Scientists explore “Robin Hood’s prison”

Scientists in Nottingham, England, are studying nearly 500 man-made caves under the city and surrounding countryside. Some of the caves, hewn into the soft sandstone by generations of laborers, date back to the early Middle Ages. They were used for businesses, storage, shelter, and one is reputed to have been the prison of Robin Hood.

The Nottingham Caves Survey is mapping the caves with a 3D laser scanner that measures the interior surfaces with millions of data points. These “point clouds” are then converted into a 3D image, spruced up with video animation software, and made into short videos that take you through the spaces.

This is as close as you can get to a complete tour because most caves are closed to the public for safety reasons. When the Luftwaffe bombed Nottingham during World War Two, locals hid out in the caves. Better to risk an unstable cave than a German bomb!

Some caves are open, like the City of Caves, with reconstructions of a medieval tannery, bomb shelter, and “enchanted well”. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, which dates back to the 12th century and is a serious contender for the coveted label “oldest pub in England”, has a network of caves that are used as cellars. There used to be a cockfighting pit down in the cellar, but in this more humane era it serves as a nice cool place to store ale. The staff say they sometimes see the pub ghost down there.

Nottingham owes its popularity as a tourist destination to its association with Robin Hood. But did he exist? And did he do time in the prison cave? There is no certain proof that he ever existed, but medieval England had no shortage of arrow-shooting outlaws hiding out in the woods. Sherwood Forest, being close to a major town and important roads, would have been prime real estate for someone like Robin Hood.

Robin Hood is first mentioned in Piers Plowman, written around 1377, and the first books dedicated to him don’t appear for another generation. By then he was already a popular folk figure and a lot of his adventures were simply the invention of imaginative authors.

A tantalizing entry in court records from 1225 mention an outlaw named Robert Hod. Records from 1261 and 1262 mention an outlaw named William Robehod, but one historian theorizes that this name had already become synonymous with outlawry. In fact, numerous Robehods and Robynhods crop up in court records after the mid-13th century. Apparently outlaws liked using a legendary name to give their robberies a touch of glamor. In the U.S., several second-rate gunslingers did the same with the name Jesse James.

If there ever was an original Robin Hood, he’s now so buried in legend it’s impossible to find him.

Public domain image by Louis Rhead (1912) via Wikimedia Commons.

For history and film buffs: Tour the “Robin Hood” sites in England

As you may or may not know, VisitBritain, the UK’s tourism office, has been encouraging and fostering “film tourism” since 1996, when they began releasing movie maps for films like Pride and Prejudice, Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes. Now, all you Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett fans can join in the fun; they’ve released touring information for the quintessentially British legend Robin Hood.

As it turns out, the film covers a rather good collection of off-the-beaten-path British destinations. Tourists today can visit Nottingham Castle as well as the adjacent mansion which was once the seat of the Sheriff of Nottingham, Sherwood Forest and the Major Oak, where Robin and his merry men were known to hold camp and the Church of St. Mary, where Robin and Maid Marion were married. Additional nearby attractions include the underground Nottingham labyrinth of caves, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (allegedly the oldest pub in England) and the Galleries of Justice Museum, where you can see England’s history of shocking crimes — and punishments.

As far as touring actual filming locations, visit VisitBritain’s Robin Hood site to discover unexpected destinations like Freshwater West in Wales, which served as the setting for the French invasion in the film, the lush gardens of Virginia Water in Surrey, and — though it was recreated with special effects for the film — the real Tower of London.

If this is right up your alley, keep an eye on VisitBritain Film Tourism for new and upcoming adventures inspired by cinema.

Man arrested for Twitter bomb threat at Robin Hood Airport

In what is probably the world’s first Twitter airport bomb threat, a 26 year old man has been arrested when he joked about blowing his airport “sky high”.

Paul Chambers was stuck at Doncaster’s Robin Hood Airport (yes seriously – that is its name) during the nasty snow storms that hit the UK last week.

When it became clear that the snow could delay his flight, he tweeted the following:

“‘Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high”

Police were alerted to the Tweets, and Mr. Chambers was arrested. He was held under UK anti-terror laws, and locked up for seven hours.

He was eventually released on bail, and will have to appear in court on February 11th. Worst of all (for him), he has been banned for life from Robin Hood airport and has been suspended from his job. All because of a harmless tweet.

According to police, it is all because of “the world we live in”. Apparently that new world is one where people making jokes on Twitter can be considered terrorists. So, next time your airline pisses you off, be careful what you say on Twitter!