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Robin Hood

By Glynn G. Burrows - English Historian, Family History Buff & Owner of Norfolk Tours in England

“Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen, Robin Hood, Robin Hood, with his band of me, feared by the bad, loved by the good, Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood.” That is what I knew about Robin Hood when I was a child, because those were the words to the  signature tune of the program that was on TV in the 1960’s!

Robin Hood, to my generation, was a little like Captain Jack Sparrow, for today’s youngsters, a swash-buckling hero, someone who could fight off fifty men on his own and never get injured, someone who would always get the girl and someone we all wanted as a big brother, but what of the real Robin Hood?

The stories of Robin Hood are based on ballads, which were a method used to pass on stories before writing became widespread.

Over the years, these songs would find their way into local life, becoming part of the legends of England and the difference between fact and fiction would melt away, leaving us, today, wondering if Robin existed or not.

My own belief is that he did exist, but I am not sure which proposed person he was. (There are several plausible alternatives.) He is most likely to be a wronged yeoman or minor nobleman, living in the central area of England, around Nottingham in the C13th-C14th. It appears that he was on the wrong side of the law for a lot of his adult life, as in the late C13th, England was a very divided country. The peasants lived a very lowly life and the rich, being largely corrupt and exploiting, were often despised. For the poor, it was often a choice of living as a downtrodden peasant or living as a criminal and many of those who turned to crime were hailed as heroes by the rest of the peasantry. After all, the peasants were safe from the criminals, as they had nothing to steal and, as they were being exploited by the rich, it was giving the ruling classes a bit of comeuppance. Many of the criminal fraternity were generous to the other poor, as they were all in the same boat and were obviously often originating from those peasant villages.

Major OakThe countryside of England was very different in those days too. Many extremely large parks and forests were dotted around the country and these were fantastic places to hide. As locals, the country folk knew every nook and cranny of the forests and the noblemen wouldn’t dare go off the tracks on their own for fear of being attacked. The present Sherwood Forest is about 450 acres, but in the past it was up to 100,000 acres in size, it was a deer park and, as such, as very good place for people to hide, with a fantastic supply of food and water. The forest today, is well worth a visit, the visitor’s centre has lots of information about the legend of Robin Hood and the forest itself, being so ancient, is well worth a visit to see the magnificent specimens of trees, one being the “Major Oak” which is said to be over 800 years old.

Nottingham Castle of today, is not an ancient castle, it is a C19th reconstruction of a C17th house. Sadly, the home of the Sheriff in all of the tales, was demolished many years ago, but there are still remains under the present building and some ruins in the vicinity.

So, if you are looking for proof of the existence of Robin Hood, I’m afraid I can’t give you any, but if you love a story with romance, violence, Royalty, hide and seek and a bit of fun, a visit to Nottingham would be great!

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Big Blend Radio Interview

Glynn Burrows discusses Robin Hood!

Glynn Burrows - Norfolk Tours in EnglandGlynn Burrows is the owner of Norfolk Tours in England - If you would like advice about tracing your family history, need someone in England to do some look-ups or take some photographs for you, or are thinking about taking a vacation to England, contact Glynn and visit