Robin Hood and the Bishop of Hereford

From International Robin Hood Bibliography
Child 144
Title Robin Hood and the Bishop of Hereford
Versions 2
Variants 5
Stanzas 16
Date c. 1730

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2013-07-09. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2022-06-01.

Robin Hood and the Bishop of Hereford is an 18th century broadside ballad known in two versions, one in 16 stanzas, the other, more condensed, in just 11 stanzas. As Child notes,[1] the Bishop of Hereford is also a character in the ballad of Robin Hood and Queen Katherine (Child 145), where he remembers how Robin Hood made him sing mass and extracted an enforced loan from him. The earliest broadside prints of this ballad are from c. 1750, while the MS containing the B version has been dated to c. 1730, a dating Child feels is uncertain. According to Chappell it was the most popular Robin Hood ballad in the mid-19th century.[2]


The Bishop of Hereford will be passing through Barnsdale. Robin Hood orders his men to kill a deer: the bishop is going to dine with him and pay exorbitantly for it. Dressed as shepherds, Robin and six of his men are tending the venison roasting on the fire when the bishop arrives. The bishop reproaches them for killing the king's deer and tells them they must go with him to the king to answer for their deeds. Robin asks mercy, but the bishop will hear nothing of it. Robin then pulls out his bugle and blows it. Seventy of his men come running and kneel down to greet him. Little John asks why they have all been summoned. Robin tells him the bishop will not pardon them, whereupon Little John suggests they behead the bishop, who now, in turn, asks mercy of Robin and says he would have taken another route had he known Robin was here. Robin leads the bishop to the outlaws' quarters and feasts him. The bishop calls the reckoning, fearing it will be expensive. Little John searches the bishop's cloak and finds £300. Robin asks for music, takes the bishop by the hand and makes him dance before he lets him go.


Version A

Variant a

Variant b

Variant c

Variant d

Anonymous, ed. Robin Hood's Garland. [s.l.]: [s.n.], 1749, p. 98 (No. 23).

Version B

Variant a

Popular collections

Scholarly and literary collections



Loève-Veimars, Adolphe, transl. Ballades, lëgendes et chants populaires de l'Angleterre et de l'Écosse, par Walter Scott, Thomas Moore, Campbell et les anciens poètes (Paris, 1825), pp. 204-207: 'Robin Hood et L'Evèque d'Hereford'. A French prose rendering.



1828 - Clarke, Stephen Reynolds - New Yorkshire Gazetteer

Robin Hood's Well [...] a hamlet, partly in the township of Burgh Wallis, parish of Owton [sic], and partly in the township of Skelbrook, parish of Kirkby South, wapentake of Osgoldcross, 7 miles N. W. from Doncaster. This village is situated in what was once Barnsdale Forest, now enclosed, and one of the haunts of the renowned free-booter. The well is a square building, nine feet high, which adjoins the high road; near this place Robin Hood is said to have robbed the Bishop of Hereford, and afterwards compelled him to dance round a tree in his boots.[3]