Robert Hod Rockingham Forest

Close Rolls 1354-1360

May 16 1354, Westminster

To Thomas de Brewer, keeper of the forest this side of the Trent or to him who supplies his place in the forest of Rokyngham. Order to bail Robert Hod, imprisoned at Rokyngham for trespass of vert and venison in the forest of Rokyngham, if he shall find twelve mainpernors of that bailiwick who will undertake to have him before the justices next in eyre for pleas of the forest in the county of Northampton, to stand to right for the said trespass, if he is replievable according to the assize of the forest.

Stephen Knight was interested in this area: ‘The Rockingham reference is especially intriguing. This Robin Hood lay in prison awaiting trial for an offence committed in the forest of Rockingham. If the thirteenth-century references have any meaning, then the name can be an outlaw’s alias or nom de guerrilla and this may well be another instance of that pattern. Holt dismisses this reference a being too close to the 1370s to stimulate the Piers Plowman references, and not ‘enjoying the appropriate success’ (Holt, 1982, p. 54). Dobson and Taylor take the same view (1976, pp. 12-13), even though a ‘Robin in prison’ motif is consistently present through the whole tradition’.

Barnsdale in Rutland, became part of Leicestershire in 1974, although in recent years it has once again achieved independent status. As Knight points out, this Barnsdale is twenty five miles south-west of Nottingham and fifteen north of the edge of Rockingham; and this setting would make more sense of the remark by John Paston in 1473 that his servant has ‘gone into Barnsdale’ to play Robin Hood – Barnsdale, Rutland, is still on the direct road from Norwich to Nottingham. Knight also tells us that in just the decade when Munday set his story about the Earl of Huntingdon, the lord of this particular Barnsdale was the 1190s David, (the younger brother of King William the Lion of Scotland) who held the title Earl of Huntingdon. He also notes the close proximity to the Great North Road, and the suggestion that the Scottish historian Wyntoun, (who places Robin in Barnsdale) is referring to this lucrative domain of the Scots royal house for many years. In the vicinity is Robin Hood’s Field, Robin Hood’s Cave, and Robin Hood’s Cross at Castle Bytham, and some others, including two to Little John in the Leicester and Charnwood area. Leicester, a day’s walk away to the north-west of Rockingham, had a Robin Hood play in 1534, and in 1556 so did Melton, equally distant to the north.

For the full discussion concerning Rockingham, see Robin HoodA Complete Study of the English Outlaw, 1994, pp. 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 42.

Roger Godberd caused an affray at Garendon Abbey in Charnwood Forest (Leicestershire) which is not far from the Rutland Barnsdale.