There are few places in Calderdale that have as much history, legends, stories and just plain strangeness attached to them than Robin Hood's grave. It lies hidden in dense spooky woodland in the grounds of Kirklees Hall in Clifton, near Brighouse, and as well as being connected to the legendary outlaw himself, is also said to be the site of a number of mischevous ghosts and even a reputed vampire infestation.
The death of Robin Hood is described in two 15th Century ballad poems: A Geste of Robyn Hode and Robin Hode His Death. The story goes that Robin and Little John travelled to Kirklees Priory, a nunnery notorious for its riotous nuns, in order to be bled, a standard medieval treatment for just about anything. The wicked Prioress of Kirklees was also Robin's cousin but with her evil lover, Red Roger of Doncaster, she plotted to kill her guest by opening up one of his arteries and letting him bleed to death.
When Robin realised that he was dying he slew the treacherous Red Roger and with the last of his strength shot an arrow through the window of the gatehouse where he had been murdered, telling Little John to bury him where it landed.
This is the legend behind the grave. The tomb lies surrounded by some dilapidated iron railings. An inscription added in the 19th century reads:
HERE UNDERNEAD THIS LAITL STEAN
LAIZ ROBERT EARL OF HUNTINGTON
NEA ARCIR VER AS HEI SA GEUD
AN PIPL KAULD IM ROBIN HEUD
SICK UTLAWZ AS HI AN IZ MEN
WILL ENGLAND NIVR SI AGAIN
Part of the reason for the poor condition of the grave is the fact that the 19th Century labourers believed that putting a fragment of it under your pillow would cure toothache!
It's not surprising that an eerie site like this would attract some ghost stories. For example in 1924 John Hill, a tenant farmer on the estate, was returning home from the local pub one evening (which might arouse the suspicion of sceptics!) when he was suddenly knocked to the ground as he walked near the grave. As he regained his feet he saw a figure in the gatehouse window holding a bow. Needless to say, when he went inside there was no one to be seen, but he was convinced that he had seen Robin Hood's ghost.
Guitarist Roger Williams claims to have seen the ghost of a woman with mad staring eyes on two occasions near the grave. Two reporters for Yorkshire Life also claim to have had a ghostly encounter there. Journalist Judith Broadbent heard heavy footsteps before she was pulled to the ground by a force she couldn't see, while her photographer Sue Ellis found her camera jammed and was later mysteriously paralysed for two weeks. But things were to get weirder in the 1990s.
Britain's most famous vampire is the Highgate Vampire said to have infested the famous London cemetery, apparently dispatched by a modern-day vampire hunter. However, the second most notorious 'bloodsucker' in the country is the Kirklees Vampire said by some to haunt Robin Hood's grave.
According to at least one source, Barbara Green, President of the Yorkshire Robin Hood Society, was holding vigil at the grave when she was confronted by a horrific vision of the undead: “Like a bat she hung there for what seemed like an eternity, her black nun's robes flapping eerily while her eyes flashed red and venomous and her teeth bared sharp and white between snarling blood-red lips.”
It has been claimed that these often quoted lines come from a fictionalised account of Barbara's encounter from a vampire magazine. What she currently states to have experienced was a huge panic attack where evil seemed to pour out of the surrounding trees and she thought she saw a red haired figure and a dark shape: could they have been Red Roger of Doncaster and the wicked Prioress?
The International Society for the Advancement of Irrefutable Vampirological and Lycanthropic Research had been researching the phenomenon for a number of years and in 1990 a vampire hunter visited the Grave. He found occult symbols scrawled on the gatehouse and a dismembered goat as well as tiny holes in the earth around the grave where the vampire could apparently leave his or her resting place. One of his team claimed to have seen a “darkly clad woman” that suddenly transformed into a horrible red-eyed wraith. They placed holy water in the holes and planted some garlic before leaving.
The vampire is believed to still be at large. As the grounds and the Grave are closed to the public and the only chance for visitors to see the site (other than trespassing!) are the very infrequent guided walks, if the vampire exists, he or she must be very thirsty by now...
Information from Paul Weatherhead
Author of 'Weird Calderdale'
Pub: Tom Bell Publishing