Exeter festivals

From International Robin Hood Bibliography
Locality Exeter
Vicinity On River Exe, c. 60 km NE of Plymouth, c. 110 km SE of Bristol
Coordinate 50.718113, -3.532493
Adm. div. Devon
Began 1426/27
Ended 1553/54
Events Play of Robin Hood; St Edmund the Martyr's arrow repaired for Robin Hood; the young men's Robin Hood riot only to be held on a church holiday; Robin Hood and Little John sold beer (church ale).

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By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2015-08-26. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2021-01-07.


... Item dato lusoribus ludentibus lusum Robyn Hood xx d....

[REED translation:]
Likewise, for 20 d as a gift to players playing a play (of) Robin Hood....[1]

Et de v s receptis de alia lusione vocata Robyn Hode hoc anno ...

[REED translation:]
And for 5 s received from another play called Robin Hood this year....[2]

... Et pro renouacione sagitte sancti Edmundi m˂...˃t' pro Robynhod iiij. d....

[REED translation:]
...And for 4 d for the repair of St Edmund the martyr's arrow for Robin Hood....[3]

¶ Whiche aggre that from hensforth ther shall be ⌜no⌝ riot kept in any
parysh by the yong man of the same parish ⌜called Robyn Hode⌝
but oonly the Churche holyday except ther be any holy day Within
the Vtas of the same and if any be the persons so doyng shall be
punysshed by the Mayre[4]

... Et de ij s receptis pro prestacione Tunice Roberti hode diuersis parochianis hoc anno...

[REED translation:]
...And for 2 s received for the leasing of Robert Hood's tunic from (or to) various parishioners this year....[5]

...Et cum v s Receptis de Robyn whode & lytell Iohn Respondent
quod Receperunt in toto pro vendicione Seruisie hoc anno xxxviij s. viij d....

[REED translation:]
...And together with 5 s received from Robin Hood and Little John
they answer that they have received in all for the sale of beer this year
38 s 8 d....[6]

Source notes

"˂...˃" indicates "lost or illegible letters in the original"; "⌜⌝" indicates "interlineation above the line"; "˄" represents a caret mark in Wasson's source.[7] Non-bracketed ellipses as in Wasson (1986).
1426/27 entry under heading "Gifts and Grants".
1426/27. Wasson (1986), p. 443 (Endnotes): "So far as I am aware, this is the first recorded performance of a Robin Hood play [...]; the entry, however, does not suggest that the play was new or unfamiliar."<
1487/88 entry under heading "Final Adjustments", for the period Nov. 1 to Jun. 24.
1508/09 entry under heading "Necessary Expenses", for the period Nov. 1 to Oct. 31.
1508/09. Wasson (1986), p. 444(Endnotes): "The prize for the winner of the archery contest at the climax of the Robin Hood play was usually a silver arrow. As late as 1587-8, Chagford still had a silver arrow noted in the Hoodsmen's account."
1509/10 entry dated Jul. 11. "Vtas": "utas, octave, in the Christian church, a feast-day and the seven days following" (Wasson (1986), p. 577.)
1509/10. Wasson (1986), p. 444 (Endnotes): "In Chamber Act Book 2, f 17, there is a fair copy of this order, made in 1517."
1553/54 entry under heading "Cash receipts", for the period Nov. 1 to Oct. 31.
Wasson (1986), p. xvi: Exeter "records the earliest Robin Hood play I have thus far encountered, in 1427."
Wasson (1986), p. xvii: "In a large borough, individual parish churches would have had no concern either with civic productions or with visiting entertainers, as they would, for instance, at St Andrew's, Ashburton. Consequently the Exeter churchwardens' accounts contain only a few scattered references to Robin Hood and St George presentations. We could certainly not know from them that by 1509 there were so many Robin Hood 'riots' in Exeter that the city council called a virtual halt to them; this we discover from the Chamber Act Books."
Wasson (1986), p. xvii: May Day parades and May or Robin Hood plays are among regularly scheduled civic entertainments in the 15th and early 16th centuries.
Wasson (1986), p. xliv: the churchwardens' accounts of St John's Bow, Exeter, include entries relating to "numerous church ales with entertainment not specified".

IRHB comments

The 1426/27 Robin Hood performance is still the earliest known. In addition to the entries relating to Robin Hood, Exeter records include payments to waits and boy bishops, plays and processions on Corpus Christi Day, processions and watch on Midsummer Eve, plays at Christmas, a minstrel on St George's Day, bull and bear baiting, hiring out of morris bells, visiting companies of professional players, etc.[8]

Most closely related to the Robin Hood entertainments is perhaps the riding on Whit Monday accompanied by the city pipers which is mentioned in 1409/10. It seems to be referred to again in entries dated 1411/12 and 1412/13.[9] In 1418/19 the accounts refer to the Whitsuntide event as "bringing in the May at the feast of Pentecost"; the May (tree, greenery or pole) was preceded by players (musicians rather than actors?); in 1438/39 there is a payment to "seven men who carried the May" on Whit Monday; in 1439/40 were entered expenses on "nine yards of canvas, bought and assigend for the May for May Day by order of the mayor and his fellows". In 1442/43 we hear of "six men hired to carry the May on Monday in Whitsun week"; two entertainers were hired for the same occasion, for which an elephant was made from linen. In 1443/44 again six men carried the May on Whit Monday. In 1456/57 the elephant needed repair.[10]

Lists and gazetteers

MS sources

Printed sources

Studies and criticism

Brief mention



  1. Wasson, John M., ed. Devon. (Records of Early English Drama) (Toronto; Buffalo; London, ©1986), pp. 89, 364.
  2. Wasson (1986), pp. 108, 383.
  3. Wasson (1986), pp. 118, 393.
  4. Wasson (1986), p. 119.
  5. Wasson (1986), pp. 122, 397.
  6. Wasson (1986), pp. 145, 410.
  7. Wasson (1986), p. 2.
  8. See Wasson (1986), pp. 70-207, 345-81.
  9. Wasson (1985), pp. 80-81, 81, 82, 355, 356, 357.
  10. Wasson (1985), pp. 86, 95, 97 (quater), 99, 101, 361, 371, 372-73, 373, 375.