Anecdotes of Archery
Part 7 of 34
It does not appear that our hero poffeffed any eftate; perhaps he or his father might be deprived of that on fome political account; attainders and confifcations being very frequent in thofe days of Norman tyranny and feudal oppreflion. In the 19th of HENRY II. when the fon of that king rebelled againft his father, ROBERT DE FERRERS manned his caftles of Tutbury and Duffield in behalf of the PRINCE. WILLIAM FITZ-OOTH, father of our hero, (fuppofe him connected with the FERRERS, to which his dwelling at Loxley feems to point) might fuffer with them in the confequences of that rebellion, which would not only deprive the family of their eftates, but alfo of their claim to the Earldom of Huntington. From fome fuch caufe our hero might be induced to take refuge in thofe woods and forefts, where the bold adventurer,—whether flying from the demands of his injured country, or to avoid the ruthlefs hand of tyrannic power,—had often found a fafe and fecure retreat.
Tutbury, and other places in the vicinity of his native town, feems to have been the fcene of his juvenile frolics. We afterwards find him at the head of two hundred ftrong refolute men, and expert archers, ranging the woods and forefts of Nottingham (hire, Yorkfhire, and other parts of the north of England.
CHARTON, in his hiftory of Whitby Abbey, page 146, recites,
"That in the days of Abbot
" Richard this freebooter, when clofely purfued
" by the civil or military power, found it necef-
" fary to leave his ufual haunts, and retreating
" crofs the moors that furrounded Whitby,
" came to the fea coaft, where he always had in
" readinefs fome fmall fifhing veffels; and in
" thefe putting off to fea, he looked upon him-
" felf as quite fecure, and held the whole power
" of the Englifh nation at defiance. The chief
" place of his refort at thefe times, and where his
" boats were generally laid up, was about fix miles
" from Whitby, and is ftill called Robin Hood's
Tradition further informs us, that in one of thefe peregrinations he, attended by his Lieutenant, JOHN LITTLE, went to dine with ABBOT RICHARD, who having heard them often famed for their great dexterity in fhooting with the long-bow, begged them after dinner to fhew him a fpecimen thereof; when to oblige the Abbot, they went up to the top of the Abbey, whence each of them fhot an arrow, which fell not far from Whitby Laths, but on the contrary fide of the lane. In memory of this tranfaction, a pillar was fet up by the Abbot in the place where each of the arrows fell, which were ftanding in 1779; each pillar ftill retaining the name of the owner of each arrow. Their diftance from Whitby Abbey is more than a meafured mile, which feems very far for the flight of an arrow; but when we confider the advantage a fhooter muft have from an elevation, fo great as the top of the abbey, fitua-ted on a high cliff, the fact will not appear fo very extraordinary. Thefe very pillars are mentioned, and the fields called by the aforefaid names in the old deeds for that ground, now in the poffeffion of Mr. THOMAS WATSON. It appears by his Epitaph, that ROBERT FITZ-OOTH lived 59 years after this time (1188); a very long period for a life abounding with fo many dangerous enterprizes, and rendered obnoxious both to church and ftate. Perhaps no part of Englifh hiftory afforded fo fair an opportunity for fuch practices, as the turbulent reigns of RICHARD I. KING JOHN, and HENRY III.