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
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
"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
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
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
The Jolly Pinder of
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,
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 Robin Hood
and Other Outlaw Tales, pp. 120-21,1994.
2. Langdale, Thomas. The Yorkshire Dictionary, 1822.
3. The History of Wakefield
4. Greene, Robert. George-a-Greene, Oxford University Press,
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,
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, 1852.
11. Holt, J.C. Robin Hood. Thames and Hudson.1982.
© Copyright Tim Midgley, November, 2000, links revised