Robin Hood Yard (St James's Square)
|Adm. div.||Middlesex, now Greater London|
|Vicinity||On SE side of Charles II Street, E of St James's Square, St James's, Westminster|
|Interest||Robin Hood name|
|A.k.a.||Robin Wood's Yard|
By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2018-06-22. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2018-07-12.
Robin Hood Yard in Charles II Street was presumably named after the Robin Hood pub, close or adjacent to which it was located. The earliest record of this place-name known to IRHB is John Rocque's Plan of London and Westminster, published in 1746 (see detail shown on this page). At some point during the 18th century almost all of Robin Hood Yard was incorporated into the neighbouring 31 Charles II Street and ceased being a publicly accessible place.
There is no direct evidence that the name of the yard was inspired by that of the pub, and in fact the pub is first noted in 1762, sixteen years later than the yard. Yet most likely the pub came before the yard. In this period as now, 'Robin Hood' or 'Robin Hood and Little John' was a common pub name, but relatively few thoroughfares of any kind were named after the outlaw. Several of the latter were adjacent to pubs named after Robin Hood. Examples in London include Robin Hood Yard (Holborn) probably named after Robin Hood (Leather Lane, Holborn) and Robin Hood Court (Holborn) probably named after Robin Hood (Holborn). In view of this and since pubs were important social (often also coaching) hubs for the local community and advertized their presence by conspicuous street signs it is easy to understand the tendency for places, thoroughfares etc, in the immediate vicinity to be named after them. A comparatively modern example is the Robin Hood and the Robin Hood Dip, a pub and a pond in Cherry Hinton.
As noted, Robin Hood Yard was incorporated into 31 Charles II Street. This had been acquired by Henry Bentinck, second Earl of Portland (Duke of Portland from 1715) by 1710. According to the Survey of London, "Lord Portland's leasehold acquisitions also included stable yards evidently communicating with Charles Street[,] and he was perhaps responsible for the enlargement of the yard off that street shown in eighteenth-century maps and plans". The latter would have involved acquiring the yard. Portland sold the property to the Duke of Norfolk in 1722. Due to the disappearance of relevant papers it is not known when the transfer of (the lion's share of) Robin Hood yard took place, but the writer in the Survey may be right that this happened during Portland's ownership, though he does not provide any reasons for thinking so and a case can perhaps be made for some slightly later date. After the yard was taken over by the rich neighbour, everything on the SW side of a long narrow entrance way became private property (click detail of Roque's map below to see this). At best only a quite small part on the NE side of the entrance way could have been accessible to the public after this, and in fact the plan provided in the Survey suggests that access from Charles II Street to the remaining part was blocked. Rocque's map, as we have noted, knows the place as "Robin Wood's Yard" and it is included as "Robin Hood yard, Charles Street" in the list of London street and place-names in the Compleat Compting-House Companion (1763) The fact that the yard was included in a list of public places at the latter date perhaps suggests that Robin Hood Yard had stopped being publicly accessible somewhat later than the Duke of Portland's period of ownership (c. 1710-22). On the other hand, it is not listed in such reference works as Lockie's Topography of London (editions of 1810 and 1813) or Elmes's Topographical Dictionary of London (1831). The absence from Lockie is especially suggestive due to its coverage and the fact that John Lockie had long and detailed first-hand experience of his chosen topic: he was a building inspector for a fire insurance company who meticulously noted down the number of "doors" one must pass before arriving at a given side street (this was before proper numbering was introduced).
- Anonymous. The Compleat Compting-House Companion: or, Young Merchant, or Tradesman's Sure Guide (London, 1763), p. 417, s.n. 'Robin Hood yard'
- 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 yard 
- Not included in Dobson, R.B., ed.; Taylor, J., ed. Rymes of Robyn Hood: an Introduction to the English Outlaw (London, 1976), pp. 293-311.
- Rocque, John, cartog.; Pine, John, engr. A Plan of the Cities of London and Westminster, and Borough of Southwark (London, 1746). Detail shown on this page.
- 25" O.S. map London (First Editions c1850s) XLIII (1878; surveyed 1869)
- 25" O.S. map London (Edition of 1894-96) LXXV (1897; rev. 1893-94)
- 25" O.S. map London (1915- Numbered sheets) V.13 (1916; rev. 1914)
- 25" O.S. map London (Edition of 1894-96) LXXV (1897; rev. 1893-94) (georeferenced).
- 6" O.S. map Middlesex XVII (1880-82; surveyed 1868-73)
- 6" O.S. map Surrey III (1880; surveyed 1868-73)
- 6" O.S. map London VII.SW (1894-96; rev. 1893-95)
- 6" O.S. map Surrey III.NW (1898; rev. 1893-95)
- 6" O.S. map London Sheet K (1920; rev. 1913-14)
- 6" O.S. map London Sheet K (c. 1946; rev. 1938)
- 6" O.S. map Surrey III.NW (1898; rev. 1893-95) (georeferenced).
- British History Online: Survey of London: vols. 29-30, St James Westminster, Pt. 1 (ed. F.H.W. Sheppard): St. James's Square: No 31, Norfolk House, pp. 187-202.
- Elmes, James, compil. A Topographical Dictionary of London and Its Environs (London, 1831)
- Lockie, John, compil. Lockie's Topography of London, Giving a Concise Local Description of and Accurate Direction to Every Square, Street, Lane, Court, Dock, Wharf, Inn, Public Office, &c. in the Metropolis and its Environs (London, 1810)
- Wikipedia: Duke of Norfolk
- Wikipedia: Earl of Portland
- Wikipedia: St James's Square
- Wikipedia: St James's.
- British History Online: Survey of London: vols. 29-30, St James Westminster, Pt. 1 (ed. F.H.W. Sheppard): St. James's Square: No 31, Norfolk House, pp. 187-202. The names "Robin Hood Yard" and "Robin Wood's Yard" are noted there in note 6. IRHB's brackets. BHO wastes time and money on the potentially error prone double re-typing of books which are already in print instead of simply producing good PDFs of them by normal scanning and OCR. In the process, the numbering, look, layout and (potentially) exact reading of the original pages are lost. Please stop this madness.
- Anonymous. The Compleat Compting-House Companion: or, Young Merchant, or Tradesman's Sure Guide (London, 1763), p. 418.
- Lockie, John, compil. Lockie's Topography of London, Giving a Concise Local Description of and Accurate Direction to Every Square, Street, Lane, Court, Dock, Wharf, Inn, Public Office, &c. in the Metropolis and its Environs (London, 1810); Lockie, John, compil. Lockie's Topography of London, Giving a Concise Local Description of, and Accurate Direction to, Every Square, Street, Lane, Court, Dock, Wharf, Inn, Public Office, &c. in the Metropolis and its Environs. Second Edition (London, 1813); Elmes, James, compil. A Topographical Dictionary of London and Its Environs (London, 1831).
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John Rocque's map of London and Westminster (1746), centred on the Robin Hood and Robin Hood's Yard / Locating London's Past.