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The Comedy of Errors

A Brief History of Nottingham's Robin Hood Statue

24 July 21 words: Bob White
photos: Curtis Powell and Jared Wilson

Today, Saturday 24 July 2021, marks 69 years since the unveiling of the famous Robin Hood Statue outside Nottingham Castle. Bob White, the co-founder of the World Wide Robin Hood Society, explains some of the history of this iconic city landmark...

Nottingham's Robin Hood statue: Photo by Curtis Powell for LeftLion

The statue was gifted to the City of Nottingham in 1949 by successful local businessman, Phillip Clay, who, recognising that visitors had nothing to visibly see about Nottingham’s legendary folk hero, commissioned the respected sculptor James Woodford to create the figure at a cost of £5,000. It was the centrepiece of other statuary and plaques depicting characters and events from the legendary Robin Hood story.

Woodford consulted with several historians to ensure he got an accurate picture of what a Medieval forester might have looked like. But, although the statue’s leather skull cap was authentic headgear for the period, it did cause some controversy, as the general public expected to see the familiar, triangular-style Robin Hood hat as worn by Errol Flynn in the popular 1939 movie “The Adventures of Robin Hood” ….and visitors often make similar remarks to this day!

Cast in eight pieces of half-inch thick bronze (made to last 6,000 years), the 7ft tall effigy proudly stands in a traditional archer’s pose on a two and a half ton block of white Clipsham stone.
The statue was originally intended to mark the visit to Nottingham by Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1949 but it was not unveiled until 1952, when the Duchess of Portland performed the ceremony in front of the Lord Mayor, civic dignitaries and an invited crowd of local school children. To celebrate the occasion, a themed luncheon was held at the Council House, where Venison Chasseur was on the menu, along with Fillet of Sole-Robin Hood.

Over the years, the statue became a target for souvenir hunters and there have been times when Robin looked particularly forlorn, with no arrow, no bowstring and sometimes only half a bow. In the Fifties and Sixties, replacement arrows were costing the City Council £55 a time, so to deter the vandals, a former Sheriff of Nottingham, Alderman Frank Dennett came to Robin’s aid and enlisted the services of the engineers at the Royal Ordnance Factory who made an arrow from a particularly strong metal used in the manufacture of gun barrels and secured it with a specialised welding process.

The Robin Hood statue in Ningbo, China: Photo by Jared Wilson for LeftLion

The Robin Hood Statue has inevitably become a popular location for tourists to take photos and Sir Terry Wogan, Brian Clough, Jonathan Ross and Torvill and Dean are just a few of the numerous celebrities who have been pictured alongside the iconic city landmark. Media, film and documentary makers frequently use it for interviews and Cilla Black presented one of the traditional BBC Christmas Disney Time specials from the location.

The statue has also appeared on the front page of the New York Times and in many other high profile newspapers around the globe and was even pictured with a nude model for a feature in the male magazine, Penthouse!

Over the years, several attempts have been made to move the statue inside the Castle walls, but it was always overwhelmingly agreed that it should be freely accessible to the general public. The only two exceptions being when the statue was encased in a protective, plywood box to prevent damage during an English Defence League march and when it was shrouded in plastic sheeting in 2015 during the making of the moulds used to construct the full-size, composite replica which was given to Nottingham’s sister City of Ningbo in China.

So, for almost 70 years, the statue of Robin Hood has remained outside the Castle, typically aiming his arrow at the Establishment and long may that continue to be the case!

Standing Up For Nottingham
A poem by Bob White

They say I stand for justice, a champion of the poor,
Well I’ve stood here now for almost 70 years and God my feet are sore!
Pigeons perch upon my head, pecking at my nose.
Tourists clamber round my legs, treading on my toes.
I’m hardly dressed for the weather, wearing just tunic and hose
And it’s draughty round my sensitive parts when it blows up Castle Road.
They say that I’m world famous and been photographed a lot.
It seems strange that I’m known around the globe, yet I’ve never left this spot.
My legs are aching, my back is breaking, yet there’s nothing I can do,
But stand tall and stout and tough it out, just seeing each day through.
But any pain and suffering is more than made worthwhile,
When I catch a glimpse of wonder in a child’s wide-eyed smile.
“Hey look, it’s a statue of Robin Hood!” shout the kids in excited voice.
Then I’m proud to stand up for Nottingham and let’s face it I haven’t much choice.

 

 

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