The Many Robin Hoods 5

Robert Earl of Huntington

Anthony Munday was probably influenced by the earlier theories of John Major and Richard Grafton, who place Robin in the reign of Richard I (1189-99). Grafton believed Robin was a disinherited earl, and he claimed to have discovered an ‘olde and aunciente pamphlet’ recording his life, and he refers to ‘the records in the Exchequer’.(1) He did not produce these ‘records’ as evidence, and they have never been traced. In his two plays written in c.1598, Munday portrays Robin Hood  as the fictitious Robert Earl of Huntington in the reign of Richard I, this influenced later writers. In reality, David I king of Scotland (1124 – 53) became earl of Huntingdon by his marriage to Maud of Huntingdon in 1113/14, and in 1127 did homage to Henry I of England in respect of this title. David’s son Henry also held the title, as did his son David who married Maud of Chester in 1190. This latter David supported Richard I against Prince John, and he had a son named Robert who died young; this could have been an inspiration for the earl of Huntington characterized in Munday’s plays. Robin Hood as Earl of Huntington is referred to in later ballads, such as Robin Hood and Maid Marian and Martin Parker’s True Tale of Robin Hood, which ends with a version of Robin’s epitaph at Kirklees (see Robin Hood’s Grave 2).

In 1994, Stephen Knight identified another ancient Barnsdale in Rutland as being a royal forest, and having some association with the Scottish Earls of Huntingdon before the literary mention by Munday.(2) There is also a theory that Robin Hood was connected with Robert the Bruce, who was king of Scotland from 1306 to 1329. All of this does not provide us with any evidence of a link between Robin Hood and the earldom of Huntington or Huntingdon.

1. Chronicle at Large, 1569, pp. 84-85.

2. Robin Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw, 1994, pp. 29-31.

Robin of Locksley

Locksley was introduced into the story via the Sloan Manuscript which was probably written towards the end the sixteenth century. The manuscript states that ‘Robin Hood was born in Locksley in Yorkshire or after other in Nottinghamshire, in ye days of Henry II about ye yeare 1160, but lived tyll ye latter end of Richard Ye Fyrst’. This was the beginnings of Robin of Locksley or Loxley. Roger Dodsworth an antiquarian of the seventeenth century, wrote:

Robert Locksley, born in Bradfield parish, in Hallamshire (S. Yorkshire), wounded his stepfather to death at plough: fled into the woods, and was relieved by his mother till he was discovered. Then he came to Clifton upon Calder, and came acquainted with Little John, that kept the kine (cattle) which said John is buried at Hathershead (Hathersage) in Derbyshire, where he hath a fair tomb-stone with an inscription. Mr Long saith that Fabyan saith, Little John was an earl Huntingdon. After he joined with Much, the Miller’s son.(1)

According to some sources, the lords of Hallamshire were descendants of the early medieval kings of Scotland through the Earl of Huntingdon. The small village of Loxley now a suburb of western Sheffield, lies within Hallamshire or Hallam, the historical name for an area of South Yorkshire. A 1637 survey by John Harrison of the estates in or near Sheffield belonging to the Earl of Arundel, states that a place called little Haggas croft in Loxley Firth contained ‘the foundacion of an house or cottage where Robin Hood was born’.(2)

Joseph Hunter writing in 1819, reaffirmed this local tradition, stating that Loxley Chase has ‘the fairest pretensions to be the Locksley of our old ballads, where was born that redoubtable hero Robin Hood’.(3)

Once again the story of Robin Hood became more confused. This theme was continued  in 1819 by Sir Walter Scott, who portrays Robin Hood as Robin of Locksley in his book Ivanhoe. There is a Loxley in Warwickshire (see next page) and a Loxley in Staffordshire near Uttoxeter, recorded as ‘Locheslei’ in the Domesday Book of 1086, and as ‘Lockesley’ in the Fees Court Rolls of the county for 1236. There are also medieval records of a ‘Loxley wood’ and ‘Loxlay’ in North Yorkshire, probably one and the same area.

1.  Oxford, Bodleian Library, Dodsworth MS 160, fo. 64b, quoted Hunter, p. 69.

2.  Quoted in Addy, A Glossary of Words Used in the Neighbourhood of Sheffield, p. lxxiii.

3.  Hunter, Hallamshire, chapter 1, p. 3.