The Death of Robin Hood
The Neville families’ extensive properties across northern England gave them control of the roads. Such was Will Scarlett’s concern, he told Robin to take 50 of his best yeomen, or Red Roger might not let them pass. Dismissing Scarlett’s advice, Robin set off to Kirklees with only Little John for company. Sure enough, Red Roger was there and after a fight, the two went on their way to Kirklees leaving Red Roger dead on the ground.
One branch of the Neville family lived at Hartshead* where staff from Kirklees are buried in the church cemetery and as they were within walking distance they were close enough for lovers to meet. Another branch of the Neville family were at Doncaster and according to the ballad, it was the prioress of Kirklees and her lover Sir Roger of Doncaster who plotted together how best to kill him. Robin was no further use to them. Death would silence him, and as blood-letting was common nobody would suspect them of murder.
Trusting his cousin, Robin gave her £20.00 in gold coins, perhaps received as payment for killing King Richard, he had no money when he left the king’s court. Robin said to spend it while it would last, then she should have more. His lifeblood dripping away Robin said, “Give me my bent bow in my hand, and a broad arrow I will let flee; where this arrow falls, 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. It was my music sweet; make my grave of gravel and green, it is most right and meet. Let me have length and breadth enough, with a green sod under my head; so they may say when I am dead here lies bold Robin Hood.” These words, they readily granted him. It did bold Robin please, and there they buried bold Robin Hood, within the fair Kirkleys. Little John sorrowfully made his way to Hathersage, where he dug his own grave under the old Yew tree.
Interestingly, at least to the author, Charlotte Bronte's father was assistant curate at Hartshead 1811-1815 and his daughter Charlotte wrote Jane Eyre while visiting her friend Ellen Nussey at Hathersage. Her brother at the time was curate and later vicar of Hathersage.
NEXT Copyright © 2014, Graham Kirkby.