Robin Hood in Barnsdale stood

From International Robin Hood Bibliography

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2013-08-08. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2021-03-12.

The legal maxim "Robin Hood in Barnsdale stood", with variants such as "Barndale", "Barnwood", "Sherwood", "greenwood", "Greendale", occurs in a number of case summaries from 1429 to the late 17th century. It does not seem that anybody has made a serious attempt to establish the exact meaning of this expression. In view of (then) prevailing attitudes to tales of Robin Hood, could its signification be as unspecific as 'tush', 'nonsense' or 'rubbish' followed by an exclamation mark? The earliest known (snatch of a) poem to contain a line similar to this legal maxim is found in an MS of the first quarter of the fifteenth century (see Citations below). In addition to examples from year books and other summaries of legal cases, the citations include literary allusions and poetry fragments that include the phrase "Robin Hood in Barnsdale (Sherwood etc.) stood.

Collection and lists


[Gest; c. 1500:]
Robyn stode in Bernesdale
And lenyd hym to a tre[1]


1401 - Anonymous - Lincoln Cathedral MS 132

Robyn hod in scherewod stod hodud and hathud hosut and schod ffour
And thuynti arowus he bar In hits hondus

[Latin translation:]
Robertus hod stetit in
[...] de metore capiciatus et tropellatus calligatus et cauciatus tenens quatuor
et viginti sagittas in mane sua[2]

1429 - Anonymous - Year Book

Annuite porte par un Abbe vers un Parson. Et connta qe labbe et ses predecessors avoyent este seisis de x. s. de rent del Eglise de B. a prendre par les mains le person de temps don't il ny ad memory. Paston. Le Dean de Pauls come en droit de sa Eglise de Pauls ad este seisi de xl. s. issant de meme leglise et vous avez este seisis de x. s. en le maner come vous auez suppose par vostre bref etc. Prest etc. Rolf. Robin Hode en Barnesdale stode. Sans ceo qe vous avez este seisis etc. car vostre ple est tant a purpose [...]

[IRHB translation:]
Annuity received by an abbot from a parson. And states that the abbot and his predecessors had been seised of 10s. in rent from the church of B. to be paid by the hands of the parson from time out of memory. Paston. The Dean of Paul's by right of his church of St Paul's has been seised of 40s. issuing from the same church and you have been seised of 10s. in the manner stated in your brief. Given etc. Rolf. Robin Hood in Barnsdale stood. Without your having been seised etc. for though your plea is to the effect that [...][3]

1432 - Anonymous - Wiltshire Parliamentary Return


Late 15th cent. - Anonymous - Untitled burlesque (3)

Robyn Hudde in bernsdale stode : he leynyd hym tyll a maple thystyll
then came owre lady and swete seynt Andrew : slepes thow
wakes thou Geffrey coke
a hundredth wynter the water was brawde J cannot tell you
how depe
He toke a gose neck in hys hond and ouer the water he went
Jack boy ys thy boo J broke; or hase anyman done the
wryugulde wrage
He toke a bend boo in hys hond : and set hym down by þe fyre
my dame began to spyn a threde : hyr nose stode all a
crokyd into the sowth
Who darbe so harde darde ; as to crack under the walles of dover[5]

1683 - Unknown author - Case against Mr Pilkington

[Summary of legal case: Pilkington and others indicted for riot. Mr Thompson, counsel for the defendants, challenged the array, the challenge being read in French. He desired it might be read in English, whereupon L.C.J. Saunders asked:] Why? do you think I don't understand it? This is only to tickle the people. [Upon the challenge being read in English. Mr Serjeant Jeffries responded:] Here's a tale of a tub, indeed. [Later Thompson said:] My lord, is the fact true or false ? I desire of these gentlemen, if it be insufficient in point of law, let them demur. [To which Serjeant Jeffries responded:] Pray tell me, Robin Hood upon Greendale stood, and therefore you must not demur to it.[6]

Studies and criticism