Why the Robin Hood legend deserves to come back home to Sheffield

Robin Hood day on Wadsley Common: Archer Roy Atkinson with an English longbow

Robin Hood day on Wadsley Common: Archer Roy Atkinson with an English longbow

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Errol Flynn and Walt Disney notwithstanding, last Sunday the origins of the western world’s most popular medieval superhero were finally laid to rest: Robin Hood was born near Loxley Primary School, at the top of Rodney Hill.

“Nottingham have had him for too long,” said Wadsley and Loxley Commoner John Robinson. “But they’ve got it wrong. Robin Hood grew up just an arrow’s flight from Loxley Common.”

Robin Hood day on Wadsley Common: The 'Body of Sound" choir singing in an oak tree

Robin Hood day on Wadsley Common: The 'Body of Sound" choir singing in an oak tree

The people of northern Sheffield have claimed the wealth-redistributing outlaw for many years: one of the hero’s alternative names is Robin of Loxley, which seems fairly conclusive.

But to add detail, modern Loxleyites note that Loxley Chase was once part of Sherwood Forest, and the old turnpike between the Sheriff of Nottingham’s Peveril Castle and John de Gisbourne’s York ran through Loxley, where bow-slinging outlaws regularly lay in wait for the passing aristocracy.

Sunday’s Robin Hood celebration on the common included pole lathing, wooden spoon workshops, the Body of Sound choir singing from the greenwood (literally, from the branches of an oak tree), and maypole dancing.

There was also a great deal of debate about the hero of the day.

Robin Hood day on Wadsley Common: Paige Dowsett (7) tries her hand at archery

Robin Hood day on Wadsley Common: Paige Dowsett (7) tries her hand at archery

“The real story has been lying dormant because of all the films and Disney, I think,” said musician, amateur historian and Wadsley commoner Robin Garside, “And they’ve not been taking the actual early story seriously, they’ve just been making things up for the sake of what they want to put in.”

The recent revelation discovered by Robin Garside is a genuine record of a pardon given by King Richard II after the Peasants’ Revolt in York.which states: “Robert Dore of Wadsley, otherwise known as Robert Hode (Robin Hood) given the King’s pardon on 22 May 1382.”

The document, discovered in the public records office in Kew by researchers David Pilling and Rob Lynley, suggests the outlaw had been involved in the riots in York over the previous two years.

Further online research by Robin Garside has revealed that the same Robert Dore (aka Robin Hood – the names Robin and Robert were interchangeable in those days, he claims) was born in Little Haggas Croft (a hamlet near the modern Rodney Hill), but left Loxley under a cloud after his stepfather was killed in a ploughing incident.

The ploughshare killer probably became an outlaw out of necessity, said Robin Garside, and was later recorded at Barnsdale (near Doncaster) and finally York.

The Nottingham link comes from the town’s association with Sherwood Forest, which stretched well into Yorkshire in the 14th century, and the Sheriff, whose bounds crossed Yorkshire and Derbyshire at the time.

Anne Robinson noted that the term ‘hood’ had connotations in medieval England akin to 1950s America: “Outlaws had hoods, so ‘hood’ was a common name given to people.”

Her husband John said that the Loxley link is well-known internationally. “I well remember historian Malcolm Nunn telling me that many years ago, after a knock on his door one dark, cold rainy night, he opened it to find a man dressed in Lincoln green.

“He turned out be a scholar of Robin Hood from the USA. You don’t come all the way over here from the USA unless you’re sure there’s something in the story.”

Robin Garside is keen to learn more, and believes there’s plenty yet to be discovered about his namesake of 650 years ago. “If we’re lighting the touchpaper for more research that would be wonderful,” said John Robinson. “But we don’t need convincing. We know that Robin Hood was from Loxley.”

n Visit http://wadsley-loxley.org for details.