The Page Boy from Nottingham

A few weeks ago a good friend of this web site, Neil Vessey, sent in another stunning still from Walt Disney’s live-action film the Story of Robin Hood. It shows Joan Rice as Maid Marian, dolefully looking out from Nottingham Castle towards Sherwood Forest, as she tries to think of a way of finding her lost love, Robin Fitzooth.

But Neil wanted some information on Giles, the Page Boy, who stands behind, asking her, “Mistress Marian, why so sad?”

This rekindled an inquiry that I started a few years ago and set me off once again, looking for the young actor who mysteriously does not appear on the list of credits at the end of the film, even though his character had dialogue.

Well it looks like I could have found him! It seems that Giles the Page Boy was played by television and film actor Brian Smith. I can not find anything else about his life apart from the fact that he was born in Nottingham, England on 24th December 1932. His film career started in 1950 and he appeared as Taplow in the classic, The Browning Version (1951) alongside Michael Redgrave. Smith went on to appear in TV’s Billy Bunter in 1954, the colorful swashbuckler, Quentin Durward (1955) with Robert Taylor and the 1957 version of The Barretts of Wimpole Street.

Through the next four decades, Brian Smith appeared in a whole range of various television programs, the last of which was Peak Practice in 1996.

Why did his name not appear in the acting credits of Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood? Perhaps it will remain a mystery. But The Browning Version was released in April 1951 and amongst the cast and crew were the familiar names of Bill Travers and Carmen Dillon who would start working, it seems, with Brian Smith on Disney’s Story of Robin Hood at the end of that month.

Richard Todd and James Hayter

The Haunted Mill

The classic TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood had many strong links with Walt Disney’s live-action motion picture the Story of Robin Hood. Here is just one example, with James Hayter (Friar Tuck in Disney’s Robin Hood) playing the part of Tom the Miller in an episode from the second series called The Haunted Mill.

The original ITV program was first transmitted on 3rd December 1956. James Hayter can be seen standing behind Friar Tuck (Alexander Gauge) admiring Tom the Millers freshly cooked strawberry cake.

James Hayter went on to have a long association with cakes, when he became the familiar voice-over for television advertisements of Mr. Kipling’s Cakes.

Blondel's Song by David Boyle

From time to time I will recommend books that have helped me to understand the complex legend of Robin Hood and historical events that have helped inspire his myth. An historical person who has, since about 1521 been continually linked with the outlaw, is of course King Richard I of England (1189-1199).

I have already begun to chronicle the early days of his reign and his association with the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem Inn, near Nottingham Castle and over the years I have read many books on the lionhearted monarch. But none have come as close as Blondel’s Song in explaining his capture, imprisonment and ransom.

Many of us know the legend of Blondel and how this faithful minstrel made his way through Germany and Austria in search of the missing King Richard the Lionheart, singing hopefully under each castle wall. It culminates when, one quiet night under a tower, Blondel’s song is taken up and echoed by a familiar voice inside. That of Richard himself.

Blondel’s Song sheds new light on one of the most interesting periods in medieval history. Providing new perspectives on the lives of Richard and Blondel, as well as an insight into the courts of love, the Holy Grail and Europe in the turbulent aftermath of the Crusades. As one of our most famous medieval kings, Richard the Lionheart’s rule encompassed some of England’s most colourful and enduring legends- Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottingham and the discovery of King Arthur’s grave. None however match the untold story of Blondel, Richard’s faithful minstrel and reputed saviour.

Centered around the monarch’s imprisonment, Blondel’s Song uncovers the real story behind Richard’s secret journey back from the Crusades across the Alps in winter, his arrest and subsequent discovery through a minstrel’s song and the effects of his gigantic ransom.”

The author of Blondel's Song is David Boyle and the book is published by Penguin.

Alan Rickman

The Sheriff gently takes the intimidated girl’s hand, draws it to his mouth as if to kiss it…..bites down, making her scream.

London born Alan Rickman played the part of the evil Sheriff of Nottingham in the Morgan Creek production, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (1991). He had already established himself with one of cinema’s most memorable bad-guy performances as the gang boss in the all-action film Die Hard (1989).

But this £50 million Robin Hood film was later described by its star, Kevin Costner as, “not a great professional experience.” Movie critics too, mainly panned this hugely expensive outing into Sherwood Forest, with lines like:

“What harm is the Robin Hood legend doing, that needs to be so rudely modernized!”

One of the highly contentious debates of the critics was Rickman’s unabashedly over the top performance as Robin of Locksley’s arch enemy. You either loved it or hated it. For me it was one of the very few highlights in a very lack-luster re-telling of the legend. Unlike the subtle villainy displayed by Peter Finch in Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood (1952) and Alan Wheatley, in TV’s Adventures of Robin Hood (1956-60), Rickman created a cartoonish, ‘scenery chewing’ Sheriff of Nottingham’ with dialogue like:

“I’m going to cut his heart out-with a spoon!” and “It’s amazing I’m sane!”

Alan Rickman’s completely over-the-top Sheriff of Nottingham seems to have been acknowledged and re-created by the Welsh actor and comedian Keith Allen, in his role as the arch villain in the recent BBC series of Robin Hood (2007).

Walt Disney and Perce Pearce

Walter Elias Disney is listed first on 7 December 1946, aboard the Queen Elizabeth, sailing to New York from England. He is travelling with his wife, Lillian, as well as Perce and June Pearce.

Perce Pearce was a writer and producer, who worked with Disney on feature films such as Fantasia and Bambi and many of the later live-action movies, including Treasure Island and the Story of Robin Hood. Both are stated as having 119 Wardour Street in Soho, the centre of the British Film business, as their last UK address.

Story of Robin Hood Flyer

Another very rare flyer, possibly from 1952, advertising Walt Disney's live-action movie the Story of Robin Hood (1952). Also with this feature were the Donald Duck cartoon Honey Harvest (1949) and the Goofy cartoon Goofy Gymnastics (1949).

Perce Pearce (1899-1955)

To my amazement it has been almost impossible, up until recently, to find a biography on Walt Disney’s director and producer Perce Pearce. Pearce was not only the model for Doc in Snow White but worked for the Disney studios on many of their major productions, including Bambi, Song of the South, Treasure Island, Rob Roy and of course The Story of Robin Hood.
So over the last couple of years I have sent out pleas to hundreds of different Disney web sites for help to find even a snippet of information, on the life story of this mysterious man. At last, a week ago some details started to emerge from the Disney History website. Below I have taken the liberty to copy a post by George Grant on the life of Perce Pearce.

“This was printed from a microfilm copy of the Waukegan News Sun, dated July 5, 1955. The obit appeared on the front page of the paper, and the information in it was likely supplied by his sister, Isabel Pearce.

Percival C. Pearce was born Sept 7, 1899, to Dr Percival Pearce and Jessie Cook Pearce. He was born on his father’s birthday, which likely settled the issue of what to name him. His father was a physician-surgeon and sometime druggist. He had two older siblings: Stamford W. Pearce, who passed away at an early age, and Isabel Pearce. He may also have had a younger sister Margaret, according to his obituary.

His grandfather, W.S. Pearce, had been apprenticed to a druggist in Essex, England, before immigrating to the US. This grandfather settled in Waukegan, Illinois, around 1859, where he raised a large family and invested shrewdly in local real estate. Two of his sons (including Perce’s father) and one of his daughters became physicians, another daughter became a teacher, and yet another daughter, Winifred Pearce, became an artist. She also taught art to students, and operated a small art supply shop. (It was Perce’s uncle, Dr William W. Pearce, and not his father, who served as mayor of Waukegan).

Perce evidently took after his Aunt Winifred, who lived two blocks away from him. He is listed in the 1916 edition of the Waukegan City Business Directory as a cartoonist, at the age of sixteen, and the listing continues through 1919, when he lit out for Denver, Colorado. His first published work was a series of cartoons for the Great Lakes Bulletin, a military newspaper serving the US Naval Training center at Great Lakes, Illinois, and just a few miles south of Waukegan. He appears to have been hired for the job by a news syndicate called the Publicity Feature Bureau.

Perce’s cartoon series was named after its hero, Seaman Si. There are images of this series available around the internet, but if you need any others, let me know. The series ran in the paper, was collected into a soft-cover edition in 1917, and reprinted in book form in 1918. At the same time, Perce did editorial cartoons and political caricatures for his news agency, some of which appeared in the New York Evening Post, and were later included in a 1917 article in Cartoons Magazine called "Under the Big Dome" by Elisha Hanson (v. 11, no. 4, Apr. 1917).

In late 1919 Perce left his original position to work directly for a Denver newspaper as a cartoonist. He took a room in the house of John Cory, who was also a cartoonist for the same paper, along with a third cartoonist, Charles Cahn. (I don’t know the name of the paper, but suspect it was the Denver Post).

He worked as a cartoonist in Denver through 1920, but my trail of information on him dries up until 1930. He appears in the federal census for that year in Bay City, Michigan, as the president of his own company. He was still single, but within a year would marry June Herrig Swan, the daughter of a commercial salesman. June was born June 11, 1899, but in later years would shave months or even a whole year off her age, to hide the fact she was older than her husband. According to his obituary, Perce and June had two daughters, Anne and Georgia, both born in Michigan.

According to his obit, Perce started working for Walt Disney around 1934. I have no information on that, but can vouch that he and his wife were consistently registered to vote in Los Angeles County from 1938 through 1954. They initially lived at 1551 N. Stanley Ave in 1938, were both Democrats, with Perce giving his occupation as “artist”. By 1942 they had moved to 8050 Selma Ave, while Perce’s occupation was now “Director”, and later became “Producer” in 1944. He switched political parties to Republican in 1948.

One other unrelated item of information; besides the Southampton to NYC voyages already mentioned in your blog,Perce is listed as traveling from Honolulu to Los Angeles on the SS Mariposa, from Aug 31 to Sep 5, 1938. He was in first class as usual, and hence likely traveled at studio expense, but was not accompanied by his wife or daughters.

Hope this helps!

George Grant

By the way, according to the Disney Archives, Perce started at Disney on February 18, 1935, left on October 2, 1953 and died on July 4, 1955.”

Judi Rogers managed to find a lot more info about Perce Pearce:

“Percival Pearce was born in Waukegan, Illinois, on September 7, 1899. He graduated in 1918 from high school and later graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago. He moved to Los Angeles where he met Walt Disney and became a writer, producer and director. He married June Swan and they had two daughters, Mrs. Stanley Kramer of Beverly Hills, and Georgia Pearce, London.

He died suddenly in London on July 5, 1955, of a "coronary thrombosis" (heart attack) while preparing a series of films scheduled for use in the (new) Disney television program that was to begin that fall. He was said to be the model for "Doc" in "Snow White". Only one daughter remains alive but I do not know which one! He is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles.

There is a copy of his obit that should be on the Waukegan News-Sun website for June 5, 1955 along with a picture. I don't have a scanner, or I would send it to you myself!

I think we're getting somewhere now! I read that Anne Pearce married Stanley Kramer in 1950 and they were later divorced. I believe she was his 2nd wife. Not sure if she's still alive--but will find out!

In addition:

Percival Pearce is listed on 4 different passenger lists from Southampton, England to New York:

Dec. 1946 - Percival is listed as traveling with his wife, June. Their address at that time is listed as 8050 Selma Avenue, Hollywood, CA.

Mar. 1950 - Percival is listed as traveling with his wife, June, and daughter, Georgia. Georgia's birth date is listed as approx. 1933, born in Michigan. Their address at that time is 8050 Selma Avenue, Hollywood, CA

Nov. 1951 - Percival is listed as traveling with June. Their address is the same.

Feb. 1954 - Percival is listed as traveling with June. Their address at this time is 3576 Berry Drive, Hollywood.”

Also from Judi:


"During the course of our lives, people often walk in, stay for awhile and then are gone from our lives. Sometimes we think of them and wonder what ever happened to so-and-so??

I was fortunate to have some wonderfully notable people in my life…some who came, stayed a bit, and then were gone as well as others that stayed. However, they all made an indelible impression on me, my life and interests. Now is my time to recognize and honor them!

One such man was Percival Pearce—“Perce” to his friends; and I actually never met the man…but I know his story and I remember the things he did for me.

Perce Pearce came from an old Waukegan family; his father had been an early mayor of the city and his sister was my mother’s dear friend. She owned Pearce’s Book Store on the corner of Gennessee and Washington Streets. From her every Christmas there came a wonderful Caldicott award-winning book or several of them and lots of advice on what books I should be reading!

Her brother was Perce and was an extremely talented artist, drawing cartoons to entertain his friends as a young boy. He always had a drawing pad close by and would draw a story on each sheet and would paste each picture in one of the windows of their 3 story house. Confident of his talent he decided in the early 1920’s to head for Hollywood to see where his talents would lead.

On the pier at Santa Monica, he happened to meet another young artist, also from the Chicago area, a man by the name of Walt who showed him some of the ideas he had to draw a mouse and all of his adventures. He convinced Perce to work with him, and, of course…you guessed it; it was Walt Disney.

Disney was just full of ideas to do storyboards and animation and create more characters that children could love and relate to. By the time he arrived in Hollywood in 1923, he had already made an animated featurette entitled “Alice’s Comedy” which debuted in New York City.

Walt was the brains of the operation—and the heart—while his brother Roy (who lived in California) helped supply the initial financing. With the ideas popping up rapidly, he relied greatly upon Perce to help to carry them out. As a result, there came the animated full-length movie “Snow White” in 1937, and “Bambi” in 1942; “So Dear to My Heart” in 1949. Perce was the director in charge of production and often the writer who helped create the characters and stories.

So……what does this have to do with me?? Every year, from 1948 through 1955, I received 8 movie tickets personally signed by Walt himself and Perce, along with a letter hoping that I would enjoy these movies! I always had young friends who wanted the pleasure of coming to a “movie party”! The movies returned to theaters every few years and always there were free tickets and a letter from Walt and Perce inviting me to attend with my young friends!

Later, in 1950, Perce Pearce was sent to England to make the first live action movies for Disney….”Treasure Island”; to be followed by “Rob Roy” and “The Story of Robin Hood” and “The Sword and the Rose”. Each of these was produced by Disney and directed by Perce Pearce. Nevertheless, each year after that I received the customary 8 movie tickets with a warm letter from Walt and Perce, hoping that I would enjoy these movies with my young friends! I believe I even tried by this time to send a thank you note….but I think it was addressed to Mr. Mickey Mouse and therefore, I am not sure it ever got there!

When Perce was scheduled to return to California, the Bank of England told him that the money he earned in England would have to stay in England. So he settled there in a country estate and lived the rest of his life there.

The man that I never met who was so kind to me still remains somewhat of a mystery. Even “google” cannot shed much light on his life, other than his many accomplishments with Disney—although there are over 1,000 entries under his name.

So here’s to Percival Pearce, and to his many achievements! His sister and the Pearce family in Waukegan have all died, but their many kindnesses will remain with me in my memory.”

Judith Talcott Rogers

A very big thank you to the
Disney History blog and especially George Grant and Judi Rogers for sharing this information with us.

The Robin Hood Window 1862

This is a stunning chromolithograph image of a stained glass window depicting Robin Hood’s death from an ambitious work, which attempted to show the major art objects exhibited at the London World Fair from 1st May to the 1st November 1862.

This major work of chromolithography was expensively and laboriously produced by a consortium of artists and artisans. Some of the plates had to be printed over a dozen times with different colors, gold, or silver. The book was called "Masterpieces of Industrial Art & Sculpture at the International Exhibition, 1862. Chromo-lithographed by and under the Direction of W. R. Tymms, A. Warren, and G. Macculloch". The book was printed by Day and Son in 1863.

Elton Hayes

I recently found this intersting article about Elton Hayes on the Mudlark Cafe website from Evelyn Branston:

"Like so many children growing up in the 1950s, Elton was a great favourite of mine and has remained so over the years. He was one of the country's best known entertainers in the immediate post-war years, particularly for his renditions of Edward Lear's nonsense verses.

In addition to his many radio and TV programs, Elton appeared on the West End stage in 'The Beaux Stratagem' at the Lyric Theatre and I saw him as the special guest singer in 'The Sooty Show' at the Adelphi Theatre in 1956. After playing the part of Alan-a-Dale in the film 'Robin Hood' (the 1952 Walt Disney production), he toured the United States and made innumerable radio and TV appearances. He even sang 'Whistle My Love' in a cowboy setting! The Small Guitar (which incidentally he bought from a junk shop and restored) accompanied him on all his travels.

In the mid 60s Elton retired from show business and began a new career as a farmer, breeding pedigree livestock. He was able to devote more time to his horses and took up carriage driving. Unfortunately, in 1995 he suffered a severe stroke and was in hospital for several months. Showing the same courage and determination that had helped him recover from rheumatic fever many years ago, Elton's health improved. Having no children, he decided to sell his show business memorabilia and move to live with friends. I heard about the auction just in time and was able to make successful bids for several items, including 'The Small Guitar'.

Now in his 87th [2nd August 2001] year, Elton spends his leisure time listening to classical music, doing crosswords and enjoying the company of his friends."

Elton Hayes died in September 2001.

Evelyn, if you have any more details of Elton's life that you would like to share. Please get in touch at

Sherlock Holmes & The Mystery Of The Green Archer

A few years ago I wrote a tongue-in-cheek Sherlock Holmes mystery for a group of Robin Hood researchers. It went down rather well, so I thought I would share it with my blog readers:

It is only now after careful consideration that I deem it appropriate to write of this most unusual case. At the time of the investigation it was decided unpalatable to report and was therefore not published along with the many others that I have written in the Strand Magazine concerning the investigations of my associate Mr. Sherlock Holmes. But it is only right that the general public should at last read of Mr. Holmes’s discovery of England’s most illusive outlaw.

The fog had started to clear as I approached 221B Baker Street in the September of 1882. My professional work had taken me away from my friend and colleague Sherlock Holmes, but with some spare time at last, I was now very keen to make amends. Mrs. Hudson greeted me warmly at the door and showed me up the stairs, to the gas lit room in which I had witnessed the great detective at work for many years.

“He is with someone at the moment Doctor, a very important visitor indeed”, whispered Mrs. Bridges respectfully. “But I am sure Mr. Holmes will be pleased to see you.”

As I reached for the door, it was suddenly swung open and a stout, bearded gentleman came striding out and began to descend the stairs.

“I will be in contact with you in the next couple of days!” Called Holmes as the gentleman disappeared from my view.

“Ah! Watson, do come in,” greeted the detective, beckoning me towards the sitting room. "I have interesting news!”

Mrs. Bridges laid a fresh pot of tea at the table and Holmes sat back, cross-legged and thoughtful.

“Was the gentleman requiring your services Holmes?” I asked as I placed the warm cup of tea to my lips.

“Indeed Watson, it is a case of the most peculiar kind, in fact a considerable challenge,” he replied. With that Holmes sprang to his feet and commenced in pretending to fire an imaginary bow and arrow.
“What on Earth?” I chuckled.

“None other than Alfred First Lord Tennyson himself has asked me to take on this case,” Mr. Holmes gloated. “Our illustrious client states that he has grown somewhat tired of the continual fruitless debates, on both sides of the Atlantic, about the existence of the outlaw Robin Hood. The Baron says he has grown a fondness for our empires legendry bandit and as he was so impressed by the reported cases of my work, by your good self, in The Strand magazine, he has decided to ask me to try and solve the mystery of that illusive green archer once and for all!”

“But Holmes,” I stammered, “with respect, is Robin Hood nothing more than fiction, a mere fantasy, fit for novels and pantomime?”

Holmes turned and raked over the red, glimmering coal, making it crackle and spit in the hearth.

“Watson, very often than not, there is no smoke without fire!”

He walked towards his heavily packed bookshelf, tossing loose paper folders and files onto the floor. I rose to my feet and turned ready to leave, feeling that in a case like this the great man would be best left alone to begin his investigations.

“I suppose a train journey to Nottingham will have to be booked?” I asked anticipating a task for myself.
“Not straight away, Watson. Firstly I will meet you in the cafe opposite the records office in Chancery Lane at noon tomorrow.”

My journey through the rain drenched London streets in a hansom cab towards Chancery Lane was slow. My time was spent thumbing through a book by Joseph Ritson on the celebrated outlaw. It included some early ballads of the bandit and his idyllic life under the warm shady glades of Sherwood Forest. A far cry I thought, from the slate grey skies and grim terraced housing around me at present.

The Kirkby Coffee Shop was busy. There was no sign of Holmes as I paid my driver half a crown and entered; I noticed the only vacant table by the window and made my way towards it. After sipping an extremely hot coffee, I espied Holmes, hunched against the wind and rain, weaving in and out the carriages across the road and making his way to the steamy coffee house doorway.

I stood and called him over. He hung up his wet coat and sat opposite me, with a stern and troubled look upon his face. His manner was agitated.

“This is indeed a case, Watson, which will test me to my limits.” He sighed.
“I am not at all surprised,” I said, as I beckoned over the waiter. “The merry fellow has been probably dead some seven hundred years!”

Holmes put his long, thin finger to his lips very thoughtfully and then calmly said, “Indeed Watson, but although we are dealing with a problem of many centuries ago, the noble science of deduction can still be engaged.”

The waiter brought over two freshly made cups of coffee and Holmes sat staring out the steamy window to the gloomy, gothic buildings, which made up the Public Record Offices.

“I have met with a Professor Hepworth, curator of the place and he informs me of the work by the sub commissioner, Joseph Hunter whose findings are extremely interesting.” Holmes showed me a copy of Hunters book, published some thirty years ago.

“This chap looks quite convincing,” I said, having quickly skimming through the pages.

“A Robert Hood, born in Wakefield, outlawed after the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322 and in the kings service in 1324!”

The great detective looked me straight in the eye and said, “But my dear friend, Hunter could find no evidence to prove that the Hood from Wakefield and the king’s porter were one and the same. The suggestion he was ever outlawed is also unproven and the cause of ceaseless controversy.”

“But Holmes this is probably as close to the fellow as we are ever likely to get!” I deduced. But Holmes rose to his feet.
“Come Watson, let us depart!”

In his dimly lit apartment in Baker Street, Holmes and I sat upon a raw and foggy night on either side of a blazing fire in the sitting-room. The detective sat back in his chair with his pipe. His eyes were closed, deep in thought as the smoke swirled its way to the ceiling. I decided to make some use of my spare moments by trying to make some sense of my hastily penciled notes.

“William Langland is our first witness; he mentions rhymes of Robin Hood in 1377.” I muttered. “Langland was born in Shropshire. Then we have the great Geoffrey Chaucer hinting at him in Troilus and Criseyde three years later.”

There was no response from Holmes who remained completely still until there was gentle tap at the door.
“Yes!” He called very abruptly.

“Sorry to be bothering you so late in the evening, Mr Holmes," said Mrs Hudson, stepping in the room wearing her coat. “But I was just leaving for the night, when this gentleman came to the front door; he says it is very urgent.”

“Then show him in! Show him!” Exclaimed a now very animated, Holmes.

Into the room stepped a rather shy young man who was introduced to us by Mrs. Hudson as Mr. David Pilling.

“I have in this last hour just left the Public Records Office,” he said timidly. “My master, Professor Hepworth thought you might like to see this.”

He lifted up a rather battered briefcase and lifted out a blue envelope containing what looked like a medieval document and placed it on the table near the lamp. Holmes lifted out his magnifying glass and with the aid of the table lamp proceeded to read out the contents.

“It is a request to the king dated about 1322 from a Katherine Hod. It states that the king owed her father Robert Hod 28.8s 5d.”

Holmes excitedly moved his looking glass to the bottom of the velum manuscript.
“Look at that Watson!” He exclaimed. “This Katherine goes on to use the surname Robynhod.”

“This is indeed most intriguing!” I gasped. “She is using the name Robin Hood as her very own surname, I have never seen anything like that before.”

I must admit at this stage I was somewhat confused by all this. But for the first time since we had started the investigation Holmes seemed more light-hearted. He moved sharply to the door, placing the ancient document back into the young messenger’s hands.

“Mr. Pilling, your visit has been of great assistance to Mr. Watson and me. Please send my regards to Professor Hepworth." With that David Pilling nervously picked up his well-worn briefcase and left the shadowy room.

The next couple of days were spent away from the crowded streets of London on an arranged visit by Lord Tennyson to the beautiful county of Nottinghamshire. After a rather tedious journey by train we arrived in the late evening at a small but pretty tree-lined village called Edwinstowe. We lodged at an old ivy covered manor house known as Lees Cottage owned by the Nottinghamshire Councilor Cornelius Henshaw, which overlooked the church where Robin Hood is commonly said to have married Maid Marian. After a hearty breakfast the next morning we were joined by our client Lord Tennyson for a guided tour by our host.

The morning was crisp and bright. Edwinstowe is pleasantly set on the river Maun, it is a gateway to some of the loveliest haunts of old Sherwood forest. The four of us travelled on horseback with the golden crushed oak leaves as our path through the stunningly picturesque Birklands. Within a mile of the church we stopped at what they called the Queen or Major Oak. Holmes remained on his horse as the rest of us dismounted to take a closer look at this remarkable specimen.

"No one knows how many years it has weathered," said Councilor Henshaw. "But this monarch of the forest has a hollow trunk 30 feet round, strong enough to support unaided the mighty limbs which make a ring of about 260feet."

“Remarkable!” said Lord Tennyson. “Is this where the wily outlaw hid from the sheriff?”
“Indeed,” answered Henshaw.
“Shall we continue?” Interrupted Holmes rather abruptly, who seemed somewhat removed from the enjoyment the rest of us were experiencing.

We rode singularly through Silver Birch trees a mile and a half west of what is now called the Major Oak to Robin Hoods Larder, the remnant of another great oak in which Robin is said to have hung his game. Cornelius Henshaw once again alighted from his saddle to explain some facts about this tree. "The shell of three-quarters of its hollow is left, 24 feet round and still giving life to the green above. Near this tree, where the ways through the Forest divide, you will espy a charming one-storeyed Russian cottage."

He climbed back onto his horse turned and said, "Gentleman, pray let’s continue."

We made our way back past an old chapel where King John had paid a hermit to pray for his soul. Ahead we could see the spire and pinnacles of the local church with its 700 year old tower. Holmes was now lagging behind the rest of us and seemed somewhat oblivious to all that was around him.

It was at this lovely landmark that our journey was nearly over. Lord Tennyson, Cornelius Henshaw and I tied the horses, watched by a couple of carved heads of some medieval bishops on the tower arch. Holmes approached the small wooden church gate and dismounted. Then the four of us removed our hats and slowly opened the heavy oak door and entered the old church.

Councilor Henshaw and I sat amongst the pews to take in the ancient architecture, whilst Lord Tennyson and Holmes looked up at the beautiful stained glass windows.

“How is your progress with my case, Mr Holmes?” His Lordship asked tentatively.
“I believe, my Lord I am as close as I will ever be likely to get,” Holmes replied in a hushed manner.

“Perhaps then, you would be able to enlighten us to your findings”, said the Lord as he joined Henshaw and myself amongst the pews, somewhat excitedly.

“Then my Lord and gentleman, let me introduce you to Robin Hood!” Holmes said turning his tall thin figure around, so that his outline was framed by the brilliantly sunlit stained glass windows of Gabriel, Michael and Raphael.

“As you are probably aware, through acquainting yourselves with the written reports of my friend and colleague Dr Watson, my methods have always demanded a thorough investigation of all the relevant facts and witnesses. In this unique case, presented to me by my Lord Tennyson, this particular course has proved impossible. I was left therefore with the only avenue left open to me which was to engage the noble science of deduction on evidence that has survived the many centuries of destruction. My conclusion therefore rests on the chance survivals that have come down to us and I must stress my results are not conclusive.”

Holmes slowly walked towards the fourteenth century font, his footsteps echoing around the church and placed his hand upon the carved stone.

“Our first encounter with the tales of our illusive outlaw as you are all aware, gentleman, is in the writings of William Langland in 1377. But not, please note, in his earlier version, written about fifteen years earlier. The other witness to the evolution of this legend is Geoffrey Chaucer, writing approximately three years after Langlands last text. The only way I could find to unravel this case, was to find a common thread between these two giants of English Literature.”

“Did you find anything?” I asked.

“Indeed, Watson, the connection lies not here in the Midlands or in Yorkshire but where we started our search, in the narrow foggy streets of London!”

Lord Tennyson looked at Henshaw somewhat astonished.

“It was while I was waiting to see Professor Hepworth at the Public Records Office when I noticed a copy of an eighteenth century map hanging on a wall in his waiting room. It showed the division of parishes taken in a survey of Queen Hithe Ward and Vintry Ward in London. Upon the map it clearly showed a Robin Hood Court.”

“But many places are named after the popular outlaw!” Exclaimed Henshaw somewhat agitated.

“The connection with Robin Hood in Vintry Ward, Councillor, goes right back to the late Thirteenth Century.” Holmes said, detecting the unease amongst his listeners.

“Vintry Ward was one of twenty six wards of the city to the west of the Walbrook on the bank of the Thames, extending north to Cordwainer Ward, and bounded on the east by Dowgate Ward and on the west by Queenhithe Ward. The ward itself was apparently first mentioned in 1285 but was identified in 1276 as the ward of Henry de Coventry. By 1320 it was the second richest ward in the city of London. It was an area of wine merchants, who included Gascons and Italians as well as English.”

Holmes moved back towards the brilliantly sunlit stained glass windows.

“Enough existing historical evidence,” he continued, “reveals the obvious fact, that this councilor was probably the most popular, that the noble city has ever witnessed. So much so, that shortly after his death they took the then unusual step, of perpetuating his memory by naming a local Inn after him, Hostil Robin Hod. His daughter Katherine, in great honour of her much loved father, later respectfully used his whole name as her surname, Robynhod. An existing document shows that the Robin Hood Hostel is mentioned in a London Subsidy Roll of 1292. How many discovered Robin Hoods, gentleman, have we found in historical records that can be shown to have had the love and admiration of the common people?”

“That’s clear enough, Holmes,” said Lord Tennyson, “But where is the connection between Chaucer and Langland. William Langland lived in Shropshire didnt he?”

“That is correct my Lord,” replied Homes, raising his hand to his chin, “he was probably born at Cleobury Mortimer, but to try and beat back the dilemma of poverty, he came to the City of London, where his tall, thin, protesting figure was seen as he tried to eke out a living selling masses and copying documents. He ended his life in poverty. I am sure it was in those medieval London streets and inns where he would have first heard of and probably visited the tavern of Robin Hood, his knowledge of which he shares with us in 1377.”

“And what of Chaucer?” asked Councilor Henshaw,

“Ah! Now he is the most interesting witness of all,” Holmes enthused. “Geoffrey was the son of John Chaucer a Vintner. Geoffrey Chaucer was born around 1340 in Thames Street, Vintry Ward surrounded by wealthy European wine merchants and the aristocracy. It was here that he no doubt he continually overheard stories of the name bearer of the Robin Hood Hostel, which was on his doorstep. Chaucer was later to refer to jolly Robin in around 1380.”

“Remarkable, my dear Holmes!” I said as the pieces of the puzzle started to fit. But I could see that my other two companions were showing the outwardly signs of disappointment.

“But that does not explain the many ballads, legends and stories of his involvement with the Sheriff of Nottingham, Little John, Friar Tuck and Maid Marian,” Lord Tennyson said, with a deeply furrowed brow.

“As my friend and colleague Dr Watson will verify. My knowledge of literature and its evolution is inadequate, my Lord, but I will emphasize the fact that we are dealing with seven hundred years of storytelling. My case was to attempt to find the man behind the source of the entertainment. I believe I have found him.”

We stepped outside the church and the four of us climbed once again upon our horses.

“Not since Study in Scarlet have I come upon such a complex case, Watson!” Holmes said as he placed his firmly upon his head.
“Or so delicate,” I replied as I watched our companions returning to Lees Cottage.

It was during a sumptuous supper supplied by our good host, that I put it to the gentleman present that we should perhaps keep the findings of Mr. Sherlock Holmes classified for the present, which was unanimously agreed upon. The mood had changed by this time and the gentlemen were beginning to appreciate the importance of Mr. Holmes’s discovery.

“Even if Robin Hood did end his life in London,” said Lord Tennyson, looking out the window at Sherwood Forest, “I think these oaks at dawn and even or in the balmy breathings of the night, will whisper evermore of Robin Hood.”

“That summed it all up beautifully,” acknowledged Sherlock Holmes.

© Clement of the Glen 2008