Tag Archives: Robin Hood

Don’t talk to outlaws?

Quite often, there is more to learn from failure than from success: this is as true of legal history as it is – according to much wellbeing advice – of life.

Today’s snippet is on a failure (of the legal historical, as opposed to the personal, variety: obviously none of those at all). It is something that caught my attention in an entry on the Gaol Delivery Roll for Nottingham for a session on 1st August, 1422.

The entry notes that a certain Thomas Othehill was arrested for the heinous offence of talking to another man, one Roger Caus. Now, you will be asking, how on earth could that be any sort of offence? Well, it couldn’t, as things turned out, but the accusation was an attempt to portray this as acting, in some sense, as a ‘receiver’  of Caus, who was some sort of ‘wrong ‘un’, having been indicted of un-named felonies, and outlawed. Formally, it failed because the indictment did not actually include the word ‘received’.

So, it didn’t work, but perhaps it does suggest a degree of uncertainty about the location of the boundary of ‘receiving’ conduct. Somebody at least thought that talking amounted to or indicated ‘receipt’. The idea behind this prosecution may have been something along the lines we might see in canon law regarding excommunication: the sanctioned person should be shut out by others. Common law, probably not surprisingly, seems to have set the bar rather lower, in terms of what was required of other people, in relation to an offender. Some degree of active help, as opposed to the psychological boost of a bit of chat and company, was required (or had to be alleged, at least). Passing the time of day with Robin Hood would have been OK then. If he had existed.



Picture: Robin Hood Statue, Notts, Photo by Steve Harvey on Unsplash

Friar Tuck in the Fifteenth Century

Here is a by-catch snippet from a King’s Bench plea roll which might appeal to the more train-spotting completist type of Robin Hood fan (not judging you!) … what seems to be an additional reference to Robert Stafford, naughty Sussex chaplain, who conducted a life of crime under the alias Friar Tuck (or, at least, a reference to a Friar Tuck being up to no good in Sussex).[i]

The name of Stafford (if that’s who this was – as seems likely) is not mentioned, but the description of the offence in the KB plea roll for Michaelmas term 1421 (KB 27/642 m. 32 (AALT IMG 305) might be of interest: at Lewes in 1420, it was presented that Robert Southe of Laughton in co. Sussex, gentleman, Thomas Wodhacche of Horsham, yeoman, and John Pyttekene of Laughton, yeoman, on February 1417, at Plumpton in a place called Lynterygge, with weapons including bows and arrows, their faces hidden, and painted with various colours (make up or camouflage paint? RuPaul’s Drag Race or Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins?) beat up Walter atte Brome and Simon Martyn, shouting, amongst other things, that they were the servants of their reverend master, Friar Tuck – and they rampaged around the countryside for some time, terrifying the populace.

There is something of the carnivalesque about this, and perhaps the presence of the ‘gentleman’ amongst the gang suggests that this was not quite a band of desperate starving men. Nevertheless, this seems to be a tale of violence, at some distance from the true story of Robin Hood (which, as we all know, is about cute Disney animals in a forest).

Anyway – hope that is useful to somebody. Off to ride through a glen … or would be, if Covid permitted.

GS 13/2/2021

[i] See Holt, Robin Hood (London, 1982) 58, for reference to this man and his band of followers in 1417 and 1429 (CPR 1429-36, 10) Note that current circumstances mean no library access, so I am fairly sure I haven’t seen this reference before, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t already ‘out there’ somewhere! For more Robin Hoody goodness from the same time – clearly a key point in the Robin Hood myth-making – see Seipp 1429.051  http://BU Law | Our Faculty | Scholarship | Legal History: The Year Books : Report #1429.051 For another 15th C emulation of Robin Hood and co., see TNA SC8/27/1317A