Robin Hood’s Grave 5

Conclusions and Additional Considerations

Richard Grafton was the first to mention the stone on Robin’s grave, with a ‘raised cross botonny on a Calvary of three steps sculptured thereon’. His Chronicle of 1569 informs us that the names of  Robert Hood, William of Goldsborough and others  were  engraved upon it, and this is what Dr. Nathaniel Johnston drew at Kirklees in c.1665. In his Ducatus Leodiensis of 1715, Ralph Thoresby records that the inscription was barely legible, it must have completely disappeared by 1758 as John Watson notes that the cross was still visible but there was no inscription. The cross slab grave cover was in use before the Norman Conquest, although the cross in Johnston’s drawing has a stepped base and clustered terminals, which is possibly thirteenth or fourteenth century.

Grafton does not mention an epitaph, but in Johnston’s drawing there is another smaller stone with an inscription (illegible), this must be the epitaph that was recorded by Martin Parker in 1632, which states that Robin Hood was  Robert earl of Huntington who died in 1198. Anthony Munday portrayed Robin Hood as earl of Huntington in his plays of 1598, which suggests an epitaph was placed near the grave sometime between 1598 and 1632.

Ralph Thoresby found a similar record of an epitaph among the papers of  Thomas Gale dean of York (1697-1702), however this recorded that Robin Hood died in 1247. It would seem that a second epitaph borrowed from Gale’s record, was placed at the gravesite and it still stands today. According to David Hepworth, an epitaph was erected on the orders of Sir George Armytage II in 1773.

Kirklees has been known as the place of Robin Hood’s burial since at least the early sixteenth century; but just how long the grave has actually existed remains a mystery. The eighteenth century garland version of Robin Hood’s Death, tells us that the dying outlaw chose his own burial place by shooting his last arrow from a window in the nunnery (‘And where this arrow is taken up, there shall my grave digged be’); however the distance between the nunnery and the grave is too great for the flight of an arrow.

The once legible inscription on the grave slab had the words, ‘Here lie Robard Hude Willm Gold burgh Thoms’ (the rest obliterated). Grafton believed that the name next to Robard Hude(1) was William of Goldsborough, one of Robin’s men; the other name must be Thomas, but neither are associated with the legend. Dr.Whitaker  mentions the grave slab in his Loidis and Elmete (1816) and concludes that ‘a cross without a sword can originally have covered none other than an ecclesiastic’. Andrew Sinclair who wrote The Sword and the Grail, believed that the cross was a Templar Cross, ‘implying that he (Robin Hood) was a knight of that Military Order’; this does not explain the other names. The grave may have been reused over the years, although these men could have been buried at the same time; perhaps they were victims of the plague.

Robin’s grave is situated on a hillside 650 yards South West of where the nunnery once stood and this is shown in Dr. Nathaniel Johnston’s drawing of c.1670.(2) The grave slab must have been moved aside at least temporarily when Samuel Armytage had the grave excavated in 1607; no remains were found but this proves little, as the ground was reportedly dug only to a depth of three feet.(3)

1. ‘Robard Hude’ is almost certainly a medieval rendering of Robin Hood.

2. Dr. Johnston was physician to the wife of  Sir John Armitage IV of Kirklees. In addition to Robin Hood’s grave he is credited with drawing ‘The Prospect of Kirklees Abbey’, which is  shown in this section.

3. Samuel Armytage may have also caused the grave to be enclosed.