Like Robin Hood and Little John, there have been many attempts to link the "gentyll knight" mentioned in the ballad, "A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode" who had on his person "but even halfe a pounde", to a real person.
The knight is captured and given a meal at the outlaw's camp and then asked to pay for the meal.
He is described in the latter part of the "Gest" as "Sir Richard at the Lee" after giving Robin Hood and his followers refuge in his castle at "Uterysdale"1 or "Verysdale"3
The following are some pieces of evidence which have been used in an attempt to link this character.
1. Uterysdale has been identified by some as relating to the village of Lee in the Wyre valley- Wyresdale [Lancashire]1 and references to Richard de Leghs [Leghe] in Lancashire one in the village of Woodhouses.5.
2. The knight's son had killed a knight of Lancashire, Joseph Hunter was not convinced that this knight is the same one mentioned later in the "Geste"
3. Uterysdale identified as Yrewysdale [Ywerys] in the vale of Erewash-between
Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire2. According to Bellamy
there were only four castles which fitted the description
in the 1300's found in the "Gest" near Nottingham. Annesley
Woodhouse castle was the only one which appeared to be within Sherwood
at this time, closer to Mansfield than Nottingham.
A West Yorkshire solution has:
The Foliots married into the Hastings and thereby Fenwick came into
the hands of Sir Hugh Hastings d.1347. Sir Hugh was the son of a Competitor
for the Scottish Crown, John I Hastings, the great-great grandson of
Ada Ceann mhor De Huntingdon, third and youngest daughter of Earl David
De Huntingdon and sister to Isabella De Huntingdon.
Richard Foliot's Yorkshire properties included Norton, near Campsall and Walden Stubbs ["Stubbs']. The early manor house lay a little to the north of the vill of Walden Stubbs. To the west, we find a large area of farmland known as Smeaton Leys, through which passes an ancient connecting lane known as Leys Lane. This travels west until it turns north through Darrington Leys all the way into Knottingley and Ferrybridge, the lower crossing point for the River Aire. The Leys provide the clue to Richard's name found in the Geste. The Geste author must have lived locally and after the exploits of Richard Foliot, for he knew of Richard's exploits in order to write Richard into the ballad as an eventual companion of the outlaws. Locations with the name 'Lees' are in abundance in the region, from Scawsby Lees in the south to Great Leys and Leys Lane , the Hampole by-road to the Leys of Smeaton and Darriungton. The author of the Geste has 'Richard at the Lee' alongside the outlaws, defending his castle in Nottinghamshire [probably seen by the author as Wellow*] against the Sheriff of Nottinghamshire. Of course this differs from the historical version which locates the defence of the moated manor house at Fenwick whilst the outlaws were Roger Godberd and Walter Ewyas. This does not make Roger Godberd "Robin Hood" as some researchers have surmised, the author merely utilised what he vaguely knew and wove in into a story about a person who lived in 'Barnsdale' at the same time, a person who was tried as a thief and murderer.
* Jeffrey Stafford in an unpublished work7 states that the Rufford Abbey Charters Vol 3 provide the location of 'Verysdale' of the Geste as the phonetic variant 'Ferresdale' in Nottinghamshire, about a mile N.W. of Wellow. [Jeffrey supplied prof. J.C. Holt with information re Eustace De Lowdham in Holts 1982 book, p. 60]
However, despite all these possible
inspirations for the poor knight, there is a far better solution to the
likely inspiration for Sir Richard of the Geste. He was a knight,
he did reside in Yorkshire and he was a strong supporter, 'merry man'
of the person who inspired the Robin Hood ballads, he has yet to be announced.
1. Child, Francis, James. (Ed.) The English and Popular Scottish Ballads, New York, 1955.
2. Bellamy John. Robin Hood an Historical Enquiry, London, 1985.
3. A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode, 2nd edition.
4. Green, Barbara, The Outlaw Robin Hood, His Yorkshire Legend, limited pub.
5. Harris, P.V., The Truth about Robin Hood, Mansfield, 1973.
6. Walker, S.S., Wakefield Court Rolls 1331-1333, Leeds, 1983.
7. Email comm. Jeffrey Stafford, September 2006.
8. Holt, J.C. Robin Hood. Thames and Hudson. 1982.
Copyright © Tim Midgley 2001, links revised July 2023.
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