Did Russell Crowe know that Robin Hood could have come from Staffordshire?
Could Robin Hood really have come from Staffordshire? Not from Nottingham, or even Yorkshire, the other counties to lay claim to him?
Some ancient evidence suggests the outlaw's origins lie here.
An ancient ballad about the outlaw plants him firmly in east Staffordshire; and there are local references such as Robin's Hood Stride.
Did that influence the latest Robin Hood actor, Russell Crowe, to visit the area to film parts of the movie here?
Parts of the latest
Robin Hood movie
, starring Russell Crowe, which opens in mid-May 2010, were filmed at Dovedale in Staffordshire.
Dovedale was just one of three National Trust locations used to help create major battle sets, medieval villages and key scenes within the film.
Filming took place in and around an area of the landscape known as Thorpe Pastures and Lindale, which stretches down Dovedale's 'Stepping Stones' across the River Dove.
Closing scenes for the film were shot at this location, involving around 140 men on horses charging up and down the dale. The filming took place over two days, with crew on site for four weeks in total, setting up and creating stabling for the horses.
There was even much excitement in the nearby town of Ashbourne when Russell Crowe went out there for a beer!
Yet... if we want to accept evidence suggested by some local enthusiasts, it's quite possible that Robin would have known Dovedale - and other parts of Staffordshire - pretty well.
Many scenes from the Robin Hood film were shot in Staffordshire.
Robin Hood evidence
The most compelling piece of evidence that Staffordshire was Robin's old stomping ground is the old poem 'The Birth of Robin Hood' - which is set at Tutbury Castle in east Staffordshire.
Ballads suggest that Robin Hood, aka 'Robin of Loxley' was born in Locksley Town - but there is no town named this on record in Nottinghamshire.
However, there is a Loxley in Staffordshire, near Needwood Forest! Very little research has been done on this connection, but it makes one wonder...
Then, there is the 'Maid Marion' character who features in the annual Abbots Bromley Horn Dance.
There are the 'Robin Hood's Stride' hills up in the east Moorlands.
And - if you want to associate Robin definitely with Sherwood Forest - did you know the forest's boundaries once stretched as far as Staffordshire?
Tutbury Castle could this be a location Robin Hood visited ?
Robin Hood and Tutbury Castle
The strongest evidence comes from the old ballad.
In the following poem, 'The Birth of Robin Hood', Robin is in conversation with Maid Marion at Titbury (now called Tutbury):
Said Robin Hood, "Lady fair, whither away?
O whither, fair lady, away?"
And she made him an answer, "To kill a fat buck;
For to-morrow is Titbury day."
Lesley Smith, historian and organiser of Tutbury Castle events, said: "The ancient saga of Robin Hood - which is the source of all the stories - mentions Tutbury Castle under its original name of Titbury Castle." Hear the full interview with Lesley by clicking on the link below.
"The saga claims that Robin married his Chlorinda at the Priory of Titbury", she continued, "... and Chlorinda was the real name of Maid Marion!"
It has been suggested that Robin Hood was the son of William Fitzooth, who held land in Loxley, near Uttoxeter, and this is his birthplace.
Robin may or may not have assumed the name 'Hood' to hide the outlaw's real identity.
The Horn Dance
Meanwhile, the nearby town of Abbots Bromley hosts an annual Horn Dance, which includes one famous Robin Hood character
a man dressed as a woman - namely Maid Marion.
Along with eleven other characters - six Antler Men, the Hobby Horse, the Fool, the Archer and two musicians, they dance through the town and the surrounding area, once a year.
This famous festival has been in Abbots Bromley since 1226 - a mere three decades after the old saga - and it still takes place today.
Robin Hood's geography
But you ask - why Nottingham then?
Well, Robin Hood only came to be associated with Nottingham because of his conflicts with the sheriff of that town, and that he hid out in Sherwood Forest.
The village pub at Rookery in north Staffs is named after Robin Hood.
And, in fact, although Sherwood Forest now survives mainly in Nottinghamshire, in medieval times it covered a huge area of central England which stretched north to the borders of Yorkshire, south to Warwickshire, and west as far as central Staffordshire. So Robin may well have lived in Sherwood, in the Staffordshire part.
Another piece of evidence is 'Robin Hood's Stride' - a rock covered hill just over the Staffordshire border in Derbyshire. Legend has it that Robin was able to stride the fifteen metres between the tower-like stones!
The area surrounding Robin Hood's Stride contains traces of barrows, Bronze or Iron Age enclosures and hut circles, but the most visible monument is the stone circle known as the 'Nine Stones' - of which only four remain.
Myth or man
Of course, the real truth is that the character of Robin was reinvented, much after his supposed actual existence, as the embodiment of a lovely romantic story.
As writers made up more and more stories about Robin and his Merry Men, the real Robin simply begins to fade away. But, if there really was a Robin Hood, we think he was a Staffordshire man!