by Paul Nix
A period treatment of a field trip around but a few of the local Robin Hood sites, 1996:
At just after twelve of the clock the merry band of Robin Hood seekers that had traversed the medieval streets and gates of Ye Old Nottingham Town gathered to meet at the ancient inn whose name swings on a sign and proclaims it to be The Salutation Inn.
The Salutation Inn, at the corner of Hounds Gate and Jews Lane, is known to many a local as a comfortable quite old style public house; and so it should be. The rear of the building, that before the construction of Maid Marion Way was the side, faces on to Jews Lane and the entrance there is the oldest still surviving after the row of buildings were cut in half by Maid Marion Way.
Although this part of the building has seen some changes it still retains some of the character of bygone days, especially when there’s a log fire in the grate. The smaller of the two downstairs rooms, that flanking the entrance passageway, is said to have been used by Cromwell’s soldiers as a recruiting room in the 1640’s during the Civil War.
The best part of the “Sall”, as it’s known locally, is hidden; not deliberately but due to circumstances. I would be not surprised to learn that most of the people that class it as their local have never seen, or if they have, not understood the significance, or marvelled at it’s cave complex. Marvelled is no understatement: before this area had any buildings on it, it had buildings under it. These rock hewn chambers were a Saxon farmstead.
Our throng being swelled by welcome new faces, their aim, to seek out and track down the remaining vestiges of England’s most famous outlaw. A motley band of legend seekers they were too, each of them with his or her own reason for joining the quest.
After tales of the inn’s ancient Saxon past (and partaking of the landlord’s fine brew) we gathered in the main thoroughfare outside to begin our quest. I had heard tell of a story teller who had great knowledge of the outlaw and had set up in a nearby dwelling an entertainment, wherein all that he knew or believed about the outlaw, for a few crowns, could be seen and heard. He had named it “The Tales Of Robin Hood”. It was decided that a viewing of this tale may give us a better insight into the Man who’s traces we were seeking.
We entered the building and were at once confronted by two huge wooden doors. We each paid our dues and the great doors swung open, with intrepidness we entered. A storyteller told us what we were to expect and before long we were transported into a tavern. We travelled the road with him and learnt of many things. But all too soon it was time for us to continue on our quest.
Each went his own way to were his horse was stabled; but we all agreed to meet on the road to York, at the sign of the White Post, some five miles to the north.
After a hard gallop out of the town, leaving its small and narrow streets, we arrived at our appointed place, The white post. One had once marked this spot but was now long gone; it is said that at night this is no spot for honest folk as thieves, cut-pursers and highwaymen meet here to share out their ill-gotten gains.
Charts and maps were viewed and a plan of action decided upon. I was to lead the party, and the next stop to be the Palace of King John, that lies close by the small hamlet of Clipstone.
After some difficulty finding a suitable place to tie-up our horses we walked to the edge of the field in which its remains are situated. Alas, its former glory is gone and nought but a few walls stand of what was a mighty palace. It is said by them that know, that here Robin Hood and his outlaw band dressed as strolling players, did free some prisoners. The palace’s history goes back beyond King John’s time and some say it is possible it was built as a chapel for Edwin the King of Northumberland, but more of this connection later.
We rode on a short distance to the Parliament Oak, I fear the one that we viewed was but a grandson of the original. By this oak Edward I held Parliament in 1290, legend has it that near this spot was the hovel of Little John, Robin’s stalwart companion.
Another short ride brought us to a clearing by a crossroads where we dismounted and walked through the green wood to a little known spot. When reaching it we came upon a travelling artist, Alan Hawkins from the nearby village of Mansfield, at work sketching, we asked to see his work and he did show us the said sketch.
This is the spot were in 633 A.D. Edwin King of Northumberland was laid to rest after being slain at the nearby battle at Cuckney, against King Penda of Mercia. A tall iron cross held up by a pile of stones marks the reputed spot were according to the board attached, “…marks the site of a Royal Chapel, Chancery and hermitage dedicated to St. Edwin King of Northumbria of which the few stones here collected are evidence…”. It said his comrades returned years later and built a small wooden chapel to mark the spot. Many think the nearby village got it’s name this way, as Stowe in olden times meant a Holy Place and the village is called Edwinstowe. The connection with King John mentioned earlier, details the fact that he paid a priest to live there and pray for his soul, and those whom he had wronged. King Henry VIII in his Dissolution wiped away the last remains of the chapel.
A short canter on and a few strides into the greenery we came to the swathe of grass cut through the forest, part of the original green avenue that used to run from King John’s Palace to his hunting grounds in Sherwood Forest. Majestically sat astride it stands Archway House built as both a memorial and a folly. A two storey gatehouse with statues of Robin Hood and Little John decorating the facades of its upper floor.
Once again we mounted our steeds for a short gallop to the village of Blidworth, there in the church yard to see what is reputed to be the last resting place of Will Scarlet. Alas, it is but a poor pile of oldworked stones, the lower one we thought to be an inverted font, the middle a parapet stone and the top one a cap stone.
Our steeds well secured in the yard of a local inn we crossed the cart way by the church and followed Rickitts Lane to the point where the foot path to the Druid Stone departs.
Here in single file, as the way was narrow, we proceed over stiles and fields until we reached the stone. Standing over fifteen feet high and having a girth of forty feet and a hole through its base large enough for a man to get through, it form an impressive sight. In olden times it was not unusual to see local people pass children through the hole, as they firmly believed it would cure them of rickets, which is possibly how the lane got its name. This stone being such a prominent landmark and well out of earshot of anyone, it would have been an ideal meeting place for our outlaws.
As day had turned into evening and the last rays of sunlight fell upon the green wood we began our homeward journey, our quest at an end, we had seen many things and many places, but now it was time to leave the legends and tales for another time. We rode back to Nottingham to a cottage in the meadows, the abode of a Doctor Morrell a scholar, who was one of our number. He invited us in, and then brought forth sustenance, and we sat and discussed the day’s adventures in the Legendary Land Of Robin Hood.