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Robin Hood in Barnsdale stood

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2013-08-08. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2017-05-08.

The legal maxim "Robin Hood in Barnsdale stood", with variants such as "Barndale", "Barnwood", "Sherwood", "greenwood", "Greendale", occurs in a number of case summaries from 1429 to the late 17th century. I do not believe anyone has made a serious attempt to establish the exact meaning of this expression. In view of (then) prevailing attitudes to tales of Robin Hood, could its signification be as unspecific as "tush", "nonsense" or "rubbish" followed by an exclamation mark? The earliest known (snatch of a) poem to contain a line similar to this legal maxim is found in an MS of the first quarter of the fifteenth century (see Citations below).

Collection and lists

Quotations

[c. 1500:]
Robyn stode in Bernesdale
And lenyd hym to a tre[1]

Citations

In addition to examples from year books and other summaries of legal cases, the citations listed here include literary allusions and poetry fragments that include the phrase "Robin Hood in Barnsdale (Sherwood etc.) stood.

1401 - Anonymous - Lincoln Cathedral MS 132

Robyn hod in scherewod stod hodud and hathud hosut and schod ffour
And thuynti arowus he bar In hits hondus

[Latin translation:]
Robertus hod stetit in
[...] de metore capiciatus et tropellatus calligatus et cauciatus tenens quatuor
et viginti sagittas in mane sua[2]

1429 - Anonymous - Year Book

Annuite porte par un Abbe vers un Parson. Et connta qe labbe et ses predecessors avoyent este seisis de x. s. de rent del Eglise de B. a prendre par les mains le person de temps don't il ny ad memory. Paston. Le Dean de Pauls come en droit de sa Eglise de Pauls ad este seisi de xl. s. issant de meme leglise et vous avez este seisis de x. s. en le maner come vous auez suppose par vostre bref etc. Prest etc. Rolf. Robin Hode en Barnesdale stode. Sans ceo qe vous avez este seisis etc. car vostre ple est tant a purpose [...]

[IRHB translation:]
Annuity received by an abbot from a parson. And states that the abbot and his predecessors had been seised of 10s. in rent from the church of B. to be paid by the hands of the parson from time out of memory. Paston. The Dean of Paul's by right of his church of St Paul's has been seised of 40s. issuing from the same church and you have been seised of 10s. in the manner stated in your brief. Given etc. Rolf. Robin Hood in Barnsdale stood. Without your having been seised etc. for though your plea is to the effect that [...][3]

1432 - Anonymous - Wiltshire Parliamentary Return

[Acrostic:]
Adam
Belle
Clyme
Ocluw
Willyam
Cloudesle
Robyn
hode
Inne
Grenewode
Stode
Godeman
was
hee
lytel
Joon
Muchette
Millersson
Scathelok
Reynoldyn
[4]

1683 - Unknown author - Case against Mr Pilkington

[Summary of legal case: Pilkington and others indicted for riot. Mr Thompson, counsel for the defendants, challenged the array, the challenge being read in French. He desired it might be read in English, whereupon L.C.J. Saunders asked:] Why? do you think I don't understand it? This is only to tickle the people. [Upon the challenge being read in English. Mr Serjeant Jeffries responded:] Here's a tale of a tub, indeed. [Later Thompson said:] My lord, is the fact true or false ? I desire of these gentlemen, if it be insufficient in point of law, let them demur. [To which Serjeant Jeffries responded:] Pray tell me, Robin Hood upon Greendale stood, and therefore you must not demur to it.[5]

Studies and criticism

Notes

  1. Gest, st. 3.
  2. Morris, George E. 'A Ryme of Robyn Hod', Modern Language Review, vol. 43 (1948), pp. 507-508; see p. 507.
  3. Bolland, W.C. A Manual of Year Book Studies (Cambridge, 1925), p. 107 n. 2, citing "Year Books, Pasch. 7 Henry VI, p. 37, case 45."
  4. Holt, J.C. Robin Hood (London, 1982), p. 69; facsimile p. 70; p. 194, n. 2 to ch. IV.
  5. G., W. 'Tale of a Tub', Notes & Queries, Series 5, vol. XII (1879), p. 216, p. 216.