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Robin Hood's Grave (Crosby Ravensworth Fell)

Locality
Coordinates 54.489722222222, -2.5922222222222
Adm. div. Westmorland
Vicinity Crosby Gill, Crosby Ravensworth Fell, c. 2.5 km NNW of Orton
Type Prehistoric site
Interest Robin Hood name
Status Extant
First Record 1857
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Robin Hood's Grave.
Robin Hood's Grave / Photo by 'mauldy', via Geograph, under Creative Commons Licence.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2017-05-11. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2017-05-11.

Robin Hood's Grave is a cairn on Crosby Ravensworth Fell. The earliest occurrence of this place-name noted in A.H. Smith's Place-Names of Westmorland is an 1859 MS Ordnance Survey name book.[1] Dobson & Taylor refer to an O.S. map of the same year.[2] In fact, as may be seen from the allusion cited below, the name occurs in a slightly older source dated 1857.

The Royal Commission on Historical Monuments noted in 1936 that the cairn had been "robbed of much of its stone".[3] The photo included on this page certainly shows that Robin Hood's Grave must have shrunk a good deal from the 'oblong mound, seven yards by three' mentioned in the second 1860 allusion cited below.

A.H. Smith makes the plausible suggestion that the name of Robin Hood's Grave was related to that of the nearby Howe Robin.[4]

Allusions

1857 - Sullivan, Jeremiah - Cumberland and Westmorland (1)

 In the south of Ireland, and other places, when a murder has been committed, every person who passes the spot is under an obligation to leave a stone, and the custom being continued for an indefinite time, a considerable heap is generally raised. It once happened that a man of brutal disposition, resident in a town, wantonly slew a number of persons who passed his house singing and shouting for their amusement. The blow, which was probably not intended to kill, proved fatal; the murderer escaped the punishment of the law, but for many weeks was obliged to keep a labourer in regular, occasional employment, to remove cairns from before his door. Some provinces of Spain have a similar custom, but to take the words of the writer, the stone is there thrown on the grave. On the borders of Gallicia, says an English traveller, are found heaps of stones. Every Gallician who goes out of the province to seek work, either going or returning, throws a stone on the heap.

We thus come to a curious nutting custom of Westmorland, connected with no less personages than Robin Hood and Little John. In the neighbourhood of Orton are two heaps of stones, under which it is believed the outlaw of Sherwood Forest and his lieutenant, are buried. It was once customary for every person who went a nutting in the wood, at the south end of which these heaps are situated, to throw a stone on Robin's grave, repeating the following rhyme:

Robin Hood, Robin Hood, here lie thy bones,
Load me with nuts as I load thee with stones.
 Whoever was the original of this famous outlaw, and whether he was properly Robin of the Wood, or Robin with the Hood, his name is now connected with mounds and stones innumerable in various parts of England. Lancashire has made him a giant, and [p. 131:] given him Blackstone Edge for a bed. Barrows in many places are called Robin Hood's butts. He has become a favourite ballad hero, and has been worked up with the celebration of the May festival; in Westmorland, as we see, he is the patron of nutters. And, in short, too much popularity has converted him, according to the view of critical investigators, into a myth. Near the village of Catterlen, in a retired part of the wood, is a spring called Robin Hood's well, but how it acquired the name is not now known.[5]

1860 - Bland, John Salkeld - Vale of Lyvenett (1)

The word How, Danish—a hill, is generally significant of a mound, but is often applied to the whole, as Sill How, Raise How, Bousfield How, How Arcles, How Neuk and How Robin; on each of which are mounds. Raise is an older word of similar meaning, and is applied more directly to a mound, as Raise How on Bank Moor. This name is more common in the neighbourhood of Shap. Pen, of Cambro-Celtic origin, having the same meaning, is found in Penhurrock. Others again bear the ordinary name of Hill, as Iren Hill, Round Hill, &c. Though these mounds have been raised by different people each in their day, yet they are often found to have been named or rather called Hills by whatever word in the language or dialect of the succeeding races expressed the same. Others again there are bearing names peculiar to themselves, as Iren Hill, Sill How, Hollinstump, Penhurrock, Robin Hood's Grave, Lady's Mound, &c. Though they are numerous, yet many of them have been opened by the hill-breakers of the last [p. 13:] century, or been more or less ravaged for the sake of stones, earth, &c.; for this reason it is difficult to distinguish those belonging to different ages, though it is highly probable the great majority are British.[6]

1860 - Bland, John Salkeld - Vale of Lyvenett (2)

Robin Hood's Grave is an oblong mound, seven yards by three. It is situated at the bottom of a narrow rocky dell at the head of Crosby Gill, where the footpath from Orton to Crosby enters the woods, once the chase of Sir Lancelot Threlkeld. It is noticed by Mr. Sullivan in his "Cumberland and Westmorland," but he speaks of two heaps: this is, however, a mistake, there being only one. Of this mound he says "It was once customary for every person who went a-nutting in the wood, at the south end of which this heap is situated, to throw a stone on Robin's grave, repeating the following rhyme:—

Robin Hood, Robin Hood, here lie thy bones;
Load me with nuts as I load thee with stones."

Whoever was the original of the famous outlaw, and whether he was properly Robin of the Wood or Robin with the Hood, his name is now connected with mounds and stones innumerable in various parts of England, On [p. 16:] Ploverigg Edge are two large stones, known as Robin Hood's Chair and Punch Bowl; in short, too much popularity has converted him, according to the view of critical investigation, into a myth. Probably the well-known rhyme of schoolboy notoriety may be in allusion also to the famed outlaw of Sherwood Forest:—

 Robin a Ree, Robin a Ree, if I let thee dee
Many sticks, many steanes be heaped o' my weary beanes

 If I sud set Robin a Ree to dee:

This game is usually attendant on bonfires, near which, those joining the game stand in a row; the first then takes a fiery stick, and whirling it round and round repeats the rhyme, then handing it to the next, who repeats it, and so on till the stick dies out; the unfortunate individual, in whose hand this happens, is then at the mercy of the grimy sticks and wet sods of his companions.

Not far from Robin Hood's Grave is a spring known as "King's Well," which is supposed to bear its royal title from being visited by King Henry VII.; but of this we have no more reliable proof than we have that Robin Hood's remains lie beneath the mound, which, on being opened, was found to contain only an old sheep's skull.[7]

Gazetteers

Sources

Maps

Background

Also see

Notes

  1. Smith, A.H. The Place-Names of Westmorland (English Place-Name Society, vols. XLII, XLIII) (Cambridge, 1967), pt. II, p. 161; and see pt. I, p. lxvi for source reference.
  2. Dobson, R.B., ed.; Taylor, J., ed. Rymes of Robyn Hood: an Introduction to the English Outlaw (London, 1976), p. 305, s.n. Robin Hood's Grave. See map at Old Maps.co.uk
  3. Lindsay, David, compil. An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Westmorland (Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, England) (London, 1936), p. 90, item No. 50.
  4. Smith, A.H. The Place-Names of Westmorland (English Place-Name Society, vols. XLII, XLIII) (Cambridge, 1967), pt. II, pp. 160, 161.
  5. Sullivan, J. Cumberland & Westmorland, Ancient & Modern: The People, Dialect, Superstitions and Customs (London; Kendal, 1857), pp. 130-31.
  6. Bland, John Salkeld. The Vale of Lyvennet, its Picturesque Peeps and Legendary Lore (Kendal, 1910), pp. 12-13.
  7. Bland, John Salkeld. The Vale of Lyvennet, its Picturesque Peeps and Legendary Lore (Kendal, 1910), pp. 15-16.