Hood surname statistics
The hypothesis was considered that the Hod/ Hode/Hudd/Hood surname is of Scottish or Yorkshire origin. Robin/Robyn is supposedly a contraction of Robert [French phonetic Rober] which is a particularly Scottish first name. It was widely used and introduced by the Norman-French, it is not a Christian name. Professor James C. Holt noted that the diminutive Robin was more popular than the name Robert in the 1200's. Certainly Robert would have become a more popular name from the time of Robert de Bruce onwards. Hood is a very common surname in Scotland and some northern English counties [i.e. Yorkshire and Durham]. In fact the magnitude of the Hood surname background in each county is higher in Scotland than England. To demonstrate this each county was surveyed in the 1881 census [CD-ROM] for people born with the Hod/ Hode/Hudd/Hood surname. These results might lead us to consider a more Northerly origin for the balladic hero.
Hood names born in Britain in 1881
census with following dissection by county:
The distribution of Hood surnames, Northern England and Scotland 1881 census by county
1. Once double counting by the software is removed the grand total for Britain is 14686 this does not tally with the value of 9115 found by requesting a total. Thus there may still be some census areas with some enumerations counted twice or more [Southampton, I.O.W. and Hampshire were counted three times]. This is due to their divisional names being changed, e.g. Forfar is also classified under Angus in the census. This is a search command problem with the CD-ROM software,
England produced three anomalous zones. Firstly, London  with Kent  and Wiltshire  these last two can be seen as 'spokes of a wheel' with the hub centred on London.
Secondly Yorkshire  with Durham  and Northumberland . Thirdly, Staffordshire  with a ridge to Warwickshire  and Gloucestershire  and 208 in Leicestershire.
There is a substantially large area of low values between the Staffordshire-Warwickshire- Gloucestershire nucleus and London, probably as a result of the regional pull of the capital, a vacuu of Hood surnames.
2. The number of persons with the surname Hood in Scotland is close,
but sightly more than that for England [once multiple counting has
been removed] which would not be expected if the source of the name was
England. There have been large Scottish migrations to America, parts of
the British Empire and to England, particularly London before the 1881
census. One nucleus for the growth of the surname was Angus which had
the second highest recording in Scotland  with Perthshire  &
3. Yorkshire had the highest number of Hood surnames of any county
in England but we must take into account that Yorkshire is the largest
of the English counties. Nottinghamshire by contrast has very few.
Other significant anomalies occur in Staffordshire,Warwickshire &
4. Although Wales is awarded the honour of inventing the longbow, this country had very few Hood surnames recorded in 1881. The longbow was reputed to be the favourite weapon of "Robin Hood" the outlaw, although the early ballads do not refer to longbows. The longbow was made popular by Edward I, "The Hammer of Scotland" when he used Welsh bowmen against the Scots* although it was most likely first brought into military circles by "Strongbow", Richard FitzRichard De Clare in the 1100's.
5. Staffordshire has an unusual
concentration of Hood surnames, this may be due to the attraction
of "The Potteries" a destination for labour in the 1700-1800's. Burslem
a suburb of Stoke on Trent has the highest count of Hood surnames in
Staffordshire. In Staffordshire there are also place-names associated
with Anthony Munday's plays, Loxley near Uttoxeter and Huntington, West of Cannock Chase. Chartley was a
castle held by Ranulf De Blondeville, 4th Earl of Chester, whilst
a little further North is Hilderstone near which lay the lands of the
FitzOdo family during the 1100's.
Plotting the concentrations of Hood surnames in the 1881 census for Yorkshire on a map, we get a distribution shown below:
This distribution shows major concentrations in
we examine Yorkshire and Staffordshire in detail for the 1881 census
we identify two distinct regions for the family name, each centred on
their own county, Staffordshire and Yorkshire. It is evident that the
industrialisation of each of these counties had an effect upon the distribution
of this surname.
There could be a number of places where the Hood surname developed but there appears to be strong statistical and geographical evidence [albeit from a census taken some 500 years after the conjectured time of the outlaw "Robin Hood"] that the name originated in Scotland and then 'hop-scotched' into the Northern counties, Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire. We might also theorise that Staffordshire,Warwickshire and Gloucestershire were centres of growth for the surname. Certainly Nottinghamshire cannot make any major claim although this would not pre-empt the notion that the outlaw operated here. The question arises, did the surname, so popular in some counties, help to promote the folkloric origins of the surname or was our legendary hero a member of one of the branches of Hood?
§ Further recent investigation of this issue has been undertaken which indicates that the Hood/Hod/Hode surname is a perfectly legitimate surname but it is not the name of the person upon whom the ballad hero was based. The ballad name is not the name of the real-life hero who inspired the Robin Hood ballads.
* Note: "Scotch" is a drink!
1. Hallam E., [Ed.] The Plantagenet Encyclopaedia, Tiger Books, London, 1996.
2. Source for data: 1881 British Census and National Index. [CD-ROM]
Copyright © Tim Midgley 2003 . Links revised July 2023.