Sherwood Forest

From International Robin Hood Bibliography
Coordinate 53.207278, -1.078429
Adm. div. Nottinghamshire
Vicinity Now mainly round Edwinstowe
Type Area
Interest Literary locale
Status Extant
First Record c. 1401-25
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Sherwood Forest.
A track through Sherwood Forest, part of the Robin Hood Way / Phil Champion, 7 Sep. 2019, Creative Commons, via Geograph.
Sherwood Forest: A Walk in the Woods

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2013-08-07. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2021-01-08.

Sherwood Forest is the home of the outlaws in about half of the early tales and most later sources. The first source to put Robin Hood in Sherwood is 1401 - Anonymous - Lincoln Cathedral MS 132 (c. 1401-25) (see Allusions below). The place-name is first recorded in A.D. 955 (as "scirwuda"). The form "Sherewoode" is found 1325-1500. The most probable etymology is "wood belonging to the shire".[1]

For literature on King John's Palace in Sherwood, see Robin Hood Close (King's Clipstone).


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]

1604 - Anonymous - Jack of Dover

Upon a time (quoth one of the jurie) it was my chaunce to be in the cittie of Herforde, when lodging in an inn I was tolde of a certain silly witted gentleman there dwelling, that wold assuredly beleeve all things that he heard for a truth, to whose house I went upon a sleeveles arrand, and finding occasion to be acquainted with him, I was well entertained, and for three dayes space had my bed and boord in his house, where amongst many other fooleries, I being a traveller made him beleeve that the steeple in Burndwood in Essex sayled in one night as far as Callis in Fraunce, and afterward returned againe to his proper place. Another time I made him beleeve that in the forest of Sherwood in Nottinghamshire were seene five hundred of the king of Spaines gallies, which went to besiedge Robbinhoodes well, and that fourty thousand schollers with elderne squirts performed such a peece of service, as they were all in a manner broken and overthrowne in the forrest. Another time I made him beleeve that Westminster hall, for suspition of treason, was banished [p. 5:] for ten years into Staffordshire. And last of all, I made him beleeve that a tinker should be bayted to death at Canterbury for getting two and twenty children in a yeere: whereupon, to proove me a lyer, he tooke his horse and rode thither; and I, to verrifie him a foole, tooke my horse and rode hither. Well, quoth Jack of Dover, this in my minde was pretty foolerie, but yet the Foole of all Fooles is not heere found that I looke for.[3]

1638 - Braithwaite, Richard - Barnabee's Journal (1)

[Latin text:]
Veni Nottingam, tyrones
Sherwoodenses sunt Latrones,
Instar Robin Hood & Servi
Scarlet, & Johannes Parvi;
Passim, sparsim peculantur,
Cellis, Sylvis deprædantur.

[English text:]
Thence to Nottingam, where rovers
High-way riders, Sherwood drovers,
Like old Robin-Hood, and Scarlet,
Or like Little John his varlet;
Here and there they shew them doughty,
Cells and Woods to get their booty.[4]

1695 - Thoresby, Ralph - Diary

       13. Morning, walked to cousin F.'s of Hunslet; rode with him and my other dear friends, Mr. Samuel Ibbetson and brother Thoresby, to Rodwell, where took leave of relations, thence through Medley, Pontefract, and Wentbridge (upon the famous Roman highway, and by the noted Robin Hood's well) to Doncaster, where we dined; thence by Bawtry, Scruby, Ranskall, to Barnby-on-the-Moor.
       14. After a weary night rose pretty early; rode over Shirewood Forest, by the noted Eel-pie-house [...][5]

1790 - Throsby, John - Antiquities of Nottinghamshire (1)

WE are now arrived at that portion of our history where we must tread (I had almost said classic) magic ground, where beings like fairies danced; where deer sported in groupes [sic] unnumbered, and in limits almost unbounded; where Robin Hood, and his gay followers, performed their many and long renowned exploits; where the noble and ignoble, the king and the robber have, alike, dashed through the thicket and the woodland in pursuit of their nimble game. Here the stout archer with his bow, unmolested, traversed this vast domain, discharging his deadly darts. Here the spreading oak, the ornament of forests, stood for ages a grand monument of embellished nature, a shade and covert for the birds and beasts that inhabited this.—Here the little squirel [sic] above, sprang from spray to spray, exhibiting its playful attitudes, while the wolf below, in days or yore, made the woodlands eccho [sic] with its dreadful yells; or darting on its prey satiated its voracious appetite. Time, which works such mighty changes on the face of nature, in the passing of a few centuries, where man takes up his abode, exhibits here a scene extremely different to what it has been.—No more the woodland songsters, whose natal hymns delightfully celebrated each return of the heavenly orb, shall here be heard. All now is divided and subdivided into stumpy fences and right lined hedge rows, intersecting each other; which to him that delights in the grand and majestic scenes of nature, upon a large and varied scale, is cold and meanless [sic]. The stranger, who has sumptuous ides of field embellishments, and has refined his taste by reading and observation, if he expect to meet in this great forest any thing like what there has been, will be miserably disappointed. But no more, population in many instances, and avarice in others, have laid the splendour of nature in the dust: here granduer [sic] and sublimity is prostrate, degraded by culture, and lost, in that point of view, for ever.[6]

1790 - Throsby, John - Antiquities of Nottinghamshire (2)

St. ANN's WELL [aka Robin Hood's Well],
Near Nottingham, was, it is said, a sequestered haunt of the famous Robin Hood, which tradition has given celebrity for ages. It is situate within two miles North East of Nottingham, on the base of a hill, which a century ago, or less, was covered with fine ash trees and copice [sic], as well as a great part of the adjacent fields, which are now cleared of wood, and is [sic] become good land; some portion of which still retains the name of copice [sic] and belongs to the Burgesses of Nottingham. The house which is resorted to in summer time, stands near a Well, both which are shaded by first and other trees. —Here is a large bowling-green, and a little neglected pleasure ground. [p. 171:] The Well is under an arched stone roof, of rude workmanship, the water is very cold, it will kill a toad. [...] It is used by those who are afflicted with rheumatic pains; and indeed, like man other popular springs, for a variety of disorders. At the house were formerly shewn several things said to have belonged to Robin Hood; but they are frittered down to what are now called his cap, or helmet, and a part of his chair. As these have passed current for many years, and perhaps ages, as things once belonging to that renowned robber, I sketched them. They are represented on the annexed plate.

A remarkable circumstance happened here about fifty years since. The story is told thus: A regiment of dragoons lay at Nottingham, at that time, and five of the men agreed to go a deer-stealing, for which purpose they traversed, in the night, over a great extent of country, in vain. Chagrined at the disappointment, in passing over av eminence called Shepherd's-Race [aka Robin Hood's Race], near St. Ann's Well, two of them agreed to go down the hill and steal some geese belonging to the people who lived at St. Ann's Well.A young man who was a servant in the family, and had been out late in company instead of going to bed layed [sic] himself down upon a table in a room, or some other ready and convenient place, where he slept sometime; but was awakened by the noise of the frighted geese, which were disturbed by the soldiers attempting to steal them. The young man being a little elevated in liquor had the temerity to go from the house with an intent to protect his master's or mistress's property, in which attempt he was shot through the head, by a piece placed so near him that his brains were seen scattered about him, were [sic] he fell, in a variety of directions.

The particulars concerning this murder did not come out till about 20 years after the transaction, when two old pensioners, from Chelsea Hospital, were taken up for the fact, and brought to Nottingham gaol; but it turned out that the principals, in the horrid deed, were dead.[7]

1804 - Miller, Edward - History and Antiquities of Doncaster and its Vicinity (1)

In his [i.e. Richard I's] reign lived Robin Hood and Little John, who, with a hundred stout fellows more, molested all the passengers who fell in their way, yet only robbed and made prey of the rich. The forest of Sherwood in Nottinghamshire, and Barnsdale in Yorkshire, in the neighbourhood of Doncaster, were their principal places of resort. At Skelbrook, about five miles from Doncaster, in the road to York, is a well, now called Robin Hood's Well.[8]

1831 - Lewis, Samuel - Topographical Dictionary of England (03)

 EDWINSTOW, a parish in the Hatfield division of the wapentake of Bassetlaw, county of Nottingham, 2 miles (W. by S.) from Ollerton, comprising the chapelries of Carburton, Ollerton, and Perlethorpe, and the townships of Budby and Clipstone, and containing 1753 inhabitants. The living is a vicarage, in the archdeaconry of Nottingham, and diocese of York, rated in the king’s books at £14., and in the patronage of the Dean of Lincoln. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, is a large ancient building. There is a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists. John Bellamy, in 1719, bequeathed a school-house and land for the instruction of eight children: in 1824 it was taken down and a new house built on the site, at the expense of Earl Manvers: the income is £10 a year, and the school is free for all the poor children of the parish. The principal object of note is the last remnant of the ancient Forest of Sherwood, celebrated in ballad story as the scene of the exploits of Robin Hood and his faithful band of archers, extending for the distance of three miles and a half from east to north, and two from north to south.[9]

1831 - Lewis, Samuel - Topographical Dictionary of England (07)

 MANSFIELD, a market town and parish, comprising the hamlets of Pleasley Hill, Radmansthwaite, and Moor-Haigh, in the northern division of the wapentake of Broxtow, county of Nottingham. 14 miles (N. by W.) from Nottingham, and 138 (N. N.W.) from London, containing 7881 inhabitants. [...] Till the year 1715, the courts for the forest of Sherwood, celebrated in ballad story as the scene of the exploits of the renowned archer, Robin Hood, and his band of freebooters, were held at Mansfield. The town Is situated on the road from London to Leeds, in a deep vale, in the centre of the ancient Forest of Sherwood: it is of considerable size, and consists of three principal streets, besides others branching from them, which are narrow and irregular: the houses are principally built of grey stone, and, at the entrance to the town from Southwell, there are several excavated in the sand-stone rock. [...][10]

1831 - Lewis, Samuel - Topographical Dictionary of England (09)

The traditions respecting Robin Hood and the Sherwood outlaws of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, which, in the form of popular ballads, were current for ages among the lower orders, seem to have fallen into oblivion in the latter part of the last century, and are now scarcely preserved, except in the libraries of the curious. [11]

1835 - Lewis, Samuel - Topographical Dictionary of England

 EDWINSTOWE (St. Mary), a parish, in the Hatfield Division of the hundred of Bassetlaw, county of Nottingham, 1½ mile (W. by S.) from Ollerton, containing 1992 inhabitants. This parish is situated on the road from Ollerton to Mansfield, and in that part of the forest of Sherwood which is called the Hays of Birkland and Bilhagh. This portion of the forest, according to a survey under the authority of the crown, in 1609, was found to contain 2435 forest acres; also 49,909 oak trees, which had passed their maturity, and 65,864 which were in their prime; all belonging to the crown. It is now the property of Earl Manvers, and there are about 9000 decayed oaks still remaining. Some of the trees were cut down in 1786, when, in sawing them into planks, several inscriptions were found deeply imbedded in the trunks; among these were I O—R surmounted with a crown, supposed to be the initials of Johannes Rex; I R surmounted with a crown, supposed to be those of James; SHERWd, 1575, and w and M surmounted by a crown. Some of them were nearly two feet within the trunk, and are supposed to have been inscribed in the reigns of the several sovereigns whose initials they respectively denote. The living is a vicarage, in the archdeaconry of Nottingham, and diocese of York, valued in the king's books at £14; present net income, £639: it is in the patronage of the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln, the impropriators. The church is a spacious ancient edifice, with a tower and a lofty octagonal spire ornamented with canopied niches. There are chapels of ease at Carburton, Ollerton, and Perlethorpe; and a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists. John and Ellen Bellamy, in 1719, founded a school for the gratuitous instruction of poor children, which they endowed with lands producing at present about £12 per annum; the school, which is conducted upon Dr. Bell's plan, and open to all the children of the parish, is partly supported by subscription. The rents of some land called the poor's land, consisting of 109 acres, and producing £60 per annum, are distributed among the poor, one-half to the poor of Edwinstowe, and the other half between the poor of Budby and Clipstone. This parish contains all that remains of the ancient forest of Sherwood, so celebrated in legendary romance for the exploits of Robin Hood, who is said to have compelled Friar Tuck to solemnize the marriage of his companion Allan a Dale with a wealthy heiress in the parish church of this place. Lady M. W. Montague was born at Thoresby, in this parish.[12]

1859 - Green, Henry - Knutsford

 The name Robin Hood's Well, a locality near the Moor, suggests that the great outlaw and freebooter of Sherwood Forest had wandered to our town; we read the motto over the well,

"If Robin Hood be not at home,
Stop and take a drink with little John;"

[p. 131:] and we imagine his favourite attendant must have been concealed close at hand. But, alas! for our antiquarian excitement; just by is a neatly enclosed mound, and a stone engraved with the words, "Alas! poor Bob!" We enquire what it all means, and learn, almost to our vexation, that Robin Hood was the name of a race-horse buried under the mound, and that little John's drink was not the pure element—"that best of liquors," but like Friar Tuck's,—a flagon of strong ale.[13]

1892 - Grindon, Leo H - Lancashire (3)

The wilful neglect, not to say the reckless destruction of interesting old buildings that can be maintained, at no great cost, in fair condition and as objects of picturesque beauty, is, to say the least of it, unpatriotic. The possessors of fine old memorials of the [p. 304:] past are not more the possessors in their own right than trustees of property belonging to the nation, and the nation is entitled to insist upon their safe keeping and protection. The oaks of Sherwood, festooned with stories of Robin Hood and Maid Marian, are not more a ducal inheritance, than, as long as they may survive, every Englishman's by birthright. Architectural remains, in particular, when charged with historical interest, and that discourse of the manners and customs of "the lang syne," are sacred.[14]

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.[15]


[John Leland; c. 1535-43:] Soone after I enterid, withyn the space of a mile or lesse, ynto the very thik of the woddy forest of Shirwood, wher ys great game of deere. And so I rode a v. myles in the very woddy grounde of the forest, and so to a litle pore streat a through fare at the ende of this wood.[16]

[Henry Harrod. Report on the Records of the Borough of Colchester (1865):] Numerous other Oaks remained after the disafforesting of King's Wood; besides the King Oak and the Broad Oak, the Leet Rolls mention Great Oaks in East Street near the Gallows; and in the Perambulation of 1637 (in the Assembly Book for that year, and printed by Morant, p. 95), we have Robin Hood's Oak "right against Thomas a Bridge, on the left hand of Buttolph's Brook, after crossing the river at Mott's Bridge;" and in the Perambulation of 1671 it is added that the Oak stood "right on the pitch of the Hill," and afterwards in the latter Perambulation the Boundary is stated as going" inside the hedge of Soame Wood to Goresbridge, which is at the bottom of 'Beggars Oak' Heath, leading to Ardley Street from Gallow Green.[17]

Sherwood Forest in the ballads

Date Source Sherwood Forest
c. 1500 Robin Hood's Birth, Breeding, Valor and Marriage sts. 24:3, 25:1, 36:4, 50:3, 55:4.





Also see


  1. See Gover, J.E.B.; Mawer, Allen; Stenton, F.M. The Place-Names of Nottinghamshire (English Place-Name Society, vol. XVII) (Cambridge, 1940), p. 10; Smith, A.H. English Place-Name Elements. Reprinted (English Place-Name Society, vols. XXV-XXVI) (Cambridge, 1970), pt. II, pp. 110-11.
  2. Morris, George E. 'A Ryme of Robyn Hod', Modern Language Review, vol. 43 (1948), pp. 507-508; see p. 507.
  3. [Wright, T.], ed. Jack of Dover, his Quest of Inquirie, or his Privy Search for the Veriest Foole in England: A Collection of Merry Tales Published at the Beginning of the Sixteenth Century, edited from a copy in the Bodleian Library [by Thomas, Wright], Early English Poetry, Ballads, and Popular Literature of the Middle Ages, edited from Original Manuscripts and scarce publications, vol. VII. London: Printed for the Percy Society by T. Richards, 1842; see pp. 4-5.
  4. Braithwaite, Richard; Haslewood, Joseph, ed. Barnabæ Itinerarium, or Barnabee's Journal (London, 1820), vol. II, pp. 38-39.
  5. Thoresby, Ralph; Hunter, Joseph, ed. The Diary of Ralph Thoresby, F.R.S., Author of the Topography of Leeds (1677-1724.) (London, 1830), vol. 1, pp. 292-93.
  6. Thoroton, Robert. The Antiquities of Nottinghamshire: Extracted out of Records, Original Evidences, Leiger-books, Other Manuscripts, and Authentic Authorities. Beautified with Maps, Prospects, and Portraitures. 2nd ed. (Nottingham, 1790), vol. II, p. 157.
  7. Thoroton, Robert. The Antiquities of Nottinghamshire: Extracted out of Records, Original Evidences, Leiger-books, Other Manuscripts, and Authentic Authorities. Beautified with Maps, Prospects, and Portraitures. 2nd ed. (Nottingham, 1790), vol. II, pp. 170-71.
  8. Miller, Edward. The History and Antiquities of Doncaster and its Vicinity, with Anecdotes of Eminent Men (Doncaster; London, [1804]), p. 39 n. (1).
  9. Lewis, Samuel, compil. A Topographical Dictionary of England, comprising the Several Counties, Cities, Boroughs, Corporate and Market Towns, Parishes, Chapelries, and Townships, and the Islands of Guernsey, Jersey, and Man, with Historical and Statistical Descriptions (London, 1831), vol. II, p. 117, s.n. Edwinstow.
  10. Lewis, Samuel, compil. A Topographical Dictionary of England, comprising the Several Counties, Cities, Boroughs, Corporate and Market Towns, Parishes, Chapelries, and Townships, and the Islands of Guernsey, Jersey, and Man, with Historical and Statistical Descriptions (London, 1831), vol. III, p. 247, s.n. Mansfield.
  11. Lewis, Samuel, compil. A Topographical Dictionary of England, comprising the Several Counties, Cities, Boroughs, Corporate and Market Towns, Parishes, Chapelries, and Townships, and the Islands of Guernsey, Jersey, and Man, with Historical and Statistical Descriptions (London, 1831), vol. III, p. 415.
  12. Lewis, Samuel, compil. A Topographical Dictionary of England, comprising the Several Counties, Cities, Boroughs, Corporate and Market Towns, Parishes, Chapelries, and Townships, and the Islands of Guernsey, Jersey, and Man, with Historical and Statistical Descriptions. Third Edition (London, 1835), vol. II (unpag.), s.n. Edwinstowe.
  13. Green, Henry. Knutsford, its Traditions and History: with Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Notices of the Neighbourhood (London; Macclesfield; Knutsford, 1859), pp. 130-31.
  14. Grindon, Leo H. Lancashire: Brief Historical and Descriptive Notes (London, 1892), p. 304.
  15. Sutcliffe, Halliwell. By Moor and Fell: Landscapes and Lang-Settle Lore from West Yorkshire (London, 1899), pp. 34-36.
  16. Leland, John; Smith, Lucy Toulmin, ed. The Itinerary of John Leland in or about the Years 1535-1543 (London, 1906-10), vol. I, p. 94.
  17. Harrod, Henry. Report on the Records of the Borough of Colchester (Colchester, 1865), p. 26.
  18. 18.00 18.01 18.02 18.03 18.04 18.05 18.06 18.07 18.08 18.09 18.10 18.11 18.12 18.13 18.14 18.15 18.16 18.17 18.18 18.19 18.20 18.21 18.22 18.23 18.24 18.25 18.26 18.27 18.28 18.29 18.30 18.31 Not seen.