Hartshead Pageant of Robyn Hode
Place: Pageant Field adjoining Kirklees Park (Hartshead) (Hartshead, Yorkshire, West Riding, England)
Number of performances: 3
29 June–6 July 1929
29 June 3.30pm, 3 July 7pm, 6 July 3.30pm
Name of pageant master and other named staff
- Pageant Master: Pobjoy, H.N.
- Secretary: M. Holdsworth
- Treasurer: F. Norcliffe
- Properties Committee Secretary: E.R. Carr
- Field Committee Secretary: W. Carr
- Armourer: E. Rogers
- Ticket Secretaries: Miss A. Carr and B. Rogers
- Music and Dancing: Mrs Pobjoy
- Mistress of the Robes: S.H. Townend
- Handbook Secretary: Mr C. Naylor
Names of executive committee or equivalent
- A.E. Dodsworth
- S. Brook
- G. Harrison
- C. Holdsworth
- R. Hutchinson
- E. Ingham
- J.A. Jackson
- N. Rogers
- Mrs Collins
Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)
- Pobjoy, H.N.
Names of composers
- Pobjoy, R.
- Byrd, William
- Morley, Thomas
Numbers of performers200
Object of any funds raised
To raise funds for a Sunday School extension.
- Grandstand: Not Known
- Grandstand capacity: n/a
- Total audience: n/a
Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest
Episode I. How Robin Became an Outlaw
Outlaws in Sherwood Forest hide as Royal Foresters approach. Robin, on his way to compete for the Sheriff’s Golden Arrow at Nottingham, accepts the Foresters’ challenge and kills a royal deer, thus incurring the severe penalties of the Forest Laws. The outlaws approach and prevent his arrest. The Foresters retire after one of their number is wounded.
Episode II. The Shooting Match
Crowds gather for the Fair and Shooting Match at Nottingham. One of the outlaws (Jack) is put into the pillory for selling rotten fish. The Town Crier announces a price on the head of Rob o’ the Wood. At the Shooting Match, Little John and Robin, disguised, are the last in. Little John makes a bull, and Robin follows by splitting his arrow. Robin therefore receives the Golden Arrow and bestows it on Matilda. He proclaims his identity and escapes, pursued by all.
Episode III. The Merry Men of Sherwood
Robin is chosen to be leader of the band. A beggar plays a merry prank and is admitted to the gang. Will Gamwell, cousin of Robin, also joins and is nicknamed Scarlet. Marian, having fled from the court, arrives in the greenwood, and Tuck becomes their chaplain. Allin-a-Dale arrives, and all vow to free his sweet-heart who is being forced to marry a knight.
Episode IV. Allin-a-dale and His Bride
Alice is to be married to a gouty old Crusader, Sir Hubert. Robin Hood enters disguised as a minstrel and blows his horn. His men arrest the wedding party. Alice chooses Alan, to the delight of the villagers. The party go to the church where Allin and Alice are married as are Robin and Marian.
Episode V. The Queen of Sherwood
After the double wedding, the party arrives in the greenwood for festivities, and Maid Marian is crowned Queen of Sherwood. The mother of three of Robin’s men arrives to tell that the Sherriff’s men have captured her sons and they are to be hung tomorrow.
Episode VI. The Rescue of the Widow’s Sons
Robin meets an old Palmer and changes clothes with him. They go to Nottingham market where the gallows are being erected. Robin asks the Sheriff if he may be the hangman; the Sheriff agrees, this being a totally normal request. Mounting the scaffold, Robin cuts their bonds, gives each a sword and blows his horn. The men then hold up the Sheriff, who has learned an important life lesson not to trust townsfolk who volunteer to kill people out of the blue. Robin and his men get safely away.
Episode VII. Sir Richard of the Lea
The interrupted festivities are continued. Richard of Lea approaches. He is sad because he has to pay £400 to the Abbot of St Mary’s, and so he has decided to go to the Holy Land. Robin lends him the money, and Sir Richard pays the disappointed abbot. Robin, disguised as a shepherd, relieves the abbot of £400 and an extra £100 on top.
Episode VIIIa. Robin Hood, the Butcher and the Sheriff
Robin is expecting trouble from the Sheriff and plans a banquet in the greenwood in the Sheriff’s honour. Robin buys a butcher’s cart of meat along with his clothes (once again).
Robin sells his meat for a penny a pound and a kiss (this is not a euphemism), which Trading Standards would probably have something to say about. He buys up other butchers’ meat and, on account of being so important, is asked to dine at the Sheriff’s house with the Butcher’s Guild. The Sheriff, thinking him a no-good spendthrift, decides to fleece him for some cattle, which Robin promises him. At midnight, the gang leave the Sheriff’s house after having stolen lots of items for the upcoming banquet.
Robin Hood has led the Sheriff into the greenwood and offers to sell him horned cattle (in fact the King’s deer). The Sheriff realises he is caught in a trap and is forced to attend a banquet of his own food and wine. He is allowed to go free on payment of £300 and a pledge not to retaliate.
Episode IX. Scenes from ‘Ivanhoe’
Episode IXa. The Capture
Two knights and their men disguise themselves as outlaws and capture travellers who are taken to the castle of Baron Front de Boef. Some travellers escape and are met by Locksley, who prepares to storm the castle.
Episode IXb. The Black Knight
The castle has been stormed and burned to the ground. Robin, with the help of the Black Knight, rescues the party. De Bracy is brought in as a prisoner and then set free. The spoils are divided, and Cedric is reconciled with his son Ivanhoe. The Black Knight reveals his identity, pardons Robin and his followers and takes them into his service.
Episode X. The Return to the Greenwood
Robin and his men are wearying of court life and long for the liberty of the greenwood. The sight of boys practising longbow awakens Robin’s desire and they decide to return. Back in the greenwood, Robin calls together his scattered band. There is rejoicing.
Episode XI. The Death and Burial of Robin Hood
Robin, after the death of Maid Marian, is wounded in an attack by the King’s men. In a fever, he comes to Kirklees priory to be bled by the prioress, his kinswoman. Sir Roger of Doncaster persuades the prioress to bleed him to death, which she consents to do to save him from the ignominy of the hangman’s rope. Robin finally arrives, having dismissed his men, Little John insisting on returning at noon the next day. When he does, he hears a feeble horn blast. Robin is locked in the gatehouse, dying. With his last bit of strength, Robin shoots an arrow through the window to show where he is to be buried. Little John summons the men who form a funeral procession and show their last respects to their beloved friend.
Episode XII. Henry VIII Watches May Day Revels
May Day revels in the presence of the King and Queen. Young men dressed in Lincoln Green engage in an archery contest. The winner receives a gold-tipped horn and is declared the Robin Hood of the day. He chooses the girl of his fancy to be May Queen. After songs and dances, the party adjourns to the greenwood for a feast of venison to be followed by further pastimes and plays in honour of England’s greatest outlaw.
Epilogue and Tableau of Characters
Key historical figures mentioned
- Hood, Robin (supp. fl. late 12th–13th cent.) legendary outlaw hero
- Henry VIII (1491–1547) king of England and Ireland
The day included a concert by Mirfield Baptist Military Band under G. Brearley. All songs and music are traditional or anonymous (unless specifically named).
- Trad. ‘Sing Care Away’.
- Warwickshire Folk Song, ‘The Keeper’.
- Somerset Folk Song, ‘As I Walked Through Some Meadows’.
- ‘Hey Boys, Up We Go’.
- ‘Amid the New Mown Hay’.
- ‘Greenwich Park’.
- ‘My Boy Billy’.
- ‘All in a Garden Green’.
- ‘Helston Fury’.
- ‘Row Well Ye Mariners’.
- ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’.
- ‘Oak and the Ash’.
- ‘Maid in the Moon’.
- ‘Jenny Pluck Pears’.
- Somerset Folk Song, ‘O’ Hangman, Stay Thy Hand’.
- ‘Strawberry Fair’.
- Somerset Chanty, ‘Heave Away, My Johnny’.
- ‘I’m Seventeen Come Sunday’.
- ‘Come Follow, Follow Me’.
- ‘Down by the River Side’.
- ‘Black Nag’.
- ‘Dabbling in the Dew’.
- ‘Christ Church Bells’.
- ‘Old Mole’.
- ‘Barley Mow’.
- ‘The Useful Plough’.
- ‘Lytell Geste’.
- ‘Sweet England’s Prise Is Gone, Well-a-Day’.
- Psalm 130 with Antiphon.
- ‘Happy Clown’.
- ‘Now Robin, Lend Me Thy Bow’.
- Byrd. ‘Hey Ho, to the Greenwood’.
- Morley. Madrigal, ‘Sing we, and chant it’.
- Pobjoy. ‘Hey None, None, Jolly Robin’.
Newspaper coverage of pageant
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Book of words
Other primary published materials
- The Merrie Pageant of Robyn Hode. Mirfield, 1929.
References in secondary literature
Archival holdings connected to pageant
- West Yorkshire Archive Service, Wakefield: Copy of programme. C643/1. (Also in Halifax Central Library. P 268.)
Sources used in preparation of pageant
- Scott, Walter. Ivanhoe. Edinburgh, 1819.
- The Gest of Robyn Hode [Many editions, originally 15th century]
Pageants were great opportunities for those who might charitably be called local enthusiasts—or, less charitably, cranks. The Reverend Harold N. Pobjoy, the Vicar of Hartshead, writer and local historian, was one such figure. Pobjoy’s chief interest lay in the legend of Robin Hood, more commonly associated with Nottinghamshire and Sherwood Forest, whose burial place was reputed to lie in the village, near Kirklees Priory. The 1929 Pageant of Robyn Hode followed similar events in 1927 and 1928 in what was fast becoming a popular annual affair, though Pobjoy insisted on ‘an entirely different production from the Historical Pageant of Hartshead and Kirklees which had so successful a “run” in 1927 and 1928. The main charm of the latter lay in the succession of scenes…The episodes in the present pageant, on the other hand, are…of necessity confined to one period of history.’1 While speculating on a number of events, either in fact or fiction, pertaining to the famous outlaw’s life—‘Was he Earl of Huntingdon? No, I think not’—Pobjoy admitted that, except for the final scene, the events had no connection to Hartshead, taking ‘place mainly in Nottingham and in the forests of Barnesdale and Sherwood’.2 He also requested the following of the audience: ‘We do not pretend to give an authentic life of the King of Outlaws…please do not assert on oath that you know that Robin Hood did such and such a thing, because you saw him do it at Hartshead Pageant!’3
The episodes were based on a number of existing folk ballads, from the Gest of Robyn Hode, written down in the fifteenth century, which the pageant drew heavily upon, through to more recent romantic depictions, the chief being Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe (1819). Overall, the pageant sought merely to depict lively and memorable events from the life of Robin Hood, capturing something of picturesque ‘merrie England’, rather than making any broader statements about Robin Hood as an outlaw or bandit who took the side of the common people against the ruling classes, as Eric Hobsbawm memorably described the legend in Bandits (1969).4 In terms of the burgeoning literature on the cultural history of the Robin Hood legend, Pobjoy’s pageant is relatively unremarkable for the time.5 Unlike the previous Hartshead pageants, the compression of the action into a single period (with the exception of the afterthought scene involving Henry VIII) failed to put the action into a wider depiction of local history.
Nonetheless, the pageant was widely popular, proving that the legend appealed to many people. The Yorkshire Post, writing before the first performance, suggested that:
There is a promise of real liveliness and colour in the ‘merrie pageant of Robyn Hode’…The subject, of course, gives the organisers a flying start. Glamour surrounds the very names of Robin Hood, Little John and Friar Tuck—a glamour which springs from the fact that we first made their acquaintance from highly-coloured pictures before we could even read—and the stories of outlawry, combat and rescue told in those old nursery books provide the pageant master with scenes ideal for acting in English fields in June.6
The writer went further, suggesting that ‘the pageant will be not merely an excellent afternoon’s entertainment, a little pleasant play-acting, but a real festival of old English song, dance and folk-lore’.7 In fact, Mr and Mrs Pobjoy had gone to great lengths to include a large variety of old English folk music and were committed to the folk revival of the time (popularised by Cecil Sharp’s work recording old folk tunes).8 Another writer remarked on the wider scenes which the pageant had encouraged:
From the top of a Leeds tram, I saw in a shop the astonishing notice, ‘Special Sale of Bows and Arrows.’ What century, then, was this? And how came I to be on a tram with bows and arrows still in demand? Better on a palfrey, surely; that would be more in keeping, and clad in a leather firkin, I should be making my proud way up Briggate after buying a dozen arrows and a new bow-string.9
The pageant obviously connected with a vogue for medievalism at the time, which was present everywhere from films and television (most prominently the 1938 Hollywood film The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn) to the architectural designs for the London underground.10
The Pageant of Robyn Hode was to be the last major pageant on the site, though fetes were held throughout much of the 1930s. Pobjoy went on to act as the writer and musical director of the Thornhill Pageant (1952). Recalling the Pageant of Robyn Hoode in the 1970s, Mrs Pobjoy recounted that:
The pleasure and benefit derived by all who took part in it far outweighed the monetary gain. They had proved that a small community of mill and mine-workers and farmers could put on a show that delighted thousands and won high praise in all quarters...The years have taken their toll on that gallant company, but to all who are left, that field beside Kirklees Wood will always be the Pageant Field, and in the village the new school stands that they know would not be there had not a certain priest... searched out the treasures of local history and possessed the necessary gifts to make use of them.11
- H.N. Pobjoy, Foreword, in The Merrie Pageant of Robyn Hode (Mirfield, 1929), 8.
- Ibid., 9 and 57.
- Ibid., 9.
- Eric Hobsbawm, Bandits (London, 1969).
- E.g., Thomas G. Hann, ed., Robin Hood in Popular Culture: Violence, Transgression, and Justice (Cambridge, 2000); Jeffrey L. Singman, Robin Hood: The Shaping of the Legend (Westport, CT, 1998).
- Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 28 June 1929, 12.
- See Georgina Boyes, The imagined Village: Culture, Ideology and the English Folk Revival (Manchester, 1993); Cecil J. Sharp, English Folk-song: Some Conclusions (London, 1907 [many subsequent editions]).
- Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 1 July 1929, 6.
- Michael T. Saler, The Avant-Garde in Interwar England: Medieval Modernism and the London Underground (Oxford, 1999).
- Quoted in ‘A Show to Delight’, Spenborough Guardian, 15 February 2006, accessed 1 June 2016, http://www.spenboroughguardian.co.uk/news/local/a-show-to-delight-1-1368381#ixzz4AKNHolNN.
How to cite this entry
Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘Hartshead Pageant of Robyn Hode’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1089/