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Robin Hood's Chair (Baildon)

Revision as of 10:29, 5 June 2019 by Henryfunk (talk | contribs) (Photo of Robin Hood's Chair)
Locality
Coordinate 53.8451, -1.7933
Adm. div. West Riding of Yorkshire
Vicinity c. 2 km SW of Baildon
Type Natural feature
Interest Robin Hood name
Status Defunct?
First Record 1852
A.k.a. Robin Hood's Seat; Druids Chair
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Robin Hood's Chair.
At Robin Hood's Chair, 1923: Nick Smith's grandma Parr on the left; girl and middle-aged lady unidentified, but the dog was named Jack / Courtesy Nick Smith and his mother; photo treatment Henrik Thiil Nielsen.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2016-12-17. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2019-06-05. Photos and additional information courtesy Baildon surveyor Nicholas Smith and his mother.

Robin Hood's Chair, a boulder in Trench Wood, c. 2 km SW of Baildon, is first recorded in 1852. The name and whereabouts of the Chair are now largely, if not entirely, forgotten in the area.

Author and blogger Kai Roberts describes the Chair as "an earthfast boulder in which water has worn a natural cavity resembling a seat and where Victorian antiquarians suggested some local shaman or chief once sat". He further notes that it is also sometimes known as Robin Hood's Seat and is located "about halfway down Shipley Glen".[1] According to the 1891 allusion cited below, the Chair is located "[a]t the top of Trench Wood, on entering the Glen". It has an interesting neighbour, the Shipley Glen Tramway, which has taken passengers up and down the glen since 1895.[2] An official publication of Baildon Council has the Chair "[n]ear the top of the tramway",[3] which seems to confirm the statement in the 1891 allusion. The coordinates used for the map and cited in the fact box are those of the georeferenced version of the 25" O.S. map of the area (see Maps below).

Photo of Robin Hood's Chair

In May of 2019, Baildon surveyor Nicholas Smith contacted me after reading about Robin Hood's Chair on this page and on Kai Roberts's blog. He had come here (and there) looking for information about the "Druids Chair" that figures in a 1923 photo in his mother's family album, which includes photos that belonged to Nick grandparents who owned the Shipley Glen Tramway during the 1920s to 1940s. As part of our email correspondence, Nick mailed me a scan of the photo, which his mother has generously allowed me to put on this page. So now for the first time Robin Hood's (and the Druid's) Chair in Shipley Glen can be seen on the web. The photo taken in 1923 shows Nick Smith's grandma Parr on the left, an unidentified girl and middle-aged lady, and a dog named Jack who found time to (perhaps) smile at the camera and give the girl a kiss on the cheek while he was being photographed. They are all seated on or leaning against Robin Hood's Chair.

In the photo album the boulder is referred to as the Druid's Chair, and in fact Nick and his mother had never before heard the name "Robin Hood's Chair". However, there can be no real doubt that the Druid's Chair is identical with that of R. Hood. The stone matches the descriptions cited on this page, and whether Johnnie Gray's 1891 account of the stone inspired the name "Druid's Stone" or vice versa, the connection is also clear enough here. Many nineteenth century English antiquaries anticipated modern New Age religionist in their (perhaps not entirely fact-based) reverence for the Ancient Celts and their wise and mysterious Druids, so perhaps on balance it is most likely that it was Gray who dreamed up the druidic connection. Perhaps the name "Druid's Chair" then crystallized when someone in the area read his account of the boulder. Nick notes that the photo is preceded and followed in the album by others taken not far from the tramway tracks, a fact which further supports the identification.

Locating the stone

The earliest record of the name "Robin Hood's Chair" known to IRHB is a 6" O.S. map of Aireborough, Baildon, Bingley and Shipley published in 1852 (see Maps below). The tithe award for Shipley (1849) does not include the name 'Robin Hood's Chair'.[4] That for Baildon lists two plots both named or described as "Trench Wood".[5]

Allusions

1891 - Gray, Johnnie - Through Airedale from Goole to Malham (2)

At the top of Trench Wood, on entering the Glen there is a large stone with a bowl-shaped cavity, called from time immemorial Robin Hood's Seat. This designation is, of course, purely mythical, many such curious stones and other remarkable objects in our part of the country being associated in some fanciful way or other with this famous mediaeval outlaw. It may just as well have been the judgment-seat of some Druid priest or chief, or even (if credence may go so far) a holy basin for the retention of water in which leaves of the sacred oak were dipped and borne, as we are told, in processionals to the festal altars.* Similar stones are found elsewhere in our district near Druidical temples.[6]

Gazetteers

Maps

Sources

Discussion

Background

  • 1845 tithe award for Baildon, online at the Genealogist.co.uk, piece 43, sub-piece 027, Image 413, item 587; Image 426, item 550 (subscription required)
  • 1849 tithe award for Shipley, online at the Genealogist.co.uk, piece 43, sub-piece 352, Images 423-54 (subscription required)
  • Shipley Glen Tramway.

Also see

Notes

  1. Old Elmet Dreaming: My Folkloric Influences.
  2. [Shipley Glen Tramway] website.
  3. Ashton, Joe, et. al., eds. Exploring Baildon: A Guide to Public Spaces (Baildon, Shipley, 2015), p. 20, No. 45.
  4. 1849 tithe award for Shipley, online at the Genealogist.co.uk, piece 43, sub-piece 352, Images 423-54 (subscription required).
  5. 1849 tithe award for Baildon, online at the Genealogist.co.uk, piece 43, sub-piece 027, Image 413, item 587; Image 426, item 550 (subscription required).
  6. Gray, Johnnie. Through Airedale from Goole to Malham (Leeds; Bradford; Skipton; Goole, 1891), p. 150.

Image gallery

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