Robin Hood's Field (Whitwell)
|Vicinity||Allegedly c. 0.5 km S or SW of Whitwell, Rutland, England; perhaps somewhere in Rutland, Vermont?|
|Interest||Robin Hood name|
|Status||Defunct, if it ever existed|
By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2017-05-31. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2019-04-05. Information from Tim Clough, Honorary Editor, Rutland Local History & Record Society.Stephen Knight in one of his many publications on Robin Hood made the unsubstantiated claim that a locality near Whitwell, Rutland, is or was named 'Robin Hood's Field'. He apparently saw the purported existence of this field name and that of Robin Hood's Cave (Whitwell) – the latter being one among hundreds of Robin Hood-related place-names first recorded during the last couple of centuries – as somehow supporting his case for Barnsdale in Rutland being the original, the real or at least an alternative or competing stamping ground for Robin Hood. Yet as is clear from my discussion of the latter locality, it was not known as 'Barnsdale' during the Middle Ages, a fact well known to place-name researchers and Rutland local historians. It can at best have a tenuous connection with the Robin Hood tradition through the later form of its name being influenced by that of Barnsdale, Robin Hood's famous South Yorkshire haunt. The sources show that until the late Tudor period Barnsdale in Rutland was always known as Bernard's Hill. Whereas this locality turns out on scrutiny to be simply irrelevant, Robin Hood's Field near Whitwell remains as elusive as a manor house ghost.
Knight tells his readers that "[w]here Barnsdale Forest touches the hamlet of Whitwell is nothing less than Robin Hood's Field", but his only support for this claim is a photo which he says shows people picnicking "[n]ear Robin Hood's Field, Whitwell, Rutland". What does 'near' mean in this context? In particular, can we even be certain that 'Robin Hood's Field' is in the photo? Knight provides no date for the photo, no name of the photographer. He does not tell his readers when, by whom and on what grounds it was decided that the photo was taken near the alleged Whitwell locality. He does, however, credit 'Lensmedia' – presumably an agency – and 'Rutland Historical Society'. This is problematical, for English local history societies are not in the habit of making materials in their collections available through agencies, and the name of the local history society of the English county is 'Rutland Local History & Record Society', whereas 'Rutland Historical Society', the form cited in Knight, is the name of the local history society of the city of Rutland, Vermont. A cursory search for a Robin Hood's Field in the vicinity of the latter city has not yielded any results, but my efforts here are ongoing.
I searched the following sources without finding any trace of a Robin Hood's Field near Whitwell, Rutland, England:
- all the Rutland tithe awards online at The Genealogist
- all the 1", 6" and 25" O.S. maps of the area online at the National Library of Scotland's website (see Maps section below)
- all books on the county of Rutland at the Internet Archive
- the English Place Name Society's volume on Rutland
- Rutland Local History and Record Society's book on Rutland Water, a large reservoir that now covers much of the area
- the list of Robin Hood place-names in Dobson & Taylor
- Google, which has yielded no sources older than Knight's 1994 book.
On 13 Sep. 2017, I mailed Tim Clough, Honorary Editor, Rutland Local History & Record Society, and asked him if he could tell me whether there is or was a locality named "Robin Hood's Field" near Whitwell. I cite from his courteous reply which came within hours: "I must say that I cannot think of any such field name [...] Looking at the photograph, I do not recognise it. It is not helpful that there is no further attribution, but at first sight it strikes me as rather too wooded to be our Whitwell". He further noted: "Lensmedia is not something I have come across, and normally any use of either the then Rutland Local History Society or the museum’s photographs would be negotiated direct with the Society or the museum". Mr Clough kindly offered to circulate my enquiry among members of the committee of the society "in case anyone can offer any other suggestions". This has not brought any new information to light. He also suggested various categories of sources I might check, but apart from a thorough search of the society's collections, these are all on the list above. Presumably a search of the society's archives would require the payment of a fee, and I do not at this point feel inclined to pay for research that someone else ought to have done. It is of course not entirely impossible that the place-name may have existed after all, but the burden of proof rests squarely with those who would like to think so.
- Not included in Dobson, R.B., ed.; Taylor, J., ed. Rymes of Robyn Hood: an Introduction to the English Outlaw (London, 1976), pp. 293-311.
Maps that include Whitwell. None includes Robin Hood's Field.
- 25" O.S. map IX.4 (1904; rev. 1903)
- 25" O.S. map IX.4 (1904; rev. 1903) (georeferenced)
- 25" O.S. map IX.4 (1930; rev. 1928)
- 6" O.S. map IX.NE (1885; surveyed 1884)
- 6" O.S. map IX.NE (1905; rev. 1903)
- 6" O.S. map IX.NE (1905; rev. 1903) (georeferenced)
- 6" O.S. map IX.NE (1931; rev. 1928)
- 6" O.S. map IX.NE (1952; rev. 1949)
- 1" Sheet 157 (contour) (1899)
- 1" Sheet 157 (hills) (1899).
- Knight, Stephen. Robin Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw (Oxford, UK; Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1994), pp. 29, 30.
- Rutland Local History & Record Society.
- Rutland Historical Society.
- The Genealogist: Landowner – Tithe Records (subscription required).
- Internet Archive: eBooks and Texts: search for 'Rutland'.
- Cox, Barrie. The Place-Names of Rutland (English Place-Name Society, vols. LXVII/LXVIII/LXIX) ([s.l.], 1994).
- Ovens, Robert, compil. & ed.; Sleath, Sheila, compil. & ed.; Clough, T.H. McK, ed. The Heritage of Rutland Water. Reprinted with minor corrections (Rutland Local History & Record Society, Rutland Record Series, No. 5) (Oakham, Rutland, 2008).
- Dobson, R.B., ed.; Taylor, J., ed. Rymes of Robyn Hood: an Introduction to the English Outlaw (London, 1976), pp. 293-311.
- Email correspondence between Henrik Thiil Nielsen and Tim Clough, 13. Sep. 2017.