Robin Hood's Cross (Aunby)

From International Robin Hood Bibliography
Coordinate Near 52.72031, -0.48152 ?
Adm. div. Lincolnshire
Vicinity Near Aunby, c. 6.5 km N of Stamford, Lincs.
Type Monument
Interest Robin Hood name
Status Defunct?
First Record 1524
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Spur Bridge, Aunby, near which Robin Hood's Cross was probably located.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2013-08-17. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2022-12-03.

At least until the mid-16th century, a 'Robin Hood's Cross' stod on or near the Rutland–Lincolnshire county boundary, somewhere north of Stamford. It is recorded twice in the years 1524–35.

The editor of State Papers Henry VIII[1] believed the "Robyn Hoddes Crosse" mentioned in a 1524 letter from Thomas Wolsey to Thomas Howard (1473-1554), 3rd Duke of Norfolk and Earl Marshall (see Allusion below), was situated somewhere in Northumberland,[2] but this must be a mistake. First, for what it is worth, I have never seen any mention of such a place in Northumberland. Secondly, I believe the editor was led to conclude that the Duke was already in Northumberland by Wolsey's instructing the Duke to write to the King and Queen of Scotland that he "be commyn unto the Borders" to assist them. He may also have been influenced by the Duke's wish, expressed in a letter to Wolsey of July 19, to go directly to Northumberland without stopping at York en route.[3] However, Wolsey was writing about what he thought ought to happen, not what had already happened, and though the Duke wished to go directly to Northumberland, we know from Wolsey's letter that the Duke was in fact still in Lincolnshire on July 28, and Wolsey signed his letter "[a]t my manour of Hamptoncourte, the first day of August". The logistics argue strongly against locating Robin Hood's Cross in Northumberland, for in the horse-driven era it would hardly have been possible for the Duke to have been in Lincolnshire on July 28, have gone to Northumberland and from there sent a letter that could have reached the cardinal at Hampton Court on August 1. There is a single hitherto overlooked reference, from 1537, to a Robin Hood's Cross in or near Barnsdale. This would have been on the route to York and Newcastle, but from here also there would have been little time for the letter to reach Hampton Court.

In view of the known whereabouts of the Duke, the Lincolnshire Robin Hood's Cross is much the most sensible choice. Child, in his discussion of Robin Hood place-names, notes that "an ancient boundary stone in Lincolnshire is Robin Hood's cross",[4] but he does not cite any source or give further particulars. Phillips notes that the cross is located near Castle Bytham.[5] However, no one cites the exact location of this cross and, unusually, there seem to be no photographs of it on websites with user-supplied topographical photographs. It also cannot be found on the 25"–to–the–mile O.S. maps of the area.

Fortunately John Leland (see Allusions) does give us some idea of the whereabouts of the cross. However, as is sometimes the case in his Itinerary, the 'directions' he gives are far from easy to follow, at least for someone who does not have first-hand knowledge of the area, and in the nature of things the distances he cites are often not exact. His 'Wasch' is River Gwash.[6] He tells us that the cross stood near the Rutland–Lincolnshire county border and near the confluence of two rivers, one of which has its source near Holywell, while the other formed the county border. The O.S. maps suggest that only West Glen River serves as county border during parts of its course.[7] At a point just east of Stamford Road it meets up with a stream which originates at Holywell and during part of its course becomes 'Mill Pond'. The confluence is near Spur Bridge, which is in turn situated about 400 meters east of Aunby. I believe this is where Leland stood when Robin Hood's Cross was 'not far [of]' (sic). If the cross stood (virtually) on the county border and if the course of the latter did not change between Leland's time and the second half of the 19th century when the early 25" O.S. maps were made, it would have been situated somewhere along the course of West Glen River, slightly north of Essendine. However, if Leland meant only that it stood near the boundary or if the course of the latter was slightly different in his time, it is possible that the cross stood closer to Stamford Road and Spur Bridge.

It is perhaps a bit surprising that this rather early citation of a Robin Hood place-name in the correspondence of two major historical figures has escaped notice. I believe the date 1524 puts Robin Hood's Cross among the ten earliest (documented) Robin place-names.


1524 - Wolsey, Thomas - To Duke of Norfolk

     Being redy to fynishe this letter, arrived the post with your letters written on Robyn Hoddes Crosse, and such as were sent to you bothe from the King and Quene of Scottes, thErle [sic] of Aran, and also the Lord Dacres [...][8]

1535 - Leland, John - Itinerary (3)

A good mile after that I cam out of Stanford I passid over a stone bridge under the which ran a praty river. I toke it for Wasch: and here I markid that cummyng a litle oute of Staunford I enterid ynto a corner of Ruthelandshire, and so went a 3. miles onto such tyme as I cam to a forde, wher ran a bek rysing at a place not far of caullid Haly Welle, as one there dyd telle me. This bek there devideth Rutheland from Lyncolnshire: and a 2. miles of I saw Castelle Bitham, wher yet remayne great waulles of buildinge. Litle Bitham a village ys hard thereby, booth in Lincolnshir as yn the egge of it. The Lord Husey was a late lord of Bitham Castelle. A litle of Bitham risit of certen springes a broket, and about the ford that I spake of afore joynith with the broke that devidith the shires, and not far [of] is Robyn Hudde's Cros, a limes [of the] shires.[9]

. Editors bracket's; bracketed 'of' for 'off' as in printed text.


Part of West Glen River forming county boundary




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