Robin Hood's Bottle (Robin Hood's Well, Nottingham)
|Vicinity||In gamekeeper's house at Robin Hood's Well, Nottingham|
By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2017-05-01. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2021-01-06.
Robin Hood's Bottle was one of the items in a little collection of alleged Robin Hood relics kept at the gamekeeper's lodge, a "victualling house" or restaurant at Robin Hood's Well a.k.a. St Ann's Well in the north-eastern neighbourhood of Nottingham now known as St Ann.
The well and the gamekeeper's house played an important role in Nottingham civic life over the centuries. During some fifty years, from the late 1570's on, there was an annual procession of the Mayor and members of the civic administration, in official liveries and accompanied by musicians, to the well for a festive dinner in or outside the gamekeeper's house. Since the participation of the town fathers was mandatory, this in effect amounted to civic sponsorship of the establishment. However, during the 18th and 19th centuries the "victualling house" seems to have slowly declined in terms of prestige and the social composition of the crowd of visitors. By 1751 (see Allusions section below):
The People who keep the Green and Public House to promote a Holy-day Trade, shew an old wickered Chair, which they call Robin Hood's Chair, a Bow, and an old Cap, both these they affirm to have been this famous Robber's Property; [...] this little Artifice takes so well with the People in low-Life, that at Christmas, Easter and Whitsuntide, it procures them a great deal of Business, for at those Times great Numbers of young Men bring their Sweethearts to this Well, and give them a Treat, and the Girls think themselves ill-used, if they have not been saluted by their Lovers in Robin Hood's Chair.
According to Bob White, who cites no source, the collection of Robin Hood paraphernalia also included Arrows, and Boots. The Robin Hood Inn at Robin Hood's Well in Barnsdale is said to have "once [...] displayed a three pint leather bottle, said to have belonged to Robin Hood." However, again no source is cited, and I wonder if the well in Barnsdale was confused with its namesake in Nottingham. On the other hand, it is of course possible that proprietors of both establishments may have come up with the idea of displaying such a relic in order to attract – more or less credulous – curiosity seekers.
[p. 73:] Near this Well [...] which is frequented by many Persons as a cold Bath, and reckoned the 2d. coldest in England, there stood anciently a Chappel dedicated to St. Anne, whence the Well obtained the Name it bears, tho' before this Chappel was built, it was known by the Name of Robin Hood's Well, by some called so to this day. The People who keep the Green and Public House to promote a Holy-day Trade, shew an old wickered Chair, which they call Robin Hood's Chair, a Bow, and an old Cap, both these they affirm to have been this famous Robber's Property; [...] this little Artifice takes so well with the People in low-Life, that at Christmas, Easter and Whitsuntide, it procures them a great deal of Business, for at those Times great Numbers of young Men bring their Sweethearts to this Well, and give them a Treat, and the Girls think themselves ill-used, if they have not been saluted by their Lovers in Robin Hood's Chair.
Of the Chappel I find no Account; but that there has been one in this Place is visible, for the East Wall of that quondam Chappel supports the East side of the House, which is built on the Spot where that Place of Worship stood. In the Room of the Altar is now a great Fire-place, over which was found upon a Stone the Date of the building of the Chappel, viz. 1409, which whilst legible one Mr. Ellis a Watchmaker took down into his Pocket-Book, and communicated to me; by this it appears that it was built in the Reign of King Henry IV. 335 Years ago, and who knows whether it might not be founded by that King, who resided about that Time at Nottingham; it did not stand much above 200 Years, for my oft mentioned Anonymous Author does not remember any of the Ruins of the Chappel, who wrote his Account in 1641, which however he might plainly have seen, had he taken Notice of the East Wall of Stone, when all the rest of the present House is a Brick Building.
ST. Anne's Well was about a hundred Years ago, a very famous Place of Resort, concerning which take the above Author's Account in his own words.
AT the Well there is a Dwelling House serving as an Habitation for the Woodward of those Woods, being an Officer of the Mayor. This House is likewise a Victualling House, having adjoining to it fair Summer-Houses, Bowers or Arbours covered by the plashing and interweaving of Oak-Boughs for Shade, in which are Tables of large Oak Planks, and are seated about with Banks of Earth, fleightered and covered with green Sods, like green Carsie Cushions. There is also a Building containing two fair Rooms, an upper and a lower, serving for such as repair thither to retire in Case of Rain or bad Weather. Thither do the Townsmen resort [...] by an ancient Custom beyond Memory.
THIS Well is all Summer long much frequented, and there are but few fair Days between March and October, in which some Company or other of the Town, such as use to Consort [sic] there, use not to fetch a walk to this Well, either to dine or sup, or both, some sending their provision to be dressed, others bespeaking what they will have, and when any of the Town have their Friends come to them, they have given them no welcome, unless they entertain them at this Well. Besides [p. 74:] there are many other Meetings of Gentlemen, both from the Town and the Country, making Choice of this Place rather than the Town for their Rendezvous to recreate themselves at, by Reason of the sweetness and openness of the Air, where besides their Artificial, they have Natural Music without Charge; in the Spring by the Nightingale and in the Autumn by the Wood-Lark, a Bird whose Notes for Variety and sweetness are nothing inferiour to the Nightingale, and much in her Tones, which filled with the Voices of other Birds like inward parts in Song serve to double the melodious Harmony of those sweet warbling Trebles. Here are likewise many Venison Feasts, and such as have not the Hap to feed the Sense of Taste with the Flesh thereof when dead, may yet still fill their Sight with those Creatures living, [...] which all Summer long are picking up Weeds in the Corn-Fields and Closes, and in Winter and hard Weather, gathering Sallets in the Garden of such Houses as lie on the North-side of the Town.
AMONG other Meetings I may not omit one Royal and remarkable Assembly at this Place, whereof myself was an Eye Witness, which was that it pleased our late Sovereign king James, in his Return from Hunting in this Forest, to Honour this Well with his Royal Presence, ushered by that Noble Lord Gilbert Earl of Shrewsbury, and attended by many others of the Nobility, both of the Court and Country, where they drank the Woodward and his Barrels dry."
- Not included in Dobson, R. B., ed.; Taylor, J., ed. Rymes of Robyn Hood: an Introduction to the English Outlaw (London, 1976), pp. 293-311.
- Panoramio: Robin Hood's Well, Burghwallis, South Yorkshire.
- White, Bob. 'The five unsolved mysteries of Robin Hood' (Nottingham Post, 13 Nov. 2013) (no longer available online).
- Nottingham place-name cluster
- St Ann place-name cluster
- Robin Hood's Well (Nottingham) place-name cluster
- Robin Hood Inn (Barnsdale)
- Robin Hood's Well (Barnsdale)
- Barnsdale (Doncaster)
- Unique artifacts.
- Bob White. ' The five unsolved mysteries of Robin Hood' (Nottingham Post, 13 Nov. 2013; no longer online). See instead: The Wizard of Notts Recommends: Bob White: The five unsolved mysteries of Robin Hood.
- See comments to photo of Robin Hood's Well (Barnsdale) at Panoramio.
- Deering, Charles. Nottinghamia Vetus et Nova or an Historical Account of the Ancient and Present State of the Town of Nottingham (Nottingham, 1751), pp. 72-74.