Sheffield teacher discovers Robin Hood's birthplace in woodlands next to school playground

A Sheffield teacher has discovered what he believes is the birthplace of Robin Hood, in an ancient holly woodland at the back of the school’s playground.

By Molly Williams, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 4th March 2020, 12:08 pm
Updated Thursday, 5th March 2020, 4:44 pm

Dan Eaton, a teacher at Loxley Primary and local historian, said he has proof the outlaw - also known as Robin of Loxley - was born at Little Haggas Croft and now wants to share his findings to help put the area on the map.

Mr Eaton said: “Here in Loxley it's always just been 'Robin Hood came from here', I think it's trying to make people realise that this is a global phenomenon, it's not just something that's important for us in Loxley but it's something we should really be celebrating and be extremely proud of as a community."

The bandit is known all around the world and his adventures have provided muse for countless books, ballads, films and plays over hundreds of years, as well as academic study.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Loxley Primary School have joined a campaign to celebrate Robin of Loxley. Picture Scott Merrylees

Other researchers have pinpointed the spot as the birthplace of the legend before but Mr Eaton said he is the first to have access to the site, allowing him to shed new light on the mystery of who the folk hero really was.

He said: “It’s really exciting. Everyone knows the legends and there is a massive amount of scholarly work which is amazing but virtually no one has set foot in Loxley to try and do this."

It all started three years ago when Mr Eaton, who is a lifelong Robin Hood fan born and bred in Sheffield, joined the school - which uses the archer as its logo and has a statue of him in the playground.

He came across a large marker stone with a cross carved into it standing in the middle of the woodland, just steps away from a dense area of ancient holly bushes which he said immediately reminded him of early recordings of the outlaw.

Pupils Nieve, Harry and Chloe from Loxley Primary School who have joined a campaign to celebrate Robin of Loxley. Picture Scott Merrylees

After more investigation, the headteacher asked him to put together an educational package to teach pupils about maths, science, history, English, geography and art through the legend.

He said: “It's been amazing to see the kids getting their heads into it and really motivating for me as a teacher to be able to pass on that local history knowledge that I value so much.

"The main thing for us as a school is celebrating Robin Hood’s heritage, it’s very much about, not just educating the children but, making them enquiring learners. It's so children of Loxley know what this amazing heritage is they’ve got and we want to open it up to a wider cross-section of the community so people across Sheffield know what’s here too."

The school has received funding from Bradfield Parish Council for a Robin Hood storytelling hut to be built near the woodland.

Loxley Primary School have joined a campaign to celebrate Robin of Loxley. Picture Scott Merrylees

Mr Eaton is also working with Sensoria Festival and the Sheffield Hallam University based Centre for Contemporary Legend on their camapign to celebrate Robin of Loxley's links with the region, which is being supported by Sheffield Council.

He plans to continue writing up his findings with the view to publishing them in an academic journal, too.

In a draft of this, he wrote: "This is about one specific aim: bringing Robin of Loxley back to the village of his proposed birth in an attempt to re-establish his true identity in history.

"He was not the Robin Hood you think you know, no-one was, but I am convinced he was real, he did come from Loxley, and he performed acts which have lasted in infamy throughout centuries."

Pupils Nieve, Harry and Chloe from Loxley Primary School who have joined a campaign to celebrate Robin of Loxley. Picture Scott Merrylees

The evidence

There are many theories about who the ‘real’ Robin Hood was including claims to Scotland and Kirklees.

It is impossible to know for sure, after all he was an outlaw and his elusiveness is part of his charm.

But one thing we do know is that, aside from having a rebellious Sheffield spirit, some of the earliest records from more than 500 years ago refer to his stomping ground as South Yorkshire.

The earliest of which was reported in the Sloane manuscript which refers to him as being born in 'Locksley' in around 1160.

A few decades later, antiquarian Roger Dodsworth recorded that 'Robert Locksley, born in Bradfield Parish' killed his father and became friends with a man called 'Little John'.

Then in 1637 John Harrison conducted a survey of the area and stated a man called Robin Hood was born in a cottage at Little Haggas Croft.

There are also a number of other key spots around the area which link to the tales, including Little John's grave in Hathersage, the famous Robin Hood's cave on Stanage Edge and Sir Walter Scott wrote in Ivanhoe that Robin met with Maid Marian under a trysting tree in Rotherham.

To find out more about the legend's links with region, visit the app here.