans.  It was also claimed that the hole in its enormous split trunk provided a secret hiding place for Robin Hood and his merry men.

An old tinted postcard  of the Shambles Oak which had hooks for hanging meat inside the hollow trunk.

Robin Hood’s Larder

Robin Hood’s Larder, also known as the Shambles(butchery), was a large hollow oak tree where the Sherwood outlaws supposedly hung their venison they had poached. It was near the Black Pool in Clipstone Old Quarter but was blown down during a gale about 1962.

Parliament Oak was already an ancient tree by the mid 1700’s

Parliament Oak

Parliament Oak is situated on Peafield Lane (A6075) about two miles west of Kings Clipstone. It is an original boundary tree for Clipstone Hunting Park. Thought to be more than 1100 years old, it is probably the oldest tree in Sherwood. It would have been just coming into its prime in Robin’s day. Robin and outlaw band could have met in its spreading branches.

Legend has it that it got its name because King John, hearing of a Welsh rebellion, summand his lords hunting in the park to met him under the tree for a Council or Parliament. He then ordered the immediate hanging of the rebel’s sons held hostage in Nottingham Castle.

The original main trunk died and lays on the ground, but two small shoots have grown into the two trunks (called phoenix trees).  The picture on the left shows the tree in the mid 1700s

Saint Edwin’s Chapel

The cross on the dege of Birklands marking the St Edwin’s Chapel

The hermitage  and chapel of St Edwin was Saxon in origin. King Edwin of Northumbria was the first Saxon king to become a christian. He was killed in 633AD in the battle of Hatfield, fighting the army of the pagan King Penga of Mercia.  Hatfield was close to nearby Cuckney. His defeated men carried his body deep into the Forest and hid it in a secluded spot, planning to return for it later. Returning to collect the remains, they found local people venerating him as a saint and a chapel was erected to mark the spot. The cross was erected in 1912 to mark the site of the chapel and hermitage.

The chapel is well documented during the time of the Plantagenets. In 1201, the Sheriff of Nottingham and Derby paid 20s to the Chaplain of Clipstone. In 1212 King John started regular payments for ‘the ministering for the soul of King Henry’, his father. Similar payments by succeeding kings were paid until the time of Henry VIII.

It’s claimed locally that Friar Tuck, after secretly poisoning King John in Newark Castle, became the hermit looking after the chapel. One thing we do know, the isolated chapel would have been an ideal place for the Forest outlaws to worship.

The Lawndes of Ann Bowers Hill

Until the new village of Clipstone was built in the 1920s this area was called Flixter Breck.  It is said that Robin Hood and his men used to practice on the close cropped ‘lawndes’ behind Ann Bower’s Hill, Vicar Water Country Park. Areas of short grassland can still be seen today. The word ‘lawndes’ comes from the Celtic and Old French for a grassy place in heathland. From the view direction table at the top of the hill Robin Hood Hill at Oxton and Robin Hood Hills at Kirkby can be seen, even the spire of Lincoln Cathedral can be seen on very clear days.

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