Robin Hood search for the Truth | Robin Hood Places | Hood surname statistics | Robin Hood of Wakefield | Robert Hood of Newton | The Pinder of Wakefield Marian | Friars | Loxley and 'Huntington' | Myriads of Robin Hoods | Ballads of Robin Hood | Kirklees | The Armytages of Kirklees | Little John | Roger De Doncaster | The Penurious Knyght | Our Comly King  | Shire Reeve | Priory of Kirklees | Wakefield Rolls | Saylis of the Geste- a new site | Robert III Butler of Skelbrooke | Barnsdale and the Geste | De Lacis of PontefractAlice De Laci and John of GauntBarnsdale Gallery | Stephen II Le Waleys a suspected compiler of the Geste

Robin Hood of Wakefield .....................Of Wakefield.................

A recent chronological study1of ballads and documents from medieval times revives the historian Joseph Hunter's premise that the man behind the myth may have originated from Bichill, the Wake- field market place.
The writers have not taken the null hypothesis path but have attempted to support any evidence that would indicate their original hypotheses. Hunter in "Hallamshire" first proposed that this person had in fact actually lived at the time of Edward II and was one of Thomas Plantagenet's (Earl of Lancaster's) followers.
But see other evidence.
Hunter stated that this Robertus Hood had lived in the forest from April 1322, following defeat at Boroughbridge, to December 1323 when he fell into the hands of Edward II and was pardoned. According to Hunter he was made one of the valets of the Royal Household, for which there are records (Porteous de la Chambre).
Baine, following Hunter gives the date of Hood's death as 1347 at the age of 77. Hunter based this upon the year 1323 when he suposes Hode was pardoned, added 15 months that the Geste says Robyn was in the king's service [Ed. II] and then added another 22 years for the time the Geste says Robin returned to the forest before he visited Kirklees. Of course this has a litany of assumptions, not the least of which was that Robyn Hode of the King's accounts was the same as the ballad character. The accuracy for time in the Geste cannot be considered to be historical time as it is not an historical document. An earlier death date proposed by John Major for Robyn Hode was exactly 100 years earlier in 1247. This has been accepted unchallenged and transferred to a gravestone at Kirklees. John Major's date has given rise to the assumption that the ballad hero was based upon someone who lived during reigns of  Henry II, Richard and John. However John Major provides no evidence whatsoever for the assertion that the basis in real life for this ballad hero died in 1247.

Hunter's dates would make Robyn's birth year to be about 1270. If Hunter's dates are to be believed this would have made Robin Hood 52 years of age when he fought at the battle of Boroughbridge, no wonder Lancaster's army was defeated if this was typical of the soldiers' ages! It would also mean he would have started his "career" as an outlaw at the age of about 53, is this realistic?
No it isn't, I would therefore suggest that neither of these theses are correct but are massive red-herrings.
                                                                                        The Battle of Boroughbridge
Thomas Plantagenet's rebels had taken lodgings in Boroughbridge when they heard Andrew Harclay [Governor of Carlisle Castle] was approaching with part of Edward II's army. Thomas met the King's troops at a ford nearby. Humphrey de Bohun 8th earl of Hereford died in the ensuing battle along with other nobles. The rebels made a truce with Harclay until morning and returned to their lodgings. However during the night the Sheriff of Yorkshire arrived with more loyal troops. Harclay broke the truce, for he was dealing with the king's rebels and entered the town of Boroughbridge in the early morning, seizing them in their beds9.  Lancaster was dragged unceremoniously from the Boroughbridge church altar and shipped down river to York.
The sheriff's attacking force would have included Henry de Faucumberg who was Commander of the Array at York in this year, in the following year de Faucumberg was reappointed as the Sheriff of Nottingham[shire].

The ballad hero became popular in the 1400's. The first detailed history, A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode printed around 1495, locates him in south-west Yorkshire, later writers placing him in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire.
Munday popularised the story through his plays and introduced Robyn, not as a yeoman, as in the earlier ballads, but as a nobleman. Thus, as the fictitious Robert of Huntingdon, the dispossessed and outlawed earl of Huntingdon, Robin Hood seduced another class of people towards the legend, not least of whom was Henry VIII and his court.
Phillips and Keatman suggest the original STORY was set somewhere between 1282, when the long bow was achieving prominence as a major weapon, and 1377 when Piers Ploughman/Plowman was written1. Piers Plowman is the first datable reference to this legendary hero in The Vision of the Seven Sins - when Sloth the lazy priest says:

    I can not parfitli mi paternoster, as the preist it singeth, But I can the ryms
    of Robin Hode, and Randolf Erl of Chester, But of our Lord or our Lady I
    lerne nothyng at all

Hunter also concluded that this person's real name was Robert Fitzooth (corrupted to Hood) and that he was descended from Gilbert de Gaunt, Earl of Ryme and Lindsey [Lincolnshire].

"Robin on one occasion dressed as usual in Lincoln Green, with bow and arrow, short sword and bugle horn, appeared with his men in the Wakefield Park, and The Pinder challenged him to combat. The bold defender of the manor proved the victor. The Wakefield woods abounded with game, and the freebooter paid us several visits. He is said to have died at Kirklees on 20th September 1347. Old and worn out and feeling unwell, he applied at the convent for relief by bleeding. When the monk allowed him to bleed to death in order to relieve society of such a troublesome fellow. He was a man of generous impulses, he never molested the poor, but often took the part of the weak"5.

Thomas Plantagenet, Earl of Lancaster.
Thomas Plantagenet 2nd Earl of Lancaster was Lord of Staincross Wapentake in the ninth year of Edward II [1306]. This is in the returns made by the sheriff's of the hundreds and Wapentakes in several baliwicks, in the liberty of Osgodcross! He gained the Earldoms of Lincoln, Salisbury, Leicester and Derby. Thomas was the son of Edmund Earl of Lancaster and thus Edward I's nephew and cousin to Edward II.

Thomas was contracted to marry Alice de Laci (Lacy, Lassy, Lasci) born 1285, daughter of Henry de Laci (d. 1311) of Pontefract when she was 9 years old. They were married in 1294. This secured king Edward I's nephew into the baronage of "The honour of Pontefract", however Thomas became one of the leading barons to later rise against Edward II.
After the beheading of Thomas at Pontefract his brother Henry of Leicester became a fugitive and figurehead for the Lancastrian rebels until he was reinstated to his brother's lands in 1327 after the young Edward III ascended the throne. Later in 1330 he rebelled against the young King Edward III but after his defeat at Stamford he rejoined the king and became a loyal subject.

Wakefield Manor Court Rolls
These are court records from 1272.6  The name Robertus Hood appears in the Wakefield Manorial Court Rolls up into the 1320's.2 This source indicates that a person of the name Robertus Hood lived in Wakefield, as a tenant with his wife Matilda. Whether of course this is the person upon whom the early ballads are based, is purely conjectural for there are other contenders of the same name in the same time frame (e.g. there was a Robert Hood of Sowerby and also a Robert Hood of Newton in 1308 and later mentioned in 1331-2), the authors seem eager and hasty to prove the connection. Indeed there are some amazing coincidences and nexxii but some healthy scepticism in reading the data will not go awry. (sceptics tend to :), cynics don't)
In 1316 the Wakefield Manor Court Rolls recorded that Robert and Matilda Hood bought a plot of land at "Bichill" in Wakefield [Bichill was the market-place]. In 1357 another record states "tenement on Bichill formerly in the tenure of Robert Hood".3 The Court Rolls for the manor of Wakefield for 1331-3 also refer to a Robert Hood.15
There are a number of references to "Robert Hood de Newton" [North of Wakefield just west of Pinder Fields]:

1. On 29th November 1331 fifth year of Edward III's reign at the court in Wakefield stated that for Alverthorpe graveship, Robert Hood was mentioned to come to the next court over Robert's cattle "trampling and depasturing"  John Couper's "corn and rye in a field of Newton".

2. Robert Hood was fined 3 pence for taking a horse from John Couper, It is 15th December 1331 in the fifth year of Edward III's reign.

3. For 10th January 1332 for the graveship of Alverthorpe "Robert Hood of Newton plaintiff offers himself against Thomas de Schatterburn in a plea of trespass; because he does not state his case in the words of the court he is to take nothing by his suit and is amerced three pence for false claim"

In 1852, Joseph Hunter found found the following in the Wakefield Court Rolls:
Between 1265 and 1295, Adam Hood, a forester in the service of Earl Warrene and his (wife?) had their child Robert christened in the town of Wakefield.

In 1316, Robert Hood's hand maid was fined for taking wood from Old Park.

On Jan 25th, 1316 Robert and his wife Matilda gave 2 shillings for leave to take one piece of the lord's waste on Bichill (the market place) between the houses of Phillip Damyson and and Thomas Alayn, this land being 30' long and 16 feet wide "to hold to the aforesaid Robert and Matilda and their heirs rendering yearly 6 pence at the three terms of the year to the lord". Wakefield Manor court rolls also show that in 1322, 1357 and 1358 there was a five roomed house on this site.

Also in 1316, Thomas Earl of Lancaster attacked and ousted Maud De Neirford [Warrene's concubine at the time] from Sandal Castle. In 1318 Lancaster took Conisbrough Castle until in 1320, Lancaster had taken over the town of Wakefield, where he raised a new army. Hood's name was not mentioned amongst the defaulters, presumably, on the basis of Hunter's thesis, he joined Lancaster's army. 
In 1316, Robert Hood was fined 3d for not obeying a summons to join the forces of Edward II's Scottish invasion. Hood like many others would have disobeyed the order of their leige because in October of 1318, a harvest was obtained which helped to break a severe two year famine. Of course by then the Wakefield Manor, as well as the Honour of Pontefract, was under the control of Lancaster who did not attend either and no doubt encouraged his liegemen not to either. In this year Henry De Faucumberg was made the sheriff of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire for two years [1st tenure].

By 1319 John 8th Earl de Warrene was forced, due to his excommunication over his divorce from the king's relative, to grant his lands in the North to Lancaster. Thus from 1317 [forcibly 1317-19] to early March 1322 the Wakefield Manor was in the hands of the Earl of Lancaster.

Lancaster was defeated in a rebellion against King Edward II's troops at Boroughbridge. His followers were all made fugitives ['outlawed'], perhaps decamping to Barnsdale and surrounds. A list of seized property made in the same year included a "building of five rooms of a new construction on Bichill, Wakefield", assumptively the residence of  Robert and Matilda Hood.

Oak Leaf Silhouette Evidence
The greatest evidence indicating the true origins of the balladeer's legend begins with a reference to Robert Hood in 1318 who is summoned to fight in the army against Scotland, but he did not appear and was so fined. However in 1322 Robert Hood was again summoned to fight for Thomas Earl of Lancaster, who was in rebellion with other barons and Robert de Bruce against the king, Edward II. This time there appears to have been no fine so presumably he joined the fateful force. The loss of the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322 against the king's forces led to the Lancastrian army taking to the forests, of which one in particular, Barnsdale Forest, south of Thomas of Lancaster's seat, Pontefract, was ostensibly a major attraction.

A survey of the surname Hood in the 1881 British Census shows there were 9115 persons of that name, of these 705 were born in Yorkshire (<10%) with 246 born in Britain as Robert Hood.  A survey of the surname in the villages and towns in parts of Yorkshire at this time shows:

  Name/     Number
Knottingley 5
Monk Fryston 1
Howgrave 14
North Bierley 5
Pickering 12
Hornsea 7
Barnsley 4
Sheffield 22
Wakefield 0
Pontefract 8

By this time the industrial attraction for Sheffield is apparent, but no clear evidence here suggests that the Hood name was any more common in the Wakefield area than any other shown, in fact it is the reverse. Pickering or Howgrave would have more of a claim under this survey. However Holt4 in 1991 states that in the 1200-1300's many members of the Hood family were living in and around Wakefield.
For more details see Hood surname statistics


Local Tales
"Even the notorious outlaw, Robin Hood is said to have observed the Sabbath in religious rites in the woods. An inn in Ouchthorpe Lane, Wakefield was dedicated to his memory and the fields there were the scene of his conflict with George a Green, the redoubtable Pinder of Wakefield, songs in whose praise used to be sung and sold in the Wakefield market. These old ballads used to please the farmers who brought their grain to Westgate Market and their dairy produce to the Cross".


Despite various persons of the name Hood appearing in the Wakefield Court Rolls, none of them is shown to have been outlawed or to have gained the wide popularity throughout England that would be necessary for the ballad character's acceptance. Nor has any Robert Hood of Wakefield ever been successfully associated with the Robert Hode of Edward II's rolls. Thus although these names
within the manor of Wakefield are very seductive,  none of them, I have found, have any relationship to the man who was the real-life person who modelled for the ballad character Robyn Hode. A far more plausible medieval character is evident whom I hope to detail in a forthcoming publication.
Link: 'Robin Hood were a Yorkshireman' This piece of  Yorkshire dialect expresses the belief [based upon ther ballads] that Robyn Hode was a Yorkshireman. Disappointingly, research has shown that the man who inspired the ballads was neither born in Yorkshire or Nottinghamshire.

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The Squire, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Sources:
1.  Phillips & Keatman; Robin Hood: The Man Behind The Myth, 1995 .
2.  Hunter, Joseph; Critical & Historical Tracts No. IV, The Ballad Hero:  Robin Hood,  London, 1852.
3. The True History of Robin Hood  J.W. Walker, Wakefield, 1973
4.  Holt, J.C., Robin Hood, London, 1991
5.  Hunter, Joseph, Hallamshire.
6   Crowther, G., A Descriptive History of the Wakefield Battles.
7.  Major, John, History of Greater Britain, 1521.
8.  Walker, Sheridan, Sue., Wakefield Court Rolls of the Yorkshire
     Archaeological Society vol. III, 1331-3, Y.A.S., Leeds,1983.
9.  Hallam E., [Ed.] The Plantagenet Encyclopaedia, Tiger Books, London,

Copyright © Tim Midgley 2000, revised 24th October 2011.

Robin Hood search for the Truth | Robin Hood Places | Hood surname statistics | Robin Hood of Wakefield | Robert Hood of Newton | The Pinder of Wakefield Marian | Friars | Loxley and 'Huntington' | Myriads of Robin Hoods | Ballads of Robin Hood | Kirklees | The Armytages of Kirklees | Little John | Roger De Doncaster | The Penurious Knyght | Our Comly King  | Shire Reeve | Priory of Kirklees | Wakefield Rolls | Saylis of the Geste- a new site | Robert III Butler of Skelbrooke | Barnsdale and the Geste | De Lacis of PontefractAlice De Laci and John of GauntBarnsdale Gallery | Stephen II Le Waleys a suspected compiler of the Geste