History of Doncaster's '˜Robin Hood's Well'

Readers travelling along the old Great North Road (A1), north of Doncaster, may be familiar with an ornate stone structure that stands by a layby near Skelbrooke, and is known as Robin Hood's Well (writes Dave Fordham). Â

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 15 January, 2019, 08:12
Robin Hood's Well

This is a well house which once covered a natural well, or spring, near a small stream known as the River Skell or Skell brook.

In fact, the name Robin Hood's Well also applied to the hamlet of farms, cottages and two coaching inns.

One of these was known as the Robin Hood Inn, with stabling for 60 horses, and the other. named the New Inn, stood directly by the Great North Road in this area.

The earliest record to the name Robin Hood for this location dates to 1422, although this area was formerly part of Barnsdale Forest, with its long-standing claims to be the original setting of the Robin Hood myths and ballads.

The present well house was designed by the famous architect Sir John Vanburgh in 1710, for the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, in a bid to commemorate Robin Hood's connections to the area.

It was originally situated to the north of the stream on the eastern side of the Great North Road, opposite Skelbrooke Lodge.

Painting of Robin Hood's Well by Samuel Hieronymous Grimm, dated 1773

Nearby in Skelbrooke Park once stood the Bishop's Tree, sometimes referred to as Robin Hood's Tree or Bishop's Tree Root.

Although now long rotted away, this was once a large tree around which, it is reputed, Robin Hood made the Bishop of Hereford dance, in order to secure his  safe passage along the road.

A short distance away, at Hampole, was another well, Little John's Well, although this has now been lost due to the expansion of Skelbrooke Quarry in the 1960s.

However, in 1960, with the opening of the A1(M) Doncaster Bypass, the Great North Road was replaced with a new dual carriageway along a new alignment.

The Well in its current location

This necessitated the demolition of the Robin Hood Inn, with the site of Robin Hood's Well scheduled to disappear also, beneath the new south bound carriageway.

Fortunately, the structure was saved and moved to a new location, 200 yards to the south, andadjacent to one of the former loops of the old Great North Road.

It now sits on a concrete base, and on 5 June 1968, was awarded Grade II listed status.

During its moving and rebuilding in 1960, the structure appears to have been reduced in height somewhat, with the lowermost course of stonework possibly being buried in the new concrete base.

For many years, Robin Hood's Well stood as a curiosity, passed unknowingly by a countless stream of vehicles on the busy road.

However, in 1993, the structure was restored and strengthened to ensure its survival into the twenty-first Century.

Last year, Highways England decided to honour the building, with the placing and unveiling of a new information and interpretation board that is now there for people to make use of.