I recently saw a page on Facebook entitled “Save Kirklees Priory”. The Priory, in West Yorkshire is being sold by the private family who have owned it for 400 years. The Gatehouse, a Grade II* listed building is an excellent and well preserved example of early 16th Century architecture. The Priory buildings do not exist anymore, my searching for information on this was inconclusive as different sources claim that it was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries and another that they just fell into ruin. The Gatehouse and grounds have not been open to the public and the area is steeped in the legends of Robin Hood.
I would firstly like to point out that Robin Hood is a legend. As there is no conclusive proof that he existed, or even who he was, he is a legend. A good legend and one which serves a time when peasantry were poor and the rich and noble were just that. Legends and myths are often created through a need for hope that there is someone out there who can save people, or fix the way things are. Robin Hood is a brilliant legend, and hopefully at the time inspired peasants to fight back against their oppressors and share the wealth. It is my belief that some people may have done this, which is why the identity of Robin Hood is inconclusive. There may have been a few of them, leading to more stories and inconstencies as to places and people involved.
Back to the point, the Facebook page, it asks people to “save” the Priory. What are they saving it from? Itis already in private hands and is a Grade II* listed building, so any alterations, additions or in some cases redecorating has to have permission. (http://www.onlineplanningoffices.co.uk/html/additional_advice/listed_buildings.php/) The building has been recognised as significantly important so no-one is going to take it on without knowledge if what they are buying. The page asks for English Heritage or the National Trust to buy it and open it as a museum. The asking price is £7m (small in comparison to what could be spent on a painting to retain it for the nation). As a Grade II* building, the suitability and cost of opening it as a museum may be impossible.
I think the message I am trying to get across here is the wording of the page. Highlighting the fact it is for sale it a good thing, there may be someone out there who can help the Armytage family and place the Priory in good hands. I just don’t understand what they are “saving” it from!
This webpage appears to be well informed about the history of the place. http://midgleywebpages.com/armytage.html
In fact, one thing that struck me as interesting is the claim that Henry VIII was particularly interested in the legend of Robin Hood as he claimed to be decended from King Arthur* and this was all linked(!). With all of the stories about Kirklees being a resting place for Robin Hood, and the king asking for the dissolution of the monasteries, I would have put a gravestone down to prove the truth and save my Priory too!
I would like to suggest an alternative wording, what I would like to say about Kirklees Priory in order to raise awareness that it is being sold and a plea to the new owners.
“Kirklees Priory and Gatehouse is an amazing example of English architecture and is even mentioned in the legends of Robin Hood. One legend claims that Robin Hood was burried in the grounds and there is a mock grave commemorating this. Not only is the Priory important to the Robin Hood legend, it is also has a rich history due to it’s importance as a Priory and the changes which took place in England during the Tudor period. If you buy this property, please be sympathetic to the public. There are many people who would like to visit this place and have not been able to do so in the past.”
So, I think that “saving” is the wrong word here. I also question the “like this page to save x” mentality as many likes are not going to save anything. Using Facebook to raise awareness, not a problem, it is an ideal method of getting information out to many people! But, I would rather it was approached using facts, figures and highlighting how amazing the Priory is and important to historians and Robin Hood fans all over the world.
*I know, another legend…