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Robin Hood's Well (Barnsdale)

Locality
Coordinates 53.599722222222, -1.2172222222222
Adm. div. West Riding of Yorkshire
Vicinity In Barnsdale; 11 km NNW of Doncaster
Type Monument
Interest Robin Hood name
Status Extant
First Record 1535
Loading map...
Approximate location of Robin Hood's Well.
Robin Hood's Well – hamlet as well as well – with Robin Hood Inn across the Great North Road / 6" O.S, Map Sheet 264 (1854), at NLS.
Robin Hood's Well, hamlet and well, in 1891 / 25" O.S. map Yorkshire CCLXIV.11 (1893; surveyed 1891), at NLS.
John Vanbrugh's well-house, now on dry ground / Bill Henderson.
Robin Hood's Well / Roy Pledger, 2011, Google Earth / Panoramio.
Robin Hood's Well / Damon Stead, 2011, Google Earth / Panoramio.
Robin Hood's Well in its setting, from the AI, looking north / Google Earth Street View.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2013-06-13. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2017-12-15.

Robin Hood's Well is the name of a well in Barnsdale, at the northwest end of Skellow between the villages of Skelbrooke and Burghwallis, immediately east of the A1 between the Red House junction and Barnsdale Bar. The name now generally refers to the well-house, designed by John Vanbrugh (1664-1726)[1] and constructed over the natural well in the early 18th century but moved to a position near a lay-by a few meters south-east around 1960, when the dual carriageway was constructed. The well-spring is now submerged underneath the A1.[2] A.H. Smith[3] and Dobson & Taylor[4] seem to regard Robin Hood's Well and Robin Hood's Stone (see 1422 record below) as two names for one locality. It is unclear if this was in fact the case, but if distinct, the two localities cannot have been far apart. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the well was one of the "must-see" sites for tourists and travellers along the Great North Road.


While the name Robin Hood's Well can thus refer to both the natural well and the well-house now separated from it, it also, until the early 1930s if not later, referred to the now largely vanished hamlet that grew up around the site, complete with two good inns to serve the sightseeing travellers. One of the inns was named Robin Hood Inn. Of the six 6" O.S. maps of the area available on NLS's excellent maps and images sub-site only the oldest, published in 1854 but based on a survey done in 1849, has both the well and the hamlet indicated by name (see maps listed below). On the other hand, the three 25" maps of the area available there, the latest of which was published in 1932, do indicate both as 'Robin Hood's Well'. It is hard to tell from the maps, therefore, how long the name continued to be used of the hamlet. Perhaps it still is in local use?

Joseph Hunter writes in his discussion of the township of Skellow in his South Yorkshire that "the name is, no doubt, derived from the famous Skel in its neighbourhood, now called Robin Hood's Well"[5] The noun 'well' is sometimes found used with reference to a stream.[6] but I have found no other evidence that the name "Robin Hood's Well" was ever applied to the Skell. In a short part of its course the Skell formed the northern boundary of the hamlet of Robin Hood's Well, immediately before flowing under the Great North Road (now the A1) and past the Bishop's Tree, another Robin Hood-related site. Somewhere in the immediate vicinity was Robin Hood Close. Passing these localities so closely connected with the outlaw and running through southern parts of Barnsdale, the little river may well occasionally, as it were, have borrowed the name of the famous Well.

As just noted, Robin Hood's Well is close to the site of the Bishop's Tree, sometimes referred to as Robin Hood's Tree, a now vanished tree around which Robin Hood made the bishop of Hereford dance, according to the ballad that details their meeting.[7] John Cosin[8] (1594-1672), bishop of Durham (1660-72), distributed alms to the poor in the hamlet of Robin Hood's Well in 1667. We know this from a matter-of-fact entry in the accounts of his travel expenses (see allusion cited below), and there is no reason to think this was other than a routine dole-out, but one can appreciate the irony of the situation nonetheless.

As is clear from S.H. Grimm's 1737 drawing and that in Joseph Hunter's 1828 work on South Yorkshire, the well house was originally considerably taller than it is at present. According to S.R. Clarke (see 1828 Allusion below), the well house was nine feet high. Just why it had to have the lower part of its legs amputated (or buried in the ground) is not clear. Did this happen in 1960 when it was moved to its present location?

To appreciate the importance of Barnsdale to the Robin Hood tradition I recommend reading the entries on Barnsdale and the Robin Hood-related localitites in its vicinity. See the page on the Barnsdale place-name cluster for links.

Records

1422 - Stone of Robert Hode

[1422:]
Grant1 by John Jubbe of Wrangbrok and Richard Jubbe of Upton to John Pullene of Wrangbrok of a tenement in Wrangbrok built on as it lies between the cottage of the nuns of Hampole on the west and the land of Peter de la Hay on the east, and extends to the beck of the said vill towards the south, together with twelve acres of arable land lying in (fo. 182d) the fields and territory of Wrangbrok, Slepill, and Skelbrok; whereof one acre lies in Haverlands between the land of John Bargan on the north and the land of the monks of Bretton on the south, and a rood of land lies in the same field between the land of the John Jubbe on the west and the land of John Wodward on the east, another half acre lies in Mykilffurland between the land of William Lord on the west and the land of the said monks on the east, one rood lies in the same culture between the land of the said monks on the west and the land of William Shepherd on the east, another half acre lies in Le Estfeld between the land of William Bargan on either side, and one rood lies in the same culture between the land of John Jubbe on the west and the land of the said monks on the east, half a rood lies in the same field between the land of the said monks on either side, one acre [lies] in the same culture between the land of John Haitfeld on the west and the land of John Wodward on the east, half an acre lies in the same culture between the land of William Lord on the west and the land of William Bargan on the east, one acre lies between the land of the said monks on the north and the land of John Adamson on the south, half an acre lies in the same field between the land of William Bargan on the north and the land of the said monks on the south, one acre lies in the same culture between the land of the prioress of Hampall on the north and the land of William Lord on the south, half an acre lies in the same field between the land of the said monks on either side, half an acre lies in Slephill between the land of the said prioress on the west and the land of Richard Slephill on the east and abuts on Lynges of Skelbrok, half an acre lies in the same field between the land of John Adamson on the west and the land of the prioress on the east and abuts on Le Lynges aforesaid, half an acre lies in the same culture between the land of William Lord on the west and the land of Reginald Pullayne on the east and abuts on the aforesaid Lynges and upon the stone of Robert Hode2 towards [p. 106:] the north, an acre (fo.183) lies in the same field between the land of the said prioress on the west and the common land on the east and abuts upon their (the grantors') land towards the north, half an acre lies in the same field between the land of William Calthorn on the south and the land of the lord of Skelbrok on the north and abuts on their (the grantors') land towards the west, half an acre lies in the same field between the land of William Calthorn on the north and the land of the said lord on the north [sic] and abuts on the King's highway towards the east, half an acre lies between the land of William Calthorn on the north and the land of John Janyn on the south and abuts on the same highway to the east.1 To hold and to have to the said John Pulayne for his life, freely, quietly, etc., from the chief lords of that fee, by the services due and accustomed, rendering thence yearly to the lord of Burghwaleis 5d. and to the prior of Bretton 3s. 7d. And after the death of the said John, remainder to John his son and the heirs of his body; and if he shall die without such heir, remainder to the right heirs of John Polayne for ever. Witnesses, John Wentworth of Elmesall, William Lorde of Wrangbrok, Richard de Wrangbrok, and others. Dated at Wrangbrok, Sunday in the feast of Holy Trinity, 1322.2[9]

Allusions

1539 - Dodsworth, Roger - Notes

At Himsworth there be 2 or 3 litle springs which meeting together make a small current, & come to South Kirkby (a towne pleasantly seated where the family of the Tregotts haue a long time liued in good reputation), by Elmsall where Wentworth hath his mansion, haueing long since descended out of Wentworth Woodhouse, & by marriage of the daughter and heire of . . . . Biset haue good Lands in this Tract from whom the Lo. Wentworth descended. Thence it goeth to Hampull a house of Nunns [...] nere vnto wch place St. Richard the Hermit liued, from hence to Robbin- [p. 12:] hood-well wch J rather take to be the Hermit's well near Adwicke in the Street, And through Bentley by Arksey, & falleth into Dun at Wheatley.[10]

1634 - Anonymous - Short Survey of 26 Counties

The next morning [at Doncaster ...] we mounted and passed over the River that comes from Sheffeild, for to dine at Pomfret. In the mid-way (to season our that morning's-purchas'd travelling Plate) being thirsty, we tasted a Cup at Robin Hood's Well, and there according to the usuall and ancient Custome of Travellers were in his rocky chaire of ceremony, dignify'd with the Order of Knighthood, and sworne to observe his Lawes. After our Oath we had no time to stay to heare our charge, butt discharg'd our due Fealtie Fee, 4d. a peece, to the Lady of the ffountaine, on we spur'd wth our new dignitie to Pomfret.[11]

1638 - Braithwaite, Richard - Barnabee's Journal (3)

[Latin text:]
Nescit sitis artem modi,
Puteum Roberti Hoodi
Veni, & liquente vena
Vincto catino catena,
Tollens sitim, parcum odi,
Solvens obolum Custodi.

Veni Wentbrig, ubi plagæ
Terræ, maris, vivunt sagæ,
Vultu torto & anili,
Et conditione vilii:
His infernæ manent sedes,
Quæ cum inferis ineunt fædus.

[English text:]
Thirst knowes neither meane nor measure.
Robin Hoods Well was my treasure,
In a common dish enchained,
I my furious thirst restrained:
And because I drunk the deeper,
I paid two farthings to the keeper.

Thence to Wentbrig, where vile wretches,
Hideous hags and odious witches,
Writhen count'nance and mis-shapen
Are by some foule Bugbeare taken:
These infernall seats inherit,
Who contract with such a Spirit[12]

1638 - Braithwaite, Richard - Barnabee's Journal (4)

[Latin text:]
Nunc longinquos locos odi.
Vale Fons Roberti Hoodi,
Vale Rosington, vale Retford,
Et antiqua sedes Bedford,
Vale Dunchurch, Dunstable, Brickhill,
Alban, Barnet, Pimlico, Tickhill.

[English text:]
Now I hate all forraine places.
Robin Hoods Well and his chaces,
Farewell Rosington, farewell Retford,
And thou ancient seat of Bedford,
Farewell Dunchurch, Dunstable, Brickhill,
Alban, Barnet, Pimlico, Tickhill.[13]

1654 - Evelyn, John - Diary

16th. We arrived at Doncaster, where we lay this night; it is a large fair town, famous for great wax-lights, and good stockings. [p. 90:] 17th August [...] Passed through Pontefract; the castle, famous for many sieges both of late and ancient times, and the death of that unhappy King murdered in it (Richard II), was now demolishing by the rebels: it stands on a mount, and makes a goodly show at a distance. The Queen has a house here, and there are many fair seats near it, especially Mr. Pierrepont's, built at the foot of a hill out of the castle ruins. We all alighted in the highway to drink at a crystal spring, which they call Robin Hood's Well; near it, is a stone chair, and an iron ladle to drink out of, chained to the seat. We rode to Tadcaster [...][14]

1667 - Cosin, John - Household Book

Ferrybriggs. — Payd the house bill for meate there, 11s. 6d. Payd for hay and oates there, 6s. 6d. Given the oastlers there, 1s. Given to the poore at Robin hood's well and severall other places to Doncaster, 2s.[15]

1675 - Ogilby, John - Britannia

40%
Robin Hood's Well indicated at the foot of the central scroll.[16]

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 [...][17]

1703 - Thoresby, Ralph - Diary

[...] Thence by Darrington and Stapleton Lees to Wentbrig, beyond which, upon the heights, may be seen York Minster, and it is said, also, that of Lincoln, but it was too duskish for us to do it; what I was more intent upon was the famous Roman highway, which is not only visible for several miles, but its complete dimensions, near which we drank at a curious spring, which receives its denomination from Robin Hood, the noted outlaw; after which we left the common road to Doncaster, and followed the old one, as is evident from the said Roman rig, which we followed for some time, in our road to Sprotburgh [...][18]

1725 - Stukeley, William - Diary

[Drawing in William Stukeley's MS Diary:] Robin Hood's well and the Hermen street, 20 Sept., 1725.[19]

1730 - Gent, Thomas - History of York (2)

Over a Spring, call'd Robin Hood's Well, (3 or 4 Miles this Side of Doncaster, and but a Quarter if a Mile only from 2 Towns call'd Skelbrough and Bourwallis) is a very handsome Stone Arch, erected by the Lord Carlisle, where [p. 235:] Passengers from the Coach frequently drink of the fair Water, and give their Charity to two People who attend there.[20]

1740 - Stukeley, William - Diary

Doncaster.[21]
At Doncaster. A chapel, and a bridg with a gate over it. A man in armour, over the gate, in a threatening posture, looking over the battlements, cut in stone. Danum, Daunum, Caer Daun, by Neunius, was the station of the Equites Crispiani; the name is British, Davon the river, now Don. On this side Robin Hood's well, the Roman road appears in a very elevated ridg, composed of a huge body of stone, for miles together. Robin Hood's well a pretty ornament to the road; Sir John Vanbrugh the architect.

1744 - Gale, Roger - Poem on Robin Hood's Well

"Nympha fui quondam latronibus hospita sylvæ
"Heu nimium sociis nota, Robine tuis.
"Me pudet innocuos latices fudisse scelestis,
"Jamque viatori pocula tuta fero,
"En pietatis honos! Comes hanc mihi Carliolensis
"Ædem sacravit quâ bibis, hospes, aquas.[22]

1746 - Johnson, Maurice, Jr - To Mr Neve

[...] my friend Dr. Stukeley of Stamford [...], by whom, being a member, we have been favoured with his minutes of their Society there, wherein are, amongst many very curious acts and observations, many remarks he made, in a journey he took to visit Mr. Gale of Scruton, his lady's brother, on many parts of Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, and Yorkshire, which with his good leave I lay together and extract, but pretty fully and occasionally communicated at our meetings, much being discovered since Camden's time, and many of these not noticed in the additions to his Britannia, or in the Atlas or other authors, and some of those in Yorkshire which have escaped the mention of Dr. Heneage Deering, Archdeacon of Rippon, in his "Reliquiæ Eboracenses," a quarto poem printed at York in 1743. Give me leave to send you here an epigram from the second volume of the Doctor's Minutes, p. 596, made by his brother Gale on [p. 497:] Robin Hood's well, a fine spring on the road, ornamented by Sir John Vanbrugh:
"Nympha fui quondam latronibus hospita sylvæ
"Heu nimium sociis nota, Robine tuis.
"Me pudet innocuos latices fudisse scelestis,
"Jamque viatori pocula tuta fero,
"En pietatis honos! Comes hanc mihi Carliolensis
"Ædem sacravit quâ bibis, hospes, aquas.
                                                      "Roger Gale."[23]

1828 - Clarke, Stephen Reynolds - New Yorkshire Gazetteer

Robin Hood's Well [...] a hamlet, partly in the township of Burgh Wallis, parish of Owton, and partly in the township of Skelbrook, parish of Kirkby South, wapentake of Osgoldcross, 7 miles N. W. from Doncaster. This village is situated in what was once Barnsdale Forest, now enclosed, and one of the haunts of the renowned free-booter. The well is a square building, nine feet high, which adjoins the high road; near this place Robin Hood is said to have robbed the Bishop of Hereford, and afterwards compelled him to dance round a tree in his boots.[24]

1858 - Black, Adam - Picturesque Guide to Yorkshire

The scenery readily accessible from Askerne is pleasing, but not very romantic. There are several places in the [p. 115:] neighbourhood that may be visited — among others, Campsall; Burgh Wallis and Adwick-le-Street, both of which have old monuments in their churches; and Robin Hood's Well, an insignificant hamlet, named after a well by the side of the turnpike, which tradition has associated with the name of the renowned freebooter.[25]

Lists

Sources

Maps

Drawings

  • On September 20, 1725, William Stukeley made a drawing of the well, listed in a catalogue of his papers as "Robin Hood's well, and the Hermen [i.e. Ermine] street, 20 Sept., 1725".[28] The drawing is found in volume 16 of William Stukeley's MS Diary among his papers in the Bodleian Library.[29]

Discussion

Background

Brief mention

Also see

Notes

  1. Wikipedia: John Vanbrugh.
  2. Wikipedia: Barnsdale.
  3. Smith, A.H. The Place-Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire (English Place-Name Society, vols. XXX-XXXVII) (Cambridge, 1961-63), pt. II, pp. 36, 44.
  4. Dobson, R.B., ed.; Taylor, J., ed. Rymes of Robyn Hood: an Introduction to the English Outlaw (London, 1976), pp. 23-24.
  5. Hunter, Joseph. South Yorkshire. The History and Topography of the Deanery of Doncaster in the Diocese and County of York (London, 1828-31), vol. II, pp. 481-82; also see vol. II, p. 457.
  6. [OED, s.n. well, n. 1, 1. a.] (requires paid subscription)
  7. See Robin Hood and the Bishop of Hereford.
  8. Wikipedia: John Cosin.
  9. Walker, John William, ed., Abstracts of the Chartularies of the Priory of Monkbretton (Cambridge, 2013), pp. 105-106.
  10. Holmes, Richard, [ed.] 'Dodsworth Yorkshire Notes: The Wapentake of Osgoldcross', The Yorkshire Archæological Journal, vol. XIII (1895), pp. 99-153, see pp. 111-12.
  11. Brayley, Edw. W. The Graphic and Historical Illustrator, ed. Edw. W. Brayley (London, 1834), p. 93.
  12. Braithwaite, Richard. Barnabæ Itinerarium, or Barnabee's Journal [...] With a Life of the Author, a Bibliographical Introduction to the Itinerary, and a Catalogue of His Works, ed. Joseph Haslewood (London, 1820), vol. II, pp. 272-75; note in vol. I, p. 127.
  13. Braithwaite, Richard. Barnabæ Itinerarium, or Barnabee's Journal [...] With a Life of the Author, a Bibliographical Introduction to the Itinerary, and a Catalogue of His Works, ed. Joseph Haslewood (London, 1820), vol. II, pp. 358-59.
  14. Evelyn, John. The Diary of John Evelyn, ed. Austin Dobson (London and New York, 1906), vol. II, p. 90.
  15. Cosin, John; Ornsby, George, ed. The Correspondence of John Cosin, D.D. Lord Bishop of Durham: together with Other Papers Illustrative of his Life and Times. Part II (The Publications of the Surtees Society, vol. LV) (Durham, London, Edinburgh, 1872), p. 351.
  16. John Ogilby's Britannia (1675), 'The Continuation of the Road from London to Barwick, Beginning at Tuxford. & Extending to York.', Plate 3.3 at The Visual Telling of Stories
  17. 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.
  18. 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, p. 411.
  19. Stukeley, William; [W.C. Lukis, ed.] The Family Memoirs of the Rev. William Stukeley (The Publications of the Surtees Society, vols. LXXIII, LXXVI, LXXX) (1882-87), vol. III, p. 500.
  20. Gent, Thomas. The Antient and Modern History of the Famous City of York (York and London, 1730), pp. 234-35.
  21. Stukeley, William; [W.C. Lukis, ed.] The Family Memoirs of the Rev. William Stukeley (The Publications of the Surtees Society, vols. LXXIII, LXXVI, LXXX) (1882-87), vol. III, p. 393.
  22. Nichols, John, ed. Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica No. II. Part III (London, 1781), p. 427.
  23. Nichols, John, ed. Bibliotheca Topographica Britannica No. II. Part III (London, 1781), pp. 426-27.
  24. Clarke, Stephen Reynolds. The New Yorkshire Gazetteer, or Topographical Dictionary (London, 1828), p. 208.
  25. Black, Adam; Black, Charles. Black's Picturesque Guide to Yorkshire (Edinburgh: Adam and Charels Black, 1858), pp. 114-15.
  26. Not seen, but cf. Dobson, R.B.; Taylor, J. 'The Medieval Origins of the Robin Hood Legend: a Reassessment', Northern History, vol. 7 (1972), pp. 1-30, p. 18 n. 63.
  27. Not seen but cf. A.H. Smith, loc. cit., whose abbreviated reference expands as "Yorkshire (Greenwood) 1771", in all probability a mistake for "Yorkshire (Jefferys) 1772". Both Jefferys and the Greenwood brothers made important maps of the county, but in 1771 the Greenwood brothers were not yet born. Jefferys's map was made in 1771-72 and published in 1772.
  28. Stukeley, William; [W.C. Lukis, ed.] The Family Memoirs of the Rev. William Stukeley (The Publications of the Surtees Society, vols. LXXIII, LXXVI, LXXX) (1882-87), p. 500, No. 129.
  29. For access etc., see Bodleian Library: Collection Level Description: Papers of William Stukeley.

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