Born: Professor Dugald Stewart, celebrated metaphysician, 1753, Edinburgh.
Died: Pope John XXIII, 1419, Florence; Robert, Lord Clive, founder of the British empire in India, 1774, Moreton Say, near Drayton; John Stackhouse, botanist, 1819, Bath; Francois le Valliant, African traveller, 1824, La Neve, near Lauzun; Sir Henry Havelock, Indian general, 1857, Lucknow; Professor George Wilson, author of various scientific works, 1859, Edinburgh; Father Lacordaire, eminent French preacher, 1861, Loreze.
Feast Day: Saints Philemon and Appia. St. Cecilia, or Cecily, virgin and martyr, 230. St. Theodorus the Studite, abbot, 9th century.
This saint was a Roman lady of good family, and having been educated as a Christian, was desirous of devoting herself to heaven by a life of celibacy. Compelled, however, by her parents to wed a young nobleman named Valerian, she succeeded in converting both her husband and his brother to Christianity, and afterwards shared with them the honours of martyrdom. Accounts differ as to the death which she suffered, some asserting that she was boiled in a caldron, and others that she was left for days to expire gradually after being half decapitated. The legend states that the executioner, after striking one blow, found himself unable to complete his task.
St. Cecilia is generally regarded as the patroness of church music, and, indeed, of music generally; but the reason for her holding this office is not very satisfactorily explained. Butler says that it was from her assiduity in singing the divine praises, the effect of which she often heightened by the aid of an instrument. She is generally represented singing, and playing on some musical instrument, or listening to the performance of an angelic visitant. This last circumstance is derived from an ancient legend, which relates that an angel was so enraptured with her harmonious strains as to quit the abodes of bliss to visit the saint. Dryden thus alludes to the incident in his Ode for St. Cecilia's Day:
At last divine Cecilia came,
Inventress of the vocal frame;
The sweet enthusiast from her sacred store,
Enlarg'd the former narrow bounds,
And added length to solemn sounds,
With nature's mother wit, and arts unknown before.
Let old Timotheus yield the prize,
Or both divide the crown;
He rais'd a mortal to the skies;
She drew an angel down.
About the end of the seventeenth century, the practice was introduced of having concerts on St. Cecilia's Day, the 22nd of November. These were highly fashionable for a time; the words of the pieces performed being frequently from the pen of writers like Dryden, Addison, and Pope, and the music composed by artists like Purcell and Blow.
The Frenchman has an inborn aptitude for oratory, and seldom, for any period, are the pulpit and tribune of his nation deprived of the illumination of genius. Among the greatest of modern French orators was the Abbe Lacordaire. Paris is not a city in which priests are popular, but for years, the delivery of a discourse by him had only to be announced to assemble a crowded audience, waiting with breathless interest for the words from his mouth.
He was the son of a country physician, and was born in 1802. Educated for the law, he went to Paris in 1822, for the purpose of being called to the bar. He evinced remarkable abilities, and his success as an advocate was regarded as certain. Professing deistical opinions, he suddenly, to the amazement of his acquaintance, proclaimed his intention of becoming a priest, and straightway, on his twenty third birthday, he entered the ecclesiastical seminary of St. Sulpice. In after life, he frequently repeated that neither man nor book was the instrument of his conversion, but that a sudden and secret stroke of grace opened his eyes to the nothingness of irreligion. In a single day he became a believer; and once a believer, he wished to become a priest.
For some years, life passed smoothly with Lacordaire in the fulfilment of a variety of ecclesiastical duties. The only singularity about him was his political liberalism, which he retained as firmly as in the days when a student and barrister. This liberalism drew him into association with Lamennais and Montalembert, and together they started a newspaper, L'Avenir, in 1830. Its device was, 'God and Liberty;' that is to say, the pope and the people, ultramontanism in religion and radicalism in politics. L'Avenir quickly brought its conductors into a blaze of notoriety, into law suits with the government, and into controversy with bishops; but what they gained in fame they lost in money, and they were compelled to stop their newspaper. Prompted by Lamennais, they carried their ecclesiastical controversy to Rome, and insisted on Gregory XVI pronouncing a decision. To their intense chagrin, the pope issued an encyclical letter condemning the politics of L'Avenir. Lacordaire and Montalembert bowed to the papal authority, but Lamennais, after a fierce struggle with himself, passed into open rebel lion, in which he continued to the end of his life.
At this time, Lacordaire made the acquaintance of Madame Swetchine, a Russian lady of rank, who, having become a Roman Catholic, resided in Paris, where her house, for more than forty years, was the resort of the most brilliant society of the faithful. To Lacordaire she became more than a mother. Her soul, he wrote, was to mine what the shore is to the plank shattered by the waves; and I still remember, after twenty five years, all the light and strength she afforded to a young man unknown to her. Her counsel preserved me alike from despondency and the opposite extreme. As long as her health permitted, she was always among Lacordaire's hearers. Should you like to see the preacher's mother was asked of two persons who were listening to him in Notre Dame. Why, she died ten years ago! Was the answer. No, there she is, look at her; and the speaker pointed to Madame Swetchine, hidden behind a pillar, whose constant attention to, and manifest happiness in, the discourse of the preacher, gave rise to this very natural mistake.
Lacordaire made his first essay as a preacher in 1833, and failed completely. Montalembert and others who heard him unanimously agreed, 'He is a talented man, but will never make a preacher,' and Lacordaire was of the same opinion. Nevertheless, he tried again in the following year, and was instantly successful. By some means his tongue had got loosed, and passion, tenderness, irony, and wit burst freely from his lips. One day, for the benefit of certain scoffers, he exclaimed: 'Gentlemen, God has made you witty, very witty indeed, to show you how little he cares for the wit of man. His fame grew daily. The archbishop of Paris called him to mount the pulpit of Notre Dame; and on one occasion, rising from his throne, in the presence of an immense audience, he greeted the orator with the title of 'our new prophet.'
From this excess of glory he retired for seclusion, for two or three years, to Rome, and, whilst wandering and praying in the basilicas of the Eternal City, he became convinced that it was his mission to revive the order of Dominican friars in France. Having secured the requisite authority, he reappeared in Notre Dame, clothed in the white woollen habit of the order, with shaven head and black scapular. The novelty lent fresh piquancy to his oratory, and Lacordaire, in Notre Dame, became one of the lions of Paris, whom everybody, who could possibly do so, felt bound to see and hear.
In his zeal, he assumed the name of Dominic, wrote a life of the saint, and defended the Inquisition. At the same time he contended, with all the vigour of a reformer, for freedom of opinion. Public conscience, he said in one of his sermons, will always repel the man who asks for exclusive liberty, or forgets the rights of others; for exclusive liberty is but a privilege, and a liberty forgetful of others' rights is nothing better than treason. Yes, Catholics, know this well: if you want liberty for yourselves, you must will it for all men under heaven. If you ask it for yourselves simply, it will never be granted; give it where you are masters, in order that it may he given you wherever you are slaves. Strange words these, the world thought, from a Dominican monk! Among his last public sayings uttered in Paris was: I hope to live and die a penitent Catholic, and an impenitent liberal.
Such being Lacordaire's sentiments, it was nowise surprising that, in the Revolution of 1848, he was selected as member of the Constituent Assembly for the department of Bouches du Rhöne. He entered that tumultuous parliament in the garb of St. Dominic, and took his seat near the summit of the Mountain, not far from the side of his long lost friend, Lamennais. His appearance attracted the greatest curiosity, but he was out of his proper sphere. He made several speeches, but they fell flat on his audience, and he had the good sense to perceive his error, and retire after a few weeks' trial. Louis Napoleon's coup d'état was felt by him and his friends as a severe discomfiture, and though his liberty as a preacher was not directly interfered with, he found that it was limited, and that hence forward he must measure and consider every phrase. It was not, therefore, without a sense of relief, that in 1854 he was appointed to the direction of the free college of Soreze, and preached his last sermon in Paris. Once only was he recalled from his provincial solitude. In 1860, he was elected to fill the chair in the French Academy, left vacant by M. de Tocqueville. He was introduced by M. Guizot, and his installation had all the significance of a political demonstration. Montalembert prayed him to remain in Paris for a day or two, but after some little hesitation he answered:
No, I cannot; it would perhaps prevent some of my children, who are preparing for the coming festival, from going to confession. No one can say what the loss of one communion may be in the life of a Christian.
With such zeal did he give himself to his new duties, that Soreze, under his care, took rank as the first school in the south of France.
His observance of monastic rule was rigorous in the extreme, and his health suffered by his austerities. The great men of antiquity were poor, he used to say. Luxury is the rock on which every one splits today. People no longer know how to live on little. A great heart in a little house is of all things here below that which has ever touched me most. Despite the simplicity and poverty of his habits, there was in him a passion for precision, neatness, and good order, which altogether redeemed them from meanness. During the last two years of his life, he was the subject of a cruel disease, against the influence of which he battled resolutely. Finally, he had to give up, saying: This is the first time that my body has withstood my will. He died on the 22nd of November 1861; his last words were:
My God open to me open to me!
To Protestants and Catholics, Lacordaire was a paradox, and in this lay one reason for the interest he excited.
The faithful child of Rome and the democrat were hard to reconcile, yet in him they seemed to be united in all sincerity. In theology, he was no innovator; whatever might be his vehemence, he never lapsed from orthodoxy. He was a sentimentalist, not a philosopher; a patriot, not a statesman. It was his fervour, his fluency, his brilliancy, not depth nor originality of idea, which drew crowds to hear him. He was, what is a very rare thing, a real extempore speaker. He had a wonderful power of improvisation. He prepared his discourses by short but intense labour, and made no notes. Reporters took down what he said, and, with slight revision, he sent their copy to the press. Readers usually feel them tame and abounding in platitudes, but no orator can be judged truly in print. Like an actor, he must be seen to be appreciated. One day, in the pulpit, Lacordaire said: 'By the grace of God, I have a horror for what is commonplace;' whereon, observes his friend and admirer Montalembert, 'He was never more mistaken in his life;' but it demands no ordinary genius to bewitch the world with common place.
Much controversy has prevailed with respect to this celebrated outlaw, and the difficulty, or rather impossibility, of now obtaining any information regarding his history that can be relied on as authentic, will, in all likelihood, render him ever a subject for debate and discussion among antiquaries. The utmost attainment that can reasonably be expected in such a matter, is the being enabled, through a judicious consideration and sifting of collateral evidence, to draw some credible inference, or establish some well grounded probability.
The commonly received belief regarding Robin Hood is, that he was the captain of a band of robbers or outlaws, who inhabited the forest of Sherwood, in Nottinghamshire, and also the woodlands of Barnsdale, in the adjoining West Riding of Yorkshire. They supported themselves by levying toll on wealthy travellers, more especially ecclesiastics, and also by hunting the deer and wild animals of the forest. Great generosity is ascribed to Robin, who is represented as preying only on the wealthy and avaricious, whilst he carefully eschewed all attacks on poor people or women, and was ever ready to succour depressed innocence and worth by his purse as well as his sword and bow. He is recorded to have cherished a special enmity towards the sheriff of Nottinghamshire, whom, on one occasion, under the guise of a butcher, and pretending that he had some horned cattle to dispose of, he entrapped into the forest of Sherwood, and only released on the payment of a swinging ransom. Bishops and rich ecclesiastics were the objects of his especial dislike and exactions, but he was, nevertheless, a religiously disposed man, and never failed regularly to hear mass or perform his orisons. He even retained in his band a domestic chaplain, who has descended to posterity by the appellation of Friar Tuck, and been immortalised in Ivanhoe. The lieutenant of this renowned captain was a tall stalwart fellow called John Little, but whose name, for the sake of the ludicrous contrast it presented, was transposed into Little John. Other noted members of the band were William Scadlock, George a Green, and Much the miller's son. A mistress has also been assigned to Robin Hood, under the epithet of 'Maid Marian,' who followed him to the greenwood, and shared his dangers and toils.
The same popular accounts represent this gay outlaw as living in the period extending from the reign of Henry II, through those of Richard I and John, to that of Henry III We are informed that he was born at Locksley, in the county of Nottingham, about 1160; that from having dissipated his inheritance through carelessness and extravagance, he was induced to adopt the life of an outlaw in the forests; and that after having, with the band which he had collected around him, successfully conducted his predatory operations for a long course of years, and set all law and magistrates at defiance, he at last, in his eighty seventh year, felt the infirmities of age coming upon him, and was induced to enter the convent of Kirklees, in Yorkshire, to procure medical assistance. The prioress, who is described as a relation by some, an aunt of his own, was led, either through personal enmity or the instigation of another, to cause the death of Robin Hood, an object which she accomplished by opening a vein or artery, and allowing him to bleed to death. The date assigned to this event is November 1247.
It is stated that when Robin perceived the treachery which had been practised on him, he summoned all his remaining strength, and blew a loud blast on his bugle horn. The well known call reached the ears of his trusty lieutenant, Little John, who forthwith hastened from the adjoining forest, and arriving at the priory, forced his way into the chamber where his dying chieftain lay. The latter, according to the story in the ballad, makes the following request:
Give me my bent bow in my hand,
And an arrow I'll let free,
And where that arrow is taken up,
There let my grave digged be.
The bow being then put into his hands by Little John, Robin discharged it through the open casement, and the arrow alighted on a spot where, according to popular tradition, he was shortly afterwards buried. A stone, carved with a florid cross and an obliterated inscription, marks the place of sepulture, and the whole has been in recent times surrounded by an enclosure, as shewn in the accompanying engraving.
This probably genuine memorial of Robin Hood, is situated on the extreme edge of Kirklees Park, not far from Huddersfield. The site which it occupies is bold and picturesque, commanding an extensive view of what was formerly forest land, and which still displays clumps of gnarled oaks, scattered up and down, mingled with furze and scrub.
Finally, we are informed by several old ballads, and also by some writers of a later age, that this prince of robbers was no other than the Earl of Huntingdon, who, from misfortunes or his own mismanagement, had been compelled to adopt a predatory life.
The above statements, with many additions and variations by way of embellishment, are all set forth in the numerous ballads which profess to record the exploits of Robin Hood and his merry men. A collection of these, under the title of A Lytell Geste history of Robyn Hood, from a manuscript apparently of the latter end of the fourteenth century, was printed by Winkyn de Worde, one of the earliest English printers, about 1495. It forms the most satisfactory and reliable evidence that we possess of the life and deeds of the sylvan hero, and comprises one or two circumstances which, as we shall shortly see, go far to substantiate the fact of the actual existence of Robin Hood.
The Lytell Geste is divided into eight parts or fyttes, as they are called; the seventh of which, and part of the eighth, narrate an adventure of Robin with 'King Edward,' who, at the end of the sixth fytte, is styled 'Edwarde our comly kynge.' The only monarch of that name whom we can consistently believe to be here referred to, is the lighthearted and unfortunate Edward II, who is described as having immediately before made a progress through Lancashire. His father, Edward I, never was in Lancashire after he became king; and Edward III, if he was ever in that county at all, was certainly never there during the earlier years of his reign, whilst, as regards the subsequent years of his government, we have indisputable evidence that Robin Hood had by that time become a historical personage, or at all events an existence of the past. But with respect to Edward II, contemporary proof is furnished that in the autumn of the year 1323, and not long after the defeat and death of his great enemy and kinsman, the Earl of Lancaster, he made a progress through the counties of Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Nottingham. Here a coincidence occurs between a historical fact and the incidents related in the ballad.
According to these last, King Edward having arrived at Nottingham, resolves forthwith on the extermination of Robin Hood and his band, to whose depredations he imputes the great diminution that had lately taken place in the numbers of the deer in the royal forests. A forester undertakes to guide him to the haunts of the outlaw, and Edward and his train, disguised like monks certainly rather an unkingly masquerade; but Edward II had little kingliness about him set out for the place, and on the way thither are suddenly encountered by Robin and his men, to whom the pseudo abbot represents that he has only with him £40. The half of this he is obliged to give up, but is courteously permitted to retain the remaining moiety. After transacting this little matter of business, Robin invites the abbot and his party to dine with him an invitation doubtless not to be resisted in the circumstances. After dinner, a shooting match commences, and in course of this the real rank of the pretended abbot is discovered, and Robin, falling down on his knees, craves forgiveness for himself and retainers. The king grants it, but on condition that the outlaw chief shall quit his present mode of life, and accompany his sovereign to court, where he is promised a place in the royal household. To this he readily consents, and accompanies the king first to Nottingham, and afterwards to London, where, for nearly a year, he 'dwelled in the kynge's courte.'
Now it is at least a singular coincidence, that in the records of the household expenses of Edward II, preserved in Exchequer, the name of Robyn node occurs several times as a 'vadlet' or porter of the chamber in the period from the 25th of April to the 22nd of November 1324, but no mention of him occurs either previous to the former or subsequent to the latter of these dates. This was the very time during which, according to the ballad, Robin Hood lived at court. The following is the entry on the 22nd of November above referred to, which, on the assumption of the ballad hero and the person there named being the same individual, may be regarded as the latest historical record which we have of that personage. Robyn Hod jadys un des porteurs poar cas qil ne poait pluis travailler, de done par comandement vs. To Robin Hood, by command, owing to his being unable any longer to work, the sum of 5s. It is unnecessary to remind the reader, that such a sum represented in those days a much greater value than at the present time.
In the ballad under notice, we are informed that Robert, after having remained in the king's service for about a twelvemonth, became wearied of the court, and longed for the free and joyous life of Sherwood Forest. The king consents to let him go, but only for a short period a condition which Robin thoroughly disregards after regaining his liberty. Rapturously welcomed by his old associates, and reinstated as their leader, he continues for twenty two years to lead the life of a robber chief, and dies at last through treachery in Kirklees Priory, as already mentioned.
For the coincidences above related, between historical facts and the poetical narrative detailed by the compiler of the Lytell Geste, we are indebted to the researches of the late Rev. Joseph Hunter, who, in an ingenious tract, entitled The Ballad Hero, Robin Hood, has endeavoured, and we think not unsuccessfully, to vindicate the real existence of this renowned outlaw against the arguments of those who would represent him as a mere poetical abstraction or myth. To the latter view of his character, we shall now advert.
There is no tendency which has been more characteristic of the present century, than that of investigating the foundations by which historical records are supported, sifting the evidence adduced, and endeavouring by an analysis of the materials in the crucible of research, to eliminate whatever has been intermingled of fable or romance. Ruthless and unsparing has been the process, sweeping and stupendous, in many instances, the demolition thereby occasioned, but the results have in the main been beneficial, and the cause of truth, as well as the progress of human knowledge, been signally benefited. In some instances, however, it cannot be denied that this sceptical and overturning tendency has been carried to an extreme.
With a rashness, equivalent to the unhesitating faith which made our fathers accept as undoubted fact whatever they found recorded in ancient annals, our critical archeaologists of the present day seem not unfrequently to ignore, superciliously, all popular traditions or belief, and transfer, indiscriminately, to the region of myth or fable, the individuals whose actions form the subject of these popular histories. Such a fate has, with other heroes of folklore, been shared by the chieftain of Sherwood Forest. It has been maintained by many distinguished antiquaries, including Mr. T. Wright, in our own country, and Grimm in Germany, that Robin Hood is a mere fanciful abstraction, a poetical myth, or one amongst the personages of the early mythology of the Teutonic people. It has been gravely conjectured that his name, Robin Hood, is a corruption for Robin of the Wood, and that he is to be only regarded as a mythical embodiment of the spirit of unrestrained freedom and sylvan sport. The principal grounds on which this argument is maintained, are the absence of any direct historical evidence regarding him; the numbers of places in widely separated parts of the country, which are associated with him and bear his name; and a supposed resemblance between many of the circumstances related of him, and those recorded of various legendary personages throughout Europe.
Where parties have been led to form such views as those above indicated, it requires irrefragable evidence to convert them to an opposite way of thinking. And, doubtless, as far as regards Robin Hood, it is almost hopeless to expect that any more light than what we have hitherto obtained, will be procured to elucidate his history. But the whole weight of inferential evidence seems to he on the side of those who would retain the notion of his having been a real personage. There is nothing, as Mr. Hunter remarks, supernatural in the attributes or incidents recorded of him. These are nothing more than what can be supposed to have belonged, or happened to an English yeoman, skilled in all manly sports, more especially in the use of the bow, and naturally endowed with a generous and genial disposition. Much embellishment and romantic fiction has, doubtless, been superadded to his history; but that the leading features of it, as popularly detailed, rest at all events on a basis of fact, is, in our opinion, satisfactorily established.
It will be observed that Mr. Hunter, in fixing the reign of Edward II as the period in which Robin Hood flourished, departs from the commonly received notion, which represents him as living in the time of Richard I and John. In this view he is supported by all the evidence that can be gathered from actual documents, and also by the statements in the poem of the Lytell Geste; whilst the other notion has no ground to rest on beyond the vague and uncertain authority of tradition, or of chroniclers who wrote long after the events which they profess to record. And it may here also be mentioned, that in the period immediately following Robin Hood's supposed withdrawal from court, Mr. Hunter discovered, in the court rolls of the Manor of Wakefield, the name of a certain Robertus Hood, resident in that town, and a suitor in the manorial court. The adjoining district of Barnsdale, in the West Riding, was no less a haunt of Robin Hood and his followers, than Sherwood Forest, in Nottinghamshire. And another singular circumstance is, that the wife of this Robertus Hood is mentioned under the name of Matilda, the title given by some old ballads to Robin Hood's wife, who, however, exchanges it for Marian when she follows him to the forest.
The statement that Robin Hood was the Earl of Huntingdon, seems to rest mainly on an epitaph manufactured in after times, and on one or two obscure expressions found in ancient writers. Upon a flimsy foundation of this kind, Dr. Stukeley has built a regular genealogy of Robin Hood, representing his real name as Robert Fitzooth, Earl of Huntingdon. No reliance whatever can be placed on this view of the question, and it is certainly wholly opposed to the few items of historical evidence which have already been adduced.
The earliest demonstrable allusion to Robin Hood in English literature, occurs in Longland's Vision of Pierce Ploughman, a poem belonging to the middle of the fourteenth centiry. A character, allegorising Sloth, is represented as saying:
I kan not perfitly my paternoster as the prest it sayeth,
But I kan rymes of Robyn Hode and Randolf, Earl of Chester.
By thus coupling his name with that of the Earl of Chester, a real personage, this passage affords a presumption that Robin Hood was likewise no creation of the imagination. That the fact of his being mentioned at this date, discredits the argument of his having lived only a few years previously, cannot warrantably be maintained, seeing it was a perfectly common practice in the days of minstrelsy to celebrate the deeds of personages, actually living at the time, as well as of those who belonged to a former age.
Assuming Robin Hood and his band to have had a real existence, it becomes a matter of interesting speculation, to conjecture whether any peculiar circumstance in the history of the time can have given rise to this singular society in the forests of Nottinghamshire and the West Riding. M. Thierry, in his History of the Norman Conquest, has represented Robin Hood as the chief of a small body of Saxons, who, in these remote fastnesses, defied successfully the authority of the Norman sovereigns.
Another writer has imagined them to be a remnant of the followers of the celebrated Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, who was slain at the battle of Evesham. But Mr. Hunter's conjecture is at least as plausible as any that they were persons who had taken part in the rebellion against Edward II, of his cousin, Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, which had been suppressed by the battle of Boroughbridge, in March 1322. A summary vengeance was taken on the earl, who, with a number of his most distinguished followers, was beheaded at his own castle of Pontefract. Many other chiefs were executed in different places. It is reasonable, however, to conjecture that numerous individuals who had taken part in the insurrection, would contrive to evade pursuit by retreating to remote fastnesses. In this way, a band like Robin Hood's might be formed. under the leadership of a bold and energetic captain. The immense popularity which the Earl of Lancaster enjoyed in the West Riding, will tend still further to explain the favour and goodwill with which Robin Hood and his followers seem to have been generally regarded by the peasantry. And a coincidence is thus established between the date of the battle and the progress of Edward II, already mentioned, in the autumn of the following year, through the northern counties of England.
The circumstance of so many places throughout the country bearing the name of Robin Hood such as Robin Hood's Hill, Robin Hood's Chair, Robin Hood's Bay, &c. is derived, with great probability, from the practice which prevailed both in England and Scotland, of celebrating on May day certain sports under the designation of Robin Hood Games. These consisted of a personation of the various characters, which, according to the popular ballads, made up the court or retinue of the king of Sherwood Forest. The reader will find a notice of them at p. 580 of the first volume of this work. From certain places being selected for the observance of these festivities, and also, it may be, from some renowned performer in the games having been connected with a particular locality, the name of Robin Hood has frequently, in all likelihood, been associated with places which he never once visited. Doubtless, however, one or two of these spots are of a more genuine character; such as the grave at Kirklees Priory, and, as Mr. Hunter is inclined to believe, the well, known as 'Robin Hood's Well,' a little to the north of Doncaster, on the Great North Road, leading from that town to Ferrybridge.