Cider Musings

William of Cloudeslie



Not as well know as Robin Hood nor William Tell, William of Cloudeslie and his companions  Adam Bell and Clim of the Clough were 3 outlaws in Cumbria. They  turned to poaching in the Royal Forest of Inglewood 

after committing crimes. After the Norman Conquest the area was made a Royal Forest.   In that time there was more woodland but still open farming too. The forest is just south of Carlisle. Of course living off the 'Royal' land was also a crime. The earliest written story was made in 1505 by Wynkyn de Worde an acquaintance of William Caxton. Both being Germain immigrants. Wynkyn's stories may well be based on earlier Danish stories which are thought to be the source material for William Tell.  And this story was also used by Walter Scott when writing Ivanhoe. 

William and his band   appear to have much in common with Robin Hood. For example they were outlaws and expert archers roaming a forest and setting right what was wrong portrayed as honest yeoman who had suffered injustice at the hands of the authorities.  In Adam, William and Clym there are three local heroes swearing allegiance and brotherhood to each other. As with William Tell archery prowess  and apples play a central theme. 

In the story the 3 honourably hand themselves over to the King in London after killing the Sheriff of Carlisle in a fight to save William from hanging. The King was not too pleased and ordered that all 3 were to be hanged again. The queen intervended and a set of tests performed the culmination being William proving himself by saying that he will place an apple upon his seven year old son’s head and split it in two with an arrow fired at 120 paces distant.  The king accepts William's offer but  warns him that if he misses or fails, or if the arrow so much as touches his son’s head, or clothes then he, along with Adam and Clym would be hung.

So William fixes a stake in the ground and ties his son to it.  He tells the boy to turn his head so he cannot see in front of him and places an apple upon his head. William measures the one hundred and twenty paces and begs the onlookers for complete silence.  Taking careful aim he lets fly an arrow which splits the apple in two leaving his son or his clothing untouched and unharmed.  

The king now is most impressed by William’s prowess as an archer gives him eighteen pence a day as one of his bowmen and makes him his rider in chief over the North Country 

I have a sonne seven years old

Hee is to me full deere;

I will tye him to a stake—

All shall see him that bee here—

And lay an apple upon his head,

And goe six [score] paces him froe,

And I myself with a broad arrowe

Shall cleave the apple in towe