Pinder of Wakefield's Fort (Clerkenwell)

From International Robin Hood Bibliography
Locality
Coordinate 51.524512, -0.111483
Adm. div. Middlesex, now Greater London
Vicinity Mount Pleasant Street, Clerkenwell, London
Type Miscellaneous
Interest Robin Hood name
Status Defunct
First Record 1643
A.k.a. Wakefield Fort; Pindar Fort; Pinder Fort; Fort No. 9
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Approximate indication of the site of the Pinder of Wakefield's Fort.
The Pinder of Wakefield's Fort is believed to have been situated in the area now occupied by the Royal Mail Mount Pleasant Sorting Office / Edward Betts, 7 Feb. 2007, Public Domain, via Wikipedia.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2020-10-01. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2021-01-07.

The Pinder of Wakefield's Fort was part of a ring of defences erected around the City of London in (mainly) late 1642 and through 1643. It is believed to have been situated in or adjacent to the area now occupied by the Royal Mail Sorting Office at Mount Pleasant. While there is thus little doubt about the fort's approximate time of construction and only slightly more about where it was situated, it is quite unclear how long its name remained in use. However, Daniel Defoe made the Pinder of Wakefield's Fort the scene of the eponymous character's first foray into the 'gentlemanly' trade of highway robbery in The History and Remarkable Life of the Truly Honourable Col. Jacque, published in 1723, at which time it was evidently still well known. About this time or a little later, people in the area began using the (site of the) fort as a dump, a fact which gave rise to the ironical (still current) street name 'Mount Pleasant'.[1] In all probability, the Pinder's Fort was named after the Pinder of Wakefield public house, located c. 750 metres to the north-west.

While the defences were already being considered in June of 1642 and some work was done that year, especially from October on, most of the construction effort seems to have taken place during spring to autumn of 1643. In May of that year, the Venetian ambassador reported that the main forts were ready to take artillery, while he noted that work on the connecting rampart and ditch were nearing completion. By October the defences were virtually complete and the ground in front of them had been cleared of obstructions to defensive fire. The c. 18 kilometre long line of defences ran north-west from Wapping to Shoreditch, and from there west to Hyde Park and south to Tothill Fields, resuming at Vauxhall on the south bank, running north-east to St Georges Fields, then east to the Elephant and Castle and thereafter north-east to Rotherhithe.[2]

No contemporary maps or plans of the works survive, only a couple of rough plans from 1720 and 1739 being known. There does not seem to be a clear picture of the exact number of defence works, their nature and positions. Only at three localities have possible remains of the fortifications been identified: in Hyde Park, in the grounds of the Imperial War Museum and at Rotherhithe. Much the most detailed source of information is the account of a perambulation of the defence works carried out by the Scots travel writer William Lithgow in April 1643 and published that year. He described 28 works but often did not locate them with such accuracy that they can be pinpointed on a modern map. The Pinder of Wakefield's Fort (see Lithgow's brief account under Allusions below) is believed to have been situated within the grounds of the present Royal Mail Centre at Mount Pleasant. However, Rosemary Weinstein, in a study of Southampton House (at the present Bedford Place) during the Civil War, briefly notes that '[w]alking westwards from Islington, Lithgow came to Pindar of Wakefield's Fort on the right of Farringdon Road near Exmouth Market.[3] Exmouth Market is situated on the east (which can of course also be the right) side of Farringdon Road, a few tens of metres from the north-east corner of the grounds of the Mail Centre. Unfortunately Weinstein does not tell us her reasons for locating the Fort within this rather more confined area adjacent to the Mail Centre.

A variety of shapes were chosen for the various forts, positions and batteries, that of the Pinder being 'onely quadrangled', and so evidently among the simpler ones. The forts were made of earth, and the major strongpoints at least had timber palisades.[2] William Lithgow described the fort at Wapping as being 'erected of turffe, sand, watles and earthen worke, (as all the rest are composed of the like)'.[4] while on the other hand, a fairly detailed drawing of the fortifications at Southampton House seems to show a crenellated brick wall.[5] William Lithgow's description of the Pinder's Fort is quite brief, which suggests that it was not one of the more impressive works. It must have been rather hastily built or not quite finished when Lithgow saw it in April 1643, for an Act of Common Council of 23rd February 1643, which authorised the construction of the defences, including those already made, 'called for a battery and breastwork on the hill east of Black Mary's Hole'. The Pinder's Fort must have been built in response to this.[6] 'Black Mary's Hole' is included, as 'Black Marys Well', near where the fort must have been, on maps dating from 1700 and 1720.[7]

Fortification efforts were motivated and spurred on by acute fear of an attack on London by the royalist forces in October 1642 and the spring of the following year. As it turned out, the king's forces never got closer to London than Brentford and Turnham Green, in November 1642.[8] In hindsight the fort-building effort could thus perhaps be said to have been futile. Yet defence against attack from the outside may not have been the only purpose of the forts. The Venetian ambassador observed that 'the shape they take betrays that they are not only for defence against the royal armies, but also against tumults of the citizens and, to ensure a prompt obedience on all occassions'. Very likely, therefore, they were designed to fire on internal as well as external enemies.[2]

Allusions

1643 - Lithgow, William - Present Svrveigh of London and Englands State

Descending thence [from a place near 'Islington hill'] to Holburne fields I accoasted a strength, named, Pinder of Wakefields Fort, being onely quadrangled, pallosaded, and single ditched, and enstalled with five great Ordonance and a Court du guard.[9]

1723 - Defoe, Daniel - History and Remarkable Life of Col. Jacque

But to go back where I left off. Will came to me, as I have said, and telling me how much better business he was fallen into, would have me go along with him, and I should be a gentleman. Will, it seems, understood that word in a quite different manner from me; for his gentleman was nothing more or less than a gentleman thief, a villain of a higher degree than a pickpocket, and one that might do something more wicked, and better entitling him to the gallows, than could be done in our way. But my gentleman that I had my eye upon was another thing quite, though I could not really tell how to describe it either.

  However, the word took with me, and I went with him. We were neither of us old. Will was about twenty-four; and as for me, I was now about eighteen, and pretty tall of my age.

  The first time I went with him, he brought me into the company only of two more young fellows. We met at the lower part of Gray's Inn Lane, about an hour before sunset, and went out into the fields toward a place called Pindar of Wakefield, where are aundance of brick-kilns. Here it was agreed to spread from the field-path to the roadway, all the way towards Pancras Church, to observe any chance [p. 95:] game, as they called it, which they might shoot flying. Upon the path within the bank on the side of the road going towards Kentish Town, two of our gang, Will and one of the others, met a single gentleman walking apace towards the town. Being almost dark, Will cried, "Mark, ho !" which, it seems, was the word at which we were all to stand still at a distance, come in if he wanted help, and give a signal if anything appeared that was dangerous.

  Will steps up to the gentleman, stops him, and put the question; that is, "Sir, your money ?" The gentleman, seeing he was alone, struck at him with his cane; but Will, a nimble, strong fellow, flew in upon him, and with struggling got him down. Then he begged for his life, Will having told him with an oath that he would cut his throat. In that moment, while this was doing, comes a hackney-coach along the road, and the fourth man, who was that way, cries, "Mark, ho !" which was to intimate that it was a prize, not a surprise. And accordingly the next man went up to assist him, where they stopped the coach, which had a doctor of physic and a surgeon in it, who had been to visit some considerable patient, and, I suppose, had had considerable fees. For here they got two good purses, one with eleven or twelve guineas, the other six with some pocket-money, two watches, one diamond ring, and [p. 96:] the surgeon's plaster-box, which was most of it full of silver instruments.

  While they were at this work, Will kept the man down who was under him; and though he promised not to kill him, unless he offered to make a noise, yet he would not let him stir till he heard the noise of the coach going on again, by which he knew the job was over on that side. Then he carried him a little out of the way, tied his hands behind him, and bade him lie still and make no noise, and he would come back in half-an-hour and untie him, upon his word; but if he cried out, he would come back and kill him.

  The poor man promised to lie still and make no noise, and did so; and had not above 11s. 6d. in his pocket, which Will took, and came back to the rest; but while they were together, I, who was on the side of the Pindar of Wakefield, cried, "Mark, ho !" too.[10]

Gazetteers

Sources

Maps

Background

Also see

Notes

  1. Hidden London: Mount Pleasant, Islington/Camden.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 PastScape: London Civil War Defences, where a more detailed list of the defences and their locations is given. See also Google My Maps: London's English Civil War Defences 1642-3.
  3. Weinstein, Rosemary. 'Southampton House and the Civil War', in: Bird, Joanna, ed.; Chapman, Hugh, ed.; Clark, John, ed. Collectanea Londiniensia: Studies in London Archaeology and History Presented to Ralph Merrifield (London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, Special Paper, No. 2) ([s.l.], 1978), pp. 329-45, see p. 332.
  4. Lithgow, William. The Present Surveigh of London and Englands State. Containing a Topographicall Description of all the Particular Forts, Redoubts, Breast-works, and Trenches Newly Erected round about the Citie on both Sides of the River, with the Severall Fortifications thereof. And a Perfect Relation of some Fatall Accidents, and other Disasters, which Fell out in the City and Countrey, During the Authors Abode there. Intermingled also with Certaine Severall Observations Worthie of Light and Memorie (London, 1643), sig. B2r,
  5. Reproduced in Weinstein, Rosemary. 'Southampton House and the Civil War', in: Bird, Joanna, ed.; Chapman, Hugh, ed.; Clark, John, ed. Collectanea Londiniensia: Studies in London Archaeology and History Presented to Ralph Merrifield (London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, Special Paper, No. 2) ([s.l.], 1978), pp. 329-45, see p. 339.
  6. PastScape: London Civil War Defences; PastScape: Wakefield Fort.
  7. Morden, Robert, cartog.; Lea, Philip, cartog. This Actuall Survey of London, Westminster & Southwark is Humbly Dedicated to ye Ld Mayor & Court of Aldermen (London, [1700]); A New Plan of the City of London, Westminster, and Southwark, in Stow, John; Strype, John. A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster: Containing the Original, Antiquity, Increase, Modern Estate and Government of those Cities. Written at First in the Year MDXCVIII. By John Stow, Citizen and Native of London. Since Reprinted and Augmented by A.M. H.D. and other. Now Lastly, Corrected, Improved, and very much Enlarged: and the Survey and History Brought down from the Year 1633, (being near Fourscore Years since it was Last Printed) to the Present Time; by John Strype, M.A. a Native also of the Said City. Illustrated with Exact Maps of the City and Suburbs, and of All the Wards; and likewise of the Out-parishes of London and Westminster: Together with many other Fair Draughts of the more Eminent and Publick Edifices and Monuments. In Six Books. To which is Prefixed, the Life of the Author, Writ by the Editor. At the End is Added, An Appendiz of Certain Tracts, Discourses and Remarks, Concerning the State of the City of London. Together with a Perambulation, or Circuit-walk Four or Five Miles round about London, to the Parish Churches: Describing the Monuments of the Dead there Interred: with other Antiquities Observable in those Places. And Concluding with a Second Appendix, as a Supply and Review: and a Large Index of the Whole Work (London, 1720).
  8. EnglishCivilWar.org: London's English Civil War defences 1642-3.
  9. Lithgow, William. The Present Surveigh of London and Englands State. Containing a Topographicall Description of all the Particular Forts, Redoubts, Breast-works, and Trenches Newly Erected round about the Citie on both Sides of the River, with the Severall Fortifications thereof. And a Perfect Relation of some Fatall Accidents, and other Disasters, which Fell out in the City and Countrey, During the Authors Abode there. Intermingled also with Certaine Severall Observations Worthie of Light and Memorie (London, 1643), sig. B3r; bracketed insert from sig. B2v.
  10. Defoe, Daniel; Maynadier, G. H., introd. The History and Remarkable Life of the Truly Honourable Colonel Jacque Commonly Called Colonel Jack (The Works of Daniel Defoe, vol. VI) (New York, ©1904), pp. 94-96.