The Yew Tree
St Cuthbert’s stands overlooking the Dove Valley, witness to some 900 years of Christianity in the village of Doveridge. The building does not date from any one period of time but is a conglomeration of architectural styles and changing fashion in decoration and furnishing.
In Doveridge churchyard a mighty yew tree stands. It has occupied the site for over 1400 years. Like a valued elderly resident it has received care and attention over the years and though girdled by chains and supported by props it continues to flourish and maintain its dignity and grandeur.
It has witnessed the growth and development of the village from the fringe of the ‘Dark Ages’ to the present day. Though a passive observer over many centuries it can lay claim top one brief moment in the spotlight of history. Beneath its vast green Canopy Robin Hood married his beloved Clorinda. The service was conducted by `Roger’ vicar of Doveridge but alas there is no record of the guest list so we will never know if Maid Marian attended.
The earliest reference to Robin Hood is said to have appeared in “The Vision of Piers Ploughman’ written about the turn of the fourteenth century. In truth there is nothing known about him but facts should never be allowed to stand in the way of a good story.
The popular view of Robin Hood is that portrayed in countless novels and films. Of handsome visage and clad in an attractive green ensemble he and his merry band consistently foiled the dastardly plans of wicked King John. Invented by later romantics as being of noble birth he returned from the Third Crusade to find himself dispossessed and outlawed. His struggle to regain his rightful inheritance as Lord of Loxley is the very stuff of legend and his very direct approach to the redistribution of wealth proved extremely popular with the peasantry. On the other hand England in the thirteenth century was a wild and lawless land and he may simply have been a prominent leader of a local band of ruffians whose notoriety spilled over into surrounding areas. Whatever the truth of the matter is Robin Hood has come to symbolise the eternal struggle of the ‘hath nots’ against the power of the ‘haths’.
Rather like ‘Queen Elizabeth slept here’ many areas lay claim to Robin Hood but Doveridge has a much stronger case than most. The hamlet of Loxley where Robin is reputed to have been born is nearby on the outskirts of Uttoxeter. Much of England in the thirteenth century was covered by large tracts of forestry and Sherwood Forest and our local forest of Needwood would have been part of a continuous belt of woodland stretching across the Midlands. The town of Nottingham where Robin performed many of his daring deeds would have been within travelling distance of Doveridge even in the conditions prevalent in the early thirteenth century.
Were all this not enough the strongest evidence of a link between Robin Hood and Doveridge is contained in a popular ballad sung by minstrals in the nearby village of Tutbury the lyrics being passed down by the fiddler who played at Robin’s wedding. The ballad entitled ‘The Pedigree, Education and Marriage of Robin Hood with Clorinda Queen of the Tutbury Feast’ tells of Clorinda’s meeting with Robin. She apparently killed a buck which so impressed Robin he proposed on the spot. His ardour was further fuelled when on the journey to Tutbury she played her part in defeating eight yeomen who attempted to steal the buck. Clearly she was a lady to be reckoned with.
when the bagpipes baited the bull.
I am King of fiddlers and swear Iis the truth,
and call him that doubts it a gull.
For I saw them a fighting and fiddled the while,
and Clorinda sang “Hey, Berry down’.
The bumpkins are beaten, put up thy sword Bob,
and now lets dance into town.
Before we came in we heard a strange shouting,
and all that were in looked madly,
and some were a black bull, some dancing a morrice,
and some singing Arther a Bradley.
And there we saw Thomas our justice’s clerk,
and Mary, to whom he was kind,
and Tom rode before her and calle’d Mary madam,
and kissed full sweetly behind.
And so may your worship – But we went to dinner
With Thomas and Mary and Nan.
They all drank a health to Clorinda and told her Bold Robin was a fine man.
When dinner was ended, Sir Roger, the parson of Dubbridge, was sent for in haste.
He brought his mass book and bid them take hands, and he joined them in marriage full fast.
And then as Bold Robin and his sweet bride, went hand in hand to the sweet bower,
The birds sung with pleasure in merry Sherwood, and it was a most joyful hour.
(* Ballad contained in ‘A History of Doveridge’ by Alan Gibson 1996)
Only the Great Yew tree in Doveridge churchyard can disentangle fact from forklore and he is too much of a gentleman to tell.