Robin Hood's Well (Stanbury)

From International Robin Hood Bibliography
Coordinate Near 53.822967, -2.033383
Adm. div. West Riding of Yorkshire
Vicinity 3.5 km WSW of Stanbury
Type Natural feature
Interest Robin Hood name
Status Extant
First Record 1851
A.k.a. Robin Hood Well
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Robin Hood's Well.
Robin Hood's Well or one of the two neighbouring springs / Sutcliffe, Halliwell. By Moor and Fell: Landscapes and Lang-Settle Lore from West Yorkshire (London, 1899), pp. 34-36; artist George Hering.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2013-08-04. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2022-05-01.

"Robin Hood Well" is listed by A. H. Smith[1] under the parish of Stanbury. According to Paul Bennett,[2] this little natural well high on Stanbury Moor is "[f]irst described in 1852". He does not cite a source for this, and if the word "described" is used advisedly, his source is one I have not come across so far, However, the earliest record I have found of this place-name is the 6" O.S. map of the area published in 1851, based on surveying carried out in 1848 (see Maps section below). All O.S. maps on which the well is labelled use the form 'Robin Hood Well'.

The well was noted in passing by J. Horsfall Turner in 1879 and by Johnnie Gray in 1891 (see Allusions below). Sutcliffe in 1899 gave a brief description of this spring and its close neighbours Little John's Well and Will Scarlet's Well (see Allusions below), noting that they were "[h]alf-hidden underground, and fringed with fern and bog-weed".[3] Paul Bennett, cited above, notes that Robin Hood's Well is "little more than a small boggy spring of water emerging from the edge of the ridge", whereas Sutcliffe wondered who constructed the wells and his account is accompanied by illustrations by George Hering which clearly show near each well a rock or two that could have been placed there by someone, though this could hardly be regarded as construction work.


1879 - Turner, J Horsfall - Haworth Past and Present (1)

The view from the mountain ridges presents a wild and rugged country seldom traversed by the tourist, but abounding in beautiful and picturesque scenery. Miss Bronte's word-pictures of these purple-heathered moorlands and upland valleys will be familiar to most readers. Here the geologist, in particular, may find ample interest. The millstone grit, the Cobling coal pit, the cold springs, the lateral valleys, the scattered boulders each has a history for him. He traces the cold water to the hidden reservoir, the formation of the valleys to the remote glacial period, the coal to some great dislocation, and so on. Miss Bronte gives a vivid and truthful description of the scenery about Haworth and Stanbury: "In winter nothing more dreary, in summer nothing more [p. 153:] divine, than those glens shut in by hills, and those bluff, bold swells of heath."
     A few more names and our list closes. We have in the Stanbury district, Spring Dikes, Jarnel, Jarnel Washfold, Silver Hill (900 feet high), Churn Hole, Rushy Grough, Old Snap (residence of the Heatons), Whitestone Clough, Ponden Slack (1100 feet high), Height Lathe, Clogger Wood, Ponden, Ponden Waters, Clough and Beck, Upper Ponden, Rush Isles, Round Intake, Slack, Far and Near Slacks, Birch Brink, Raven Rock, Robin Hood's Well, Ponden Kirk, Kirk Brink, Waterfalls, Heather Hole and Brink, Bracken Hill, Buckley, Buckley Green, Duke Top, Cony Garth, Cold Knole End, and Royds Hall, reaching Toller Lane again, which passes through Stanbury and Haworth. At Ponden Bridge is a cotton mill. Griff Mill (worsted), completes this wild list.[4]

1891 - Gray, Johnnie - Through Airedale from Goole to Malham (3)

The natives of these parts [the village of Ponden] have a saying: "Let's go to Ponden Kirk, where they wed odd uns," which has its origin in an old custom of passing parties through a hole, capable of admitting only one at a time, that exists in the enormous boulder called 'Ponden Kirk,' near to the waterfall so named. The belief is that if you pass through it you will never die single! Not far from the rock is a spring called Robin Hood's Well.[5]

1899 - Halliwell, Sutcliffe - By Moor and Fell (1)

We'll [... p. 35:] strike round the sharp bend of the stream, and cross it, and continue along the further bank. We are on the first of the bogland now. There are patches of vivid green that yield to pressure of the foot with a spongy, gurgling subsidence. All full of little rills and rivulets the moor is, and there are wider patches of peat among the heather clumps. Half hidden underground, and fringed with fern and bog-weed, lie the three wells which go by the names of Robin Hood, Little John, and Will Scarlet. One may stop to ask how they came by their birth-names, to wonder why a man should have troubled to fashion them in this out-of-the-way spot; but neither speculation nor questioning of the moor folk brings one nearer to an answer. No house is here, nor even a shepherd's hut; yet the wells have been built for a definite use in some far-buried time. And the names? The springs are so called in old maps, and could not have been christened by any modern whose intercourse with the outer world was wider than that of the upland folk aforetime. Robin Hood one might understand, for [p. 36:] his name has long been current coin in the North; but how came Little John and Will Scarlet so glibly to the moorland tongue? Well Sherwood Forest is not so far away as the crow flies, and Hathersage, where Little John's grave is – where, by the way, the lady of quality who gave Jane Eyre her name lies buried also – Hathersage must have been joined to Haworth by a well-nigh unbroken sweep of moor. There was a wide manory about Skipton then, and as fat deer in it ever as roamed through Sherwood; Robin and his merry men found a change of scene convenient at times; and their safest route to Skipton would lie straight over the moor here, and across the valley this side of Oakworth, and on into the dale of Aire. It may well have been that Lincoln green lightened, more than once, the soberer livery of the heather; that plover and eagle screamed a fugitive defiance to the horn's challenge; that the long-bow of yew, and the merry wanderers who fitted the wild-goose feather to the shaft, were honoured guests among the ruder fathers of the moor. Ay, and men of his own kidney would honest Robin find — hard-muscled fellows who could bend a bow with the best, who held lax views as to equality of rights in feathered game and furred; for they were sportsmen ever in Haworth parish.[6]




Little John's and Will Scarlet's wells are not labelled on any of these maps.

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