The Many Robin Hoods 8

In a nutshell, Hunter suggested that the Wakefield Robert Hode was in the right place, was of the right social group, (the porter of the king’s chamber was listed among the king’s vadlets or yeomen) and would be at the right time for the development of the legend by the fifteenth century. This idea seemed to fit some parts of the Gest: the outlaws in Barnsdale near Wakefield, the visit by the king, Robin’s journey to court and then his return to the greenwood. Unfortunately Hunter could not prove that the Robert Hode of Wakefield and the Robyn Hod of the chamber were the same person, or that Robert Hode was a supporter of Thomas earl of Lancaster or involved in the Battle of Boroughbridge; there was in fact, no proof that either had ever been an outlaw. Professor Holt (Robin Hood pp. 49-50 ) mentions an earlier record that reveals Robyn Hod was a porter of the king’s chamber in June of 1323, so he was already in the service of Edward II before he visited Nottingham in November, this made Hunter’s theory less convincing. The earlier barely visible record of Robyn Hod (27 June 1323) revealed by Holt, with the use of ultraviolet light, is a fragment of two folios of an account book of the king’s chamber (PRO E 101/379/6). The marginal entry Gages des porteurs de la chambre marks the relevant section on fo. 1, consisting of payments totalling six pound to thirty-four ‘vadletz porteurs de la Chambres le Roi’. The recipients are the usual team, including ‘Simon Hod’ and ‘Robyn Hod’, which appears in the subsequent accounts examined by Hunter. (Holt, Robin Hood, notes, p. 193, no. 23)

Robyn Hod was paid off on 22 November 1324:

Robyn Hod jadys un des portours, por ceo qil ne poait pluis travailler, de doun par comaundement, vs.

To Robyn Hod, formerly one of the porters, because he can no longer work, five shillings as a gift, by command.

This certainly does not sound like the Robin Hood of the Gest, who wished to visit the chapel of St Mary Magdalen in Barnsdale after loosing all his money, who left the king’s court to return to the greenwood, where he lives another twenty-two years before his fatal journey to Kirklees; it would appear that Robyn Hod porter had simply retired. The only fact in Hunter’s theory that seems to fit properly with the Gest is the journey of ‘Edward our comely king’. Edward II did make such a journey through the royal forests of Yorkshire and Lancashire and then to Nottingham, in 1323, and he was concerned about the state of his forests, as was the king in the Gest. Hunter’s theories were widely accepted, but savaged by the nineteenth century editor of the ballads, F.J. Child.

Hunter’s theories were carried further by the Yorkshire antiquary J.W. Walker, who produced an article in the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal of 1944, (Robin Hood Identified,YAJ vol. XXXVI.) which he subsequently developed into a book titled The True History of Robin Hood (Wakefield, 1952). Like Hunter, he believed that Robert Hode of Wakefield had served in Thomas of Lancaster’s army at Boroughbridge, and became dispossessed with other supporters; and also that under the year 1316, at a court held on January 25, Robert Hode and Matilda his wife gave two shillings for leave to take one piece of the lord’s waste on Bichill between the booths of Philip Damyson and Thomas Alayn, where they built a dwelling-house of five chambers, which he claimed was verified by the records in the Rolls under the years, 1322, 1357, 1358. He also mentions that in the same court in 1316, Robert Hode and Matilda his wife, gave twelve pence for leave  to take one piece of the manor land in Warrengate, and that he was a man of substance in Wakefield and a tenant of the Earl of Warrenne’s manor.