The Old York Road and Robin Hood's Cave

Once again Albie has sent in some great pictures of ‘Robin Hood Country,’ along with interesting details of the locations. A while ago I explained that I was very interested in re-discovering some of the ancient track ways that led through the parts of Sherwood Forest. So this time Albie takes us along part of the Old York Road in Nottinghamshire.

The main London to York road, also known the Great North Way, ran straight through Sherwood, and travellers were often at the mercy of robbers living outside of the law. Hence the name ‘outlaws’. It was such an important route in early times that it was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086:

“In Nottingham the River Trent and the dyke and the road to York are so protected that if anyone hinders the passage of ships, or anyone ploughs or makes a ditch within two perches of the King’s road, he has to pay a fine of £8.”

Here are Albie’s descriptions of his pictures:

The River Maun Looking North

"This was taken from the hump back bridge on the lane (Whitewater Lane) that runs between Walesby and the A614. The river, known as both the Maun and Whitewater locally, drains from Mansfield before meeting the Meden a couple of miles further north. The bridge was built in 1859 for the estate workers at Thoresby Hall to travel from Walesby and Ollerton without having to ford the river.

Old York Road Looking West

                                              Old York Road Looking North

These are taken at the point where the Old York Road crosses the lane to Walesby around 100 metres from the hump back bridge. The road south goes into New Ollerton and onwards to Old Ollerton through a large housing estate built for the now demolished Ollerton Coal mine. The picture north is where the road becomes a foot path bordering the Walesby Forest Scout Centre to the east and the River Maun to the west.

The York Road, North at Robin Hood's Cave

These pictures were taken above and at the side of Robin Hood’s Cave which is obscured by vegetation. Local legends have it that Robin and his outlaw band would hide here below the main road above ready to ambush the unwary traveller. A local historian reckoned the caves have been used since the retreat of glaciers at the end on the Ice Age. This historian, now deceased, maintained that Walesby and parish is the oldest continually inhabited place in Europe though this would be difficult to prove. Artefacts dating to the Bronze Age have been found around the village as have numerous Roman coins.”

                                              Robin Hood's Cave

                                         Robin Hood's Cave 2

Many thanks Albie. I can’t help thinking of Carmen Dillon’s set design for Disney’s Story of Robin Hood when I see those pictures of Robin Hood’s Cave. Also of the outlaws looking down, as the rich travellers made their nervous way along the York Road.

Nottinghamshire in 1693

This amazing map of 'Robin Hood Country' was sent in by Albie. It shows Nottinghamshire in 1693 and clearly shows the surviving remants of the ancient Sherwood Forest and some of the old roads through the shire.

Richard Todd and Burnham Beeches

Recently, Laurence thrilled us all, when he very kindly sent in a picture of his copy of the stunning original premier programme of Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood from 1952. Well, I am sure you will all be amazed by this fantastic painting (above) by Laurence of Burnham Beeches in Buckinhamshire, which he created over thirty years ago.

Laurence told me:

“It is of one of my favourite places, Burnham Beeches (not least because of its connection with Robin Hood). In point of fact, it was Mr. Todd who told me that this was the location for Sherwood Forest. Up to that point I never knew. The spot depicted doesn't actually exist - it is a kind of composite of the place I know and how it is in the movie. I even painted my, then, two young sons into the scene, though they are quite well hidden.

Below is Laurence with the late great Richard Todd, backstage at the Theatre Royal in Brighton in 1980. Laurence and his wife had just seen the legendary star in the excellent stage version of ‘This Happy Breed.’

Laurence says:

“Richard Todd had always been my boyhood hero (Robin Hood, Sword and the Rose and Rob Roy etc.) and when I met him I told him so. He replied that he assumed Richard Greene was every ones idea of Robin Hood - I corrected him- "Oh no, Mr. Todd, you are!"

Many thanks Laurence; I am sure my blog readers will be keen to see some more of your wonderful artwork.

Three Lions

We have seen the badge of the ‘Three Lions’ of England rather a lot lately. And for those of us following the World Cup in Africa and the English football team in particular, it hasn’t been in very good circumstances. So I was interested to read of the discovery of a 700 year old version of this badge by archeologist Caroline Rann.

The 3 inch copper badge with three lions clearly engraved on it was found lodged in a medieval stone wall in Parkside, Coventry. It is thought to date back to the 13th century and clearly shows the Coat of Arms of England.

Caroline Rann, a field archaeologist with Warwickshire County Council’s Archaeology Projects Group, found the emblem - believed to be part of a horse harness - ahead of a building project. The archaeologist said: "The badge was lodged between the sandstone blocks and may have fallen or slipped between the cracks while it was being built. The archaeologists were working on behalf of Provision for the Christian Life Ministries at Parkside in Coventry, as part of the planning process ahead of work to build a church.
"This has been hidden for hundreds of years and for it to appear now has to be a sign that England will go all the way in the World Cup!" said Nicholas Palmer, the principal field archaeologist at the Warwickshire Museum. The partially corroded badge is still being assessed and catalogued, but it is said to not be worth a huge amount of money. Mr. Palmer said the three lions symbol was very popular at the time the badge was made.

Patrick Barr as Richard the Lionheart

Since I found the reports of this discovery, I have been trying to find out a little more about the history behind the heraldic badge of England. We have seen the three lions clearly displayed on the coat of arms and costumes in portrayals of Richard the Lionheart for many years, including Patrick Barr in Disney’s Story of Robin Hood (1952) and Sean Connery in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991).

    Sean Connery as Richard the Lionheart

In the brief time I have had to research this, it appears that historical evidence is rather scarce on how the heraldic emblem of ‘the three lions’ first evolved. But it seems the origins of the heraldic lion that has come to be used as the symbol of the English, arose during the period when the English were under the rule of the Normans after the Conquest of 1066. In medieval Europe, royalty and knights were identified by their heraldic crests. The lion crest was popular in France and Normandy. It represented ferocity and bravery in battle and it seems the first known example of a Royal Coat of Arms in England, was that of the House of Plantagenet and the reign of Henry II (1183-1189) which was a golden lion ‘rampant’ (rearing up) on a red background.

His son Richard I (1157-1199) when he came to the throne, originally used his personal arms of two golden lions ‘combatant’ on a red field, this was the arms of the Dukes of Normandy (a title held by Richard). Richard’s mother, the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine used one gold lion on a red background and in the last year of his reign, 1198 (our first certain date) it seems Richard combined the two crests for his Second Great Seal, to form the three golden lions (Gules three lions passant guardant ) for his kingdom of England. This was probably after he inherited his mother’s territories of Aquitaine and Poitou. The 'three lions' continued to be used for his brother John, Henry III, Edward I, and Edward II.

            Richard I (the Lionheart)

It seems we could do with Richard the Lionheart and his legendary Plantagenet temper this week in the England teams changing room, to get those overpaid young footballers who wear his legendary crest, fired-up and playing with a bit more spirit!

Richard Todd's Secretary - Joan Wilkie

Geoff Waite has recently sent me a fascinating article by Richard Todd’s secretary Pat Wilkie and published in Girl Film & Television Annual in 1958. It gives a little insight into the life of the Todd household at that time. The photo of Richard Todd with his first wife Catherine and the dogs is nice. Pat Wilkie mentions their son Peter who sadly committed suicide in 2005 and daughter Fiona who became the wife of the Hon. Rollo Hugh Clifford in 1977.

The article begins:

“By the way,” said Richard Todd, “You do like dogs, don’t you?”

At first I didn’t see the point. After all, he was interviewing me to be his secretary.

After five years in the film business-two of them as assistant to Associated British Casting Director, Robert Lennard, my mind was going over what shorthand speed I could honestly claim, and just how to describe my efficiency as a book-keeper. Actually, I’d never done it in my life.

But as it happened I’m quite idiotic over animals. And I said so. I have learned that it was the best thing I could have said. Anyway, it got me the job. Not only would I be working as personal secretary to Richard Todd, but I would also be living in the country. I knew that his interest lay in farming and the countryside, and I had for some time been suffering with that ‘hemmed in’ feeling that city workers sometimes get.

But soon after I had got to live with the Todd’s, who at that time had their home near Maidenhead, my mother began to get worried:

“Are you sure you’re going to be a secretary and not a land girl?” she wrote.

Well might she ask, for in practically every letter home there had been frantic cries from me, such as ‘send gumboots,’ ‘send old coat,’’ send thick underwear,’ ‘send bike!’ This really worried her as she wasn’t at all sure I’d remember how to balance on this relic from my school days.

If ever a prospective boss was able to put an equally prospective secretary at ease better than Dick, then he deserves a medal. During my time in the Casting Department I had been reporting on all new plays, films and student performances, I hadn’t once touched my shorthand. My speed would be dismal confessed.

“Shouldn’t worry,” said Dick easily. “You’ll soon get it back.”

“But the book-keeping,” I said hesitantly.”I was always hopeless at maths at school.”

“Nothing to it,” said Dick. “You’ll manage fine.”

This is easy attitude to life is typical of Richard Todd, but I must have worried him a little. On my first day, and with a large grin on his face, he presented me with a brand-new Ready Reckoner!

I soon found my job was one of those delightful occupations where two days are never the same. Basically, it is a normal office job with plenty to keep one occupied. Mountainous piles of dictation-both fan and ordinary mail-book-keeping, PAYE for staff and farm workers, travel arrangements to be organised, and script reading-just to mention some of the things.

But it is the odd, unexpected things that crop up, as they do continually in the Todd household, that make for laughter and fun and change from routine. For instance, in an ordinary office it is not unusual to have a little boy (Richard’s son, Peter) wander in and ask, “I know God made the world, but who made God?” When you’re in the middle of balancing the petty cash!

Nor to have the door pushed open and see a normally white dog, now black with wet mud, looking sheepishly at you, knowing full well that it’s got to be bathed. Nor to have your employer turn to you on a hot summer’s day and say, “We’ll work in the evening, go change into your swimsuit and we’ll join the rest of the family in the pool!

Yes it’s good to get out of the routine-rut. But it can just as easily work the other way. You see, farming is not just something does as a hobby, to fill in the time when he’s not filming. It’s a much more personal thing.

Many’s the weekend I spent at his home catching up on all manner of work for films and farm, probably sandwiching a letter to a film producer in between orders for fertilizer. When the family moved to a 90 acre farm in Buckinghamshire life became more hectic than ever. When Dick is filming he generally stays at his flat in London during the week-then turns up with a briefcase full of work, and bang goes my free weekend.

Five dogs-two Great Danes, two Corgis and one pointer-can be a source of amusement at work. Baron, particularly can become a very gloomy Great Dane when Dick is away, and on these occasions will always insist upon sleeping just inside my bedroom door. This is all very well when the nights are dead quiet, but the slightest sound will produce an ominous tummy-rumble developing into a roar should the sound continue.

Once when left in charge of the house, I woke to hear Baron’s thundering growls. The other dogs were equally restive. Grabbing a thick stick in one hand, and hanging onto baron’s tail with the other, I toured the whole place, to find eventually that it was the local policeman, plus dog, giving the outside of the house a check over.

Then there was the day I took over Nanny’s job. Luckily Peter, than five, and Fiona, two, seemed to enjoy the novelty as much as I did, but I don’t think I have ever before been quite so exhausted at the end of the day.

And finally, to the employer himself. What is Richard Todd like to work for? I can only tell you that stories of Dick being stuffy and stiff-upper lipped, always fill me with amazement. If he were really like that, I wouldn’t be working for him.

I like to laugh, and working for Dick provides plenty of opportunities. He has a sense of humour that can be riotous.

For instance there was the day the young cook announced her intention of trying an entirely Chinese meal on us. It was her first attempt at Chinese cookery and we teased her unmercifully. However with the proper solemnity-and a little trepidation-we eventually sat down to eat. Half-way through the meal, Dick started to grin, and afterwards he and Mrs. Todd rushed upstairs.

A little while he entered the kitchen-a Chinaman! Wearing a gown put on back to front, a black stocking on his head, eyes turned upwards, and black moustachios painted on with eyebrow pencil-he looked terrifying.

“Excellent meal afectee me very muchee!” he said bowing solemnly from the waist.

We spent the next ten minutes reviving the cook who had collapsed hysterically on the floor, still hugging the coffee pot.

Dick is also the kindest and most considerate person, and I’m not just saying that because I’m his secretary and he’s my favourite actor.

As a matter of fact, he shares the favourite place with several others-Alecs Guinness, George Nader, Spencer Tracey, Fernandel and Jerry Lewis.

I only know that he inspires loyalty and affection because he himself is loyal to those who work for him. And even if next harvest-time, he does ask me to become a ‘land-girl’-I’ll do it willingly.”

Pat Wilkie (1958)

A special thanks to Geoff for sending this article in. I am sure you will agree that this piece asserts what a warm, kind and thoughtful human being Richard Todd was.

To read more about the life of Richard Todd please click on the Label below.

Story of Robin Hood Letter Headings

Back in November last year I posted pictures of both of these ‘Story of Robin Hood’ letter headings and asked my readers if they thought they were both genuine. The coloured letter heading did look very fresh and new. But Bill Cotter, an expert on all things ‘Disney’ and author of ‘The Wonderful World of Disney Television,’ very kindly contacted this site and said:

“Yes, the colored letterhead is legitimate. The B&W version would have been used to send out "Robin Hood" specific updates during filming. The studio used the colored type for general correspondence, changing it out throughout a year as different films went into the release cycle.”

So thanks Bill for sorting that one out for me!

Bill’s websites can be reached at:

New Template and Connection Problems?

I have recently up-dated my blog’s template, so I would like your opinions on it. I was pleased with its new look, but Geoff Waite contacted me and told me he is now unable to access my blog. A message comes up from Blogger Support advising him that there is a problem.

I am not sure if a change in the template is connected with this, so if any other of my readers has encountered this problem would you please let me know?



An Interview with Avalon

Avalon has visited my blog several times and has recently allowed me to use some of her research on the American place-names that are linked with the legend of Robin Hood. I know that some of my regular readers were keen to know a little more about Avalon and her fascinating culture, so she has kindly let me reproduce part of an interview she had on the ‘Fly High’ blog run by Maria Grazia. This was posted on the 7th June and the full interview can be found at:

Avalon says:

“My family is from the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina, which is sovereign nation. I have a shop there but I live in North Georgia which is about 3 hours from our Cherokee home.

I am the mother of two little boys who are pow wow dancers and historical re-enactors, which means we get to travel frequently. We are enrolled members of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation. I have a degree in American History and work in Native American Preservation. I am also a volunteer genealogist and the owner of a quaint antique shop located in The Great Smoky Mountains. I have a very large close-knit family. My mother is an anthropologist, my father is a large animal veterinary, and I have five siblings, seven nieces and nephews, two great nieces, and over thirty cousins. I like to hike, river raft, and hang-glide. I also love reading and history. I am interested in the Medieval Era, America's Civil War, and Native American History. And I like Ben Barnes and Richard Armitage.

My parents are history fanatics and named each of us after an historical person or place. I was named for Avalon and Michelle for Michele De Nostredame. My brothers are Tsali (Cherokee Warrior) Lancelot (Arthurian), Aramis (Musketeer) Victorio (Apache Chief), Ottawa (Native Tribe) Capulet (Shakespeare's Juliet's last name). My sisters are Nazareth (biblical) Isis (Egyptian Goddess), and Scarlett (Gone with the Wind) Josephine (for Napoleon's Josephine). And yes everyone teases us.

I am in no way an expert of the legend of Robin Hood. I think I like it because I am a dreamer, silly-hearted as some has so amply put it. I love heroes; Robin Hood, King Arthur, Jesse James, Crazy Horse; small people who sacrificed themselves to stand up against powerful tyranny.

I think I studied the legend for so long because I want proof that he existed. Native people use oral stories to tell history and I would like to think that Europeans are not that much different than us and that the legends of King Arthur and the ballads of Robin Hood originated from truth. It is sad when I hear people say they are fables used to entertain children and it is even sadder when those same people exploit Native Lore.

I have seen probably seen every version of Hood and I did not approve of the 1992 version of Robin Hood (with Kevin Costner). I am excited about Robin Hood 2010 and hope to see it soon.”

Avalon’s blog is at:

Thank you very much Avalon, for allowing me to share this. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Souvenir Programme from the Premier of Disney's Robin Hood

One of the most rewarding things about running this blog is hearing from my new readers and fellow enthusiasts of Disney’s Story of Robin Hood. So it was great to hear from Laurence last week, when he contacted me with this original copy of the lavish souvenir programme from the premiere of the film.

Laurence says:

“It has always been my favourite childhood film. I have collected film memorabilia for many years and do have a few pieces connected with the movie. (I have an original programme from the premiere, cover of which is attached.) I also used to draw quite a bit and send portraits off to get them signed and managed to get one or two actors from the Story of Robin Hood, when they were still with us. I also got to meet Richard Todd on one occasion in the early eighties.”

I will be posting some more fascinating items that Laurence has sent in, so stay tuned. If you have an interest in Disney’s Robin Hood or the legend that inspired it, please get in touch, I will be pleased to hear from you. Just email me at disneysrobin@gmail

In the meantime a special thanks to Laurence for sharing this very rare item with us.

King John and Newark Castle

Newark Castle

Since Tudor times, King John has been portrayed as a ‘bad’ king. Although in more recent times there have been some attempts at historical revisionism, decades of films and television productions have reinforced this negative image. From movies like ‘Ivanhoe,’ ‘The Lion in Winter’  and of course the many Robin Hood productions, including Ridley Scott's recent blockbuster. But even though, like his brother Richard, King John does not appear in the early medieval Robin Hood ballads, this Plantagenet king has always fascinated me.

It was at Newark Castle, in Nottinghamshire on 18th (possibly 19th) October, 1216 that King John died of Dysentery, brought on by too much hard riding and over-eating. Six days earlier his baggage train, carrying his treasure and jewels, had been trapped in the quicksands crossing the old River Ouse. The wagons had lost their way in the autumn mist, got stuck in the whirlpools and were overwhelmed by a rush of 'waters retuning from the sea'. After this King John is said to have worsened his fever by supping too greedily on peaches and new cider, probably to try and drown his sorrows.

King John's Tower

The sick and distressed King John eventually dragged himself along to the Bishop of Lincoln’s castle at Newark where he lay for three days, tended by the Abbot of Croxton, who had a reputation for medical skill. But he could do nothing for the King except perform the last religious rites. Many legends claim that King John was poisoned.

One in particular states that Friar Tuck poisoned ‘the ‘evil' king in revenge for the murder of Maid Marian.  Also that during the night a terrific thunderstorm was said to have swept over Sherwood Forest and was later described in it's ferocity as 'the Devil himself coming to claim King John's soul'.

I was very pleased to receive this latest instalment from Albie on his visit to Newark Castle. Albie has included once again some of his great pictures. This time of the surviving parts of Newark Castle and information on its amazing history:

"Originally this was the site of an Anglo-Saxon fortified manor house. A motte and bailey castle was erected shortly after the Norman Conquest in 1066 replacing the house. The 1st stone castle was built by Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln between 1125 and 1135. The castle was heavily modified during the next 500 years and eventually became more a palace than a fort in the late 1400’s.

It was heavily involved in the English Civil War between 1642 and 1646 and was garrisoned by Royalist troops loyal to King Charles I. Newark was strategically important as it stands on the River Trent and on the Great North Road (London-York-Edinburgh road) which passed in front of the gatehouse. The king visited several times during the Civil War and rode out from there in May 1646 to surrender to Scottish troops in nearby Southwell. The castle suffered badly after being laid siege to by Parliamentary soldiers. It was slighted after the war with just the curtain wall and gatehouse being left standing – the demolition would have been complete had not a worker been killed and destruction stopped as it was seen as a bad omen.

Norman Gatehouse

Being so close to Sherwood the castle has associations with the Robin Hood legends. It was certainly standing during these times. The closets association is with King John. He died in the castle on October 18th 1216 from dysentery whilst en route to his hunting lodge at Clipstone. It was thought he died on a chamber in the so-called King John’s Tower. This is the oldest surviving part of the castle and dates back to 1135. However, many scholars now believe John died in an apartment in the gatehouse, which is the finest of its type in England. The castle was mentioned in at least one Robin Hood film and many TV series including Robin of Sherwood in the 1980’s.

It would have been a brave force trying to get into the castle in John’s day. Although there was no moat, to cross the gatehouse would have been heavily defended. It survived all attacks in both the English civil war and from the wars of King Stephen between 1135 and 1154.

There are several dungeons and a vaulted under croft (hall) below the ground. These can be entered via the river walk but are only open on certain days of the year. The castle was renovated in the early 1980’s and rooms in the North West and King John’s towers can be accessed. There are no surviving drawings or paintings showing how the castle looked before its destruction took place.


(Pictures taken - Saturday 29th May 2010)

Many thanks Albie!