Robin Hood, King Arthur and Legends of England

Robin Hood & Major Oak - Sherwood Forest.jpg

By Glynn Burrows


From King Arthur to Robin Hood, Sherwood Forest to StoneHenge, Glynn Burrows talks about England’s ancient legends and the places associated with them, on Big Blend Radio.

King Arthur and the Knights of The Round Table is a story which has been told so many times, for well over a thousand years, it is extremely difficult to find parts which are based on any amount of substantiated evidence. To think that we are not even certain that one of our most famous Kings of England actually existed is quite amazing. There is a Round Table in existence, hanging on the wall of Winchester Cathedral but that has been dated, by dendrochronology, to 1250-1290, over six hundred years after Arthur was supposed to have been King. One of the most well-known places associated with King Arthur is Tintagel Castle, a dramatic ruin, imposingly set on the rugged coastline of Cornwall. The legend tells us that this was where Arthur was conceived but, at that time, although there was a very important settlement there, possibly with some major buildings and high status inhabitants, a Castle was not built there till the early C13th. The most important places, mentioned in all the stories, Avalon and Camelot are also yet to be found. What is the likelihood that places of such importance would be lost completely? Who knows?


Robin Hood, to my generation, was a little like Captain Jack Sparrow, for today’s youngsters. A swash-buckling hero, someone who could fight off fifty men on his own and never get injured, someone who would always get the girl and someone we all wanted as a big brother. But what about the real Robin Hood?


The stories of Robin Hood are based on ballads, which were a method used to pass on stories before writing became widespread. Over the years, these songs would find their way into local life, becoming part of the legends of England and the difference between fact and fiction would melt away, leaving us, today, wondering if Robin existed or not.


My own belief is that he did exist, but I am not sure which proposed person he was. (There are several plausible alternatives.) He is most likely to be a wronged yeoman or minor nobleman, living in the central area of England, around Nottingham in the C13th-C14th. It appears that he was on the wrong side of the law for a lot of his adult life, as in the late C13th, England was a very divided country. The peasants lived a very lowly life and the rich, being largely corrupt and exploiting, were often despised. For the poor, it was often a choice of living as a downtrodden peasant or living as a criminal and many of those who turned to crime were hailed as heroes by the rest of the peasantry. After all, the peasants were safe from the criminals, as they had nothing to steal and, as they were being exploited by the rich, it was giving the ruling classes a bit of comeuppance. Many of the criminal fraternity were generous to the poor, as they were all in the same boat and they, themselves, often originated from those peasant villages.


The countryside of England was very different in those days too. Many extremely large parks and forests were dotted around the country and these were fantastic places to hide. As locals, the country folk knew every nook and cranny of the forests and the noblemen wouldn’t dare go off the tracks on their own for fear of being attacked. The present Sherwood Forest is about 450 acres, but in the past it was up to 100,000 acres in size. It was a deer park and, as such, a very good place for people to hide, with a fantastic supply of food and water. The forest today, is well worth a visit. The visitor’s centre has lots of information about the legend of Robin Hood and the forest itself, being so ancient, has many examples of magnificent trees, one being the “Major Oak” which is said to be over 800 years old.

  • Ye Olde Trip to Jeusalem Inn - Nottingham, England
    Ye Olde Trip to Jeusalem Inn - Nottingham, England

Nottingham Castle of today, is not an ancient castle, it is a C19th reconstruction of a C17th house. Sadly, the home of the Sheriff in all of the tales, was demolished many years ago, but there are still remains under the present building and some ruins in the vicinity.


So, if you are looking for proof of the existence of Robin Hood, I’m afraid I can’t give you any, but if you love a story with romance, violence and Royalty and if you’d like to have a pint in the oldest pub in England, dating from 1189 a visit to Nottingham would be great!



Other Legends exist all over the country, from giants to pixies, from monsters of the deep to big black dogs with red eyes and from hidden tunnels to stone or timber circles. The tales, often passed through the generations for centuries, are all there to be discovered and researched. Who knows? Perhaps you could be the one who discovers Camelot or the person who finds out how they did manage to build Stonehenge all those years ago. 


Glynn Burrows is the owner of Norfolk Tours in England. For help or advice about tracing your family history, or if you are thinking about taking a vacation to England visit

Norfolk Tours in England Sustainable Destinations with a Sense of Place



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About the Author:

Glynn Burrows is the owner of Norfolk Tours in England. For help or advice about tracing your family history, or if you are thinking about taking a vacation to England visit

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