Robin Hood Badge

This was another of those unusual finds. Initially I thought it was just an ordinary badge from the 1950’s until I looked a little bit closer at the images in the background. The white horse and the colour of the ‘sheriff’s’ costume certainly seem to be an interpretation of a scene from Disney’s Story of Robin Hood (1952) with an illustrated image of Richard Todd as the outlaw.

So the badge is probably another example of very rare Disneyanna from our film-and yes, I did let it go!

Joan Rice in 1950

A while ago I posted a rather blurred photo that I had found of Joan Rice at ‘The Milliner’s Hat Fashion Show’. Above is the stunning original of that same photograph, kindly supplied by Joan’s friend Maria Steyn. It looks to me like it could have been taken yesterday, although it is dated 1950.

Joan would have been about 20 years old; a year after she had won the ‘Miss Nippy’ beauty contest and on the brink of movie stardom. A year later she would be personally selected by Walt Disney, from six other actresses, to play the part of Maid Marian in his live-action movie the Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952) at Denham Studios. Not bad for a young girl who had in arrived in London a couple of years earlier with only half a crown in her purse.

Please click on the label 'Joan Rice' for more images and details about her life.

Robin Hood Identified: Joseph Hunter

A while ago I posted an article called ‘Meet Clement of the Glen’ in which I explained how my interest in the search for Robin Hood was inspired by Disney’s live-action movie the ‘Story of Robin Hood’ and the classic TV series with Richard Greene. I also explained how my interest grew one day in my college library, when I read an article about the amazing discovery by Joseph Hunter of a Robin Hood in the Wakefield Court Rolls. So I thought it was time to explain some of the facts behind this fascinating discovery and how it inspired many later quests for the illusive outlaw.

It was the discoveries of the Rev. Joseph Hunter F.S.A., in ancient public records that first excited the scholars, threw new light on a possible identity for the famous outlaw and an authentic historical setting for the early Robin Hood ballads.

Joseph Hunter was born in Sheffield on 6th February 1783, the son of Michael Hunter, a cutler. His mother died while Joseph was young and he was placed under the guardianship of the Rev. Joseph Evans, a Presbyterian Minister. He was Educated at Attercliffe and later studied theology at New College in York, becoming a Unitarian Minister in Bath from 1809 until 1833. It was during this period he had two scholarly histories about Hallamshire (South Yorkshire) published.

Hunter’s early interest in antiquarian pursuits and studies of the history of his native county eventually led to a professional career when, in 1833, he was appointed a sub-commissioner of the Records Commission and he moved to London. From 1838 to his death he became an assistant keeper of the new Public Record Office. It was during his distinguished career he edited many philological books, diaries, and catalogues and after his death on 9th May 1861, the British Museum, realising its value, purchased a large amount of his manuscript collection. This included ‘Families Minorum Gentium' - a volume of some 650 pages completely filled with the pedigrees, of mainly Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Cheshire, and Lancashire families. The Rev. Joseph Hunter was buried in St. Mary’s Churchyard, Ecclesfield in Sheffield Yorkshire.

It was no doubt during his research of the government records and the ancient manuscripts of Yorkshire that he turned his attention to the problem of Robin Hood and in 1852 the fourth and last of his series of ‘Critical and Historical Tracts’ was published. It was titled ‘The Great Hero of the Ancient Minstrelsy of England, Robin Hood his Period etc. Investigated and Perhaps Ascertained.’

He began his paper by rebuking those who:

‘………….acting in the wild humour of the present age, which is to put everything that has passed into doubt, and turn the men of former days into myths, would represent this outlaw living in the woods as a mere creature of the imagination of men living in the depths of antiquity. So far back that we know neither when nor where, Hudekin because his name was Hood, and Robin Goodfellow, because his name was Robert………..

‘………I dismiss these theorists to that limbo of vanity there to live with all those who would make all remote history fable, who would make us believe that everything which is good in England is a mere copy of something originated in countries eastward of our own, and who would deny the English nation in past ages all skill and all advancement in literature, or in the arts of sculpture and architecture. Even a much more reasonable conjecture I dismiss also: namely that the character of this hero is a mere creation of some poetical mind, who saw the fitness of the outlaw in the forest among characters suitable for his muse.’

Firstly, Hunter points out that Langland’s reference to Robin Hood in ‘Piers Plowman’ seems to indicate that during the reign of Richard III he was regarded as a real person. He then shows how the reference in the ‘Geste of Robyn Hode’’ to ‘the Sayles,’ the situation of ‘Robin Hood’s Stone' on the Great North Road and the notoriety of Barnsdale (Robin’s location in the Geste) seemed to indicate that the origins of the tales stemmed from the West Riding of Yorkshire.

‘Robyn stode in Bernesdale,
And lenyd hym to a tre.’

He demonstrated from record evidence that it was necessary in the early fourteenth century for travelers to have a guard when they passed through Barnsdale. When King Edward I’s army seized William de Lamberton the Bishop of St. Andrews, Robert Wishart the Bishop of Glasgow and Henry Abbot of Scone and sent them south as prisoners, the accounts of payments show that a guard of eight to twelve archers were used. But on the road from Pontefract to Tickhill the guard was raised to twenty ‘on account of Barnsdale.

'And walke up to the Saylis,
And so to Watlinge Strete.'

Hunter’s impressive detective work continued with his identification of ‘the Saylis’ which is mentioned in the ‘Geste’ as a small tenancy, a tenth of a knight’s fee, in the manor of Pontefract. When considering Robin’s instructions to Little John to ‘walke up to the Saylis and so to Watlinge Strete,’ Hunter said there is in these few words, ‘something which impresses a person acquainted with the district with the conviction of the reality of these events.’ ‘Watlinge Strete’ he said was ‘doubtless the Roman highway which crosses Barnsdale.’

'Thou shalt with me to grene wode,
Without ony leasynge,
Tyll that I have gete us grace
Of Edwarde, our comly kynge.'

In the ‘Geste of Robyn Hode’ the king comes to Nottingham and inquires about the outlaw. The monarch is furious to see his herds of deer depleted and swears, ‘I wolde I had Robyn Hode, with eyen I might hym se.’ Eventually a forester suggests that the only way to find him is for the king to disguise himself and five of his knights in monks’ clothing and be guided by himself to Robin’s haunts.

It was Hunter who first proposed Edward II (1284-1327) as the ‘comly kynge’ of the ‘Geste.’ ‘We know moreover that King Edward the Second did make a progress in Lancashire and only one,’ he says. ‘The time was in the autumn of his seventeenth year, AD. 1323. The reader may find what is sufficient proof in the ‘teste’ of various of the king’s writs, printed in the ‘Foedera’. Altogether he was that year in the north from the month of April till 17th of December, when he set out on his way to Kenilworth, where he meant to spend Christmas in one of the castles of his late great enemy, the Earl of Lancaster, whom he had not long put to death.’
'All the compasse of Lancasshyre
He went both ferre and nere,
Tyll he came to Plomton Parke,
He faylyd many of his dere.'

In March of 1323 Edward II ordered investigations into raids in the Royal Forests, particularly of Staffordshire and southern Derbyshire. There were also disturbances in the Forest of Pickering.

The intriguing circuit of Edward II in the latter half of 1323, discovered by Hunter, shows that he travelled to York via Newham, Rockingham, Oakham and Newark and arrived at York on May 1st where he stayed at the Archbishop’s Palace. After living some time in Holderness in York and at Hadlesey, Cowick and Thorne, his progress took him to Rothwell between Wakefield and Leeds visiting Plumpton Park near Knaresborough from May 16th to the 21st. He then moved in August to Kirkham Abbey and arrived at Pickering Castle on the 8th. During the king’s stay over twenty people were accused of venison trespasses since Thomas of Lancaster’s death.

In September he stayed at Wherlton Castle in the country about Richmond and Jervaulx Abbey. On 22nd of September he was at Haywra Park, the forest of Knaresborough and then moved on to Lancashire (the King’s Bench also travelled to Lancashire to try offenders). At the Manor of Upholland, Edward heard many cases of Forest transgression; they included the names of Earls, Knights and ordinary tenants.

On 4th October he was at Ightenhill Park, near Cltheroe and then onto Blackbourne, Holand, Kirkby and Liverpool. On the 3rd November he moved on to the monastery of Vale Royal, and then stayed at Sandbach, Newcatle-under-Line, Coxden, Langford and Dale Abbey.

Edward II arrived at Nottingham on 9th November and stayed till the 23rd.
'The kynge came to Notynghame
With knyghtes in gret araye.'

‘There is a correspondence in all this,’ Hunter says, ‘which I venture to think is not quite accidental.’

'Had Robyn dwelled in the kynges courte,
But twelve monethes and thre.'

Halfway through his book Joseph Hunter went on to explain his most significant find:

‘Now it will scarcely be believed, but it is, nevertheless, the plain and simple truth, that in the documents preserved in the Exchequer containing accounts of the expenses of the king’s household, we find the name of ‘Robyn Hode,’ not once, but several times occurring, receiving, with about eight and twenty others, the pay of 3d. a day, as one of the ‘vadlets, porteurs de la chambre’ of the king. Whether he was some other person who chanced to bear the same name, or that the ballad-maker has in this related what was mere matter of fact, it will become no one to affirm in a tone of authority. I for my part believe it is the same person. The date of the Lancashire Progress fixes the period of Robin’s reception into the king’s service as just before Christmas, 1323, and the first time that the name of ‘Robyn Hode’ is found in the ‘Jornal de la Chambre’ is from 16th April to 7th July 1324. The first entry in which the name occurs is:

On 25th April: Henri Lawe, Colle de Ashruge, Will de Shene, Joh. Petmari, Grete Hobbe, Litell Colle, Joh. Edrich, ROBYN HOD, Simon Hod, Robert Trasshe, [and nineteen others].

On May 17th: To Robert Hod and thirty-one other porters for wages from 22nd April to May 12th, less five days for Robert Hod because of absence.

On June 10th: To Robyn Hod twenty-seven days wages, less one day deducted for absence.

On June 30th: Twenty six porters received their wages but Robyn Hod received nothing.

On July 22nd: To Robert Hood and six other vadletz being with the king at Fulham by his command from the 9th day of June arrears of wages at 3d a day for twenty one day’s pay.

On 21st August: Payment is made to 'Jack Ede, Colle Ashruge, Robin Dycker, Lutel Colle, Grete Hobbe, Jack Becker, Jack Langworth, Robyn Baker, Robyn Curre, Jack Chertsey’ and others received 28 days pay, four days were deducted from Simon and eight days from Robin for non-attendance.

On October 6th: Robyn Hod received full pay.

On 21st October: There was no payment for Robin, who had been absent the whole period.

From October 21st to November 24th: the Clerk of the Chamber paid Robyn Hod for 35 days, but deducted seven days because of absence.

On 22nd November: ‘To Robyn Hod formerly one of the porters because he can no longer work, five shillings as a gift by commandment.

Edward II (1307-1327)

'Alas! Then sayd good Robyn,
Alas and well a woo.
Yf I dwele lenger with the kynge,
Sorowe wyll me sloo.'

‘There is in all this,’ says Hunter, ‘perhaps as much correspondency as we can reasonably expect between the record and the ballad.

In the final part of his groundbreaking book Hunter concentrated on trying to find a link with the Robyn Hod in the king’s service and a Robert Hood of Wakefield who he had discovered in the manor court rolls.

In the ‘9th year of Edward son of Edward,’ Hunter had found, recorded in the manuscripts, that an Amabel Brolegh sued Robert Hood for ‘7s issuing from a rood of land which the said Robert demised to the same Amabel for the term of six years which he was not able to warrant her.’

'Yet he was begyled, iwys,
Through a wicked woman,
The pryoresse of Kyrkely,
That nye was of hys kynne.'

In the following year the Wakefield Court Rolls revealed to Hunter the name of Robert Hood’s wife, she was called Matilda. (It was in 1598 that the Tudor playwright Anthony Munday transformed Maid Marian into Matilda in his two plays, ‘The Downfall’ and ‘The Death of Robert Earl of Huntington.’)

He also thought he had a found a link to the wicked prioress who was said to have been of ‘Robin’s kin.’ In a parcel of deed dated 1344 is a grant from Henry, son of Amabil of Wolflay-Morehouse, to Adam, son of Thomas de Staynton. An Elizabeth de Staynton was placed in Kirklees Priory and became prioress in c.1346-1347.

So Hunter summarised:

‘[That Robin Hood] was one of the Contrariantes of the reign of Edward II and living in the early reign of King Edward III, but whose birth is carried back into the reign of King Edward I, and fixed in the decennary period, 1285 to 1295: that he was born in a family of some station and respectability seated at Wakefield or in the villages around; that he, as many others partook of the popular enthusiasm [in Lancaster’s cause, and after the defeat of his overlord took to robbery in Barnsdale]; that he continued this course for about twenty months, April 1322 to December 1323...............The king, possibly for some secret and unknown reason, not only pardoned him all his transgressions, but gave him the place of one of the ‘vadlets, porteurs de la chamber,’ in the royal household, which appointment he held for about a year, when the love for the unconstrained life he had led, and for the charm of the country returned, and he left the court and betook himself again to the greenwood.’

This was the case put forward by Joseph Hunter and was it hailed as a tremendous success by many academics, but also given short shrift from others, including Francis Child the editor on ‘English and Scottish Ballads.’ ‘To detect ‘a remarkable coincidence between the ballad and the record,’ Child said, ‘requires not only theoretical prepossession, but an uncommon insensibility to the ludicrous.’

But Hunter’s research was taken up again in 1944 by the local historian J.W. Walker and more information was discovered about the Robert Hood of Wakefield. Ten years later by P. V. Harris continued Hunter's investigation and found more names that could be linked with the ballads. 1985 saw the publication of ‘Robin Hood An Historical Enquiry’ by Professor John Bellamy. This was a re-assessment of the historical research into Robin Hood including the Wakefield Court Rolls and more discoveries of ‘personae’ of the Geste including a possible Sheriff of Nottingham. The books about their discoveries will also be featured later, on my blog.

Joseph Hunter’s discoveries still remain as fascinating and as controversial today as they did when his book was first published in 1852. It later opened the rather petty argument between Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire over ‘Robin Hood Country’ as historical interest grew away from Sherwood and became more focused on Yorkshires links with the outlaw. For me, his work opened up an amazing quest for Robin Hood, which continues to encompass so many paths in history. This includes an interest in the reign of the much maligned Edward II. Who was according to Hunter, the ‘comly kynge’ who pardoned the Robin Hood of Wakefield and employed him as a royal porter.

I thoroughly recommend four sites on the web, owned by Jules Frusher (Lady D) and Kathryn, which cover with extraordinary detail the reign of Edward II. They are all in my blog list; Kathryn’s blog is Edward II and her informative web site is King Edward II. Lady Despensers Scribery and Lady D’s web site Hugh Despenser The Younger are equally well researched and very interesting.

To read about the medieval ballad, a 'Geste of Robyn Hode,' and others, please click on the label 'Robin Hood Ballads' and scroll down.

Could King Edward II have met the legendary outlaw Robin Hood? What do you think?

Jessie Marsh's Robin Hood

The Story of Robin Hood was the first Walt Disney live-action movie to be adapted to a comic strip, and recently I posted an article about the legendary artist who drew these wonderful images for Disney, Jessie Mace Marsh (1907-1966). He began Robin Hood on July 13th 1952 through until December 28th 1952 alongside the strip writer Frank Reilly. Disney’s live-action movie had been released in America a few weeks earlier.

Unfortunately I can only find a few copies of some of the pages from the Sunday Strip of his Robin Hood series - I expect they are very rare! But above is the ‘Archery Contest’ scene, beautifully inked before colorization.

Please click on the Label ‘Comic Strip’ to see previous posts.

Richard Todd's Former Home at Little Humby

Here are a couple of pictures that were kindly sent to me in March 2009 by Mike, of the house in Little Humby in which Richard Todd lived, up until his sad death aged 90 in December of that same year. Little Humby is a small hamlet about 8 miles from Grantham in Lincolnshire, England; Richard described the small peaceful village jokingly as the ‘great metropolis’.

Throughout his time in Lincolnshire the legendary film star and war veteran worked for charities such as Age Concern and raised huge sums for his talks at local events. Richard was a patron of Share The Care and St. Barnabas Hospice and was actively involved in military commemorations with The British Legion and Normandy Veterans’Association.

What can I say that hasn’t been said about him across the Internet and around the media since the great man’s death. This blog will certainly keep his memory alive with articles and pictures of his fascinating career. Today I would like to include an article from a Richard Todd tribute site from Ellen in the USA which very kindly also gives this blog a mention:

Richard Todd

"I was born a week before D-Day and my childhood was full of the same Richard Todd movies. I first saw him (as Robin Hood) on the big screen at the age of eight, and it was truly love at first sight. He was the only movie star I ever loved -- for years, when I was young, I would look through the movie section of the TV guide every week, hoping to find one of his movies. The Robin Hood movie ( (ed. note: just checked out that page and there is a very moving obituary and wonderful pictures)) was and still is my favorite. Richard Todd was a HUGE presence in my life.

I was constantly looking for pictures of him and information about his life, which were almost impossible to find over here. How can I say what he meant to me? I not only adored him, he was the very embodiment of everything a man should be (I felt) and his "presence" was enormously comforting to me in a world that seemed to grow more insane with every passing year as I grew out of childhood.

About ten years ago, I was glad to read in his autobiography of his real-life reaction to the drugged-out decadent and dirty hippies he encountered in SF in 1967. About that same time on the other coast of the USA, I was having a similar reaction to similar hordes who suddenly popped up everywhere in Cambridge Mass. That I immediately got out of there in active search of something (and someone) solid and good and wholesome had a great deal to do with Richard Todd and all he had meant to me. He embodied THE GOOD WORLD where people behaved nobly and honorably and lived simple decent dignified lives. Reading mostly between the lines of his two volumes of autobiography -- Caught in the Act and In Camera, very intelligent & well-written, which everyone who loves him should search out and read -- I gather that he was not a saint and like anyone had his faults and failings. Nevertheless, I think that Richard Todd really was in some deep authentic way everything that I thought he was when I was a starry-eyed little kid. Ever since his movies became available on video, I bought them all and watched most of them several times, some many times. The few nasty, weak, or decadent roles he played seem cast against type, whereas high ideals and true gentlemanly character still shine through his many heroic roles.

No wonder he inspired me to do better all my life and even helped me to marry well! I so wish I could have met him, but it changed my life just to see him and love what I saw. That there is no one like him to inspire today's children is very sad indeed.

- Ellen USA "

Ellen, please get in touch, it would be great to hear from you!

Carmen Dillon - Prejudice and Slacks

When I first started this blog about Disney’s Story of Robin Hood three years ago, I tried to piece together as much information as I could about the art director on the movie, Carmen Dillon. The more I read about her the more there was to admire about her. What an amazingly talented woman she was. But there wasn’t a great deal about her work with Walt Disney. So I posted all that I could find.

But a few weeks ago Neil once again turned up an ace with this fantastic article from The Film Studio in 1951 about her work on Disney’s Story of Robin Hood. It is full of the information I had hoped for, including details of her battle in the early days against male prejudice, her detailed research for the Robin Hood movie and the construction of the massive sets at Denham. Read and enjoy!
Carmen Over Came Prejudice
 ..........And Put On Her Slacks

Carmen Dillon. Only woman who has succeeded in becoming an Oscar-winning director, has just completed one of her biggest assignments in this capacity on Walt Disney’s new, all live-action picture ‘Robin Hood’, starring Richard Todd in the title role, opposite Joan Rice as Maid Marian [November 1951].

The art director on ‘Robin Hood’ was a two-fold job; firstly to achieve period authenticity combined with photogenic scope on the many large scale Sherwood Forest and Nottingham Castle settings, which were spread over three stages at Denham Studios for filming by the interior unit, directed by Ken Annakin and photographed by Guy Green; secondly to find matching locations within easy reach of the studios for sequences in which the exterior unit, directed by Alex Bryce, with Geoffrey Unsworth as lighting camera man, took over the action and carried the scenes to completion.

Carmen Dillon was deemed the ideal art director for the job. She has a fine reputation on both sides of the Atalantic for imagination and artistic flair allied to a practical approach to set design and construction, which has been evidenced in her art direction of some of the biggest and most highly praised period films made in Britain, including ‘Henry V’ and ‘Hamlet,' for which she won her Oscar.

Fight for Recognition

Small and neat of figure, with greying hair and light blue eyes, Carmen Dillon was born in Ireland. After she had qualified as an architect, she became greatly attracted by the artistic possibilities of film set design and set out to get a job which would train her in this field. It is strange to reflect that this happened only fifteen years ago and yet at this time no one in film studios would take the idea of a woman art director seriously.

Anyone knowing Carmen Dillon, however, would realise that such an attitude would only serve to strengthen her determination to attain her objective. Eventually she obtained toe-hold in a studio at Wembley, as assistant in the art department. Even then petty restrictions beset her at every turn. She was not permitted to go on a set in slacks and was forbidden to discuss her work with the men in the studio workshops and stages. After a few weeks of making the best of this difficult situation, Carmen was asked to take over the work of an art director who had fallen ill on the eve of a production. By proving her undoubted talent and aptitude for production design she was able to overcome the prejudice which had hitherto hampered her career.

Early Career

Carmen Dillon was art director for Fox British from 1935 to 1937 and later worked for Two Cities on a series of major productions. She was associated with Paul Sheriff on ‘Demi Paradise,’ ‘The Way To The Stars,’and ‘Henry V,’ all of which contributed much to establishing the prestige of British films abroad. She was then put in sole charge of the vast and impressive settings for the brilliant Laurence Olivier film production of ‘Hamlet’. Her recent assignments as art director include ‘Women Hater’ ( a title aptly linked with the initiation of her career), ‘Rocking Horse Winner,’ and ‘The Browning Version.’

Although she can be extremely feminine and elegant in off-duty hours, Carmen now claims the prerogative to wear slacks throughout a production. In no other way could she supervise the sets in the process of construction at every level from studio tank to gantry.

Robin Hood Assignment

On Walt Disney’s Robin Hood Carmen was in control of a staff of over two hundred men, who accepted her advice and judgement with the same respect and deference as they would accord to any male art director. Among the technicians, she has earned, through her skill and tact, a reputation for knowing exactly what she wants, without fuss or muddle. She carries all the details of planning and building the sets in her head and has a remarkable knack of foreseeing and thus forestalling building problems.

Before the stage is set for the actors, the lighting cameraman and the director, Carmen plans the work, step by step, with fastidious detail. In the case of Robin Hood, the first step was research, to ensure that the pictorial effect should have a truly authentic 12th-century keynote.
Robin Hood's camp in Sherwood Forest

One of the most important sets in the film is the Sherwood Forest camp where Robin Hood and his Merry Men live in outlawry, in their woodland hideout. Some weeks before the film, Carmen accompanied a research party including producer Perce Pearce, script writer Larry Watkin, and film star Richard Todd to Nottingham and returned laden with photographs of every relic of Robin Hood days, which would help her construct the original setting at Denham Studios.

In what little remains of the original Sherwood Forest, Carmen studied the Queen Oak, where Robin Hood and Maid Marian are said to have their trysting place; Robin Hood’s Larder, another giant oak, where legend has it, the outlaws stored their game and the vast labyrinth of caves at the foot of Creswell Crags, where Robin Hood and his men are said to have hidden their horses when the Sheriff of Nottingham was on their tracks.

Back in the studio, Carmen incorporated many of these features of the Robin Hood country into her set design, which then became the subject of a conference between producer Perce Pearce, scriptwriter Larry Warkin and herself before passing it into the hands of the draughtsmen and model makers in her art department. From their blueprints and scale models the construction manager, Gus Walker, was then able to allocate to the various departments concerned the work required to bring the sketch into concrete existence.

Continuity Sketches

The Robin Hood art department was also responsible for producing continuity sketches of every camera set up in the film, somewhat on the lines of a static Disney cartoon, to ensure dovetail co-ordination between the two units, who were frequently filming sections of the same film, several miles apart.

These were the work of Stephen Grimes, son of ‘Grimes,’ the well known newspaper cartoonist, and himself an artist of distinction. Also working with Carmen Dillon in the Robin Hood art department was Arthur Lawson, as associate art director, Harry White and Jack Stevens as set dressers, Ivor Beddces as model constructor and a large staff of draughtsmen.
Nottingham Square

Authentic Reproduction

Two more of the twenty-five interior sets designed by Carmen Dillon for Walt Disney’s Robin Hood serve to illustrate the immense research and artistry with which she conjured up the back ground and atmosphere of 12th-century England. One of- Nottingham Square, in the reign of Richard Lionheart-was constructed both on Denham lot and on one of the studio stages-to cater for both units.

Three sides of an irregular square were surrounded by houses, some half-timbered and all pre-fabricated in the plasterers shop under the direction of Master Plasterer Arthur Banks. The houses and shops made of plaster and wattle (which was in fact the building material of that period) had every appearance of solid antiquity in spite of their backing of tubular steel scaffolding. Most imposing was the Sheriff’s house, with its carved arches and steep outside staircase. Thatching was carried out by one of Britain’s oldest surviving craftsmen in this line Mr A. Gilder of Stoke Poges.

The centre of the square was filled with wattle hurdles and pens in which were enclosed game and produce of every type. By the time the stars, featured players and extras-numbering up to two hundred-had taken their place in the square it was hard to imagine a more convincing reproduction of life in 12th century England. It is in this setting that Robin Hood and his men ride in from the forest to rescue a poacher and a farmer who are suffering at the hands of the Sheriff of Nottingham and succeed in turning the tables on their hated persecutor.
The Great Hall, Nottingham Castle

Magnificent Illusion

Another fine set was the exterior and courtyard of Nottingham Castle, the scene of many of the most exciting and spectacular scenes in the film. On one side of the set a flight of steps ran up beside the forbidding stone wall of a Norman keep to an archway leading into the main building of the castle, facing, over a vast cobbled courtyard, ramparts overlooking the moat.

The drawbridge was a work of art in itself. Designed strictly on 12th century lines, this complicated piece of wooden mechanism had to be strong enough to bear the weight of a huge procession of crusaders clattering out of the courtyard on horseback. The impression of strength and solidity which pervaded this entire stage was overwhelming and yet the whole set was erected and painted in one day-due to the constant demands of the brisk schedule on studio floor space.

The secret again was meticulous pre-planning and prefabrication. The grey ‘stone’ walls were really plaster, cast in giant moulds and rigged onto movable steel scaffolding, while the forbidding curtain walls and towers, which looked as if they would defy an army, were in fact perspective cutouts. To aid the illusion of height and grandeur, the steps were designed in two flights, with a landing between them; the lower flight was quite shallow and the top one almost sheer.

These samples from the Robin Hood sets are sufficient to demonstrate the huge scale assignment tackled by Carmen Dillon on her latest appointment as art director and the great confidence placed in artistic talent by Walt Disney in the realisation of one of his most ambitious ventures.

'The Cinema Studio', November 1951 by Catherine O’Brien

Film Script 2: King Richard at Nottingham Castle

Script From 'The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men'

(From the screen play by Lawrence Edward Watkin)

Scene 2: Nottingham Castle

[The Earl of Huntingdon arrives with his daughter Maid Marian and their retinue on horseback at Nottingham Castle].

[King Richard, Queen Eleanor and Prince John enter the Great Hall at Nottingham Castle].

King Richard: I would you were coming with us brother John.

Prince John: I was not born to conqueror kingdoms Richard.

King Richard: Then while I’m gone you must help me govern mine. Our Midland Counties need the firm guidance of a princely heir.

Prince John: I pledge you my faith, I will uphold your laws with the strictest diligence.

King Richard: Diligence yes, tempered with understanding. The strength of England stems from the well being of her humblest peasant. Let your first care be for our Kingdom, you’re second for our lady mother.

Queen Eleanor: A woman who has reared two sons like you, can look after herself.

[The Earl of Huntingdon approaches].

King Richard: Welcome Huntingdon! Rise up man, do not kneel to a brother knight of the Cross. Now truly we can say the best and bravest of our realm are gathered here.

Earl of Huntingdon: May God make us worthy of you trust Sire. But before we go. I have a boon to ask of the Queen, your mother. I pray you madam, take my girl into your household, ‘till my return?

Queen Eleanor: Come here child.

[Maid Marian approaches and kneels before the Queen].

Queen Eleanor: What is your name?

Maid Marian: Marian, madam.

Queen Eleanor: Marian. A sweet and gentle name, does your nature match it?

Maid Marian: If it pleased the Queen.

Queen Eleanor: Rise then. I will take her and in your absence keep her safe.

Earl of Huntingdon: I humbly thank you madam.
[As the royal party proceed The Sheriff of Nottingham kneels before King Richard].

Sheriff: My lord king, I too would beg a boon.

King Richard: What! Another petitioner! Say on Sir Sheriff.

Sheriff: My men and I would follow our king across the seas?

King Richard: Granted! The King wills it!

[King Richard turns to Prince John].

King Richard: Find a new Sheriff of Nottingham and men to serve him.

Prince John: I will my lord.

[As King Richard and the Royal Family walk down the steps of Nottingham Castle the assembled troops cheer loudly].

King Richard: My Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, we ask a blessing on this our most Holy enterprise.

[The Archbishop of Canterbury turns to the crusading soldiers and raises his hand. The troops kneel in prayer].

Archbishop of Canterbury: Almighty God, Lord of Battles, lead the armies of the cross to the Holy places and give, them we beseech Thee, victory in the coming strife. Grant wisdom and guidance to the princes of Christendom and vouch safe that those who fall, may enter the glory of Thy kingdom.
[Assembled soldiers reply Amen. King Richard removes his sword from its scabbard, kisses its handle and then receives a kiss from his mother Queen Eleanor. He raises his sword].

King Richard: To horse!

[King Richard then mounts his white horse and ceremoniously raises his sword once again].

King Richard: Advance my banner! God wills it!

[The assembled crusaders leave through Nottingham Castle gates].

Hodd by Adam Thorpe

Occasionally I would like to review a book that has links with either the legend of Robin Hood or Disney’s live action movie. The book that I have chosen today is without doubt one of the best tales about the outlaw I have ever read. Hodd is the ninth novel written by British author, Adam Thorpe, who is described by The Times as ‘one of our most fiercely intelligent and intellectual writers'- and I can see why.

Thorpe’s novel uses the earliest surviving ballad of Robin Hood, the ‘talking of the munke and Robyn Hode’ as its base, which is dated at some time after 1450. (You can read this ballad by clicking on the Label ‘Robin Hood Ballads' below). But upon this base we sample amongst the many layers of medieval pastiche, the testimony of the pious monk, Matthew, who as a young minstrel boy describes his encounter on empty heathland with the half-crazed bandit ‘Hodd.’ This, the reader soon discovers is not the romantic merry outlaw portrayed in the modern media, but a ruthless brigand who follows the thirteenth century principles of the ‘heresy of the Free Spirit,’ and believes himself above God and beyond sin.

Matthew is 14 when he encounters Hodd. An orphan serving as a page in a monastery, he’s travelling with his master, a monk, when Hodd’s men rob them at knifepoint, relieving them of £100 and Matthew’s beloved harp. The two should be grateful that they manage to escape with the clothes on their backs and all their limbs intact, but the misguided Matthew is determined to reclaim his harp. His identity is tied up with the instrument, which he stole several years earlier from his first master, a beach-dwelling hermit who taught him Latin.

Back at the monastery, Matthew decides to sneak into Hodd’s camp and retrieve the harp. That he’s caught is no surprise. What is unusual is that unlike Hodd’s other prisoners, who are tortured, murdered or made to dance naked together-not only is Matthew’s life spared after they hear him compose and sing songs in praise of Hodd’s actions - but he becomes Hodd’s favourite confidant. The outlaw gives the young minstrel the nickname Moche (Much).

14 year old Matthew (Moche) is horrified by their lawless ways and, in particular, by the fact that his new master seems to place himself above God. Hodd is a psychopath with mystic moments, a drunk having trouble mumbling through his crooked teeth, who conceals his branded forehead and protuberant eyes under the hood that gave him his name. He is anti-Church, anti-establishment, and clings to a heretical belief in the individual that chimes interestingly with the modern age. "He told me, not that he was God, but that he was more than God" and that "God is merely an invention.... 'There is no sin,' he repeated, his words blurring deliciously [suaviter] inside my head.’ The one who is perfect, who has attained perfection, cannot sin even if he wished to, for everything he does is necessarily perfect.'"

Later, after Matthew has escaped from the malign influence of Hodd and his henchmen, he is appalled to find that his light-hearted ballads about 'Robbing Hodde’ have somehow turned the common felon into a sentimentalised folk hero and have become extremely popular. So although age has buckled his fingers he takes up his goose feather pen in a last attempt to lighten his burdens and correct the popular myth of this outlaw.

It is the translation of Matthew’s Latin manuscript, that has been recovered by a British army officer from the crypt of a bombed out church on the Somme during the First World War, which forms the central theme of Thorpe’s novel. The officer takes it upon himself to translate and annotate the “bulky, stained and occasionally illegible manuscript, stitched crudely together with gut.”

But we also have frequent interjections from the fictional translator and other unknown sources amongst the 408 footnotes. This make the book feel like a genuine source text, especially when concerned with Latin translation or similar and possibly becomes tedious for some readers.

But after a while this all adds to the total authenticity of the experience, and on reflection it wouldn’t be the same book without the academic trappings.

I found Thorpe’s Hodd a thoroughly refreshing and enjoyable experience and recommend it to anyone with an interest in the legend of England’s famous outlaw.

Hodd is written by Adam Thorpe and published by Jonathan Cape in London.

Ken Annakin and Claudette Colbert

My thanks go out again to retired press photographer Horace Ward, who has very kindly sent me yet another rare photograph from his collection; this time taken at the charity premiere of Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men at the Leicester Square Theatre on Thursday 13th March 1952.

On the night, Horace just walked casually through the main foyer without any problem. “I had the cheek of the devil in those days,” he said.

His restored photograph shows the director of the movie, Ken Annakin arriving at the glittering premiere, with the legendary film and stage actress Claudette Colbert.

Richard Todd, in his autobiography ‘Caught In The Act,’ describes the first showing of Disney’s ‘Robin Hood’ as ,’.....the forthcoming Royal Film Performance.’ This led me to believe originally that it was a ‘Royal Premiere.’ But it was sadly not the case.

"I would have heard on the grapevine if royalty were around," Horace says, "...also the streets around Leicester Square would have been 'blocked off'. Security was tight then, like today. More so 'premieres', perhaps because of all that jewellery more than terrorists. All this talk about 'royals' attending might have been a publicity stunt by Disney. He could only wish...only a star, not a queen!"

If you remember, or even attended the charity premiere of Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men at the Leicester Square Theatre on Thursday 13th March 1952 please get in touch at : It would be great to hear from you.

Maybe It's Because I'm A Londoner

On one particular grim day, after seeing the German Doodlebugs devastating his native city Hubert Gregg (1914-2004) composed on the back of a theater program, what later became the popular folk anthem - Maybe it’s Because I’m A Londoner. A copy of the sheet music is pictured above.

"It took me 20 minutes to write it before supper one night", Gregg said. “It's only got 16 bars, but people seem to like it." The song was his second hit-his first was also about the capital city, I’m Going to Get Lit Up When The Lights Go Up In London.

Like Noël Coward’s London Pride, Maybe it’s Because……. was written as a morale booster during the Second World War, although it didn't see the light of day until February 1947. It was the impresario and bandleader Jack Hylton who asked Gregg if he had any songs suitable for Bud Flanagan. At first Gregg couldn’t find anything suitable, but then he remembered the simple little tune he had composed a few years earlier. The song was accepted and used by Bud Flanagan for the West End revue Together Again, in which the Crazy Gang were to reform at the Victoria Palace. Flanagan went on to literally make the song his own during its four-year run.

The song later earned Hubert Gregg the Freedom of the City of London, and was also adapted rather than parodied as "Maybe It's Because I'm From Liverpool", which was popularised in Australia by the English comedian Arthur Askey. It was also chosen by the actor Jack Warner and the producers of the TV series Dixon of Dock Green for its theme music, although it was later replaced by "An Ordinary Copper".

The song was sung by Davy Jones of the pop group The Monkees in 1965 and was also recorded by Billy Cotton & His Band, Chas & Dave, Tessie O’Shea, Tony O’Malley, John Williams, Max Bygraves, Celia Lipton, Alan Mullery and many, many more!

To read a lot more about our multi talented Prince John please click on the Hubert Gregg label below.


(Hubert Gregg)

London isn't everybody's cup of tea,
Often you hear visitors complain,
Noisy smoky city but it seems to me
There's a magic in the fog and rain.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner,
That I love London so.
Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner,
That I think of her wherever I go.

I get a funny feeling inside of me,
Just walking up and down.
Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner,
That I love London Town.

People take to sailing as the years go by,
London isn't London anymore.
People may be changing but the town and I,
We are even closer than before.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner,
That I love London so.
Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner,
That I think of her wherever I go.

I get a funny feeling inside of me,
Just walking up and down.
Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner
That I love London Town. x2