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24 September 2014

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Retrospective: Robin of Sherwood
The Robin of Sherwood DVD
Series one of Robin of Sherwood has just been released on DVD.

To coincide with the recent DVD release of series one of Robin of Sherwood, we look back on one of the TV hits of the 80s.

Did you know it was filmed in Wiltshire?


Spirit of Sherwood

Robin of Sherwood set report

Bradford-on-Avon Tithe Barn

Farleigh Hungerford Castle

Great Chalfield Manor

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Robin of Sherwood ran on ITV from 1984-86.

In 1985, after two seasons in the title role, Michael Praed left for Broadway and then a starring role in glitzy US soap Dynasty.

Jason Connery took over the title role from Michael Praed. His father, Sean Connery had also played the outlaw of Sherwood in the 1975 film - Robin & Marian.

Ray Winstone who played Will Scarlet is now a film star having appeared in the critical and box office hits - Sexy Beast, Nil by Mouth and The War Zone.

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The legend of Robin Hood has enjoyed many TV and movie adaptations. From Errol Flynn's celluloid turn as the outlaw of Sherwood forest in 1938 through to the recent US TV series - The New Adventures of Robin Hood.

However, for most of us Eighties kids, there can be only one version guaranteed to swash our buckle - Robin of Sherwood.

The show which ran for three years from 1984-86 won acclaim for its gritty portrayal of life in the middle ages, the attention to detail paid to incorporating all aspects of the Robin Hood mythos into the storylines as well as the inspired casting that launched the careers of Ray Winstone (Will Scarlet) and Michael Praed (Robin of Loxley).

Robin of Sherwood was about much more than the typical story of a band of outlaws living in Sherwood Forest, fighting against Norman oppression and robbing from the rich to give to the poor. The aspect that made the show unique was the mystical, magic and sorcery element that played a major part in the series.

Robin of Loxley was selected as 'The Chosen One' by 'The Lord of the Trees' - Herne the Hunter. This great god of the forest possessed the powers of light and darkness and acted as sage and mentor to the outlaw. The imaginative inclusion of the character brought a never-before envisioned fantastical element to the legend.

The ethereal quality the show possessed was also greatly enhanced by the award-winning incidental music performed by Celtic-rock group Clannad.

Actor Clive Mantle who played gentle giant and merry man, Little John of Hathersage explains what made the series so special.

"It was the perfect blend of fantastic stories that were wonderfully realised and breathtaking locations," he said.

Clive Mantle
Clive Mantle as he appeared in Holby City

Although the series ended 16 years ago and he has since enjoyed greater acclaim through his ten year stint as Dr Mike Barrett in Casualty and Holby City, Clive maintains that it is the role of Little John he remembers most fondly.

"It is the job I've enjoyed doing more than anything else on TV", he said.

"I have the greatest memories of beautiful, halcyon days-out filming on location and we had such a great, fun crew working on the show."

In fact, such firm friendships were made during filming that the cast and crew still regularly meet up once in while.

Clive Mantle and fans in Castle combe
Clive Mantle on set in Castle Combe with some young fans

"We still get together once a year. Not just the cast but also the directors, producer, props guys, it's like a family! I think the key to part of the series' success was that this great camaraderie came across on screen."

This was certainly mirrored onscreen when after two series in the lead role, actor Michael Praed hung up his bow and arrow and was replaced by Jason Connery.

"On the one hand, we were incredibly grateful the series was to continue but we did make it tough on Jason, coming into this impeccable fighting unit as the new leader. But just like with his Robin and our merry men in the show, he won us over."

A variety of locations around the country were used for the series including many in rural Wiltshire.

The Saxon Tithe Barn in Bradford-on Avon became Nottingham Castle's great hall.

A waterfall in the grounds of Bowood House also became the setting for the quarterstaff battle between Robin and Little John in the first episode 'Robin Hood and the Sorceror'.

An area near Castle Combe in Wiltshire became the Village of Wickham
An area near Castle Combe in Wiltshire became the Village of Wickham

Great Chalfield Manor in Melksham doubled as Maid Marian's family home Leaford Grange and Nettleton Mill near Castle Combe became the scene of many a battle - the village of Wickham.

Other Wiltshire locations used sporadically in the series included Farleigh Hungerford Castle on the Somerset/Wiltshire border, Azimghur Barracks in Colerne and Lacock Abbey.

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