1373 - Robert Robhood of Walsham le Willows

From International Robin Hood Bibliography
Date 1373
Topic Robert Robhood of Walsham le Willows (Suffolk)
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Walsham le Willows.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2016-09-16. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2022-05-17.


[26 Sep. 1373:]
[Robert Robhood among persons fined "because they did not perform reaping service [‘reapale’]" when ordered in autumn.][1]

Source notes

IRHB's summary or paraphrase of copyright materials. The Robert Robhood concerned in this entry was a son of John Robhood [I].[2]

IRHB comments

According to Ray Locke's translation of the record, the ‘reapale’ was 'reaping service'. I doubt if this is correct. The suffix or element 'ale' in all probability refers to a festivity or event held when reaping was completed and at which ale was consumed. Well-known compounds of this type are 'church ale', 'bridale', 'scotale' and 'tavern ale'. As noted in the Middle English Dictionary, these compound words refer to festivities or social gatherings at which ale is (was) served.[3] Church ales, of course, are well-known to students of Robin Hood-related festival traditions. The dictionary also notes a more specialized example, 'Closinghale', which it explains, not entirely precisely, as 'drink supplied (to workers) when the roof of a building is completed'. In fact the translated record it cites, dating from 1326, refers to 'ale given to Master Peter of Bagworth and other masons at various times and for the ale which is called Closinghale'.[4] The latter term must refer to the communal drinking rather than the ale drunk. The dictionary's entry on the noun "scot-āle" notes three more or less distinct but closely related senses: "(a) A drinking party, prob. compulsory, held by a sheriff, forester, bailiff, etc., for which a contribution was exacted [...]; (b) a festivity held by a church to raise money [...]; (c) a drinking party given for the villagers by the lord after mowing. The latter was also known as a "sithe-ale". The first of these is recorded earliest, 1189 as against 1461/62 and 1275.[5] The term 'sithe-ale' is first recorded 1258.[6]

Where such ales were compulsory and involved a payment, "scot", to some person of authority, it is easy to see why some may have been less than enthusiastic participants. This may well be the reason Mr R. Robhood and a baker's dozen other villeins from Walsham-le-Willows opted to stay away. There is also the very real possibility that their harvest time coincided – how could it be otherwise? – with that of the lord of the manor. So rather than swilling beer, on this particular occasion they may have chosen – perhaps later than they would have wished – to reap their own crops. One may see the history of such "ales", as documented in records and dictionary entries, as a reflection of the general trend of English social history from the early Middle Ages to the Early Modern period: from compulsion to communality, but not necessarily from compulsion to freedom, for serving as brewer and collector of raw materials for the ale donated by parishioners was often obligatory and the recalcitrant were fined. So for instance at Ashburton. Unless the term "reapale" can be shown to refer explicitly to the harvest work, we should read the word as "reap-ale".

The Robhoods of Walsham le Willows (Suffolk) occur frequently in the manor court rolls throughout the period covered (1316-99). For full discussion, genealogy and listings of records, see Robhoods of Walsham le Willows (record texts).




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