Sherwood's Forgotten Ancient Chapel

I recently received a ‘whistling arrow’ from Albie in Sherwood Forest. The note attached asked if I was aware of ‘Edwin’s Chapel’ on an old track at the southern edge of the Sherwood Visitors Centre, halfway between Edwinstowe and Warsop. I must say I had never heard of it and was extremely keen to research its history.

Born in 584, Edwin was the most powerful king among the Anglo-Saxons, ruling Bernicia (Northumberland and Durham), Deira (modern day Yorkshire) and much of eastern Mercia, the Isle of Man and Anglesey. Initially a pagan, he lived at a time when the country was converting to Christianity in two very diverse ways - Celtic from the influence of Columba in Ireland and the north and Roman following the Augustine mission from Rome to Kent. He became the first Christian king of Northumbria and the most powerful ruler in England.

Edwin was baptized by Saint Paulinus at York at Easter in the year 627, on the site of the present York Minster, in the wooden church of St. Peter which he had founded. He was a man of unusual wisdom and under him the law was so respected, that it became, as the Venerable Bede attests, "A woman might travel through the island with a babe at her breast without fear of insult".

King Edwin married Ethelburga, daughter of St. Ethelbert, King of Kent after promising to allow her to practice her Christian religion. When Queen Ethelburg gave birth to a daughter, she was baptized with twelve others by St. Paulinus on Whitsunday, and called Eanfleda.

On 12 October, 633, King Edwin was slain and his army defeated at The Battle of Heathfield near Cuckney (or possibly further north near Doncaster). He was repelling an attack made on him by Penda, the pagan King of Mercia, who, together with the Welsh prince Cadwallon ap Cadfan, a Christian only in name, had invaded his dominion. Perishing in conflict with pagans, Edwin became regarded as a martyr. He had reigned seventeen years.

Legend has it that King Edwin's Northumbrian followers carried the body of their king from the battlefield to a clearing in Sherwood Forest so that his enemies did not steal it. His body was decapitated; they took the head of their monarch back to York, where it was buried in his newly founded St Peter's Cathedral and his body was interred at Whitby Abbey.

Edwin was revered as a saint, his feast day for obvious reasons became October 12th and his shrine in York became a place of pilgrimage.

The place where his body had lain became hallowed ground. A small wooden chapel was built on the spot and Edwinstowe -- or ‘Edwin’s resting-place’ -- was born.
There is no existing historical evidence of the foundation of ‘Edwin’s Chantry Chapel’ in Sherwood Forest. But it once stood approximately 250 metres to the east on the side of the old road leading from Edwinstowe to Warsop. The earliest known record is the bestowal, by King John, of the annual stipend of forty shillings in support of the chantry hermit who ‘sang in St. Edwin's Chapel in the Hay of Birchwude, to celebrate service for his soul and those of his ancestors.’
From this time and up until 1548 numerous bequests were bestowed and later the chapel is described as consisting of a ‘parler’ (living chamber) and a chapel. The Sheriff of Nottingham continued to pay over the stripend until it was confiscated during the reign of Edward VI. Royal Commissioners under Henry VIII then took away everything of value, including the church plate and the building was allowed to fall into ruin. But Survey maps show the chapel’s existence in 1610, and 1630.
The site was re-discovered in 1911 after research by the vicar of Edwinstowe and a William Stevenson. They managed to recover and identify some of the chapel’s original building stones and place them in a cairn. A memorial cross was then placed amongst the stones with a tribute from Arthur, Sixth Duke of Portland.
I would like to thank Albie for bringing the  history of the chapel to my attention and supplying the excellent photographs.

Who Was Your Favourite Robin Hood ?

For quite a while this survey has appeared on my blog and I feel it’s now time to reveal the winner! I have had 395 people take part in this poll and the winner with 96 votes is Michael Praed of the 80’s TV series ‘Robin of Sherwood.’ In second place with 86 votes was Errol Flynn in the classic Hollywood movie the ‘Adventures of Robin Hood.’ Jonas Armstrong’s portrayal of the outlaw in the recent BBC series earned him third place with 68 votes.

Our Richard Todd who appeared in Disney’s live action masterpiece received 45 votes which gave him fourth place. From the golden age of television, Richard Greene’s Robin Hood was given 38 votes and Russell Crowe’s most recent depiction gained him 19 votes. Kevin Costner’s 'Prince of Thieves' reached seventh place with 11 votes.

Eighth and just ahead of his father is Jason Connery who took over from Michael Praed in 'Robin of Sherwood'. Sean Connery is ninth with his portrayal of an old Robin Hood with 7 votes and in those green tights and with 6 votes is Cary Elwes, from Mel Brooks’s hilarious movie.

One of the most underrated versions of the legend featured Patrick Bergin as the outlaw, and he received 3 votes. Cornel Wilde, Barrie Ingham and Martin Potter just got 2 votes each and John Derek and Matthew Porretta had one apiece. From the silent era of Hollywood, Douglas Fairbanks sadly never got a vote.

Thanks to everyone who took part in this poll and I hope you found the result as interesting as I did. Look out for the next survey which will be on your favourite Maid Marian of all time!

Michael Praed the 'Favourite Robin Hood'

James Cagney as Robin Hood!

Above is an extremely rare, undated picture of the Hollywood movie star James Cagney taken at an Archery Competition, staged to promote what would later become the movie, The Adventures of Robin Hood, released in1938. Incredibly it was James Cagney who was considered for the role of Robin Hood before Errol Flynn!

Also in the picture, awarding the winner, is Basil Rathbone (later Sir Guy of Gisborne) and the famous archer Howard Hill, who became Errol Flynn’s instructor on the use of the longbow. Hill also made all of the stunt body shots, the splitting of the arrow shot at the Archery Tournament, and he played the Captain of the Archers in the movie. This photo was one of several photos given by Howard Hill to his niece, Lorain Hill.

So why did James Cagney get chosen to play Robin Hood by Warner Brothers?

In Hollywood during the mid 1930’s, the ‘Motion Picture Production Code of Ethics’ was being enforced a lot stronger than before. Like many film studios of that time, Warner Brothers had to improve their image and output. So they decided to expand their horizons and move away from the steady stream of violent gangster movies that they had become renown for, and explore more prestigious areas.

Warner Brothers decided upon producing Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ using their stock company of actors and actresses, which included Olivia de Havilland, Ian Hunter, Anita Louise and James Cagney.

Dwight Franklin (1888-1971) at the time was Warmer’s historical advisor and costume designer on ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ It was he who sent a memo to Jack Warner suggesting making a movie about Robin Hood, with James Cagney as the outlaw, Anita Louise as Maid Marian and Hugh Herbert as Friar Tuck. He also had the idea of using the usual Warner Brothers ‘gangster cronies,’ Frank McHugh, Allen Jenkins, Hugh Herbert and Ross Alexander as the ‘Merry Men!’

Jack Warner was quite keen on the idea and went ahead with pre-production plans. James Cagney, who had been asking for ‘non-gangster roles’ was drafted in and producer Hal B Wallis hired English screenwriter Rowland Leigh to prepare a script for Cagney as Robin.

But Cagney, who was then a vice-president of the newly formed Screen Actors Guild, had made five movies in 1934, against his contract terms, which forced him to bring legal proceedings against Jack Warner. He had also complained about his ‘journeyman salary’ and the factory like conditions.

During his career, Cagney had walked out on several occasions before, but three months into the making of Robin Hood he walked off the lot in a tremendous rage, placed himself under suspension and never returned.

Meanwhile ‘Captain Blood’ had been released with huge success making a new and up and coming star out of 27year old Errol Flynn who had replaced Robert Donat in the role. Cagney was forgotten about and the rest is part of Hollywood’s golden history!

Picture Strip 31 : Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood

Part 31 of Laurence's very popular picture strip of Walt Disney's original movie the Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952).

To see previous pages of the picture strip, please click here: Picture Strip.

If you want to learn more about the making of this wonderful film or the legend that inspired it, please click on the relevant subjects in the sidebar.

Walt Disney and a Princess visit Robin Hood

Above is Walt Disney feeling the weight of a helmet, on the Nottingham Castle set during his visit to Denham Studios in June 1951. Alongside him is Elton Hayes (as the minstrel Allan-a-Dale) and Richard Todd (Robin Hood ‘disguised as a soldier of the Sheriff’). In his autobiography (‘Caught in the Act,’ Hutchinson 1986) Richard Todd describes the ‘solid’ dungeon walls as being constructed of pure wood and plaster and the ‘metal’ ring made of papier mache'.

Filming of Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men began on 30th April 1951. Ken Annakin, the director of the movie, in his autobiography (‘So You Wanna Be a Director,’ Tomahawk 2001) says that 10 weeks into shooting, Disney made a surprise visit to the set. Annakin describes how the great man had photos taken with the stars of the film in the Nottingham Square set on the lot. This also included ‘numerous’ pictures with Joan Rice (Maid Marian) on the archery field.

This fits with Richard Todd (Robin Hood) memoirs where he describes Disney coming over from London to Denham near the end of June 1951 and how he was thoroughly pleased with the way things were going.

Coinciding with Walt’s stopover, the then Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) paid a visit to the Denham Studios, accompanied only by her Lady-in-Waiting and Equerry. The future queen was shown by Walt Disney and the art director Carmen Dillon around the outside sets and the costume department. Perce Pearce, the producer of Walt Disney’s Robin Hood, insisted that filming should continue as normal, as that is what the young princess wanted to see. So for about twenty minutes she stood quietly in a dark corner, while production carried on, then gave a friendly wave and slipped out of the stage. I wonder what scene it was she saw being filmed?

To read more about the production of the film, Walt Disney, or see the Picture Gallery please click on the labels below.

Picture Strip 30 : Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood

Part 30 of Laurence's very popular picture strip of Walt Disney's original movie the Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952).

To see previous pages of the picture strip, please click here: Picture Strip.

If you want to learn more about the making of this wonderful film or the legend that inspired it, please click on the relevant subjects in the sidebar.

Joan Rice and 'The Company of Youth'

Recently we have discovered that Joan Rice (1930-1997) continued her acting career on the stage after her film career had sadly faded. A while ago I posted a programme of Arthur Miller’s ‘A View From The Bridge,’ which was kindly sent in by Neil, showing Joan in her favourite play, as Catherine, at the Savoy Theatre in Kettering in September 1959.

Above is a much later programme showing Joan performing in John Mortimer’s ‘A Voyage Round My Father’ at the Wimbledon Theatre in May 1973.

I hope these postings have helped counter the statements by Richard Todd and Ken Annakin that Joan was never an actress. She actually attended ‘The Company of Youth,’ often known as the ‘Rank Charm School,’ J. Arthur Rank's training institution for young film actors. It was established adjacent to Rank's experimental Highbury studio in a disused church hall, under the auspices of Olive Dodds, the Organisation's Director of Artistes. The school trained its pupils in everything from voice production to fencing and launched the careers of stars like: Christopher Lee, Dirk Bogarde, Patrick McGoohan, Donald Sinden, Honor Blackman, Michael Craig, Kay Kendal, Shirley Eaton, David McCallum, Joan Collins and Diana Dors.

It is interesting to see Gay Hamilton also listed in the programme above. Gay had played the part of Maid Marian in the Hammer production ‘A Challenge for Robin Hood,’ in 1967; Joan of course played the same part beautifully for Walt Disney in 1952. Both actresses had also played alongside James Hayter in the role as Friar Tuck.

This site is dedicated to the memory of Joan Rice: if you have any information about her life or ever met her I would love to hear from you. Please get in touch at

To read more about Walt Disney’s first Maid Marian please click here: - Joan Rice.