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Robin Hood's Bed (Blackstone Edge)

Locality
Coordinates 53.643878, -2.043532
Adm. div. Lancashire
Vicinity On Blackstone Edge
Type Natural feature
Interest Robin Hood name
Status Extant
First Record 1851
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Robin Hood's Bed.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2014-09-18. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2018-11-03.

According to Dobson & Taylor, Robin Hood's Bed is a "name applied to whole or part of the prominent ridge of Blackstone Edge in the Pennines". They note that neolithic flints have been found at this site.[1] While it is true that the name is sometimes applied to the entire ridge, there is no doubt that, as noted on Northern Antiquary's informative page on this locality, what suggested the name is a rock which "overlooks the very edge of the ridge, detached from the main section, with a large and very curious nature-worn ‘bed’ on its very crown" that is c. 125 cm wide and c. 215 cm long. This "bed" has a roughly horseshoe shaped ridge. Blackstone Edge forms a border between Lancashire and Yorkshire.

"Robin Hood's Bed" is indicated twice on the 1851 6" O.S. of the area, for the specific geological feature and for the ridge on which it is found. The later 6" O.S. maps include the name for the specific feature only.

Robin Hood is supposed to have slept in the bed and to have used this lofty locality as a look-out from which he could conveniently survey the Roman road below. He also amused himself by flinging a boulder all the way to Monstone Edge, where it remains under the names of the Manstone (Man Stone) or Robin Hood's Quoit.

Paul Bennett (Northern Antiquary) also notes that the locality is mentioned in records of the township of Rishworth in 1836. A slightly older mention is found in the 1775 Allusion below.

Allusions

1775 - Watson, John - History and Antiquities of Halifax (3)

From his [i.e. Thomas Nettleton's] observations it likewise appears, that Halifax is in the latitude of 53. 47. that [sic] the height of Blackstone-edge, at Robin-hood's-bed, is two hundred and thirty-nine yards and a quarter; that Halifax Bank bears from this 60°. from north to east; Manchester 40. 30. from south to west; Rochdale 70. 20. from south to west.[2]

1857 - Sullivan, Jeremiah - Cumberland and Westmorland (1)

 In the south of Ireland, and other places, when a murder has been committed, every person who passes the spot is under an obligation to leave a stone, and the custom being continued for an indefinite time, a considerable heap is generally raised. It once happened that a man of brutal disposition, resident in a town, wantonly slew a number of persons who passed his house singing and shouting for their amusement. The blow, which was probably not intended to kill, proved fatal; the murderer escaped the punishment of the law, but for many weeks was obliged to keep a labourer in regular, occasional employment, to remove cairns from before his door. Some provinces of Spain have a similar custom, but to take the words of the writer, the stone is there thrown on the grave. On the borders of Gallicia, says an English traveller, are found heaps of stones. Every Gallician who goes out of the province to seek work, either going or returning, throws a stone on the heap.

We thus come to a curious nutting custom of Westmorland, connected with no less personages than Robin Hood and Little John. In the neighbourhood of Orton are two heaps of stones, under which it is believed the outlaw of Sherwood Forest and his lieutenant, are buried. It was once customary for every person who went a nutting in the wood, at the south end of which these heaps are situated, to throw a stone on Robin's grave, repeating the following rhyme:

Robin Hood, Robin Hood, here lie thy bones,
Load me with nuts as I load thee with stones.

 Whoever was the original of this famous outlaw, and whether he was properly Robin of the Wood, or Robin with the Hood, his name is now connected with mounds and stones innumerable in various parts of England. Lancashire has made him a giant, and [p. 131:] given him Blackstone Edge for a bed. Barrows in many places are called Robin Hood's butts. He has become a favourite ballad hero, and has been worked up with the celebration of the May festival; in Westmorland, as we see, he is the patron of nutters. And, in short, too much popularity has converted him, according to the view of critical investigators, into a myth. Near the village of Catterlen, in a retired part of the wood, is a spring called Robin Hood's well, but how it acquired the name is not now known.[3]

1889 - Fishwick, Henry - History of Parish of Rochdale (1)

The following is a list of twenty-five places in the parish where, from time to time, numbers of flint implements and chippings have been found, which shows how wide spread was the area in which these early toolmakers dwelt.
     Blackstone Edge [...] Robin Hood's Bed.[4]

1889 - Fishwick, Henry - History of Parish of Rochdale (2)

On the top of Blackstone Edge is a large reservoir for supplying the Rochdale Canal, about half-a-mile south of which is a craggy part of the hill which is known as "Robin Hood's bed."[5]

1925 - Newell, A B M - Hillside View of Industrial History

Locally much romantic rock scenery may be found at Robin Hood's Bed on Blackstone Edge, Langfield and Erringden Moors, and most notable of all that fine and time-honoured outcrop on Stansfield heights known as Bride Stones.[6]

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