Robin Hood's Cross (Castle Bytham)

From International Robin Hood Bibliography
Coordinate Near 52.754275, -0.532557 ?
Adm. div. Lincolnshire
Vicinity Near Castle Bytham
Type Monument
Interest Robin Hood name
Status Defunct?
First Record 1524
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Castle Bytham near which Robin Hood's Cross was probably located.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2013-08-17. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2021-01-05.

The editor of State Papers Henry VIII[1] thought the "Robyn Hoddes Crosse" mentioned in a 1524 letter from Thomas Wolsey to Thomas Howard (1473-1554), 3rd Duke of Norfolk and Earl Marshall (see Allusion below), was situated somewhere in Northumberland,[2] but this must be a mistake. First, for what it is worth, I have never seen any mention of such a place in Northumberland. Secondly, I believe the editor was led to conclude that the Duke was already in Northumberland by Wolsey's instructing the Duke to write to the King and Queen of Scotland that he "be commyn unto the Borders" to assist them. He may also have been influenced by the Duke's wish, expressed in a letter to Wolsey of July 19, to go directly to Northumberland without stopping at York en route.[3] However, Wolsey was writing about what he thought ought to happen, not what had already happened, and though the Duke wished to go directly to Northumberland, we know from Wolsey's letter that the Duke was in fact still in Lincolnshire on July 28, and Wolsey signed his letter "[a]t my manour of Hamptoncourte, the first day of August". The logistics argue against locating Robin Hood's Cross in Northumberland, for in the horse-driven era it would have been difficult for the Duke to have been in Lincolnshire on July 28, have gone to Northumberland and from there sent a letter that could have reached the cardinal at Hampton Court on August 1. There is a single hitherto overlooked reference, from 1537, to a Robin Hood's Cross in or near Barnsdale. This would have been on the route to York and Newcastle, but from here also there would have been little time for the letter to reach Hampton Court.

In view of the known whereabouts of the Duke, the Lincolnshire Robin Hood's Cross is much the most sensible choice. Child, in his discussion of Robin Hood place-names, notes that "an ancient boundary stone in Lincolnshire is Robin Hood's cross",[4] but he does not cite any source or give further particulars. Phillips notes that the cross is located near Castle Bytham.[5] However, no one cites the exact location of this cross and, unusually, there seem to be no photographs of it on websites with user-supplied topographical photographs. It also cannot be found on the O.S. 1:25,000 maps of the area. The coordinates cited in the fact box and indicated on the Google map are those of Castle Bytham.

It is perhaps a bit surprising that this rather early citation of a Robin Hood place-name in the correspondence of two major historical figures has escaped notice. I believe the date 1524 puts Robin Hood's Cross among the ten earliest (documented) Robin place-names.


1524 - Wolsey, Thomas - To Duke of Norfolk

     Being redy to fynishe this letter, arrived the post with your letters written on Robyn Hoddes Crosse, and such as were sent to you bothe from the King and Quene of Scottes, thErle [sic] of Aran, and also the Lord Dacres [...][6]




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