Robin Hood's Chair (Baildon)

From International Robin Hood Bibliography
Revision as of 14:44, 5 June 2019 by Henryfunk (talk | contribs)
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 and Kate Smith; 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, kate Smith.

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 late 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's 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 Kate Smith, 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) together with an unidentified girl and middle-aged lady as well as 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 Kate Smith 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 – note especially the hollow in the centre of the rock created by water – and the connection between Johnnie Gray's 1891 account and the name "Druid's Stone" seems clear enough. Although either may have inspired the other, it is perhaps most likely on balance that it was Gray who dreamed up the druidic connection. One may wonder whether they were more deserving of such admiration than any of the other peoples Englishmen can count among their ancestors, but there is no doubt that the Ancient Celts with their wise druids and their mysterious leechcraft were the darlings of 19th century English antiquaries, as they still are of many New Age devotees. Thus in the mid-19th century, a local clergyman felt convinced that Robin Hood's Cave, discovered on the perimeter of Nottingham's recently constructed "Rock Cemetery", had been part of an ancient druid temple. Its origin is in fact rather more prosaic. Perhaps the name "Druid's Chair" crystallized when someone in the Baildon area read Gray's account of the boulder? In all events, 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

Despite the mention in the official publication by Baildon Council,[3] it seems fairly safe to conclude that both the name and location of the boulder have been forgotten locally. Nick Smith, who was born and bred in the area and still lives there, has a strong interest in Baildon and Shipley Glen local history, and his mother Kate's memory would go back to the late 1930s or early 40s, yet neither had ever heard about the Chair before. Mr Smith has recently spent a generous amount of time trying to locate it, for which I am very grateful. I have in the meantime supplied what I believe are better coordinates.

Nick and Kate Smith feel certain that the Chair must be on the Glen in or near Trench Wood, near the top station of the tramway where several of the photos in the album were taken, probably on the same day as that of the Chair. I believe this tallies well with what the 25" maps listed below suggest. Mr Smith suspects that the stone is in an area that is partially fenced off and more or less closed to the public. This of course makes the search more difficult as does also the fact that the area, significantly changed from what it was when the maps were made, is in parts very heavily wooded, some areas being nearly inaccessible. Nick Smith notes that there were many other attractions on Shipley Glen around the turn of the 20th century and that people are only just starting to take an interest in them. There were large fair­ground rides, aerial runways, Japanese Gardens etc., all on a scale one would not now imagine in a place like Shipley Glen, but in those days tens of thousands used to come and spend a Sunday afternoon. To people in Bradford the Glen was the immediate countryside. Sir Titus Salt's mill and model village, Saltaire,[4] remain at the bottom of the Glen Tramway as memories of that time.[5]

The Chair in maps and records

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. It recurs in maps published as late as 1948 if not later (see Maps below). The tithe award for Shipley (1849) does not include it,[6] neither does that for Baildon, though it lists two plots named or described as "Trench Wood".[7]


1851 - West, R - Lines written on a Beautiful Glen

Behold how they flock to the Glen from each village.
Sweet echo resounds from Baildon's high plain.
Here Robin Hood's Chair is hewn out in the rock.
The Larches and Poplars uplift their proud heads.
But O what sweet melodies sound in the wood.
The old Druid's Pulpit is seen in the Glen,
And the Writing Desk too, if tradition be true.
From Bingley and Bradford, and Leeds they resort—
Some have breathed the foul gas in the mill.
Ye Cottingley friends and Wilsden likewise,
And Harden that lies near the Grange,
You may come to the Glen sweet pleasures to find,
And your minds relieve with a change.
And Cullingworth, too, where Odd-fellows unite,
Considered intelligent men,
If you choose, you may roam o'er the sweet fragrant bloom,
You are welcome to visit the Glen.[8]

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.[9]

1912 - Baildon, William Paley - Baildon and the Baildons (1)

Robin Hood's Seat. — "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."2

The cavity in the stone is in my opinion of natural origin and has no traces of human handiwork. The hollow is, I think, a "pot-hole," worn by the action of pebbles in the bed of a river where a circular motion is imparted to the water. Such holes exist in considerable numbers in the bed of the Wharfe near the Strid, and are common in most swiftly-flowing rivers where the bed is rocky. This piece of stone must, if I am right, have been at the bottom of a river in some very remote geological epoch. The whole slope of the hill about this spot is strewn with masses of rock which have rolled down from a higher level; this particular mass got broken in the process, leaving about three-quarters [p. 114:] of the basin intact, which is two feet in diameter and one foot 9 inches deep.[10]






Also see


  1. Old Elmet Dreaming: My Folkloric Influences.
  2. [Shipley Glen Tramway] website.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Ashton, Joe, et. al., eds. Exploring Baildon: A Guide to Public Spaces (Baildon, Shipley, 2015), p. 20, No. 45.
  4. Saltaire Village website.
  5. Much of this is based on emails from Nick Smith to Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 27 May to 5 June 2019.
  6. 1849 tithe award for Shipley, online at the, piece 43, sub-piece 352, Images 423-54 (subscription required).
  7. 1849 tithe award for Baildon, online at the, piece 43, sub-piece 027, Image 413, item 587; Image 426, item 550 (subscription required).
  8. Turner, J. Horsfall. Ancient Bingley: or, Bingley, its History and Scenery (Bingley, 1897), p. 282.
  9. Gray, Johnnie. Through Airedale from Goole to Malham (Leeds; Bradford; Skipton; Goole, 1891), p. 150.
  10. Baildon, W. Paley. Baildon and the Baildons: a History of a Yorkshire Manor and Family ([s.l.], [1912]), vol. I, pp. 113-14.

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