The King & The Miller

Albie recently sent this fascinating Nottinghamshire legend to me:

“Thought I’d relate a local 'legend' that came back to my attention recently. ...... As far as I am aware the tale has been known for many generations and dates back to medieval times at least. Some recent stories claim the king was Henry VIII but there is no record of him ever visiting Nottingham or Sherwood to hunt. The stories of it being Henry II go back much further; the story came back to me when someone said they had been to the King & Miller for a meal. It is one of those large 'diner' pubs. The story must go back to the 17th century at least but I've not found any details on exactly when it first appeared. The interesting thing is that the story mirrors some of the tales of Robin. The miller’s wife has also been associated with Maid Marion.

The play itself was written back in the 18th century, it was first performed on January 30th 1737 on Drury Lane. The author was a Mansfield man so he would have known all about the legend. I have attached a copy of the script which is preserved at the Bodleian Library I believe.

The legend also gave its name to the area now known as Kings Mill on the west side of Mansfield - this is also the location of the King & Miller pub in Sutton and is on the boundary between Mansfield and Sutton. The actual mill stood on the north east edge of Kings Mill reservoir which is used for leisure today. Kings Mill is known better these days for the large hospital that takes this name just across the road from the pub."

                         The King & Miller Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire.

Albie continues:
"Over 800 years ago King Henry II (father of kings Richard I and John) was out in Sherwood hunting with his nobles. As dusk approached the king became detached from the main party and soon became lost. Whilst he was looking for a path back to Nottingham he came across a miller named John Cockle. The king took some time to convince the miller he was not a gentleman robber and was a courtier. Eventually the miller took pity and invited the king back to his house. The miller said that the king would need to share his son's bed for the night and he would show him the way back to Nottingham the next morning. The miller's wife served a meal of venison pasties, hot-bag pudding and apple pie. The king had never tasted such food before and asked what meat was used in the pasties. After agreeing to keep the recipe a secret Henry was told that it was venison from the forest. Henry agreed to keep this a secret; the miller's family could be beheaded instantly for poaching the king's venison!

The family arose early the next morning and the miller prepared to show the king the way back to Nottingham. At this point a party of nobles arrived; they were in search for the missing Henry. They dismounted from their horses and knelt before the king. The awful truth suddenly dawned on the miller and his family. John Cockle bowed his head expecting the king to decapitate him on the spot. Instead the king touches the shoulders of the miller with his sword and knighted him as Sir John Cockle. Henry also granted the miller a rich living. The family were invited to court and were given an increase in their living to £300 a year on a promise they would never to steel deer in the future. Henry then appointed John Cockle as the Overseer to Sherwood Forest"

I'm not sure whether you will have heard this tale before but thought it might be of interest. The miller came from Mansfield and presumably the king would have been using the hunting lodge at Clipstone or Mansfield Woodhouse. The story varies somewhat between tellers but the basics are the same. And I think you will see a marked similarity from the legends of Robin Hood - could this have been a basis for some of the stories? Today, there are 3 pubs known as the King & Miller (Sutton-in-Ashfield, Sheffield and Retford) and an old inn of the same name was demolished in Mansfield town centre in 1959. There was also a play called 'The King & Miller of Mansfield' by Robert Dodsley which was performed at the Theatre royal in Drury Lane.”

Very special thanks to Albie for retelling this interesting story. This of course gripped my imagination and I attempted to dig a little deeper into this wonderful ancient legend:

HENRY, our royall king, would ride a hunting
To the greene forest so pleasant and faire;
To see the harts skipping, and dainty does tripping:
Unto merry Sherwood his nobles repaire:
Hawke and hound were unbound, all things prepar'd
For the game, in the same, with good regard.

All a long summers day rode the king pleasantlye,
With all his princes and nobles eche one;
Chasing the hart and hind, and the bucke gallantlye,
Till the dark evening forc'd all to turne home,
Then at last, riding fast, he had lost quite
All his lords in the wood, late in the night.

Wandering thus wearilye, all alone, up and downe,
With a rude miller he mett at the last:
Asking the ready way unto faire Nottingham;
"Sir," quoth the miller, "I meane not to jest,
Yet I thinke, what I thinke, sooth for to say,
You doe not lightlye ride out of your way."

The excerpt above is taken from a 17th century manuscript in the ‘Percy Reliques Collection entitled A pleasant Ballad of King Henry II and the Miller of Mansfield. There is an entry in the Stationers Registers to a ballad of ‘Miller & King’ dated December 14th 1624. Another is recorded on June 30th 1625. This popular broadside ballad survives in many various collections.

Henry VIII and the Miller of Dee

Down the centuries ‘king and subject’ has been a favorite theme with ballad-makers to represent the monarch conversing, either by accident or design with his humblest villager or tradesman. Besides the King and the Miller, we have many others that have survived, including John the Reeve, King Henry and the Soldier, A Tale of King Edward and the Shepherd, King James I and the Tinker, King William III and the Forester etc. Of the latter sort, are King Alfred and the Shepherd, King Edward IV and the Tanner, and King Henry VIII and the Cobbler. We could of course add to this ‘The King’s Disguise and Friendship with Robin Hood,’ which is possibly derived from the ‘Geste of Robyn Hood.’

The theme remained a popular one in the broadside press. The Stationers' Registers record fourteen king-commoner ballads between the years of 1578 and 1690; seven are extant. In some cases the later broadside ballads are clearly versions of the earlier poems, demonstrating the continuing popularity of these tales. New or original ballads on this old theme were also composed throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

By the sixteenth century this popular motif of an accidental encounter between monarch and commoner was transferred to the stage in the so-called ‘comic histories.’ Shakespeare went on to use this popular theme in three of his plays, Henry IV, Henry V, and As You Like It.

Theophilus Cibber (1703-1758) first produced Robert Dodsley’s satire on the court of King Henry II, The King and the Miller of Mansfield, at Drury Lane on 30 January 1737. The play was a great theatrical success, attracting thirty-seven performances in its first season alone, before going on to become one of the eighteenth century’s most frequently performed pieces of theatre. In this short, six-scene play, Dodsley transposes the court from London to his native Sherwood Forest, where a King, named “Harry”, and his courtiers lose contact with each other while out hunting. The king, wandering alone, meets one of his keepers, a miller called John Cockle, in the forest. Challenged by the miller, who does not know whom he is addressing, the king declares himself to be one, who has “the Honour to belong to the King as well as you and, perhaps, should be unwilling to see any wrong done him.” He tells the miller he came hunting with the king and “has lost his way.” The miller offers “such poor entertainment as a miller can give” for the night.

The sequel, Sir John Cockle at Court, a farce, appeared in 1738.

Mansfield is said to have derived its name from the little stream called the Maun, which runs gently through it. A Topographical Dictionary of England (1848) describes the particular area on the border between Mansfield and Sutton-in-Ashfield in Nottinghamshie, ‘on the North East edge of Kings Mill reservoir stood The King's Mill'. It is said that in the days of King Henry II, this mill was occupied by John Cockle, who resided here with his wife, son and daughter Margery.

I have not managed to discover how and when Robert Dodsley (1703-1764) drew his inspiration for his play ‘The King & the Miller of Mansfield.’ But he undoubtedly heard the legend as he grew up in Nottinghamshire. He was born at Ratcliffe Gate, Mansfield in 1703 to parents who were certainly dissenters and probably Presbyterian. Since his father taught at the Mansfield Free School Robert received a good education.

Robert was apprenticed to a stocking weaver from where he ran away to London into domestic service as a footman. There he wrote collections of poems and plays gaining a considerable literary reputation by which he became a wealthy man. By 1735 he had used his wealth and influence to establish himself as the foremost publisher and bookseller of the day noted for suggesting and co-financing the first Dictionary of the English Language. He also campaigned for the freedom of the press even spending a short time in prison for some of his controversial publishing's.

His play ‘The King & the Miller of Mansfield’ was later performed all over the world and in 1762 a French composer used the story for an opera.

Picture Strip 24 : Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood

Part 24 of Laurence's very popular picture strip of Walt Disney's original movie the Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952).
To see previous pages of the picture strip, please click on the label below.
If you want to learn more about the making of this wonderful film or the legend that inspired it, please click on the relevant subjects in the sidebar.

Howard Pyle

Howard Pyle’s highly romanticized novel  'The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood’ has rarely been out of print since its publication by Scribner’s in 1883. His version of Robin Hood and his men’s mystic life has long influenced American writers and illustrators and continues to influence modern film producers to this day.

I have always had an interest in book illustration and I adore his art work. He quite literally breathes life into the legend in a way that was never done before. Writing his own text based on the chapbooks and garlands and combining strength of line and decorative detail, Pyle created 23 unforgettably beautiful sets of full-page illustrations in the tradition of William Morris.

The language he uses is ‘quasi-medieval’ and he honestly admits that this adventure in ‘the land of fancy’ is ‘bound by nothing but a few odd strands of certain old ballads (snipped and clipped and tied together in a score of knots).’ He created a marvelous simplistic medieval world that would herald the massive transition of the Robin Hood legend into children’s books and comics.’ The timing of the publication of Pyles’s ‘Adventures of Robin Hood’ coincided with the gradual acceptance of English literature as a required subject by British education committees. School teachers and administrators began turning to the Robin Hood tales as a means of providing students with an easy-to-understand positive overview of their English heritage.

His text included all the elements that are now considered essential to the legend, including Robin’s fight over a river with Little John, the archery contest for the Golden Arrow, the lavish feast in Sherwood Forest, the killing of Guy of Gisborne, Friar Tuck carrying Robin across a stream and King Richard being waylaid by the outlaws and their eventual pardon.

Pyle’s ‘Adventures of Robin Hood’ was specifically designed for American boys. His re-telling of the ancient legend depicts a hero’s life without rules, where ‘boys’ could roam the hills, explore the forest and feast in the fun of the outdoor life that he had experienced or dreamed of as a child. His interpretation of the legend is uniquely his own and is no doubt influenced by listening to the works of Scott and Ritson. The dialogue he uses is peppered with ‘thees’ and ‘thous,’ terms more American Quaker than Nottinghamshire-British. Pyle never visited England.

                                          Howard Pyle with his daughter

Born in 1853, Howard Pyle grew up in a Quaker home near Wilmington, Delaware, in a house full of books where his mother often read to him and there were fields and woods to roam. He later said that his mother brightened his childhood with "an illuminating joyfulness in beautiful things." She read aloud to her children and introduced them to the Grimm fairy tales, stories from the Arabian Nights, Slovenly Peter, A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales, Robinson Crusoe, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Ritson's collection of ballads about Robin Hood. He spent hours reading illustrated novels by Dickens, Thackeray, Bunyan, and Defoe and enjoying the illustrations by Thomas Bewick, Felix Octavius Darley, and John Tenniel in Punch. His mother also exposed him to important British artists and illustrators of the 1860's including: Arthur Boyd Houghton, Charles Keene, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Holman Hunt, and Edward Burne-Jones.
Pyle attended the Friends' School and later a school conducted by Thomas Clarkson Taylor. But, as Pyle himself later recalled, "He spent his time largely in scrawling drawings on his slate and in his books." So realizing their son's lack of interest in studying, the Pyle's gave up their idea of sending Howard to college and instead his mother encouraged him to study art. At the age of sixteen he was commuting daily to study in Philadelphia under the Belgian artist Van der Weilen. During the next five years Pyle set up a studio at his parents’ home in Wilmington and, he continued to draw and experiment with writing in his spare time.
In February 1877 he received his first letter of acceptance and a check for his set of verses and illustrations about a magic pill. This was followed by his fairy tale for children in the renowned children’s magazine ‘St Nicholas’. This inspired him to write an article and eleven drawings for Scribner's Monthly in April 1877 which was also accepted.
At the age of 25, Pyle’s work became noticed and he continued to grow in the esteem of his peers. Whilst in New York he gradually became an established illustrator for Harper’s and soon his work was in great demand. Realizing he had learned as much as he could he returned to Wilmington, Delaware.
By 1880 Pyle had became engaged to Anne Poole and in April of 1881 they were married. They later had seven children, Sellers (1882), Phoebe (1886), Theodore (1889), Howard (1891), Eleanor (1894), Godfrey (1895) and Wilfred (1897). His work remained in constant demand as an illustrator, both for books and articles by others and for his own illustrated articles.

When Pyle began writing his Robin Hood at the age of 30, he asked his mother to send him the original copies he had owned as a child. He began researching his novel whilst visiting a public library in New York and no doubt it was whilst there that he read of Washington Irving’s descriptions of his ‘ramblings’ through Sherwood Forest. But the Sherwood Forest in Pyle’s imagination, created for American boys, is a combination of the countryside he had played in around Delaware and the mythical land he had heard about in the stories of his childhood.
Using the techniques and styles he admired in early book production and medieval manuscripts, Pyle produced beautiful decorative head and tail pieces as well as full page illustrations that guided the reader and created the mood of the story. It would later be described and praised by critics as ‘total design.’ Dobson and Taylor, authors of the celebrated ‘Rymes of Robyn Hood’ (1997) stated that ‘Robin Hood’s conquest of late nineteenth-century America ‘reached its climax’ with Pyle’ superbly illustrated work.

His highly praised and distinctive pen and ink art work was also used on Pepper & Salt, The Wonder Clock, Otto of the Silver Hand (also written by Pyle), and The Garden behind the Moon. He cemented his reputation with the four volume Arthurian legends which included The Story of King Arthur and His Knights, The Story of the Champions of the Round Table, The Story of Lancelot and His Companions, and The Story of the Grail and the Passing of Arthur. His medieval story Men of Iron was made into a Hollywood movie in 1954 and re-named The Black Shield of Falworth. And it is from his fabulous illustrations for the Book of Pirates that our present-day concept of pirates has come.

At the time when it was customary and fashionable to study in Europe, Pyle had a strong conviction that students should seek their training and inspiration in America. In 1894 he began teaching illustration at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry (now Drexel University), and after 1900 he founded his own school of art and illustration called the Howard Pyle School of Illustration Art. He was always determined to teach beyond the formal institutional walls of a place like Drexel, so in the summer months between 1898 and 1903 he took his students to a mill nearby at Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania on the Brandywine River. These selected artists became known as the ‘Brandywine School.’

On Pyle’s fiftieth birthday one of his students (and later also a famous illustrator of Robin Hood) N. C Wyeth wrote to his mother of the celebrations in Pyle’s honor:

‘Our plan was … to represent, to the extent of our numbers, the characters originated and pictured by Mr. Pyle during his illustrious career, such as Robin Hood characters ….Little John etc. There were about seventeen of us costumed out absolutely correct in detail and color and it so happened that each statue was utilized in such a way as to fit their characters absolutely ….. A red and gold curtain rose, displaying a gorgeous gold frame containing a striking resemblance of Robin Hood. It completely fazed Mr. Pyle and amid enthusiastic applause from our small but mighty audience we were exhibited one by one, each taking some pose easily recognized by its ‘Maker’.’

As a teacher, Pyle attracted a large number of students, inspiring them as much by his idealism, as by the high standards he set for picture making. He incorporated the recording of emotions, the outdoor sketching, the lectures on historical backgrounds and costumes. His classes developed such later well known artists and illustrators as N.C. Wyeth, Frank Schoonover, Olive Rush, Elenore Abbott, Jessie Willcox, Maxfield Parrish, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Gertrude A. Kay, Charlotte Harding (Brown) Harvey Dunn, Stanley Arthurs and Edward A. Wilson. Of his 110 students, significantly, 40 were women, in a time when few women were becoming professional artists.

He taught his students to look at new ways to tell a story. He wanted to move away from the ‘staginess’ of illustrations from previous generations and sought to dramatize and portray basic human emotions. His work made the reader an eye-witness to a vivid experience. No area of the picture was to be wasted and through the details, the viewer’s eye is purposefully led toward the focal center.

Pyle died from a kidney infection while he was studying mural painting in Florence, in Italy in November 1911. It was his second trip abroad. After his death, his students collected many of his original paintings as a nucleus for the present comprehensive collection of his work in the Deleware Art Museum. His legacy was to be the roster of brilliant talent that followed; the greatest testament to his teachings.
Elizabeth Nesbitt (Howard Pyle. London: The Bodley Head, 1966) described Pyle’s ‘Merry Adventures of Robin Hood’ as the ‘most beautiful example of his twin talents as author illustrator’. Its publication established him as one of America's foremost writers and illustrators for children.’

But for me, Howard Pyle brought the simplest and strongest of ‘Robins’ back into the publishing mainstream and created the iconic mould of the merry outlaw that would be used right up until the 21st century.

Peter Ellenshaw

We have recently discussed on here the incredible talent of the matte artist Peter Ellenshaw (1913-2007).

Before computer-generated special effects, film-makers relied on ‘matte painting’ as a cheap substitute for building sets or filming on location. Matte paintings were made by artists using paints or pastels on large sheets of glass or integrating with the live-action footage via a double exposure.

Its foremost practitioner was Peter Ellenshaw who joined Denham Studios in 1935 as an uncredited assistant to his stepfather, W. Percy Day, the inventor of matte painting on such things as Things To Come (1936) and The Thief Of Bagdad (1940).

In 1947, he created the wonderful mountain scenery for Michael Powell’s and Emeric Pressburger’s Black Narcissus. Martin Scorsese, a big fan, said that watching it was ‘like being bathed in colour.’

After Black Narcissus, Ellenshaw worked on more than 30 films for Walt Disney Studios. He began working as a freelancer for Walt Disney in 1947 and became involved in the making of Treasure Island, the studios first live-action movie. It was the great art director Carmen Dillon that recommended Peter’s work to Walt Disney, for his next project in England, ‘The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men’ in 1952.

On Robin Hood, Peter Ellenshaw eventually painted twelve matte shots. A technique that impressed the film’s producer, Ken Annakin so much, that in his next picture for Disney, ‘The Sword and The Rose’, he used seventy five of Ellenshaw’s fine matte work.

So began Peter’s long career with the Disney Studios and a 30 year friendship with Walt Disney himself, of whom he regarded as a wonderful inspiration. Ellenshaw was officially designated a ‘Disney Legend' in 1993.

Quite a while ago Neil wrote to me about a documentary called Ellenshaw Under Glass. which was available on YouTube that not only described the fascinating life and breath taking talent of Peter Ellenshaw, but showed the technique of matte painting.

Below are the clips from Youtube; I am sure you will find it very interesting.

Picture Strip 23 : Walt Disney's Story of Robin Hood

Part 23 of Laurence's fabulous picture strip of Walt Disney's original movie the Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). Included in the strip is what Laurence describes as another of Ellenshaw's wonderful glass-shots. I am sure you will agree.

To see previous pages of the picture strip, please click on the label below.

If you want to learn more about the making of this wonderful film or the legend that inspired it, please click on the relevant subjects in the sidebar.

Joan Rice

Our Joan Rice (1930-1997) as Maid Marian in Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (1952). To read more about the life of the beautiful British actress, please click on the label 'Joan Rice' below.

Thoresby Hall

Albie was at Thoresby visiting an exhibition recently and took some  snaps of the magnificent hall for the blog. He also very kindly wrote a quick history of the place below:

"Thoresby Hall and Park are situated on the eastern flank of Sherwood Forest, close to the Nottingham - York road. The first hall was built during the reign of Charles I in the 1600's, but burnt down in 1745. The Earl of Kingston had the hall rebuilt in 1767. This lasted for 100 years before being replaced by the present hall though in a location about 500 metres north of the old. By this time the Kingstons had become the Earls Manvers and amongst their other properties was Pierrepont Hall in Nottingham.

The Manvers continued to occupy the hall until the late 20th Century when it was acquired by the National Coal Board (so that they didn't have to repeatedly pay for coal mining subsidence). After several other owners, it was bought by Time Warner and converted to a spa hotel complex which opened in 2000. The park covered around 2000 acres in area and was said to have a circumference of 10 miles. Most of this is still owned by the Manvers family with just the grounds near the hall being owned by the hotel. The stables and courtyard are now a craft centre which is also separate from the hotel. The lake was used by the owner in the late 18th century to re-enact naval battles. Like many aristocrats of that period, he had miniature sailing ships to play with. There was a full time naval captain who maintained them from an estate house now known as Budby Castle (though it was never a real castle).”

The statue of Robin Hood is by Tussaud-Birt (November 1948) a grandson of Madame Tussaud (famous for her London wax works) and can be seen in the Stables Gallery (above) at Thoresby Hall. It once stood in the centre of the courtyard (below).

I am  currently away for 3 days on a first-aid course, but will update the blog at the end of the week.

'All Color Walt Disney Show', Salem, 1952

It’s the summer of 1952 and in Salem, Oregon in the USA at the Capitol Theatre an ‘All Color Walt Disney Show' is advertised. It is the live action ‘Story of Robin Hood’ accompanied by one of the award winning ‘True Life Adventures’ series ‘Water Birds,’ along with the cartoon short ‘The Little House.'

If you look carefully, the posters can be seen in the display cases around the theatre.