Wakefield Street, WC1H

Place Name

It was named after the Pindar of Wakefield, an inn that first opened sometime around 1517, on Gray’s Inn Road and subsequently gave its name to the local area as the Hamlet of Pindar a Wakefield. It was described in 1623 as “one greate Bricke howse… called the Pinder of Wakefeild (sic).” The name itself comes from an old ballad about Robin Hood. In the story, a pinder, a townsman charged with impounding stray animals, is overheard by Robin and his merry men boasting that no one will dare trespass on Wakefield under his watchful eye. The outlaws ignore these claims and approach him anyway. Although outnumbered the pinder refuses to stand aside and a scuffle ensues, with the lone watchman getting the better of the band. Robin Hood, impressed by the pinder’s physical prowess in battle and his desire to protect those who cannot protect themselves, offers the pinder a place in his group. The ballad concludes with the pinder promising he will join Robin in the autumn. The poem reads:

“In Wakefield there lives a jolly pinder,

In Wakefield all on a green, In Wakefield all on a green:

There is neither knight nor squire, said the pinder,

Nor baron that is so bold, Nor baron that is so bold,

Dare make a trespass to the town of Wakefield, But his pledge goes to the pinfold, &c.

All this be heard three witty young men,

‘Twas Robin Hood, Scarlet, and John;

With that they espy’d the jolly pinder,

As he sat under a thorn.

Now turn again, turn again, said the pinder, For a wrong way you have gone;

For you have forsaken the king’s highway, And made a path over the corn.

O that were a shame, said jolly Robin, We being three, and thou but one.

The pinder leapt back then thirty good foot,

‘Twas thirty good foot and one.

He leaned his back fast unto a thorn, And his foot against a stone,

And there he fought a long summers day,

A summers day so long,

Till that their swords on their broad bucklers

Were broke fast into their hands.

Hold thy land, hold thy hand, said bold Robin Hood, And my merry men every one;

For this is one of the best pinders, That ever I tryed with sword.

And wilt thou forsake thy pinders’ craft, And live in the green-wood with me?

‘At Michaelmas next my cov’nant comes out,

‘When every man gathers his fee;

‘Then I’le take my blew blade all in my hand, And plod to the green-wood with thee.’

‘Hast thou either meat or drink,’ said Robin Hood, ‘For my merry men and me?’

‘I have both bread and beef, said the pinder, And good ale of the best.

‘And that is meat good enough,’ said Robin Hood, ‘For such unbidden ‘guests’.'”

As for the pub itself, in 1724 a freak hurricane blew down the building and is said to have buried the landlord’s two daughters in the wreckage. In any case, the pub was rebuild on the opposition side of Gary’s Inn Road and the meadows attached to the original building were let to a Daniel Harrison – although he was not the Harrison the nearby street was named after, that was his grandson. The pub continues to this day, albeit under a different name. In 1992 it became The Water Rats.



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