The Pinder of Wakefield
The Pinder is referred to in a ballad
called the Jolly Pinder of Wakefield which appears in the
Percy folio manuscript and a broadside version which is believed
to have been in existence for at least a century before. The Pinder's
name was George-a-Green (of the Green). On Wakefield Green there
stood "The Kings Mill" beside the river Calder weir in medieval times.
This mill was run by the Calder family, perhaps a link with Much the miller
who was a native of Wakefield.. The surnames Pinder and Pindar are still
present in the 1881 census for the region.
The " Life of George-a-Greene", is a play
probably by Robert Greene, written before 1594 and another piece
of script by the same title existed by 1632. The Pinder of Wakefield
was a local hero, rather than a historical figure, who triumphed
in a fight with Robin Hood, the outlaw.
The Pinder was the Manor of Wakefield's "dog catcher"
controlling any stray animals and protecting the local crops
from damage. The green would be the pinfold, the place where the
Pinder would pin or pen the stray animals9.
"Now turn again, turn again," said the pinder,
"For a wrong way have you gone;
For you have forsaken the king his high way,
And made a path over the corn."
-ballad, The Jolly Pinder of Wakefield.
Knight1 states that "George-a-Greene' portrays Robin Hood
not as the hero but as a subordinate to the Pinder, associating the outlaw
with political rebellion, perhaps as a "Contrariant" and the Pinder with
absolute loyalty to the King. It was Hunter, the Yorkshire Antiquarian
in the mid 1800's who proposed that Robin Hood lived in
Barnsdale Forest at the time of Edward II as one of Earl
Thomas Plantagenet's contrariants.10
G. Crowther in his "A Descriptive History of the Wakefield
|" George a Green was the Pinder of Wakefield and
was known as the keeper of the pound or pinfold for stray cattle
on the Town Green, who early commenced a revolt against the established
authority. The biography of him published in 1706 states that he
was placed at school under a surly pedagogue and ran away. When he
grew up, Robin Hood, who was always on the lookout for spirits of this
kind, secured him as a follower. This encounter between them, in which
"with his back against a thorn and his foot to a stone" George a Green
came off victorious, is described in the Robin Hood Ballad. " As good
as George a Green" became a proverb in the time of "Hudibras" and it was
his renown which procured Wakefield the honour of a visit from Drunken
Barnaby, George a Green played his pranks in Richard I's time. In the
next reign we find the Miller of Wakefield serving to point a moral for
Eustace, Abbot of Haye, in Normandy, who came over to this country in
1201 to preach the duty of extending the sabbath from three o'clock on
Saturday afternoon to sunrise on Monday morning"
And later :
"Robin...appeared with his men in Wakefield Park and
the Pinder challenged him to a combat. The bold defender of the
manor proved the victor".
The village of Stanley lays claim to the fight between the two where
in 1822 it was recorded2 that:
|'Here is the Field, famed in ancient story, where,
"all on the Green," Robin Hood, Little John, and Scarlet, fought
the Pinder of Wakefield, the place is yet called Pinder's Field'.
Indeed an early name for Wakefield (Wacca's Field) was "Stanley Wakefield". Pinderfields (originally
Pinder's Fields) is the reputed site of the struggle.
Edward Green discussing the history of Wrenthorpe
also makes a number of statements relating to the Robin Hood and
Pinder of Wakefield legend. There was also a paper written in 1911
by Robert Greene4 titled "George-a-Greene" and even the
televisual hero was played by Richard Green, perhaps even Lorne Greene
could stake a claim!
Here at Wrenthorpe Edward Green shows us we have names
such as Robin Hood Farm (demolished ca. 1970), Robin
Hood House, Robin Hood Well, Robin Hood Hill
, Robin Hood Bridge, Robin Hood
Terrace, Robin Hood Cottage and Robin Hood Row.
Green states there is a part of the country between Wrenthorpe and
Stanley called Robinhoodstreteclose.5 It is in this
triagular piece of land bounded by a railway built in the middle
1800's that the named piece of land Robin Hood. It is at Robin
Hood['s] Hill that Robin. Little John and Will Scarlet and the Pinder
are reputed to have struggled.8 Is this then a different
location to Pinderfields? Pinderfields is north of Wakefield whilst the
Lord's Mill and the Wakefield Green were situated on the south side. The
Pin was a place to pin the stray domestic animals into a fold. Perhaps
Pinderfields is where these animals were held rather thsan where any
struggle took place.
The Potter in the ballad "Robin Hood and the Potter" engages Robin on a bridge,
there are no known bridges named after the outlaw that I have encountered
other than the one on Potovens Lane, Wrenthorpe. (Potovens was the
name given for Wrenthorpe in 1822). However Phillips and Keatman speculate
that this bridge was the one over the river Went at Wentbridge.
places named after Robin.
Even the name Potovens Lane lane evokes thoughts
of the potter's trade. Indeed it appears from some kiln remains that
the Wrenthorpe area was an important region producing pottery during
the medieval period. However, the questions which might be asked are:
was there an earlier bridge? was the bridge built much later? Why does
it carry the lane over a railway!
Of course many of these places have been named in more
recent history, in fact there is even an industrial township of
Robin Hood further north near Rothwell. However, there
is sufficient repetition in both place name and historical records to
lay some credence in the assertion that a "Robin" or Robert Hood fought
a Pinder of Wakefield in these parts.
|The Jolly Pinder of Wakefield
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 tresspasse to the town of Wakefield,
But his pledge goes to the pinfold"
All this beheard three witty young men,
'Twas Robin Hood, Scarlet and John;
With that they spied the Jolly Pinder,
As he sate under a thorn.
"Now turn again, turn again", said the pinder,
"For a wrong way have you gone;
For you have forsaken the king his highway,
And made a path over the corn."
"O that were great shame," said jolly Robin,
"We being three and thou but one."
The pinder leapt back then thirty good foot.
'T was thirty good foot and one.
He leaned his back fast unto a thorn,
And his foot unto a stone,
And there he fought a long summer's day,
A summer's day so long,
Till that their swords, on their broad bucklers,
Were broken fast unto their hands.
"Hold thy hand, hold thy hand" said Robin Hood,
"And my merry men every one;
For this is one of the best pinders
That ever I tried with sword."
"And will thou forsake thy pinder his craft,
And live in the green wood with me?"
"At Michaelmas next my covnant comes out,
When every man gathers his fee;
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 Roin Hood,
"For such unbidden guest."
"O will thou forsake the pinder his craft,
And go to the green wood with me?
Thou shall have a livery twice in the year,
The one green, the other brown."
"If Michaelmas day were once come and gone
And my master had paid me my fee,
Then would I settle as little by him
As my master doth set by me."
- Broadside Version, Bodleian Library, Oxford.
There is now strong evidence that the person who modelled for the ballad
character in the Geste did in fact have a considereable control over
Wakefield and that the Pinder of Wakefield is a refracted allegorical reference
to this man.In all probability the Pinder is a corrupted interpretation of
the steward of the manor of Wakefield.
1. Knight, Stephen and Ohlgren Thomas H.[eds]
The Jolly Pinder of Wakefield .Originally Published in
and Other Outlaw Tales, pp. 120-21,1994.
Thomas. The Yorkshire Dictionary, 1822.
3. The History of Wakefield
4. Greene, Robert. George-a-Greene, Oxford
University Press, 1911.
5. Wakefield Manor Rolls, 1650
6. Smith. A.H. [ed] The Place Names of
England, Yorkshire: West Riding. C.U.P. Vol 31, 1961.
7. Forrester J. & Speak H. Robin
Hood and Wakefield, Ossett, 1970.
8. Notes and Queries, 1864.
9. The Rochester University Project- The Jolly Pinder
10. Hunter, Joseph. Critical &
Historical Tracts No. IV, The Ballad Hero: Robin Hood, London,
11. Holt, J.C. Robin Hood. Thames and Hudson.1982.
© Copyright Tim Midgley, November,
2000, revised 7th December 2018.