Sherwood Forest.

Sherwood Forest was a royal domain stretching from Nottingham to the northern boundary of the county, and, joining to the forests of south Yorkshire, formed almost one continuous woodland to Whitby, and this seems to have been the range of the doings of Robin Hood, vexing the Sheriff of Nottingham at the one end, and having the wild romantic seaport of Robin Hood's Bay at the other, just the place for a freebooter, and difficult of access from the outer world. Those grand old oaks have stood the blasts of possibly a thousand years. Kingdoms have risen and fallen, but the giants of the forest, gnarled and twisted, have grown and flourished, and the silver birches have in graceful loveliness kept company with the massive oaks. To the grandeur of Nature's work romance has added its charms, and the bounding deer and the birds of song have combined to give delight to the eye, music to the ear, and charm to the imagination of those who have learned to "look through Nature up to Nature's God."

Between Mansfield and Nottingham was one continuous forest, and the forest was largely wood, but as it neared Nottingham what is now called Nottingham Forest was "The Linges," that is, the place where the ling (or heather) grows. As the trees were cut down, there being no provision for replacing them, brushwood or underwood grew, with bracken and gorse. Bestwood was a forest of "mighty oaks." Two cartloads of firewood in each week, were, about 1225, given by Hugh de Neville, Justice of the Forest, out of his wood at Arnold, out of divine piety, for the health and souls of his wife, children, and others, to God, and the Hospital House of St. John the Baptist at Nottingham, which then stood at the junction of St. John's Street and Glasshouse Street. But changes came, and the Hospital became a poor-house, and then there arose on the site a house of correction, and now on it stands a picture palace.

Sherwood Forest was divided into nine 'Walks,' each having a keeper appointed by the Verderers, and each keeper had a salary of twenty shillings a year, paid by the Duke of Newcastle out of the fee farm rent of Nottingham Castle. The perquisites were probably of much greater value than the salary. One of the nine 'Walks' was Calverton and Arnold Hill.

All forest land belonged to the King, and Sherwood Forest was frequently hunted in by successive Kings. King John's traditional hunting lodge at Haywood Oaks was in the adjoining parish of Blidworth. The Forest laws were reduced to a regular code by the 'Forest charter' of 1217, and the penalties for destroying game were greatly modified,' it being provided that no man should lose life or limb for slaying deer, but that the punishment should be restricted to a fine or imprisonment for a year and a day. He must " be grevouslie redemed yf he have anie thing whereof he may be redemed," and he must find pledges for good behaviour, "or els he shall seveare the Realme of Englande."

In White's "Dukery Records," p. 403, extracts are given at length from "A Foreste Booke conteyning the lawes statutes and ordinances of the Foreste of Sherwood in the County of Notts." Among various documents is "The Chartoure of John, Earle of Morton, and Lorde of the foreste of Shirewood," in which is a paragraph "Theis be the markes and boundes of x x x Arnoll." Unfortunately instead of giving it, Mr. White omits it with the remark ("a long account.").

Arnold Lodge is said to have been the site of the forest keeper's residence, and when the forest came near to the village of Arnold it is said to have been no uncommon thing for the fallow deer, which were numerous, to be seen coming down in the winter season to the stacks behind the Cross Keys Inn to feed, or for a buck to be seen bounding through the village. The parish property by where the Council offices now stand, was in the old documents called the "Roe croft" houses.It must not be forgotten that we are in the country of Robin Hood. If that bold outlaw ever went from the forest to vex the Sheriff of Nottingham he must have passed through Arnold on the old North Road. Of course there is—as in most of the villages of the district—a public house named in his honour. But men now say that Robin was a myth. This is not the place to discuss the question in one form or another, but most Arnold people will approve of the summing up of the Rev. Joseph Hunter, F.S.A., the historian of Hallamshire, when he says, "My theory, on the whole, is that neither is Robin Hood a mere poetic conception, a beautiful abstraction of the life of a jovial freebooter living in the woods, nor one of these fanciful beings, creatures of the popular mind, springing up in the very infancy of northern civilization, . . . but a person who had a veritable existence, quite within historic time, a man of like feelings and passions as we are." The time and circumstances are then discussed by Mr. Hunter, and persons interested are referred to his remarks.

Whether the life of Robin Hood was a fact or fiction, there never was a more popular character represented in plays and celebrated in song; and hills, dales and fountains in Arnold, and the adjoining parishes, are linked with his name and doings.

One of the verderers was John Wood, as is stated in an inscription on the Lambley communion table.

The Sherwood Lodge estate has, according to Wm. Huskinson, old woodlands, 157 acres; oak, chestnut, beech and larch; no underwood. Plantation 365 acres.—" Victoria History," p. 380.

The Old North Road.

The road to the north is the oldest road in Arnold. It led from London, by Leicester and Nottingham, to Blyth and York. It passed by or through Arnold parish for 41/2 miles, 21/2being marked on the maps as Mansfield Road and the rest as Rufford Road, On this road possibly the Danes came in 868, having sacked York, to do the same for Nottingham, burning churches and houses on the march. When they became rulers it is probable they settled the district for administration as being practically what is now our county. On this road also William the Conqueror marched

in 1068 with his army, when, having ordered the conversion of Nottingham Castle from an earthwork to a strong stone building, on a steep cliff, in order to command the Trent Valley and the road, he marched to York, on the way to which he was met by the citizens bringing the keys of the City, and offering hostages for their good behaviour. Again after the rising in the north in 1069, the Conqueror went on this road to York, and "for fifty miles north of Nottingham he followed the route by which he had advanced to York in the previous year." (MacNutt.) That journey resulted in the devastation of Yorkshire.

The road was so important that we are told in Domesday Book it was so guarded that if anyone ploughed or made a ditch within two perches of the King's Road he had to pay a fine of eight pounds, which would be equal to £240 now. The villages were built at a distance of (say) half a mile from this road, as was Arnold, and the same remark applies to villages being placed off the Fosse Road, for there was on the main roads a greater liability to violent interference by travellers and homeless vagabonds, than in the small villages off the beaten track.

When things became more settled the absence of the villages on the road became a difficulty. For thirty miles from Nottingham to Blyth—then a market town—the road lay through the Forest, and it became gradually deserted in favour of the road over Bulwell Forest, through Papplewick, Mansfield, and Worksop, where were many villages on the road.

It is not at all unlikely that the half mile of clay formation from the foot of Red Hill to where the five mile houses now stand would be exceedingly bad road, without any stone formation, but with deep ruts, and a steep gradient from the top, as it then was. This portion of the road was in 1218 called the "rubeam rodam," "red road," for a perambulation of Sherwood Forest was then made, and the processionists started from Trent Bridge, by way of Stanstrete (Stoney Street), by the White Stone (near the Gallows, close to where St. Andrew's Church stands), and by the red road and the Black Hill (query, Cockliffe Hill) to Rufford, and returned by way of the Leen to the Trent. All this district was declared afforested after the coronation of Henry II (1154), but Arnold was in the Forest before.

The old farm house at the foot of Red Hill is said to have been the posting house for finding horses and guides for travellers going through the Forest; it afterwards became a coaching house, where horses were kept and changed.

Forest Guide House, Red Hill.
Forest Guide House, Red Hill.

At the corner where the Oxton Road turns off the Rufford Road there'are two closes, Mr. Whitaker states, one called the "Great Gibbet dale," and the next the "Little Gibbet dale." The names are remnants of a cruel past, when a gibbet stood at the lane ends, telling of some crime near there committed, and suggesting to passers by, with the irons creaking in the winds, tales of ghosts and robbers. In the olden time there were many gibbets on the north road, and the Great North Road (via Newark), being near to the scenes of highway robberies.


The Rufford Road became, in 1787, from Nottingham to the five mile houses a part of the Mansfield Turnpike road. The road from Mansfield to Nottingham was, in 1764, described as being bad and dangerous, having many accidents, and "for want of more conspicuous marks strangers have frequently mistaken their way, been benighted and lost for many hours. A good turnpike road would effectually remedy these evils by making it easier and safer ot travellers than it now is, and would likewise be a certain guide to them over the wide Forest even in the night time." Possibly this had reference to the road that then went through Newstead. The Act for making the road was passed in 1787, and recited:—"Whereas the Road leading from the south end of Boot Lane (Milton Street) in the Town of Nottingham to the Town of Mansfield in the County of Nottingham is in a ruinous condition, and incommodious for travellers and carriages and cannot be effectually made amended widened and kept in repair by ordinary course of law," etc.

Inhabitants of Arnold going to Nottingham were to be charged only half toll.

Toll bars were set up to pay the cost of the road formation. There was one on Nottingham Forest, another about one hundred yards south of the Day-brook, where the bend in the road is; another, and a side bar, in Scout Lane, the house of which is still standing, and still another at the White Hall to guard Basford Lanes. All were disturnpiked in 1877. It may be noted by the way that in 1849 the Day brook Toll Bar was broken into, and £20 stolen, for which the burglars were transported for fifteen years.


The Coaches were in the olden time a great feature on the Mansfield Road, and especially at Red Hill. The Nottingham Directory for 1825 gives the Sheffield Coach, "Royal Hope," as leaving the "Black's Head" every morning at a quarter before eleven, while the " Robin Hood " ran to Mansfield every afternoon at four, and there were other coaches to Mansfield at 6.30, 10.30, and 11 o'clock. From the "White Lion" a Sheffield Express Post Coach ran every morning at eight. In 1840 the Sheffield "Brilliant" ran every day at four, and the "Rapid" at nine, and a coach to Manchester, by way of Mansfield, every morning at seven, while the "Robin Hood" ran every afternoon at five. Wagons for goods ran daily to the north at two, and seven times a day conveyances ran from Nottingham toArnold, but the advent of railways altered all this, and the road became comparatively forsaken, until the cycle ran in and the motor car followed.

The foregoing will explain how it came to pass that Red Hill could keep seven public houses. The passengers must refresh at the "Old Spot," or at one of the houses at the foot of the hill, for it was a bleak drive to "The Hut."

It is unfortunate that it has to be recorded that "as recently as 1820, when stage coaches were running daily between Nottingham and the north, the coachmen would complain of Arnold and Daybrook as the worst places they passed through, stones being frequently hurled at the coaches, to the great annoyance and danger of the travellers, both outside and in." Fortunately the children of the present day are taught in their schools lessons of courtesy, and how to behave, not only to strangers passing through but to all persons they meet.

The Seapool Cottages, 5 miles from Nottingham, had in the two middle ones a public house, as may be seen by traces on a white ground of black letters. The licence was removed many years since because it was said the house became the resort of bad characters.