Robin Hood's Well, Fountains and Studley Royal

Record ID:  30143*0 / MNA144287
Record type:  Monument
Protected Status: Registered Park or Garden, Scheduled Monument, Listed Building: Grade II, World Heritage Site
NT Property:  Fountains and Studley Royal; North
Civil Parish:  Lindrick with Studley Royal and Fountains; Harrogate; North Yorkshire
Grid Reference:  SE 2767 6829
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A stone fronted spring-head, possibly of medieval origin, to the east of the Infirmary.

Identification Images (0)

Monument Types

  • WELL HOUSE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)


A stone-built spring/well head, set in the southern side of the Skell Valley, c. 5m south of De Grey Walk (30166). It consists of a central sub-rectangular trough (1.30m E/W by 1.05m N/S) at least partly cut into natural rock. The remaining walls of the central chamber are raised in well dressed sandstone masonry, curving into a semi-circular arch, up to 1.66m above the chamber floor. The front of the trough is marked by a 30cm high stone block, with an ornately carved overflow notch, centrally placed. The facade of the feature also consists of neatly dressed stonework. This involves a chamfered arch matching the internal arch, with decorative hooding including spiral terminals. These are set in an ashlared wall face of irregular limits. Further "fallen" ashlar work lies to the north of the ends of the main face, quite probably as set dressing for the well. Also before the facade is a T-shaped gutter stone, now leading to a modern drain. The date of this feature is not known. It may well be medieval, Coppack mentioning lead pipes being found leading to the infirmary from the direction of this feature, and it may well have been fed from the ponds 30224 and 30225. There are references to work being done at "Robin Hood" before Aislabie acquisition of the Fountains estate. It is not impossible that the feature has Georgian origins, but this is not, perhaps, as likely as medieval ones - see below. The spring is currently dry, possibly because the whole structure has pulled away from the cliff side. It remains damp - and therefore less than pleasant - in this condition.

Documentary Sources: The origins of Robin Hood's Well are not greatly clarified by the documentary sources. Glyn Coppack (1993) sees it as a medieval feature, connected with water supply to the infirmary. The nature of the structure makes this a perfectly plausible explanation, but the Walbran papers at York Minster Library contain a note that the feature was built by Mrs. Lawrence at the suggestion of Sir Walter Scott. He even penned an inscription to be hung from it -

"Beside this chrystal font of old/
Could his flushed brow an Outlaw bold/
His bow was slackened while he drank/
His quiver rested on the bank/
Giving brief pause of doubt and fear/
To feudal Lords and forest deer/
Long since the date - but village sires/
Still sing his feats by Christmas fires/
And still old England's free-born mood/
Stirs at the name of Robin Hood"

- although there is no evidence that this was ever actually inflicted on the public. This version of events is retold by Lefroy in 1891 (Text 26) and Parker in 1907 (Text 23), probably drawing on Walbran. The wellhead is depicted on the 1831 estate map (Map 12) and on subsequent surveys.

The estate papers include occasional mentions of works at "Robin Hood" in the 1750s. At that time, of course, the site of this feature lay outside Aislabie ownership and these appear to be references to an area of landscaping further along the Skell valley below the Chinese garden, called Robin Hood Butts (not NT property) not this feature.

Since the completion of the Archaeological Property Survey, it has been noted that the well is mentioned by name in the botanical list given by Langdale in the 1826 edition of the Tourist's Companion - the earliest reference found to date. MN 6.V.97


  • SNA63944 - National Trust Report: Mark A Newman. 2009. Observations and recording at Robin Hood’s Well, Fountains Abbey, March-Sept 06.

  • SZP10526 - Monograph: G Parker. 1900. Guide to Studley Royal and Fountains.

  • SZP13087 - Photograph - colour: Mark A Newman. 05/03/1996. Robin Hood's Well. 24.

  • SZP1657 - Monograph: J J Sheahan. 1872. The History and Topography of the Wapentake of Claro. 3.

  • SZP1770 - Monograph: J Pickford. 1882. A week in the Yorkshire Dales.

  • SZP1792 - Map: Ordnance Survey. 1854. First Edition 6" survey. 10560.

  • SZP1813 - Graphic material: T Macquoid. 1894. Engraving of Robin Hood's Well, Fountains Abbey.

  • SZP1842 - Document: J R Walbran. Notes on Robin Hood's Well, and poem by Sir Walter Scott.

  • SZP18963 - Photograph - black and white: 01/01/1985. Robin Hood's Well and De Grey Walk. A2-25-85.

  • SZP2104 - Monograph: J S Tute. 1890. Handy Guide to Fountains Abbey.

  • SZP2874 - Monograph: W White. 1853. A Month in Yorkshire.

  • SZP3090 - Map: Ordnance Survey. 1928. 10560.

  • SZP37631 - Photograph - black and white: 01/01/1985. Robin Hood's Well. A2-25-84.

  • SZP377 - Monograph: W C Lefroy. 1891. The Ruined Abbeys of Yorkshire.

  • SZP39786 - Photograph - black and white: Mark A Newman. 05/03/1996. Robin Hood's Well. 24.

  • SZP44 - Monograph: 1950. Guide to Harrogate.

  • SZP4552 - Monograph: W H Smith. 1905. Guide to Harrogate.

  • SZP4925 - Article in serial: 1900. Fountains Abbey.

  • SZP5740 - Map: Ordnance Survey. 1891. 25" to the mile survey. 2500.

  • SZP5937 - Document: Vyner Archive. Copy letters from Robert Doe to William Aislabie.

  • SZP7298 - Monograph: T Langdale. 1826. The Tourists Companion.

  • SZP823 - Map: Ordnance Survey. 1910. 6" to the mile series. 10560.

  • SZP8309 - Monograph: T Macquoid. 1894. About Yorkshire.

  • SZP8445 - Monograph: M J B Baddeley. 1897. Thorough Guide Series - Yorkshire (Pt.II). 3.

  • SZP8497 - Monograph: J L Armstrong. 1905. Illustrated Harrogate Handbook.

  • SZP863 - Monograph: J R Walbran. 1876. Guide to Ripon, Fountains Abbey etc.

  • SZP8694 - Monograph: Black. 1858. Picturesque Guide to Yorkshire.

  • SZP8720 - Map: Ordnance Survey. 1980. 10000.

  • SZP8818 - Monograph: Eric S Wood. 1946. Ancient Buildings of Harrogate.


Other Statuses and References

  • Guardianship Area
  • Guardianship Monument

Associated Events

  • ENA3852 - Field Survey,
  • ENA5583 - Archaeological Intervention, Recording and excavation, Robin Hood's Well

Associated Finds

None Recorded

Related Records

None Recorded