Robinhood Alley (Borough High Street)

From International Robin Hood Bibliography
Coordinate 51.501055, -0.093912
Adm. div. Surrey, now Greater London
Vicinity 208-210 Borough High Street, Southwark
Type Thoroughfare
Interest Robin Hood name
Status Defunct
First Record 1590
A.k.a. Robin hood alley; Robin Hood alley; Robin Hood Court
Loading map...
Site of Robinhood Alley, Borough High Street.
The drainpipe between In Tuition House (to the right of Fresh) and Galápagos Net would have been in the middle (or nearly so) of Robinhood Alley / Google Earth Street View.
John Rocque's map of London and Westminster (1746) centred on Robinhood Alley (shown but not labelled) / Locating London's Past.
Richard Horwood's Plan of Westminster and London (1792), centred on Robinhood Alley, which is shown but not labelled / Romantic London.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2018-07-04. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2021-01-07.

At present 208-210 Borough High Street, formerly Blackman Street, in Southwark, was a short narrow cul-de-sac variously known as Robin Hood Court, Robin Hood Alley and Robinhood Alley. Coming from London Bridge, one would have Robinhood Alley on one's right shortly after Mint Street, now Marshalsea Road. Robinhood Alley in all probability existed already in 1590.

John Strype in 1720 (see Allusions below) cited or paraphrased a table of benefactors in the church of St George the Martyr, Southwark, which included this entry under 1590: "William Evance gave out of his Robin Hood Rents in Blackman Street, in Bread yearly for ever" £5.4s.0d. The rents in question were very probably those paid for the houses in the 'Robin Hood Court' mentioned in the other reference in Strype (see Allusions below). It would be interesting to know if the stone table on which Strype's printed ditto was based is still in existence. A new parish church was built 14 to 16 years after Strype's work appeared. Was the stone tablet transferred to the new building?

Among other relatively early sources noting the locality are New Remarks of London (1732), compiled by the Company of Parish Clerks, which seems to have inadvertently entered it twice, as "Robin hood alley in blackman str." and "Robin hood alley in the mint".[1] As noted above, the Mint was the early modern precursor of Marshalsea Road, and the name was also applied to the neighbourhood near it (see the second allusion in Strype below). The Compleat Compting House Companion (1763) knows the locality as "Robinhood alley".[2] The New Complete Guide (1783) has "Robin Hood alley".[3]

Since Robin Hood alleys and courts in London tended to take their names from (the signs of) Robin Hood pubs, it would be surprising if Robinhood Alley in Southwark did not owe its name to the presence of a long vanished Robin Hood pub there.


1720 - Strype, John - Survey of London and Westminster (11)


With their several Gifts bestowed on this Parish [of St George the Martyr, Southwark], as they are set down in a Table in this Church, are as follow:

1588.James Savage gave out of the Bridgehouse near the Kings Bench, to be yearly distributed for ever300
1590.William Evance gave out of his Robin Hood Rents in Blackman Street, in Bread yearly for ever540
1622.Sir William Cowper gave an House in Pright Alley in Tower Street.
1630.And an House in Bishopsgate Stret for ever960
1625.J. Simon gave out of Lands in Tilbury in Essex, for ever.1000
1626.Purchased in the Parish the Spread Eagle and three Houses adjoining, by the Parishoners and others, for ever.2400
1626.Henry Smith gave out of the Manour of Beahill in Sussex, for ever, per ann.2000
1627. William Brooks, Yeoman, gave out of thirteen Cottages, one Messuage and Garden in White Street, for ever, per ann.200
1633.Sir John Fenner gave, to buy Bibles and other Uses, out of two Farms, Truedoves and Goodales, in Suffolk,1100
1635.Humfrey Williams gave eight Tenements, (the same now, eleven) — Acres of Land, in Kent Street, for ever.800
1645.Edward Martin gave out of his Farm at Low Layton in Essex, to buy Bibles yearly for ever.300
1648. William Brook gave out of Blew Boar Rents, in White Street, yearly, for ever.500
1679.Tho. Grayson gave out of the old Birdeage yearly, for ever.200
Robert Shaw settled a burying Place, and an Acre of Land, whereon a House is since built, for ever.500
In Consideration of some Privileges granted him by the Parish.
1672.Edmund Dudson, Esq; gave out of two Tenements in Lower Tooting, 12d. each Friday in Bread, for ever.2120[4]

1720 - Strype, John - Survey of London and Westminster (12)

BLACKMANS STREET runs from St. Georges Church almost unto Newington, the Street is broad, but the Buildings and Inhabitants not much to be boasted of; the End next to Newington hath the West side open to St. Georges Fields; being rather a Road than a Street. Here are these Places beginning at the East side next to St. Georges Church.

The SWAN BREWHOUSE. ARROW ALLEY, a little narrow Place, very meanly Built and Inhabited. BLACK SPREAD EAGLE COURT, a pretty open Place and indifferent good. GIRFFINS ALLEY, very long and narrow, with old Timber Houses, ordinary Inhabited. DOLPHIN YARD, a pretty open Place, but very indifferent. LAMB ALLEY an open Place, also well Built and Inhabited. CROSS SHOVEL ALLEY, small narrow, and ordinary. WHITE HORSE ALLEY, very mean, with a narrow Passage. TWO BREWERS YARD also of mean Account, with a narrow Passage. REDCROSS ALLEY, now pulled down, in order to Rebuild. UNICORN INN, very neat and fine, being adorned with carved Figures, and sundry sorts of Birds stuft, and set about, as if they were alive, with a small Ship, such as are hung in great Halls. ROCK YARD small and very mean. DRAPERS ALMS HOUSES, being erected for four Men, and twelve Women, their Allowance being 5s. per Month; at the end of the House is a Chappel where one of the four Men reads Prayers every day, for which he hath 12d. per Month more. The West side of Blackman's street beginning next to St. George's Fields are these Places. BROAD YARD, a dirty but open Place containing about five or six Houses; hath a Passage into CROWN INN which is but small, with a Passage likewise into St. George's Fields. DIRTY LANE, only a Passage, or Road along by the Mint, and St. George's Fields into Gravel Lane. BEARS FOOT ALLEY, hath a narrow Entrance, and contains ten small Houses, all built in a Row like unto Alms Houses. PEACHES WOOD YARD, pretty large. AXE YARD hath a narrow Entrance. but is very clenn and airy within, with pretty good Buildings. ROSE ALLEY, narrow, small, and ordinary. ROBIN HOOD COURT, containing three small Houses, reasonably Inhabited, hath a narrow Passage.

The MINT, generally so taken, is very large, containing several Streets and Alleys; In this Tract of Ground called the Mint, stood the Duke of Suffolk's House. The chief Street in the Mint is so called, being that which gives an Entrance into it out of Blackman's street; It is long and narrow, running into Lombart street, thence into Suffolk street, and also into George street, which said Suffolk street and George street have open Passages into St. George's Fields: Then on the North side are several Places intended to be built, several Foundations of Houses being laid, but whether they will be finished, is a Question. PEALE YARD of which there are two, one within another, and both small and ordinary. SOULS YARD, a little open Place with two Houses. ACORN ALLEY, but small, runs into Birdcage Alley, and so into Harrow Alley. BIRDCAGE ALLEY, very well built, with Gardens behind. HARROW ALLEY goes into Mint street, it hath good Buildings with Gardens to them, and here is a small Court which bears the same Name. CROOKED LANE, very narrow and mean both to Buildings and Inhabitants. WHELERS RENT, very ordinary, hath its Entrance into Mint street. BLUE BALL ALLEY, very ordinary, with several Turnings amongst the Gardens; at the upper End of the Mint are several Streets, which are pretty good, as already taken notice of, viz. Lombard street, Suffolk street, and George street.[5]





Also see


  1. Company of Parish-Clerks, The, compil. New Remarks of London: Or, A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, of Southwark, and Part of Middlesex and Surrey, Within the Circumference of the Bills of Mortality. Containing the Situation, Antiquity and Rebuilding of Each Church, the Value of the Rectory or Vicarage; in Whose Gifts They are; and the Names of the Present Incumbents and Lecturers. Of the Several Vestries, the Hours of Prayer, Parish and Ward Officers, Charity and other Schools; the Number of Charity-children, How Maintained, Educated and Placed out Apprentices, or Put to Service. Of the Alms-houses, Work-houses and Hospitals. The Remarkable Places and Things in Each Parish, with the Limits or Bounds, Streets, Lanes, Courts, and Number of Houses. Likewise an Alphabetical Table of All the Streets, Courts, Lanes, Alleys, Yards, Rows, Rents, Squares, &c. Within the Bills of Mortality, Shewing in What Liberty or Freedom They are, and an Easy Method for Finding any of them. Of the Several Inns of Courts, and Inns of Chancery, with Their Several Buildings, Courts, Lanes, &c. Collected by the Company of Parish-Clerks. To which are added, The Places to which Penny Post Letters are Sent, with Proper Directions Therein. The Wharfs, Keys, Docks, &c. near the River Thames. Of Water-carriage to Several Cities, Towns, &c. The Rates of Water Men, Porters of All Kinds, and Car Men. To What Inns Stage-coaches, Flying-coaches, Waggons and Carriers Come, and the Days They Go out. The Whole being very Useful for Ladies, Gentlemen, Clergymen, Merchants, Tradesmen, Coach-men, Chair-men, Car-men, Porters, Bailiffs, and Others (London, 1732), p. 361 s.nn. Robin hood alley [1], Robin hood alley [2]. Italic type as printed there.
  2. Anonymous. The Compleat Compting-House Companion: or, Young Merchant, or Tradesman's Sure Guide (London, 1763), p. 417 s.n. Robinhood alley.
  3. Anonymous, compil. The New Complete Guide to all Persons who have any Trade or Concern with the City of London, and Parts adjacent ([s.l], 1783), p. 59 s.n. Robin Hood alley.
  4. John Strype's A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, Book 4, Ch. 1, p. 18 (hriOnline). IRHB has silently changed final commas to full stops in some places, removed a right bracket and changed double hyphens to single long dash.
  5. John Strype's A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, Book 4, Ch. 1, p. 31 (hriOnline). As of 2018-07-04, the web version has "intoGoldsmiths" and "TWO BREWERS YARD alos of mean", which I have silently corrected to "into Goldsmiths" and "TWO BREWERS YARD also of mean".

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