Torture pit where Robin Hood was imprisoned found under Nottingham Galleries of Justice

By Ben Miller | 26 January 2009
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A picture looking down at a circular stone pit

Outlaws were left to starve or go mad in the pit. Pic courtesy Galleries of Justice

A bottle-necked pit where hated outlaws including Robin Hood were imprisoned and starved or driven to insanity in the Middle Ages has been discovered by archaeologists in the underground caves of the Galleries of Justice Museum in Nottingham.

Known as an oubliette (“to forget” in French), the hole was used as a holding cell for dissenters against the Sheriff of Nottingham, and the city’s favourite wealth-regulating son is believed to have been cast into it after being arrested by the Sheriff and his men at the nearby St Mary’s Church.

“The opening was bricked over centuries ago, probably in the Georgian period,” explained the Museum’s Cathy Rowson, who managed to photograph the pit by standing in the structure and pointing the lens skywards.

“Currently access to the oubliette is by a side tunnel that was knocked through, probably during the original excavations in 1998.”

The team at the Museum are pursuing further funding for a full delve to the bottom of the opening, where they expect to find human remains, a fate Robin Hood was spared thanks to being rescued by his merry men.

Tim Desmond, Chief Executive of the Museum, said the news was “really exciting.” “Robin Hood is built on legend but we want to get to the history,” he confessed, arguing that the site was used by the Sheriff himself.

“The King’s Hall was used by the original Sheriffs of Nottingham,” added Desmond. “We can’t argue with the historical facts.”

Visitors are now being allowed to view the pit and access the caves as part of the museum tour.

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