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Robin Hood's Butts (Canon Pyon) (1)

Coordinate 52.141226, -2.798408
Adm. div. Herefordshire
Vicinity In Canon Pyon, c. 150 m W of the A4110
Type Natural feature
Interest Robin Hood name
Status Extant
First Record 1802
A.k.a. Pyon Hill; Canon Pyon Butt; the Pyons
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Pyon Hill, the easternmost of the Robin Hood's Butts in Pyon Canon.
Pyon Hill, the easternmost of the Robin Hood's Butts in Canon Pyon / Philip Pankhurst, 4 Jul. 2011, Creative Commons.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2018-02-12. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2019-05-31.

'Robin Hood's Butts' is an alternative name of the Pyons, two conically shaped natural hills[1] in Canon Pyon, Herefordshire. Pyon Hill, the larger and easternmost of the two, is located c. 150 m west of the A4110, while its smaller cousin, Butthouse Knap, is located c. 300 m WSW of Pyon Hill. They are situated c. 4.75 and c. 3.6 km southeast of Weobley and c. 10.5 km SSE of Pembridge. The name 'Robin Hood's Butts' is first recorded in 1802.

George Lipscomb in his Journey into South Wales (see 1802 Allusion below) notes that "Robin Hood's Butts, a little detached eminence, stands in the midst of a beautiful plain, called Pembridge bottom". In view of the plural form, it is surprising that he apparently took "Robin Hood's Butts" to refer to a single "eminence", and if "Pembridge bottom" ever had any currency as a place-name, it must be said that it has left no trace on any of the maps of the area that I have consulted (including those listed in the Maps section below), neither does it occur as a field name.[2] When I asked Google Earth to take me to "Pembridge Bottom, Herefordshire" it decided I meant "Lower Bearwood" (i.e. Lower Barewood), c. 1 km south of Pembridge. I am not sure if this is significant; it may simply reflect the proximity of Lower Barewood to Pembridge and the similarity in sense of "Lower" to "Bottom". I have seen no other evidence for hills named Robin Hood's Butts in that neighbourhood or indeed anywhere in Herefordshire except in Canon Pyon. I believe Lipscomb intended to refer to one (or just possibly both) of the latter. The promontory Lady Lift which he mentions is in Yazor, c. 4.2 km WSW of Butthouse Knap, the westernmost of the Pyons. There is no Pembridge Bottom in Canon Pyon or neighbouring villages, but Lipscomb would not be the first travel writer to have lost his bearings. The concise entry in the 1824 edition of Patersons' Roads is more well-informed: "[In] West Hope. The conical hills called Robin Hood's Butts; and about 1 m. beyond Hide Field",[3] i.e. Hyde Field, c. 2.5 km north of the Pyons.

Etiological myths

Various myths of origin attach to Robin Hood's Butts:

  1. Robin Hood stood on one of the butts and shot an arrow a) on to the top of the other,[4] or b) into a tree on top of the other.[5]
  2. Robin Hood made a wager with Little John that he could jump over Wormesley Hill. As he performed this feat, he kicked a piece out of the hill with his heel. Thus Butthouse Knapp came into being. Little John, trying to outdo his master, took a longer run but also touched the hill with his foot. Thus Pyon Hill was created.[6]
  3. Provoked by the piety of the people of Hereford, the Devil, planning to bury or drown the city, took two sacks with earth from Dinmore Hill, but rather than covering the city, the contents of the sacks came to be deposited where the Pyons are now found because a) a holy man persuaded the Devil that the people of Hereford were wicked after all or b) the cock crew and the Devil emptied his sacks where he stood.[5]

Traditions similar to #1 are connected with Whitby Abbey and localities in its vicinity as well as with Limlow Hill (Litlington) and two nearby localities. Traditions somewhat similar to #2 relate to the Standing Stone in Sowerby. Also see Robin Hood's Penny Stone (Wainstalls).


1802 - Lipscomb, George - Journey into South Wales

 We made an excursion to visit Weobley encampment; and an unusually fine morning gave us an opportunity of seeing it to great advantage.
  It is placed on the summit of a proud eminence, which overtops the neighbouring country, and frowns defiance at the huge ridges, which every where raise themselves around it.
  Even if the antiquity of this camp did not recommend it to the notice of the curious, the delightful prospect which it commands would render it an object well worthy of attention to the contemplative traveller.
 To the south-east, the eye stretches as far as May Hill, in Gloucestershire: and the city of Hereford is only hidden by the intervention of a range of hills, which terminates in the remarkable promontory of Lady-lift before mentioned. Skerrit, in Monmouthshire, and the Black Mountains, whose summits were wrapped in snow, enclose the prospect on the south; and the Radnorshire hills, in a vast variety of shapes, on the west and north-west, are objects highly striking and picturesque. [p. 98:]
Robin Hood's Butts, a little detached eminence, stands in the midst of a beautiful plain, called Pembridge bottom. The Earl of Oxford's seat, at Eywood, is seen in the valley below, sheltered and embosomed among rich woods and plantations; and on the north, the town of Presteign, with the villas at Broad-heath and Stapleton, seems lying at the foot of this stupendous height.[7]






Brief mention

Also see


  1. Crawford, O.G.S. 'Place-Names and Archaeology', chapter VIII in: Mawer, A.; Stenton, F.M. Introduction to the Survey of English Place-Names (English Place-Name Society, vol. I, pt. 1). (Cambridge, 1924), pp. 143-64; see p. 159.
  2. Herefordshire Through Time: Field name and landowners results: Pembridge.
  3. [Paterson, Daniel]; Mogg, Edward. Paterson's Roads; being an Entirely Original and Accurate Description of All the Direct and Principal Cross Roads in England and Wales, with Part of the Roads of Scotland, The Sixteenth Edition. To which are added Topographical Sketches of the Several Cities, Market Towns, and Remarkable Villages; and Descriptive Accounts of the Principal Seats of the Nobility and Gentry, the Antiquities, Natural Curiosities, and other Remarkable Objects throughout the Kingdom: the Whole remodelled, augmented, and improved, by the Addition of Numerous New Roads and New Admeasurements, and arranged upon a Plan at Once Novel, Clear, and Intelligible, is deduced from the Latest and Best Authorities, including a Table of Heights of Mountains from the Grand Trigonometrical Survey of the Kingdom, and an Entirely New Set of Maps (London, 1822), p. 142, s.n. West Hope.
  4. Leather, Ella Mary. 'Folk-Lore of the Shire', in: Reade, Compton, ed. Memorials of Old Herefordshire (London and Derby, 1904), pp. 148-66; see pp. 162-63.
  5. 5.0 5.1 BBC: Domesday Reloaded: D-block GB-344000-249000: 1986, Folk Lore,Canon Pyon Area. Also see Leather, Ella Mary. The Folk-Lore of Herefordshire, collected from Oral and Printed Sources (Hereford; London, 1912), p. ?
  6. BBC: Domesday Reloaded: D-block GB-344000-249000: 1986, Folk Lore,Canon Pyon Area. Watkins, Alfred. The Old Straight Track: its Mounds, Beacons, Moats, Sites, and Mark Stones. 4th ed. (London, 1948), pp. 171, 178 (also editions of 1925, 1933, 1946, 1970, 1974, 1975, 1977, and 2014). Also see Leather, Ella Mary. The Folk-Lore of Herefordshire, collected from Oral and Printed Sources (Hereford; London, 1912), p. ?
  7. Lipscomb, George. Journey into South Wales, through the Counties of Oxford, Warwick, Worcester, Hereford, Salop, Stafford, Buckingham, and Hertford; in the Year 1799 (London, 1802), pp. 97-98.

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