The Time Machine

"I drew a breath, set my teeth, gripped the starting lever with both hands, and went off with a thud. The laboratory got hazy and went dark. Mrs. Watchett came in and walked, apparently without seeing me, towards the garden door. I suppose it took her a minute or so to traverse the place, but to me she seemed to shoot across the room like a rocket. I pressed the lever over to its extreme position. The night came like the turning out of a lamp, and in another moment came to-morrow. The laboratory grew faint and hazy, then fainter and ever fainter. To-morrow night came black, then day again, night again, day again, faster and faster still. An eddying murmur filled my ears, and a strange, dumb confusedness descended on my mind."

And so the Time Traveller begins his epic journey in the third chapter of H. G Wells’s (1866-1946) classic science-fiction novel ‘The Time Machine’. His ground-breaking work has been considered by many to be one of the greatest science fiction books of all time and has been adapted into at least two major films. My favourite is the George Pal 1960 version starring Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimeux. With a new year about to start and the old one passing into memory, the thought of Time Travel, particularly amongst historians as well as scientists, remains a fascinating and exciting concept.

So what has this to do with Robin Hood I hear you ask? Well, in 1995 the Royal Mail sponsored a survey on ‘time travel,’ for children between the ages of nine and fourteen, to celebrate the centenary of the first publication of Wells’s Time Machine. Later that same year a series of commemorative stamps were issued and on June 7th 1995 The Independent newspaper printed the results of the survey:

“The Prime Minister topped the poll for least popular travelling companion. Most popular choice of companion to see off aliens and dinosaurs was the Manchester United footballer Ryan Giggs. Seventy-one per cent wanted to visit the future, while 29 per cent wanted to visit past periods such as the prehistoric era, the Second World War and the Elizabethan age.

Those opting for the future wanted to know who their friends would be, whether the rain forests would survive and whether people would live in space. Almost 40 per cent believed there was life on other planets, and 14 per cent thought that aliens were already living among us.

The most alluring figures in history were Robin Hood (whom 22 per cent wished to meet), Elvis Presley (15 per cent) and Jesus (13 per cent). Somewhat surprisingly, 14 per cent of the girls surveyed wanted to meet Henry VIII.”


Little John's Grave

This wintry scene shows Little John’s Grave in St Michaels and All Angels Parish Church, School Lane, Hathersage in Derbyshire.

Apart from Little John’s exceptionally large grave-between two yew trees-the fourteenth century church also houses 15 brasses to the local Eyre family. Charlotte Bronte stayed at the vicarage nearby, with a friend in 1845 and it is believed that the village of Morton, in her novel Jane Eyre, is based on Hathersage. It is also very likely that Charlotte took her heroine's name from the prominent Eyre family.


This is an excerpt from the festal Christmas ballad 'Robin Hood's Birth Breeding and Valour':

The mother of Robin said to her husband,

"My honey, my love, and my dear,
Let Robin and I ride this morning to Gamwel,
To taste of my brothers good cheer."

And he said, "I grant thee thy boon, gentle Joan,
Take one of my horses, I pray;
The sun is a rising, and therefore make haste,
For tomorrow is Christmas-day."

When Robin had mounted his gelding so grey,
His father, without any trouble,
Set her up behind him, and bad her not fear,
For his gelding had oft carried double.

And when she was settled, they rode to their neighbours,
And drank and shook hands with them all,
And then Robin gallopt and never gave ore,
Til they lighted at Gamwell Hall.

And now you may think the right worshipful squire
Was joyful his sister to see,
For he kist her and kist her, and swore a great oath,
Thou art welcome, kind sister, to me.

To-morrow, when mass had been said in the chapel,
Six tables were coverd in the hall,
And in comes the squire and makes a short speech,
It was "Neighbours, you're welcome all."

"But not a man here shall taste my March beer,
Till a Christmas carrol be sung."
Then all clapt their hands, and they shouted and sung,
Till the hall and the parlour did ring.

Now mustards, braun, roast beef and plumb pies
Were set upon every table,
And noble George Gamwell said,
"Eat and be merry,And drink, too, as long as you're able."

When dinner was ended, his chaplain said grace,
And "Be merry, my friends," said the squire,
"It rains and it blows, but call for more ale,
And lay some more wood on the fire."

I would like to wish you all a Merrie Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year.

A Christmas Feast at Westminster Hall

In the year that William Langland made the first mention of ‘rymes of Robyn hode’ in English literature, (1377) the ten year old Richard II ascended the English throne. The grandest and most famous of young Richard’s commissions was the rebuilding of Westminster Hall. The 11th century original, built for William Rufus-son of William the Conqueror, had been the largest hall in Europe. With a floor size of about 1850 square yards the Hall was the traditional venue for coronation banquets. It had also been the scene of the trial of William Wallace and the historic assembly of Henry III’s barons and bishops in 1265 when England’s first parliament was called.

The mason/architect of the re-building, Henry Yevele, reused much of the original masonry and was responsible for the gable walls, with their vast windows which provided the only source of external light. But it was the royal carpenter, Hugh Herland’s fine timbered roof, unsupported by pillars, that became an architectural masterpiece. The early wooden one, like the roofs of other vast halls, had been supported by twin arcades of columns. Herland boldly dispensed with the supportive arcades and covered the vast span of the hall with the present magnificent, braced hammerbeam roof. This largest medieval unsupported timber roof can still be seen today.

An account survives of the first banquet at Westminster Hall held after the re-building work was finished:

“This hall being finished in the year 1399, the same King [Henry IV] kept a most royal Christmas there, with daily jousting, and runnings at tilt, whereunto resorted such a number of people that there was every day spent twenty-eight or twenty-six oxen, and three hundred sheep, besides fowl without number: he caused a gown for himself to be made of gold, garnished with pearl and precious stones, to the value of 3000 marks: he was guarded by Cheshire men, and had about him commonly thirteen bishops, besides barons, knights, squires and other more than needed: insomuch, that to the household came every day to meat 10,000 people, as appeareth by the messes told out from the Kitchen to 300 servitors.”

Stow’s Survey of London (ed. Kingsford), II, 116.

Frank Bellamy's Robin Hood

This image is taken from the work of the great British graphic artist, Frank Bellamy (1917-1976). Apart from producing strips for famous comics such as The Eagle, Look And Learn and TV 21, Bellamy also produced beautifully illustrated ‘Robin Hood’ episodes, for the Swift comic (20th March 1954-2nd March 1963).

His ‘Robin Hood and his Merrie Men’ and later ‘Robin Hood and Maid Marian’ appeared in Swift between 1956 and 1957. The Complete Frank Bellamy Robin Hood , which includes all those strips, will be published next year (2008).

Nottingham's Unique Silver Penny

This unique old silver penny dating from the eleventh century (both sides are shown above) now belongs to Nottingham City Council. It was either struck at Shelford, near Radcliffe-On-Trent in Nottinghamshire, or on Bridlesmith Gate in Nottingham. Although the small 1.55mm diameter coin is very thin and fragile and not complete, you can still see the image of a newly crowned William the Conqueror (c.1028-1087) on one side, unusually facing forward carrying a sceptre patte and a sceptre botonne. The inscription partly missing reads : WILLIAM REX ANGLOR– William King of England.

On the reverse, there is a cross fleury with an annulet in the centre over saltire botonne with the legend, M[AN] ON SNOTINGI. ‘M’ could indicate that the coin was struck by the moneyer Manna and SNOTINGI ( Snotting) was the ancient name of Nottingham. It cost Nottingham Council £860 to bring this silver penny home.

Sherwood: The Living Legend

Unfortunately the bid for the Peoples Lottery Grant, to re-plant and improve facilities at Sherwood Forest- known as Sherwood: The Living Legend- was un-successful today. It was won by Conect2. Which has a UK wide project to improve local travel in 79 different communities, by creating walking and cycling routes.
Let's hope funding can be found soon, to protect Sherwood and its wildlife, so that future generations get the chance to run and play in the ancient forest.

Peoples Millions Competition

Sherwood: The Living Legend will protect the fragile ecology of one of the world’s most famous forests so it can be enjoyed by future generations.

"Sherwood Forest is no longer the majestic expanse of woods and heathland that it once was. Industrialisation and the march of time have taken their toll on the ancient greenwood that Robin Hood called home. But that is set to change…
Sherwood: the Living Legend will more than double the core size of the ancient oak forest; provide environmentally friendly visitor facilities; create one of the biggest walking, cycling and horse riding networks in Europe and help local communities celebrate and share their connections to Sherwood’s nature, history and legends.
Most importantly, our project will protect the fragile ecology of one of the world’s most famous forests and its veteran oak trees, so it can be enjoyed by future generations.
A major makeover
We will recreate 300 hectares (or 400 football pitches) of new forest, restoring the beauty of the landscape and wildlife habitat. Amongst the ancient oaks live more than 200 types of fungi, many bats and birds and 1000 species of beetle and spider – some of which are very rare.
A 250-kilometre network of walking, horse riding and cycling routes will provide greater access to Sherwood. The routes will connect to the national cycle network and 20 railway stations, as well as local towns, villages and visitor attractions.
Improving facilities
A new visitor complex called ‘The Tree’ will be built using cutting-edge, sustainable technology and be linked to the ancient forest by a raised walkway. ‘The Tree’ will stand on the edge of Sherwood and will teach visitors all about the Forest and Robin Hood.
Sherwood: the Living Legend will celebrate the unique and distinct character of the people and places that surround the Forest. So whether it’s bows and arrows, birds and beetles, or simply taking a walk with the family in the great British countryside – the improved Sherwood Forest will have something for everyone. "

VOTE FOR SHERWOOD FOREST: 0870 24 24 603 *

Typetalk users should dial 18001 before the number they want to dial.

Lines open at 9am Friday 7 December 2007 and close at 12 midday Monday 10 December 2007.
If you experience any difficulties with phone voting please call 0844 881 4150.

Ink Illustration

This rare ink illustration, was used as a publicity picture for Walt Disney's live-action film, The Story of Robin Hood in 1952.

Elton Hayes

Daily Telegraph Obituary 29th September 2001

"ELTON HAYES, who has died aged 86, was well-known to radio and television audiences of the 1950s as "the man with the small guitar".
Hayes specialised in old English folk songs and ballads such as From Priggs that Snaffle the Prancers Strong and The Ratcatcher's Daughter. He sang to his own guitar accompaniments with an easy charm that came strongly over the microphone.

After making his radio debut on Children's Hour, Hayes occupied the guest star slot on every major radio variety show including In Town Tonight, Workers' Playtime, Variety Bandbox, Terry-Thomas's Top of the Town and Eric Barker's Just Fancy. He occasionally presented Housewives' Choice; and on Children's Hour, he sang Edward Lear's nonsense rhymes. Hayes's version of The Owl and the Pussy Cat was recorded by Parlophone and became a regular item on Children's Favourites.

In 1954 he was given his own series Elton Hayes - He Sings to a Small Guitar, a misquotation from The Owl and the Pussycat that became his catchphrase. This was followed by Close Your Eyes, a late night "bedtime" programme of light music, and Elton Hayes in a Tinker's Tales, in which Hayes, as an itinerant tinker, narrated a story which a cast of actors then dramatised as a musical play. Hayes also wrote the music and songs for the series.

On television he appeared in The Minstrel Show (forerunner of The Black and White Minstrel Show) and BBC Caravan Time, and sang and acted in several television plays.
Hayes was the obvious choice for the part of Alan-a-Dale in The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952), directed for Walt Disney by Perce Pearce. So well did Hayes fill the role that although it had started as a few lines, it grew into one of the film's biggest parts.

Elton Hayes was born at Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, on February 16 1915. Both his parents were actors and he made his first stage appearance aged nine in the prologue of a pantomime at the Canterbury Theatre, while also employed as a call boy and assistant stage manager at a salary of five shillings a week. For years he treasured a presentation watch engraved "To Elton Hayes, the youngest call boy and stage manager 1925/26 from Cheerful Charlie Grantly", the actor who had played Buttons.

As a child, Hayes learned the violin and, in his early teens, won a scholarship to the Fay Compton School of Dramatic Arts, run by the Compton family of actor-managers. There he received an extensive theatrical education "from Shakespeare to operetta and from tap dancing to ballet and the mechanics of theatre production".

His first job was as assistant stage manager with the Old Stagers' Company at the Canterbury Theatre. In his spare time he sang as "Eltonio" at local social clubs, obtained small parts in theatre and pantomime, and took a small part as a dancer in the film The First Mrs Fraser. He also joined a tap dancing troupe on the cine variety circuit, and became part of a four-man musical variety act called The Four Brownie Boys.

Hayes took up the guitar shortly before the war when he accepted one as security from a friend who had borrowed 30 shillings. At the outbreak of war, he was invited by ENSA to put together one of their first mobile units.
Eventually, though, Hayes volunteered for military service and, after being commissioned in the Royal West Kent Regiment, was posted to South East Asia Command. After the Japanese surrender, he hitch-hiked to Bombay where he was appointed OC ENSA North West Frontier Province, based in Rawalpindi.

A few days after arriving back in Britain, he visited Broadcasting House, still in uniform, to watch a Children's Hour broadcast and was immediately taken on to write and perform a slot in the programme based on Edward Lear's Nonsense Rhymes, and given a slot on In Town Tonight. From then on, he was seldom off the air.

In 1949 the actor manager John Clements invited him to appear in The Beaux Stratagem, which ran for 18 months in the West End. It was his performance in this that caught the eye of Perce Pearce, who thought that he would make the perfect Alan-a-Dale in Robin Hood.
The success of the film led to a tour of America, where he made 113 television and radio appearances in eight weeks, including visits to Mexico and Canada. In 1952, he made a solo appearance in The Royal Film Performance and in 1956, appeared in The Sooty Show at the Adelphi Theatre.

Towards the end of the 1950s, however, Hayes found that he was becoming affected by nerves before his live performances. Believing that it would be stupid to continue, he decided to give up performing.
Hayes had already bought a small thatched cottage on the Essex-Hertfordshire borders and, after studying at a local agricultural college, he settled down to life as a farmer, breeding pedigree livestock.

In later life, he took up carriage driving and became a member of the British Driving Society. At the 1989 Lord Mayor's Show in London, he was to be seen dressed in a scarlet uniform, standing behind the team on a Post Office Mail coach blowing Clear the Road on a post horn.
After suffering a stroke in 1995, Hayes had to give up his farm and moved to live with friends, who cared for him until his death.
He married in 1942, Betty Inman, who died in 1982."

(To see all posts about Elton Hayes please click on the label marked Elton Hayes in the right-hand panel or below).