The legend of Robin Hood is a tale that has been told for centuries, and will surely be told for centuries to come. The prince of thieves who stole from the rich and gave to the poor has long been associated with Nottingham, more specifically Sherwood Forest, but was the medieval folk hero operating outside of his home region?
Nottingham locals are quick to claim Robin Hood as one of their own; they won’t hear anything other than the legendary archer being born and bred in the area. However, many ballads published in the Middles Ages suggest that Robin Hood was born in the small South Yorkshire town on Loxley around 1160.
This would make sense as, in the 12th century; the forest of Loxley Chase was so large that it actually joined up with Sherwood Forest. It begs the question, which of the two regions can claim the fabled lawbreaker?
Located on the A61 between Leeds and Wakefield is a small village called Robin Hood after the legend. The name comes from the origins of the ballads that depict Robin Hood in and around the Wakefield area in his earlier years.
Many of the ballads place the outlaw in an ‘Outwoods’, which is likely to be Outwood in Wakefield before the stories eventually move into Sherwood Forest and Robin Hood’s most famous story with the Sherriff of Nottingham. Local historians dispute the fact that Robin Hood was born In Loxley 1160, and later made a fugitive following the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322.
Located in the grounds of Kirklees Priory in Yorkshire is . As legend goes, the outlaw fell ill and travelled to the Cistercian nunnery where he was cared for by a relative, only to be betrayed and eventually die as his health deteriorated. It is said that Robin Hood, with Little John by his bedside, shot an arrow out of the window and said that wherever the arrow landed should be his final resting place.
It is unclear whether Robin Hood fell ill as a result of sickness or injury, but what is clear is that he would have been in the Yorkshire area at this time in order to ride to the Priory. It should also be noted that many historians have discredited claims that the grave in Kirkless Priory is that of Robin Hood.
Nottingham is awash with Robin Hood references, with roads, streets, landmarks and events all named in his honour. Known as Robin Hood County, it is unthinkable that this legendary hero could not be a Nottingham local, but the evidence is startling.
Although the evidence, and the ballads themselves, place Robin Hood’s place of birth in Yorkshire, there is reason to believe that many of his stories did happen in Sherwood Forest. In some of the earliest ballads it is apparent that Robin Hood took an almost immediate disliking to the Sherriff, and it is in Sherwood Forest that he met Little John.
Although Robin Hood may not have been born or died in Nottingham, it is where his story is enshrined. It is also where he met his romantic interest in Maid Marian, whom he almost certainly would have sought after a had the two married.
In conclusion, Robin Hood can, in some ways, be claimed as both a Nottingham local and Yorkshire native, although it is certain that the debate will rage on as more and more evidence is brought to life.