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 | A suspected compiler of the Geste | Images of Robyn Hode

                              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:

Aberdeen 159
Angus [Forfar] 463
Argyll 127
Ayr 545
Banff 129
Berwick 184
Bute 122
Caithness 138
Clackmannan 126
Dumfries 148
Dunbarton 133
East Lothian [Haddington ] 210
Fife 207
Inverness 151
Kincardinshire 125
Kinross 119
Kirkcudbright 135
Lanark 433
Midlothian & Edinburgh 322
Moray & Elgin 169
Nairn 120
Orkney 120
Peebleshire 121
Perth 296
Renfrewshire 211
Ross & Cromarty 147
Roxburghshire 175
Selkirk 133
Shetland & Zetland 119
Stirling 148
Sutherland 119
West Lothian & Linlithgow 133
Wigtown 158

Total for Scotland 7145

Anglesey 12
Brecknock 23
Brecon 23
Caernarvon 12
Cardigan 12
Carmarthen 13
Glamorgan 60
Merioneth 12
Monmouth 34
Montgomery 26
Pembrokeshire 27
Radnor 13
Total for Wales 267

Bedfordshire 49
Berkshire 58
Cambridgeshire 92
Channel Islands 44
Cheshire 131
Cornwall 57
Cumberland 61
Derbyshire 129
Devonshire 89
Dorset 153
Durham 454
Essex 93
Flintshire 0
Gloucester 244
Herefordshire 46
Hertfordshire 71
Huntingdonshire 41
Isle of Man 45
Isle of Wight & Hampshire  124
Kent 463
Lancashire 376
Leicestershire 278
Lincolnshire 98
London [Middlesex]739
Norfolk 269
Northampton 53
Northumberland 245
Nottinghamshire 76
Oxfordshire 68
Rutland 42
Salop [Shropshire] 82
Somerset 136
Staffordshire 552
Suffolk 273
Surrey 260
Sussex 95
Warwickshire 309
Westmorland  33
Wiltshire 370
Worcestershire 74
Yorkshire 705
Total for England 7123

                                                                                   Ireland 110

                                                                                   Miscellaneous 41

Scotland 7145
Wales 267
England 7123
Ireland 110
Miscellaneous 41
Total all of Britain: 14686

                           The distribution of Hood surnames, Northern England and Scotland 1881 census by county

Hood Stats top

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 [739] with Kent [463] and Wiltshire [370] these last two can be seen as 'spokes of a wheel' with the hub centred on London.
Secondly Yorkshire [705] with Durham [554] and Northumberland [245]. Thirdly, Staffordshire [511] with a ridge to Warwickshire [389] and Gloucestershire [244] 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 [463] with Perthshire [296] & Fifeshire [207].
The other nucleus in Scotland was centred on Ayrshire [545] which gave the highest count in Scotland and was associated with Renfrewshire [211].

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 & Wiltshire.
London, Middlesex & Kent were attracting people throughout Britain in search of employment and to some extent this still happens today, hence these have greater densities of the Hood surname. Thus London and Kent might be discounted as the source for the name having been a magnet for population resettlement from the northern counties. Like Scotland, East Anglia has a high background count.

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.

                                          graph of Hood surnames in Yorkshire  
                                                                  The numbers refer to the following Yorkshire place-names:

1=North Bierley. 2=Leeds. 3=York. 4=Middlesborough. 5=Hull. 6=Bradford. 7=Sheffield.
8=Sutton Howgrave. 9=Pickering. 10=Cottingham. 11=Crayke. 12=Bridlington.  13=Foxholes. 14=Terrington. 15=Yorks non loc. 16=Doncaster. 17=Southowram.  18=Hornsea. 19=Osmotherly. 20=Knottingley.  21=Redcar. 22=Ryton.

Further Evidence
Plotting the concentrations of Hood surnames in the 1881 census for Yorkshire on a map, we get a distribution shown below:

                                     .Distribution of Hood Names, Yorkshire  
                                     Also see: Hood surname survey by birthplace 1881 for Yorkshire [Zipped Works database]

This distribution shows major concentrations in
i) The "Scottish Corridor" (North Allerton, Sutton Howgrave etc.)
ii) The North Yorkshire Moors including Pickering
iii) Flamborough, Hornsea and hinterland.
iv) Hull and hinterland.
v) West Yorkshire.
Results for Bradford and Leeds might be expected to have higher numbers due to their regional pull but there is also North Bierley (8 families mostly centred on the iron industry here). These families may be related to the Hood families of Sheffield who were also primarily involved with the iron and steel industry. That there is a sudden decline in the graph shown above after Sheffield [from 20 to 15] probably indicates the regional attraction of the emergent industries at this time.
Of these Pickering seems to stand out as being the only rural township with a higher than expected number of Hood surnames. This would add weight to the proposition that a Robin "Hood" of Redesdale [Rosedale] was born at Hartoft End in the North Yorkshire Moors, although the sceptic might add that the larger number of persons carrying the Hood surname in this locality might engender such a local legend.

If 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.
In Yorkshire, Hull, Leeds, Sheffield and Bradford are the main regional centres and have won the lion's share of the individuals. Staffordshire has concntrations in 'The Potteries' particularly at Burslem and the Greater Birmingham area. Both counties possess a place-name Loxley but each is separarated by almost a desert for the surname in the intervening county of Derbyshire. Certainly Derbyshire is not as populous as the other two claimant counties, as part of the Pennine watershed separating the two counties. The surname appears more widespread in Yorkshire and less so in Staffordshire.
The name Robin of Holderness appears in 1469 as a leader with Robin of Redesdale.1
He led rebel demonstrations in the north of England against Edward IV. John Warkworth identified Robin of Redesdale as Sir William Conyers [d. 1495] but it was more likely his brother John of Redesdale ["Little John"?]. Robin of Holderness could have been Robert Hillyard of Winestead or his son. The rebellion was instigated by Richard Neville "The Kingmaker" [external link] the 16th earl of Warwick. The appearance of the name Robin  in the East/North Yorkshire region is again apparent. This diversion might explain some of the references written into the ballads at this time, changing and adding characters to suit the audience of the time. As time moved on, we seem to observe this particularly in Tudor and Elizabethan times.

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.  

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* 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.

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 | A suspected compiler of the Geste | Images of Robyn Hode