We are in the shade of the yew trees rooted in the graveyard of a medieval church, where there is an enigmatic, unmarked stone monument. According to the legend Will Scarlet, one of Robin Hood’s Merry Band of Outlaws, who was supposedly a native of Blidworth, was buried near this weathered pillar in the heart of Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire.
His grave is not marked, but there is a black marble plaque commemorating one “T. Leake” on the church wall, surrounded by an alabaster frame. Is said that this alabaster frame to be a surviving remnant of Will Scarlet’s memorial. Whether this is true or not is of course unknown, but the alabaster is carved with various images of hunting with figures, hounds, crossbows, horns and longbows. Like many places associated with the Robin Hood legend it resonates in local tales, a tradition dating back to at least 1877, when it was recorded in Nottinghamshire Facts and Fiction by John Potter Briscoe.
In 1276, John de Lascelles, the current steward of Nottingham caught two men with bows and arrows in the forest and took them to Blidworth, presumably intending to hand them over to the Sheriff of Nottingham. During the night, however, twenty men with swords, bows and arrows broken open the guard house, beat up the guardsmen and freed the men. The identities of the poachers and their rescuers were never discovered.
About the church, only the west tower from the medieval (15th Century) church survives and there is a curious tradition linked to this place. The Church of St. Mary of the Purification is the only church known to continue to hold a traditional annual Rockings Ceremony during which a baby, born to married, Christian parents living in Blidworth, is “rocked” in an ancient cradle on the Feat of the Purification of Mary, which is on the Sunday nearest to Candlemas. The origins of this ceremony date back at least 400 years, but this custom was revived in 1842 by the Vicar, John Lowndes after about 150 years, and again in 1922. All of the babies who have taken part in this Ceremonies have their names recorded upon a plaque at the rear of St Mary’s Church with their full name and the year in which they were ‘Rocked’.
It seems that Blidworth’s 15th-century Church of St. Mary of the Purification replaced an earlier Norman church or monastery, so It’s probable that Scarlet’s grave is constructed from parts of this earlier structure, even if when these architectural relics were assembled into their current form and why they became associated with the mortal remains of one of Robin Hood’s henchmen is a mistery.
Even if Will Scarlet existed and was buried in Blidworth, these 600-year-old fragments would have to be to be a later addition to his grave, as the bulk of the Robin Hood legends are set in the 13th century.
Scarlet’s Grave isn’t the only link Blidworth has with the Robin Hood legends. Maid Marian supposedly lived in a cottage in front of the church and was escorted to her wedding with Robin at nearby Edwinstowe by Scarlet himself.