The Shrouded Green Mask

The Shrouded Green Mask

In a dark dense forest, centuries past, a green mask was hammered into a tree, held fast by an ornamental nail. Shrouded in the swirling mists of countless seasons, and framed by its bare, slate grey branches, the face on the mask contorted to the dreams of each icy evolution of man.

Meanwhile, cocooned inside their humming, neon lit, corridors of scholarship, the crusty investigators continuously scour their patterned parchment, in an attempt to lever the golden nail from its gnarled bark.

The all gleaming eyes, behind the mask, smile in defiance though and give forth an infallible sparkle, as the warming golden orb begins, once again to remove the glistening shroud of winter. Soon a flourishing cascade of leaves will encompass the mask, as yet another generation will skip amongst the flowing ferns and fire their dreams from a twisted yew, into the cloudless blue heavens.

The hidden man will smile his merry smile and blow his ghostly horn, whispering amongst the bristling branches and echoing about the hazy glades. The exquisite nail holding the ancient green mask, will forever be transfixed into the entangled roots of the rich tapestry of the summer greenwood.

Clement of the Glen

The Size of Sherwood Forest

Above is a map of the Royal Forest of Sherwood in the 13th Century. Many fiction writers and enthusiasts of Robin Hood, often give wildly exaggerated descriptions of its extent. But by the time of the death of King John in 1216, the great forests of the North and Midlands, including Sherwood had been considerably reduced.

In 1218 Sherwood’s boundaries were defined for the first time by King John’s son, Henry III (1216-1272). Henry instructed a group of knights and freemen to set out on a journey and record its size. Their route around Sherwood Forest is described thus:

“........leaving by Stoney Street in Nottingham they road through Whiston [then a hamlet on the Nottingham to Mansfield road] to Blackstone Haugh [by the Dover Beck] to Rufford and following the way to the village of Wellow on to the King’s ford. They then headed west across the north boundary following the water [River Meden] to Perlethorpe and Pleasley. Thence by Newboundhill to Windhill [now travelling south] -and thence by the hedges between the roads of Sutton and Kirkby to the middle of the pond at Newstead Priory, and so by the river Leen to the Trent.

During the reign of strong and powerful kings like Henry II (1154-1189) forests were extended, but with weaker monarchs, the reverse was the case. Sherwood was roughly triangular with slight changes occasionally. In 1232 the area south from Oxton to Lowdham and the Trent was included. But for most of the early Middle Ages, Sherwood Forest's boundaries, as defined in 1218 remained constant.

Royal Sherwood: Nottinghamshire County Council
The Quest For Robin Hood: Jim Lees
The Sherwood Forest Book: H.E. Boulton (ed.)

James Hayter

James Hayter was personally chosen for the part of Friar Tuck by the director of Disney’s Story of Robin Hood, Ken Annakin. Hayter had just played the role of a verger in Annakin’s last production, Trio (1950) based on three stories by Somerset Maugham. During the early days of filming in March 1951, Annakin began screen testing Hayter for the part of the merry priest, exploring the character’s various possibilities. But as they fooled around and generally went ‘over the top’, Annakin was stunned to turn around and see Walt Disney and the producer of the film, Perce Pearce standing behind him.

Disney was not impressed and took Annakin to one side.
“You seem to have a very-laid back relationship with your actor, Annakin", he said.
The embarrassed director tried to explain that they had just finished a film together and were exploring how much joviality they could get away with, in the role of Friar Tuck.
“He can be played in several ways ,” Disney interrupted, “I’ve always seen him quite clearly in one way. I’d like to see the stuff you have shot.”

As they turned to walk away, he said, “I hope your not going to be cynical about these fine old English characters Annakin, they’re classics, you know and I don’t want them spoofed. I see the character something like this.......”

Then Walt Disney sat on a ‘prop rock’ by the river and began to sing Friar Tuck’s song from the film, Come Sing Hi , including a conversation with an imaginary Robin Hood. He knew all the lines by heart and earned himself a round of applause from the film crew. James Hayter went on, of course, to become for many the archetype, Friar Tuck.

Jimmy’ Hayter was born in Lonuvla, India on 23rd April 1907, the son of a police superintendant. He began his education in Scotland and it was his school headmaster who spotted his obvious talent and encouraged him into becoming an actor. Hayter later graduated to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA).

He made his stage debut in My Fair Lady as Alfred Dolittle in 1925, a part he played for five years in the West End and later on tour. Jimmy also went on to tread the boards in London in notable productions such as 1066 And All That and French Without Tears. After managing theatre companies in Perth and Dundee and appearing in various repertory theatre productions, his first film appearance came as the character Jock, in the mediocre Brian Desmond version of the play Sensation, in 1936. Hayter then went on to make five more movies before the outbreak of war.

After serving in the Royal Armoured Corps during the dark days of World War II, Jimmy made television history, when he was chosen to play the part of Mr Pinwright, the owner of a small multiple-store, in the BBC’s first recognised half-hour situation comedy series, Pinwright’s Progress in 1947.

His cherubic comedy style soon established him with a whole host of regular film parts and James Hayter became one of the busiest character actors in British film history. Notable early roles include, Nicholas Nickleby (1947) in which he played the twins Ned and Charles Cheeryble, The Blue Lagoon (1949) as Dr Murdoch, Morning Departure (1950) Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1951) as Old Thomas, The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men, (1952) and The Crimson Pirate (1952) as Professor Prudence.

Apart from his memorable portrayal of Friar Tuck in 1952 (a part he would re-create in the 1967 Challenge For Robin Hood) James Hayter is probably best remembered, in that very same year, for his ‘perfect’ role as Samuel Pickwick in the adaption of the classic Charles Dickens novel, The Pickwick Papers. The success of the movie prompted a BAFTA nomination for him as Best British Actor in 1953. Alexander Gauge, who played Friar Tuck in 89 episodes of the hugely successful TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood, also appeared in the film, as Tupman.

Hayter later joined Alexander Gauge and the rest of the television crew of The Adventures of Robin Hood, when he played the part of Tom the Miller in 2 episodes of that classic series.

Jimmy remained just as busy in the television studio as on the film set and appeared in a whole host of early productions. Including, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Presents, Fair Game, The Moonstone, The Avengers, Man From Interpol, The Flaxton Boys, Wicked Women and
Dr Finlay's Casebook.

With seven children to support, James Hayter continued to work phenomenally hard in the film industry and went on to appear in over 90 movies, some classics such as: Calling Bulldog Drummond (1951), The Big Money (1958), I Was Monty’s Double (1958), The 39 Steps (1959) and
Oliver (1968).

It was in 1970 that Jimmy re-joined Geoffrey Lumsden and Joan Rice; colleagues from Disney’s Story of Robin Hood, in The Horror of Frankenstein. This was the fifth in the series of Frankenstein films made by Hammer, but it is best described as a dreary and disappointing movie. Hayter’s television career was, on the other hand, far from dull, with continuing work in many popular productions of the time, including Doctor at Large, Hunter’s Walk and The Onedin Line.

Towards the end of his long and illustrious acting career, Hayter was chosen by comedy writer and producer, David Croft, to appear as a new assistant in his successful TV series Are You Being Served. Croft said:

"James Hayter had not worked for me before, but he was a well known featured player in movies over here,” Croft remembers, “ and as far as I was concerned was the only candidate providing he was available and willing to play the part."

So as the mischievous Percival Tibbs, Hayter appeared in 6 episodes of Are You Being Served. Unfortunately for many years, Mr Kipling Cakes had used his distinctly fruity voice, for their advertisements on British television and the company did not like the character he now portrayed in this series.

They thought the personality of the character he portrayed was unpleasant and had an air of indignity that might put the viewing public off buying their “exceedingly good cakes”!

Hayter at first argued that he was free-lance and could chose to play any character he desired, but when Mr Kipling Cakes finally offered him three times his BBC salary for the next series, not to do it and terminate his contract, he accepted.

The cast of Are You Being Served were very disappointed to see such a successful comedy talent leave, but he confessed,
“if they are prepared to pay me three times as much not to it, then I wont do it– at my time of life, I have no more ambition.”

James Hayter died in Spain aged 75 on 27th March 1985.

© Clement of the Glen 2006-2007
(To see all posts about James Hayter please click on the label 'James Hayter' marked in the right-hand panel or below).

Richard Todd Meets Maid Marian

It's spring and the year is 1950 in Hollywood, at the Golden Globe Awards. Olivia de Havilland, Maid Marian from the 1938 version of the legend, The Adventures of Robin Hood, sits alongside Richard Todd a future Robin Hood (in December of this year, Walt Disney would offer him the part of his production of The Story of Robin Hood). Behind Olivia and Richard, stands Johnny Green, who was awarded for the best music score of the year.

The dinner was arranged by the Hollywood Foreign Correspondents Association for the recipients in the various categories. Richard was voted Best Newcomer Actor, his first acting award. The Golden Globe awards were handed out by Gene Kelly and Olivia de Havilland.

Domesday Nottingham

Robin Hood is often described as a Saxon, competing against his oppressive Norman overlords in various films and novels. So what was Nottingham, the place most associated with the outlaw like, when the Normans began to rule England after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The best way to find out, is to look in the Domesday Book, an incredibly unique snapshot of life in late eleventh century England.

Great Domesday was commissioned by William I (the Conqueror) at his Christmas Court in 1085 and the whole enormous work of collecting the information and turning it into the book that survives today, took under two years to complete. A fantastic achievement and a tribute to the political power and formidable will of William the Conqueror. This book is today preserved at the Public Record Office at Kew, but for many centuries it was held at Winchester the ancient Saxon capital of Wessex. It is not only written in Latin, but in a highly abbreviated form of Latin. It took approximately nine hundred sheepskins, soaked in lime and stretched over wooden frames, to make the parchment for the clerk, to give us a snapshot of a world, far different to the one we know today.

The Domesday survey was a detailed statement of lands held by the king and by his tenants and of the resources which went with those lands. It recorded which manors rightfully belonged to which estates, reducing the years of confusion between the Anglo-Saxons and their Norman conquerors . It also gave him the extant to which he could raise taxes! This illuminates a crucial time in our history, the settlement in England of William and his Norman and northern French followers. Local people likened this irreversible gathering of comprehensive information, to the Last Judgement, and by the late twelfth century this remarkable survey became known as Doomsday. Before that it was known as the Winchester Roll or King’s Roll.

Nottingham at this time, is recorded as:

Snoting(e)ham/quin: King’s land. The main landholders are listed as Hugh FitzBaldric; the Sheriff; Roger de Bully; William Peverel; Ralph Fitzhurbert; Geoffrey Alselin; Richard Frail.

A church is also listed, the original Saxon church of St Mary’s, later destroyed in the mid twelfth century. The number of burgesses given is 120 and the amount of families in Nottingham at this time can not have been more than 500.

Roger de Busli or Bully and William Peverel were William the Conqueror’s two great tenants-in-chief. Some believe that Peverel was an illegitimate son of the Conquror. The Domesday Book shows that after the Conquest, Peverel was rewarded for his invovement in the Battle of Hastings with 162 lordships.

After stopping at Nottingham on his way north, William I had given Peverel instructions for a motte and bailey type ‘royal’ castle to be built on the 130 ft. high rock overlooking the town, in the king’s name. Over the following centuries the wooden fortress would be re-built in stone. The castle would be a strategic key to the midlands. Peverel was later made constable of Nottingham Castle and rewarded with a ‘fief’, known as the Honour of Nottingham, which included Sherwood Forest, the High Peak and lands in six shires, to support him. During the reign of King John, the sheriff’s of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire became custodians of land that became known as the Honour of Peverel.

The ‘Peverel Court’ was held in Nottingham up until 1321. It was a Court of Pleas for the recovery of small debts and for damages of trespass and had jurisdiction over 127 towns and villages around the shire. In Basford stood Peverel’s Gaol, founded in 1113 and used for the imprisonment of debtors by the successive sheriffs of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.

Roger de Busli was rewarded by King William I, like William Peverel for his assistance at the Battle of Hastings and was granted holdings in six English counties, including 174 estates in Nottinghamshire. Very little is known about him and he is described by some as famous in Domesday but nowhere else. His seat of power, became his manor house at Blyth in Nottinghamshire, described in the Domesday Book as:

Blyth (Blide) land of Roger de Busli 1 Bovate of land and the fourth part of 1 bovate taxable. Land for 1 plough. 4 villagers and 4 smallholders have 1 plough. Meadow 1 acre.

Blyth became one of only five designated sites in England, licensed by Richard I to hold tournaments. The area has been recently re-discovered in a field known locally as Terminings (tourneyings) Meadow on a tract of land between Blyth and Stirrup. The Pope had denounced these exhibitions of skill in arms, but Richard refused to be denied the ability to train his English knights to the level of skill of their counterparts on the continent.

Roger Busli also built Tickhill Castle an earthwork motte and bailey fortressfor the king, where he bestowed many great gifts to his followers, to the disadvantage and animosity of the original Saxon landowners.

If we look in the Domesday Book at some of the local villages that later become known as part of Sherwood Forest, we can see how the land was parcelled up between the new powerful Norman lords.

Edwinstowe, now the main modern tourist centre for Sherwood, was land owned by the king, Edenestou 1c. Of land taxable. Land for 2 ploughs. A church and a priest and 4 smallholders have 1 plough. Woodland pasture 1/2 league long and 1/2 wide. Clipstone (Clipestune) was land owned by Roger de Busli as was Cuckney (Chuchenai). Linby (Lidebi) belonged to William Peverel. Mansfield (Mamesfeld/Memmesfed was King’s land with, mill, fishery, 2 churches.

Nottinghamshire was originally included in the diocese and province of York up until 1836 and we see Blidworth (Blidworde) a village in Sherwood Forest, described as owned by the Archbishop of York before and after 1066. Oxton (Ostone/tune) was also land held by the Archbishop of York and the under tenant was Roger de Busli. Papplewick (Papleuuic) was held by William Peverel and Thoresby (Turesbi) was
King’s land.

Sherwood Forest is first mentioned 68 years after the Domesday survey when it was controlled for the king by Peverel’s grandson (also called William). But this sandy infertile part of Nottinghamshire was probably afforested by William the Conquror, or his immediate successors, at a far earlier date.

© Clement of the Glen 2006-2007