Although several sites claim to be the final resting place of the English folklore outlaw Robin Hood, the most well known is the monument near to the former Kirklees Priory, which is now part of the Kirklees Hall estate.
According to legend and A Gest of Robyn Hode, the ill Robin Hood travelled to Kirklees Priory with Little John in order to be treated by the Prioress. Unbeknown to them, she was the mistress of Sir Roger of Doncaster, one of Robin's enemies and, under the pretence of bloodletting, the Prioress cut one of Robin's veins and left him to slowly bleed to death.
Aware that he would soon die, Robin asked Little John to bury him nearby with his sword at his head, his arrows at his feet and his bow by his side. In the 18th Century, many embellishments were made to the original ballad, including Robin summoning Little John with three blasts of his hunting horn and the outlaw asking to be buried wherever his final arrow landed.
The monument is believed by many to be a folly constructed in the 1700s, although there are recorded references to a much earlier grave being located in the vicinity. Richard Grafton (c.1511-1572) wrote in Abridgement of the Chronicles of England (1563):
But in an olde and auncient Pamphlet I finde this written of the sayd Robert Hood. This man (sayth he) discended of a noble parentage : or rather beyng of a base stocke and linage, was for his manhoode and chiualry advaunced to the noble dignitie of an Erle, excellyng principally in Archery, or shootyng, his manly courage agreeyng therevnto : But afterwardes he so prodigally exceeded in charges and expences, that he fell into great debt, by reason whereof, so many actions and sutes were commenced against him, wherevnto 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 kinges subiects, and occupied and frequented 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 geue him a great summe of money, as by the recordes in the Exchequer is to be seene : But of this promise, no man enioyed 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 & 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 graue the sayde Prioresse did lay a very fayre stone, wherin the names of Robert Hood, William of Goldesborough and others were grauen. And the cause why she buryed him there was for that the common passengers and trauailers knowyng and seeyng him there buryed, might more safely and without feare take their iorneys 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.
Due to local folklore that a chipping of Robin Hood's gravestone could cure toothache, it is thought that the current monument replaced the earlier much-vandalised stone and that it was sited in a different location.
The inscription on the current monument reads:
Hear 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 hi an iz men
Vil england nivr si agen
Obiit 24 kal Dekembris 1247
The monument is on private property and has not been maintained, which has added greatly to its mystique. According to some, the site is haunted by the ghost of the Prioress or even by a vampire.
In recent years, Calderdale Heritage Walks have organised occasional tours of the estate for the public.