Robin Hood (Cheetham Hill, Manchester)

From International Robin Hood Bibliography
Coordinate 53.511861, -2.245307
Adm. div. Lancashire
Vicinity 591 Cheetham Hill Road, Cheetham Hill
Type Public house
Interest Robin Hood name
Status Extant
First Record 1794
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The former Robin Hood, Cheetham Hill, Manchester.
The former Robin Hood, Cheetham Hill, Manchester / Google Earth Street View.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2019-02-28. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2021-02-13.

The Robin Hood at 591 Cheetham Hill, whose history would seem to go back to 1794, closed some years ago. In recent decades the pub changed its name to Firdowsi, then the New Robin Hood (Hotel).[1] Early in 2010, when it was still in business, it was a local forum member's suggestion for the "Roughest Place In Manchester".[2]

Pub History lists information on publicans for 1911 and 1929.[3] As is normal for O.S. maps of urban areas, those listed below do not include the name of the pub. In fact only the 25" maps published 1922 and 1932 indicate a public house ("P.H.") at the location (see Maps below).

According to a recent blog post on Cheetham Hill, "The Robin Hood pub which opened in 1794 was the meeting place for the village’s archers who were renowned countrywide for their archery skills [...]"[4] No reference is provided for this statement, but the date 1794 is tentatively accepted, since the mention in the first allusion from 1908 cited below of the "sign of Robin Hood" being in existence more than a century earlier lends some support and the second allusion from 1908, referring to a trade directory, shows that the Robin Hood was in existence by 1824. However, the present building obviously does not date from 1794, and it is doubtful, therefore, whether the old pub stood in exactly the same place.


1908 - Swindells, Thomas - Manchester Streets and Manchester Men (1)

James Rawson—The Archer.
 More than a century ago the village of Cheetham Hill was noted for the skill of certain of its natives in archery. The pastime was very popular with the residents, and long years after it had disappeared from all other parts of the Manchester district it was cultivated there. Pilkington's bow and arrow shop and Hyde's smithy at Sandy Lane, where an arrow could be tipped for a penny, were popular institutions, whilst the sign of the Robin Hood served to remind wayfarers and villagers alike of the prowess of Nottingham's famous outlaw.
 The greatest of local bowmen was James Rawson, concerning whom few particulars have survived. Perhaps the best account of him was the one written by R. Wood in the Manchester Guardian in 1874. He says: "I fear I have little information to give concerning James Rawson, except what I have gathered from old people. Although some of them remembered him well, they were not very particular bout telling the same story of his wonderful feats twice over without [p. 20:] some variation. James Rawson was a handloom weaver and lived most of his life in an old house, now in ruins, opposite the Griffin Inn. Weavers were then well off and could afford to indulge in many amusements from which they have been debarred since the invention of patent looms and the introduction of steam power. Archery was then a favourite amusement, not only with the rich but with tradesmen and working people also. James appears to have begun shooting early, and even in boyhood to have acquired extraordinary proficiency, so that, as his grave stone has it, 'from 16 to 60 he never refused a challenge nor ever lost a match.' When he became too old to weave, the gentlemen employed him to attend on shooting days and keep their bows in order, and when they had a friendly match with other villages they would dress him up as a gentleman to take part with them so as to get the benefit of his score; and it is said that in one of these matches held at Prestwich, the affair was so well contested that James and his opponent, the two last playes, were on equal terms, and the two last arrows had to decide the match. When the Prestwich man sent his arrow the game appeared settled, as it had struck within an inch of the centre of the target, and the shaft lay a little obliquely, so as to cross the centre. But James sent his arrow with such truth and force that it split the other one and struck the very place required. This was considered the greatest feat in archery since the time of Robin Hood. When he died the gentlemen archers attended his funeral, and paid all expenses, including that of a gravestone. Rawson was buried in St. Mark's Churchyard, where [p. 21:] his gravestone with the following epitaph may be seen:
"Here were interred the earthly remains of
James Rawson,
who died October 1st, 1795, aged 80 years.
His dexterity as an archer was unrivalled; from the age of
16 to 60 he never refused a challenge, nor lost a match.
Grim death, grown jealous of his art,
His matchless fame to stop,
Relentless aiemd th' unerring dart
And split the vital prop.
This favourite son Apollo eyed,
His virtues to requite,
Conveyed his spirit to reside
In realms of endless light."[5]

1908 - Swindells, Thomas - Manchester Streets and Manchester Men (2)

 In connection with some of our old directories of Manchester there was published A List of the Merchants, Manufacturers, and Tradesmen in the Market Towns and Principal Villages within twenty-four miles of Manchester. Cheetham Hill was included under the general heading of Middleton, along with Blackley, Broughton, Crumpsall, Harpurhey, Hopwood, Kersal Moor, Smedley and Tonge. It is interesting to glance through the short list of names that represent our district as it was in 1824.
 In the first place it may be noted that the complete list comprises only sixteen names. In many cases the addresses appear as Cheetham Hill only. In all such it is probable that they lived on the main road. Including these there are twenty-two entries relating to the residents on the highway, exclusive of cottages. Included in the list is E.W. Pilkington, whose bow and arrow shop was a well-known landmark for many years. We also find mention made of the licensed houses which then comprise the Robin Hood, the Bird in Hand, the Griffin, and the Eagle and Child. To three of these bowling greens were attached, that of the [p. 63:] last-named being perhaps the best known.[6]





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