Robin Hood's Cave (Creswell Crags)

From International Robin Hood Bibliography
Coordinate 53.262053, -1.200398
Adm. div. Derbyshire
Vicinity E of Creswell village; on N side of Crags Road, c. 530 m ENE of Mansfield Road (A616)
Type Natural feature
Interest Robin Hood name
Status Extant
First Record 1841
A.k.a. Robin Hood Cave; Robin-Hood Cave; Robin Hood Caves; Robin Hood's Hall; Little John's Parlour
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Robin Hood's Cave (Creswell Crags).
Creswell Crags: An Ice Age Frontier (AncientCraftUK – Dr. James Dilley).

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2022-04-25. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2022-05-08.

Robin Hood's Cave is the name of one of the largest caves at Creswell Crags, slightly south-east of Creswell village, on the north side of Crags Road. The cave is located c. 530 m east-northeast of Mansfield Road (A616). It is not clear when the name 'Robin Hood's Cave' came into use, but it occurs in a literary allusion dating from 1841 and subsequently on O.S. maps of the area.

The Crags

Creswell Crags are a low, southwest–northeast-oriented gorge cutting through a Lower Permian limestone ridge that extends from southern Yorkshire to northern Leicestershire. The Crags straddle the present border between Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, the northern ridge being in Derbyshire, the southern in Nottinghamshire. Individually named caves at the Crags include the Pin Hole Cave, Robin Hood's Cave, the Church Hole, the Arch, the Dog Hole. There are a number of rock-shelters such as the West End Shelters, the Holly Shelter, Mother Grundy's Parlour, the Boat House, and Yew Tree Shelter. Some chambers and fissures also have names. Robin Hood's Cave is in the northern ridge and an entrance to it in the south-facing wall is directly opposite that into the Church Hole in the northern face of the southern ridge. These two caves are the westernmost of the major named features. The bottom of the Crags is traversed by Crags Road which retains its name though converted, in 2005–2006, into a footpath in order to protect this ancient monument from the adverse effects of motor traffic. Quarrying formerly took place near the site. All the caves and Mother Grundy's Parlour contain prehistoric artefacts and other evidence of human use from the middle palaeolithic to the 19th century.[1]

Robin Hood's Cave

Robin Hood's Cave has no less than five entrances and two irregular main chambers which open into several smaller chambers and galleries. 'The cave was known for a long time prior to the first excavations as Robin Hood's Hall and Little John's Parlour'.[2] Among these smaller chambers are Robin Hood's Pantry, Robin Hood's Parlour, Robin Hood's Chamber etc. (see 1841 Allusion included below). According to the official Creswell Crags website, '[l]egend has it that Robin Hood Cave provided a hide out for the famous outlaw to evade capture by the Nottinghamshire authorities. However, as with many Robin Hood tales, it is likely that fiction far outweighs the facts'. While the origin of the name appears to be lost, the earliest occurrence known to IRHB is in Spencer T. Hall's Forester's Offering (1841), cited in the Allusions section below. Reports of archaeological excavations at Creswell Crags, mainly from 1876 on, made the name widely known outside the local area. Until about 40,000 years ago, Robin Hood's Cave was occupied by Neanderthals, who left artifacts such as axes and scrapers made from flint and other types of stone. Members of our own species used the cave from about 22,000 years ago until after the Ice Age, leaving an assortment of tools and animal bones, including the famous Robin Hood Cave Horse. This is now in the British Museum, while a replica can be seen at the Creswell Crags Visitor Centre.[3]

Robin Hood's Cave is one of the attractions along the Robin Hood Way (Nottinghamshire). In view of Creswell Crags being situated c. 2 km south-southeast of a village named Whitwell, it is perhaps worth noting that there is also a Robin Hood's Cave in Whitwell, Rutland.


1841 - Hall, Spencer Timothy - Forester's Offering (2)

  Down on the confines of the county, near to Welbeck Park, are the romantic recesses of Cresswell [sic] Crags and Markland Grips, from which the Wollen winds into Welbeck Lake. These cavernous rocks, which are almost described by their own names, are little inferior in imposing grandeur to some parts of Matlock Dale; and the immortal name of the bold chieftain [sc. Robin Hood] is identified with them, as with all other natural strongholds in this and the approximate counties. Here are clefts—wide, grim, and deep—so deep that their extent is now unknown—the approaches to some of which are extremely difficult. One of them which, though not so extensive as some, is the most remarkable of all, I once explored myself. Its entrance is shaded by a pleasant bower of indigenous trees and shrubs, and the look-out from among these, down the valley, is truly delicious. After procuring a candle from one of the neighbouring cottages, and piercing the gloom for about a dozen yards, I came to a small aperture on the left, perhaps two feet in diameter, having crept through which, I found myself in a magnificent apartment, called Robin Hood's Hall, with walls beautifully coruscant, and so lofty that my light was too diminutive to reach the roof. Beyond this are several other extensive rooms, which, with the rustics in the vicinity, have from generation to generation borne the names of Robin Hood's Pantry, parlour, chamber, etc. In a recess in one of the rooms, is a spring of clear, cold water; and I should think this cave alone of sufficient magnitude to accomodate fifty outlaws, with plenty of room for six [p. 22:] months' stores, and every convenience for cooking and domestic recreation,—so that with a grey stone rolled against the entrance, which would have the appearance of a portion of the solid rock to any intruder from without—admitting any stranger bold enough to attempt an intrusion in such darkly-superstitiuous times—the whole band might winter here without the slightest fear of molestation from those who could have any evil disposition towards them.

  Supposing, then, this rocky fortification to have been the winter retreat of Robin and his hardy band; imagining him to have drawn around him here, during his Christmas festivities amid scenes so strange and wild, the homeless, the world-weary, the bereaved, the persecuted, the outcast and the forlorn, of all denominations, and to have made them all nobles in his own free court; then imagining again the winter to have passed away, and spring to have filled the heavens with sunshine, the earth with verdure, and the heart of man and every living thing with hope and gladness; and then, O! then, when he sallied at length into the Forest, what a vast scene of magnificence, and majesty, and wonder, and beauty, must have awaited his buoyant, exultant out-stepping![4]







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