Spirit Of The Greenwood by Barbara Green
Robin Hoods Grave –a modern mystery! Even more terrifying than the Blair Witch Project and a thousand times more intriguing than any Brother Caedfel mystery, SECRETS OF THE GRAVE and it’s sequel SPIRIT OF THE GREENWOOD reveal, for the first time, the true story of the life and death of Robin Hood. Enter the dark, mysterious woods of Kirklees in West Yorkshire, and visit, with writer historian Barbara Green, the forest of Barnsdale where Robin roamed and the ruined priory gatehouse of Kirklees Nunnery where he was treacherously slain by the hand of an evil nun. Written testimonies from those who have experienced the ghostly presence of Robin and his comrades, whose spirits haunt this ancient forest, form the basis of both books, while the life of Robin, as told in SPIRIT OF THE GREENWOOD, accords fully with the Lytell Geste,(Robin’s first biography) printed in the fifteenth century. This, one might think, could be the basis for a best selling book, but such seems to not to be the case, for ,according to the “experts” the public do not want to knw the truth and prefer to be fed the myth of Sherwood Forest and the dastardy deeds of the Sheriff of Nottingham, not to mention Richard the Lionheart, who does not even belong in the story at all!
The mystery of Robin’s gruesome death at Kirklees, it would seem, is not the only inexplicable phenomenon surrounding the legend ! Why ARE people prevented from learning the true facts about the oulaw’s life, due to the propogation of a fantasy by the media, and why is his famous grave at Kirklees, kept in a state of secrecy and neglect – and who is responsible for this bizarre situation? Dare you ask ? Dare you investigate and…………. dare YOU print the truth ? Or is Robin Hood’s legend to remain distorted out of all recognition, and the real man lost to future generations forever ?
“No one could see anything in the dense, suffocating blackness, but following Mark’s directions we stumbled on forward through the barrier of writhing, intertwining bushes and trees; then suddenly, we found ourselves in a clearing, where, looming out of the gloom, rearing up before us in the light of our flickering torches, a massive,broken edifice was revealed . A huge ship of stone, wrecked in the everglades of Kirklees, listing crazily into the leaping shadows. We stood transfixed with fear and awe as we gazed upon the fallen pillars and twisted railings which were all that remained of Yorkshire’s buried treasure -Robin Hood’s Grave.”
“My name is Ozymandias,king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck,boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
[img_assist|nid=2073|title=|desc=|link=popup|align=right|width=147|height=200]Robin Hood’s death is recorded in the ballad ROBIN HOOD, HIS DEATH AND BURIAL and briefly in the GESTE. According to the literature Robin is taken ill and decides to go to Kirklees Priory to be nursed by the prioress, who was “nye of his kin” and reputedly skilled in healing. On the way to the nunnery Robin is cursed by a witch – for reasons unknown, as the ballad is unfortunately incomplete. When Robin arrives at the nunnery, Little John, who has accompanied him, is sent away and the prioress proceeds to bleed Robin by opening a vein in his arm – standard medieval medicine, though unlikely to do anyone much good !
“Shee laid the blood irons to Robin Hood’s vaine
Alacke the more pitye!
And perct the vaine, and let out the bloode,
That full red was to see. At first it bled,the thicke,thicke blood,
And afterwards the thinne,
And well then wist good Robin Hoode,
Treason there was within.”
DEATH, V 16-17
2) According to the legend, Robin summons Little John with three blasts of his trusty hunting horn and the giant rushes to his comrade’ s assistance, but alas,he is too late and Robin is already dying. With his last ounce of strength Robin fires his last arrow from the priory gatehouse window, requesting that where it falls he should be buried. Little John is beside himself with rage and grief and threatens to raze the nunnery and all its inhabitants to the ground.
“A boon,a boon,” cried Little John,
“Master ,I beg of thee.”
“What is that boon,”quoth Robin ,
“Little John,thou begs of me?”
“It is to burn fair Kirkley Hall,
“And all their nunnery.”
“I ne’er hurt fair maid in all my life
“Nor at my end shall it be;
“But give me my bent bow in my hand,
“And my broad arrows I’ll let flee.
“And where this arrow is taken up,
“There shall my grave digged be,
“Lay me a green sod under my head,
“And another at my feet.
“And lay my bent bow by my side
“Which was my music sweet,
“And make my grave of gravel and green,
“Which is most right and meet.
“Let me have length and breadth enough
“With a green sod under my head:
“That they may say when I am dead
“HERE LIES BOLD ROBIN HOOD.”
The grave, six hundred yards from the gatehouse, was enclosed in iron railings in the nineteenth century. Today it is neglected and overgrown and little known to the general public. It bears the inscription:
Here underneath dis laitl stean
Laz robert earl of Huntintun
Ne’er arcir ver as hie sa geud
An pipl kauld im robin heud
Sick utlawz as his as iz men
Vil england nivr si agen
THE DEATH OF ROBIN HOOD
At first it bled the thicke thicke blood
And afterwards the thinne
And well then wist good Robin Hood
Treason there was within
3) The death of Robin Hood is a well known legend. He was treacherously bled to death by the wicked prioress of Kirklees nunnery, a small Cistercian house near Brighouse, West Yorkshire. The outlaw’s gory and unheroic end is shrouded in mystery. Who was the evil nun and why did she commit so foul a murder? What was the role of Red Roger of Doncaster, who was present at the scene of crime? Was he a priest and also the prioress’s lover? Who WAS the prioress? Was she Dame Elizabeth de Stainton, whose grave can still be seen at Kirklees, or was it Sister Mary Startin, who died of the Black Death in 1350?
All that is left of this medieval whodunit is a ruined grave, hidden in deep woodland, and the derelict priory gatehouse of Kirklees where Robin was so gruesomely done to death. Was the famous outlaw a vitim of thwarted passion,pagan sacrifice, bad nursing, accident, natural causes or – vampirism ? The entire area where this horrific drama took place is shrouded in ,according to one old book, ” …..a mystery which local people only reluctantly tried to penetrate.The mystery was helped physically by the thick shroud of trees that surrounded the place and was sustained by local tales of prioresses and nuns and of the death of Robin Hood…….”
THE HAUNTING OF ROBIN HOOD’S GRAVE
“Terribilis Est Locus Iste” Dreadful is this place – Abbe Berenger Sauniere, Renne-le-Chateau.
“The Armytage family lived over the brow of the hill on a splendid site once occupied by Cistercian nuns. It was called Kirklees. There was more than an insularity which set the mansion apart. There was a mystery about it which local people only reluctantly tried to penetrate. The mystery was helped physically by the thick shroud of trees that surrounded the place and was sustained by local tales of ghosts of prioresses and nuns and or the death of Robin Hood whose grave is so imperturbably marked as lying within Kirklees grounds in spite of any facts which might suggest to the contrary. ” THE LAND OF LOST CONTENT.
[img_assist|nid=2071|title=|desc=|link=popup|align=right|width=200|height=150]This would appear to be the first reported mention of ghostly activity around Robin Hood’s Grave, but considering the history of Robin’s death – cursed by a witch on his way to the nunnery, murdered by an apostate nun and cast into an unhallowed grave – it is hardly surprising that the site is reputed to have unquiet spirits hovering around. An elderly lady, Mrs Edith Ellis, witnessed silver arrows in the sky above Kirklees when visiting her old aunt at Hartshead in the early years of the last century. She also reports hearing Robin calling for Marian.
Another sighting was made by a tenant farmer of Kirklees in 1926. “One day,” he recalls, ” I was sitting on the grave shooting rabbits. As I was about to shoot I felt a tap on my shoulder, and my shotgun went off accidentally, removing two of my front teeth on its recoil. There was nobody to be seen at the time. On another occasion I was on my way home from the Three Nuns. As I was walking through the woods something fell out of a tree and knocked me to the ground. When I got up I could see the old gatehouse. In the window I could clearly see a man with a bow. My family always said it was the drink, but it was Robin Hood’s ghost.”
In 1963 guitarist Roger Williams took an unofficial stroll up to Robin’s grave with a friend. About twenty yards from the grave he saw a white robed woman who suddenly seemed to glide towards the two men. What made Roger’s hair stand on end was how silently she moved over the twigs and bracken. At about five yards from Roger the woman stopped and stared at him with “dark,mad eyes.” Then she moved away and vanished. It was 2.30 p.m. on a bright,sunny day. Roger Williams saw the same apparition again in 1972, in full daylight, and again she stopped a few yards from him and his companion. This time Roger remembered a few more details. The woman was wearing a long white dress with a square neck and long sleeves which accords with the habit of a Cistercian nun. Again she looked at him angrily before moving off, but the eerie sequel to this experience was that Roger’s house then experienced a series of strange noises and bangings. After this, Roger swore that “wild horses would not drag me up there again.”
Mark Gibbons, one of the founder members of Gravewatch, had a similar experience
in 1998. With other members of the group he had gone up to try and find Robin’s grave one moonlit night, but they had got lost. Suddenly Mark saw a white figure pointing in a certain direction – which turned out to be where the grave was situated. Mark also experienced a sensation of great evil and hatred.
Shortly after this a reporter Judith Broadbent, from the Dewsbury Reporter, and a photographer colleague, Sue Ellis were allowed to visit the gravesite by the owner. While wandering around she heard heavy footsteps behind her and she was pulled to the ground by invisible forces. She shouted “get away” and her friend came rushing to help her. Her camera had jammed while trying to photograph the grave. A week later Sue was taken seriously ill and was paralysed f from the neck downwards for two weeks. The two reporters later wrote this article up for Yorkshire Life magazine, much of its content being taken from Yorkshire Robin Hood Society literature, including the next sighting, which appeared in THE UNEXPLAINED magazine in 1992, prior to the publication of their article.
This was when vampires entered the arena, introduced to the increasing enigmatic situation by a Bishop of the Holy Grail Church and patron of the Yorkshire Robin Hood Society. In 1992 the Bishop and two colleagues, attempted an exorcism at Kirklees. This had come about as a result of the Yorkshire Robin Hood Society asking for the site to be blessed by the local vicar. Unfortunately permission to perform such a ceremony had been unequivocally refused to both clergymen. The Bishop, however, was made of sterner stuff than the local pastor ! He was renowned for his involvement in the notorious Highgate Vampire affair in the nineteen seventies and it occurred to him that vampires might be behind the legend of Robin being bled to death and this needed urgent spiritual intervention – and he was the man for the job, with or without official sanction ! Suffice to say that on his clandestine visit to the grave the bishop came across the body of a blood drained goat, diabolical rune signs of the priory gatehouse, fingr width holes in the ground round the grave – suggesting vampiric activity – and was confronted by a darkly clad woman who turned into a hag with red staring eyes.
A further sighting by another nocturnal visitor proved a terrifying experience when she saw two figures hovering in the trees surrounding the grave, who she took to be the evil prioress and her paramour Red Roger of Doncaster. ” I felt, and saw, what I can only describe streams of evil pouring out of the trees towards me” the witness stated. A lady from Nottingham, who visited the grave in the summer of 2000, experienced a psychic communication with Robin at the graveside, as did Robin Hood expert John de Locksley of the London Robin Hood Club, who also boldly battled through the giant ferns, murderous brambles and other lethal obstacles of the Kirklees rain forest to stand by his hero’s grave one wild,wet October night the same year !
It is true that Robin’s grave was excavated in an amateurish way by a Victorian Armytage (who was reputed to be in his cups at the time) and the ground beneath found to be undisturbed, but the many historical documents naming Kirklees as Robin’s final resting place cannot be ignored. The fact is, his bones could lie anywhere on that hillside, while a gravestone resembling the original one drawn by Dr Johnstone, is to be found in nearby Hartshead churchyard – to where it may have been moved during the Civil War.
5) Many visitors to the grave have recorded their experiences for posterity, including the following quote from a Victorian tourist :
“I had the strangest emotions when I first stood over the grave of this old forest hero. I stood there and had no words, nor can I find any now to tell what my feelings were. Bravehearted Robin ! Thou hast found a fit resting place in this glorious park, among these solemn yews and silent trees .”A hundred years later it is a different story:
“There it was, looming out of the dark, a massive, broken edifice, a huge ship of stone, wrecked in the everglades of Kirklees. Fallen pillars and twisted railings were were all that remained on Yorkshire’s buried treasure. We had found Robin Hood’s Grave.”
MARK GIBBONS, SECRETS OF THE GRAVE.
Maybe the last word should be with Victorian poet, George Searle Phillips, a friend of the Brontes, who visited the grave in 1848, and wrote an epic poem, a small section of which is printed below :
Tread lightly o’er the earth and speak no word
Till the Great Spirit doth unloose your tongues
For where those yew trees nod their funereal plumes
Upon the highest platform of the hill,
Lies gentle Robin Hood, his mighty heart
All muffled up in dust and his bright eyes
Quenched in eternal darkness. Never more
Shall the woods echo to his bugle horn,
Or his unerring arrow strike the deer
Swift flying, till it hits the bloody grass