ROBIN HOOD’S GRAVE
Picture: Rear view of the Gate House at Kirklees where Robin Hood is said to have been bled to death by the Prioress. (Courtesy of Steven Hill)
This small Cistercian priory of Kirklees was founded in 1155AD during the reign of Henry II by Reiner le Fleming, lord of the manor of Wath-upon-Dearne. Apart from some scandal regarding the three nuns, Alice Raggid, Elizabeth Hopton, and Joan Heton between the years 1306 to 1315 life will have been fairly uneventful until the Black Death, when among those who died of the plague were Robert Hood of Wakefield, his next-door neighbour and attorney Thomas Alayn, also William of Goldesborough and others. They were buried in the cemetery of the priory where the Prioress layed "a very fayre stone" with all their names engraved.
Joan Kyppes surrendered the priory into the hands of the King in 1539. At that date it had eight inmates and the whole property amounted to £29 18s. 9d.
In 1542 John Leyland who was antiquary [historian] to Henry VIII and who travelled widely in England and Wales keeping records of all kinds of antiquities went to Kirklees where he recorded the grave as 'monasterum monialum ubi Ro:Hood nobilis ille exlex sepultus.' Which roughly translated means, "Resting under this monument lies buried Robin Hood that nobleman who was beyond the law."
the 31 May 1544 the priory was sold by the crown to John Tasburgh and
Nicholas Savile for the sum of £987 15s 7d.
Then in 1562 Richard Grafton visited Kirklees and wrote:- "But in an olde and auncient Pamphlet I finde this written of the sayd Robert Hood. This man (sayth he) discended of a nobel parentage: or rather beyng of a base stocke and linage, was for his manhoode and chivalry advaunced to the noble dignité of an Erle. Excellyng principally in Archery, or shootyng, his manly courage agreeyng therunto: But afterwardes he so prodigally exceeded in charges and expences, that he fell into great debt, by reason wherof, so many actions and sutes were commenced against him, wherunto he aunswered not, that by order of lawe he was outlawed, and then for a lewde shift, as his last refuge, gathered together a companye of Roysters and Cutters, and practised robberyes and spoylyng of the kynges subjects, and occupied and frequentede the Forestes or wilde Countries. The which beyng certefyed to the King, and he beyng greatly offended therewith, caused his proclamation to be made that whosoever would bryng him quicke or dead, the king would geve him a great summe of money, as by the recordes in the Exchequer is to be seene: But of this promise, no man enjoyed any benefite. For the sayd Robert Hood, beyng afterwardes troubled with sicknesse, came to a certein Nonry in Yorkshire called Bircklies, where desirying to be let blood, he was betrayed and bled to deth. After whose death the Prioresse of the same place caused him to be buried by the high way side, where he had used to rob and spoyle those that passed that way. And upon his grave the sayde Prioresse did lay a very fayre stone, wherin the names of Robert Hood, William of Goldesborough and others were graven. And the cause why she buryed him there was for that the common passengers and travailers knowyng and seeyng him there buryed, might more safely and without feare take their jorneys that way, which they durst not do in the life of the sayd outlawes. And at eyther end of the sayde Tombe was erected a crosse of stone, which is to be seene there at this present (1569, pp. 84-85)."
26 October 1565 Robert Pilkington and his wife, Alice Savile, conveyed
the manor of Kirklees to John Armytage the family maintaining
possession until the twentieth century. As the custodians of the Priory
site and the reputed grave of Robin Hood, the Armytage family of
Kirklees Hall may have played important role in the furtherance of the
Robin Hood legend.
John Armytage became the Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1641AD and he married Margery Beaumont while an earlier member of the Beaumont family, Isabel, daughter of Robert II de Beaumont and Amice of Gael & Montfort married Simon de Senlis of Huntingdon (1121-1153) who was descended from Waltheof the Earl of Huntingdon and was the Lord of the Manor of Hallam (Sheffield). Shortly after, Ermengarde-de-Beaumont born c.1165 married William the Lion of Scotland. He was the son of Henry 2nd earl of Huntingdon and brother of David 3rd earl of Huntingdon. David married Matilda-de-Kevilioc who was the sister of Ranulf Earl of Chester.
In 1607 Camdens Brittania records the stone as being in the cemetery of the former priory and then in the mid-eighteenth century the Reverend Joseph Ismay tells us the grave has been moved to its present site on the hillside where today it is surrounded by rhodendendrums. Ismay writes:- "Ye sepulchral Monument of Robin Hood near Kirklees which has been lately impaled (enclosed) in ye form of a Standing Hearse in order to preserve the stone (the slab) from the rude hands of the curious traveller who frequently carried off a small fragment of ye stone, and thereby diminished it's pristine Beauty"
[The original slab is almost completely gone, all that remains is what you can see in the centre with another stone place on top] In 1665 the stone is recorded and sketched by Dr Nathanniel Johnston and is recorded again by Thoresby c.1715AD.
Then in 1850 Sir George Armytage II placed a headstone with a date 1247 and an epitaph that reads: "Hear undernead dis laitl stean laiz robert earl of Huntingtun near arcir ber az hei sa geud an pipl kauld im robin heud sick utlawz az hi an iz men vil england nibr si agen obiit 24 kal dekembris 1247" which when translated into modern English reads:
"Robert Earl of Huntingdon lies under this little stone. No archer was like him so good; his wildness named him ROBIN HOOD. For thirteen years, and something more, these northern parts he vexed sore. Such outlaws as he and his men, may England never know again. 8th November 1247" and according to the Geste Robin Hood's last wish was:
"Lay me a green sod under my head another at my feet, my best bow beside me place, for truly t'was my music sweet, and make my grave of gravel and green which is most right and meet, give me length and breadth to lie so they will say when I am dead, HERE LIES BOLD ROBIN HOOD MY FRIEND HERE LIES BOLD ROBIN HOOD." These words they readily granted him, which did bold Robin please, and there they buried bold Robin Hood, near to the fair Kirkleys.
(When Leyland described Robin Hood as a 'nobleman' did he mean a 'Noble Man' as in an 'Honourable Man'? This particular Robert Hood appears to have been a yeoman as he had his own property and was tilling the soil. He was in court on Friday 13 December 1308, Feast of St. Lucy, on a charge of drawing blood from the wife of Henry Archer and he also drew blood from Juliana Horsse and was also charged with building his haystack in the common way - the road. He was fined 12 pence for each offence.)