in the heart of an ancient woodland in West Yorkshire, hidden beneath
a formidable barrier of fierce thorns and dense undergrowth, there
is a hidden grave. Here rest the mortal remains of Robin Hood, the
Prince of Robbers. England's outlaw hero, bloodily slain by the
prioress of Kirklees Nunnery 600 years ago, and cast into an unhallowed
Robin lies forgotten and unmourned in his lonely and desolate sepulchre
for few people know of the grave's existence or its whereabouts...
Hood is more usually associated with Nottingham
circumstances of Robin Hood's death are fairly well known. Realising
he is dying, Robin decides to be bled by his kinswoman, the prioress
of Kirklees, a woman "skilled in physic." Will Scarlet
is against this, but Robin sets out on the journey accompanied by
his faithful comrade in arms, Little John. On the way to the priory,
they meet an old hag by a stream who curses Robin...
arrival at the nunnery, the prioress takes Robin into the gatehouse
and sends Little John away. She then proceeds to bleed Robin accompanied
by her lover, the convent priest Red Roger of Doncaster.
Major Oak at the heart of Sherwood Forest
he realises that he is dying Robin summons Little John to his assistance
by blowing three blasts on his hunting horn. When Little John arrives
it is too late to save Robin, but he helps his beloved leader fire
his last arrow from the gatehouse window, promising Robin that he
will bury him where it falls. Little John vows to raze the nunnery
to the ground and put all the nuns to the sword in revenge for the
princess's vile deed, but Robin forbids him, reminding his distraught
friend that it was their code never to hurt women.
grave, 60 yards from the (Kirklees) gatehouse - thought to be an
improbable arrow shot for a dying man - is, today, neglected and
overgrown and enclosed in rusted, twisted iron railings, erected
in Victorian times. The inscription in pseudo-gothic reads:
underneath dis laitl stean
Laz Robert Earl of Huntingtun
Ne'er arcir ver as hie sa geud
An pipl kauld im Robin Heud
Sick utlawz as him as iz men
Vil England nivr si agen
Priory was founded in the 12th century by Reinor de Fleming, manor
lord of Clifton, near Brighouse. The Rule was Cistercian and at
first very strict but, as time passed, the White Ladies (so called
because of their woollen habits) became less dedicated to the religious
ideal. Many of them were the unwanted daughters of the gentry with
no real vocation to the cloistered life. The sisters were often
admonished by visiting bishops for indulging in worldly ways, keeping
dogs..., going out dancing and for inviting men onto holy premises!
The Legend of Robin Hood, BBC Tv, 1975
In 1315 there were scandalous reports in circulation about the nuns
of Kirklees. It was reported that one "Alice de Raggid, deceived
by the allurements of frail fresh, in great levity of mind, hath
gone forth from her house and had wandered, in great peril, having
long ago put off her religious habit."
two more nuns, Elizabeth de Hopton and Joan de Heton, along with
the rebellious Alice were accused of admitting both clergy and laymen
to the "secret places of the monastery... from which there
is suspicion of sin and great scandal arises." No wonder Robin
came to a sticky end among such flighty creatures!
nunnery was finally dissolved, along with other Yorkshire monasteries
by Henry VIII in 1539, after which Kirklees Hall was built on the
nearby hillside using the stones of the fallen priory. Only the
gatehouse, where Robin died, was left standing. Today, like the
grave, it is in danger of being lost to our heritage as it slowly
crumbles away, unchecked and unhindered by any official attempts
to prevent the deterioration.
Riddle of the Prioress
why did the prioress kill Robin? Venesection, or "bleeding"
was common medical practice in the Middle Ages. Many people must
have died as a result, but it was an ignominous end for the swashbuckling
Robin, whether by accident or design. The ballads state that the
prioress and her lover, 'Red Roger of Doncaster,' murdered Robin
in revenge for his opposition to the corruption in the Church.
Patrick Troughton as Robin Hood in 1953
it was murder, for whatever reason, it was a particular treacherous
and gruesome act. It has even been suggested that, in the symbolic
spilling of his blood, Robin's death could have been linked with
pagan sacrifice, vampirism or Christ's death on the cross.
There is a fascinating mystery here, still waiting to be solved
but until all the evidence is uncovered this part of Robin's legend
will remain shrouded in darkness - Yorkshire's buried treasure in
more ways than one.
can find out more about Robin Hood and Kirklees Priory at
Barbara's website at
Priory is situated on private land. Contact Hebden Bridge
Tourist information Centre for more information on permitted