Little John


After a day walking around Chatsworth House in Derbyshire I decided to head to nearby Hathersage village. The Sat-Nav took me into a town busy with day-trippers and up a hill to a pretty church. The cemetery was small so I knew it would not take long to find the grave of Little John who was Robin Hood’s chief lieutenant. I saw in the car having a sandwich and a coffee and turned off the Van Morrison CD to listen to a cuckoo.


Here I am by the elongated grave of the elongated Little John who was a legendary fellow outlaw. The headstone is more modern but there’s also an older one which is too weathered to read. I suppose some people only visit the church to see this headstone that looks over a man who was about seven feet tall. Was he really? Apparently when his crossbow was found it so huge people of average age couldn’t use it.


In films Robin Hood is portrayed as a peasant or a nobleman who spurned his birth right to defend the poor. In both versions Little John is always Robin's second-in-command of the Merry Men. Whether this band of outlaws really existed is inconclusive but they’ve spawned hundreds of books, dramas and films.  I read it was likely that Robin Hood was likely to be “Robin of Locksley”, a peasant who lived nearby.


Perhaps Little John was associated with the town of Hathersage. In 1784 Captain James Shuttleworth exhumed the thigh bone of a man who once stood more than 7 feet tall – clarifying that the occupant was a “giant of a man”. I couldn't quite understand by Little John was buried here in Derbyshire as I grew up thinking Robin Hood and his gang lived in Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire. Later on at home I read that five hundred years ago Sherwood Forest was much bigger and stretched from Nottinghamshire up to Derbyshire and South Yorkshire.


Little John was said to be present at Robin’s death. Robin had been deceived and poisoned by the abbess of Kirklees Priory. Knowing he was dying he fired a bow for the final time and asked John to bury him where “the last arrow” fell (now an overgrown grave at Kirklees Priory - see link below.)


I thought of going into the church as the doors were open but a Coffee Morning ensued and someone would probably be selling some ghastly pourable version of homemade jam (I've yet to find a homemade jam that is spreadable.) I didn’t bother going in. The church dates back to 1381 and inside lies the tomb of Robert Eyre who fought at the Battle of Agincourt. It's thought Charlotte Bronte stole the name "Eyre" from this well-known Derbyshire family (for her novel Jane Eyre.)


I had a stroll around the cemetery and found a newer section. I spotted two graves of brothers who'd died in the war aged 21. You just have to do a hearty salute don’t you?


I've been to both of Robin Hood's cave and grave. Just click on this link...







At the rear of the church, the only bit of red…



The grave of the brothers who both died aged 21…