Robin Hood and Little John (Westminster)
|Adm. div.||Middlesex, now Greater London|
|Vicinity||1 Duke Street, Westminster|
|Interest||Robin Hood name|
By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2017-12-18. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2021-01-05. Additional information from David Rodgers
'Robin Hood and Little John' was the name of a tavern located on the corner of Duke Street (no longer existing) and Charles Street (now King Charles Street) in Westminster from 1780 or earlier to the late 19th or very early 20th century. It was one of a good handful of pubs and taverns in this vicinity that had to make way for the government offices, whose east wing was completed in 1908, while the western half followed in 1917.
Military houses and a buxom widow
In an interesting note on the Essex Serpent and other vanished taverns in this neighbourhood published in 1909, W.E. Harland-Oxley noted that
The mention of 'military houses' refers to the fact that some inns in the area, in addition to their catering to the public at large, served as recruitment centres for various army regiments. Some of these establishments, like the Essex Serpent, were at times required to provide accommodation and daily meals for a couple of hundred recruits, in some cases in canteens that were off limits to members of the public. The Robin Hood and Little John, in contrast, seems to have provided a haven for those who enjoyed a quiet pint and – this is of course pure speculation – a chat with a busty bar person.
David Rogers has kindly informed me that his great-great-great-great-grandfather, Richard Rogers, is recorded as the landlord of the Robin Hood and Little John in Westminster Poll Books (National Archives) dating from 1780 to 1796. On 14 Feb. 1785 the pub hosted the City of Westminster Coroners' Inquests into Suspicious Deaths, and Richard Rogers was among those listed as present. David Rogers notes that the pub was then known as 'Robin Hood' tout court. This was also the case in 1825 and 1839 according to case summaries in the Proceedings of the Old Bailey (see Records section below). Pigot's Directory of London for the latter year lists the pub at 1 Duke Street, Westminster, with William Paul Sizer as publican; so also directories for 1841 and 1842, while the London Post Office Directory for 1856 lists the publican as Mrs J. Sizer.
It is not clear from Harland-Oxley's note when Mrs Sizer served her very last drink at the Robin Hood and Little John. Duke Street and its southern extension, Delahay Street, together connected Great George Street and (King) Charles Street, running parallel with Parliament Street and what is now Horse Guards Road, c. 50 meters east of the latter. In 1878, G.W. Thornbury noted in Old and New London that "Duke Street, which ran in a line with Delahay Street and is now absorbed into it, was a poor and narrow thoroughfare at its best. The change in street layout and nomenclature is duly reflected in the O.S. maps: only the earliest 25" map listed below (see Maps section) has Duke and Delahay streets separately labelled. Subsequently only the latter appears or, which is more often the case, the street is shown with no indication of its name. Harland-Oxley was himself a resident of Westminster and was able to draw on information from an acquaintance who had lived there at some earlier period. His account leaves no doubt he and his informant knew the area well, When Harland-Oxley refers to the street as Duke Street this might suggest that the tavern was connected in his mind with the time when the street was known under the old name and that it had therefore gone out of existence long before the street on which it was situated, but he could equally well just be using the old street name out of habit. In all events he makes it clear that the Robin Hood and Little John, like the other pubs he mentions, was gone by 1909.
Exact locationThe maps show that Charles Street and most of the houses along its south side did not yet exist in 1869 and were probably only built some time after 1873, though certainly before 1893. With the pub located on the corner of Charles and Duke streets according to Harland-Oxley, and at 1 Duke Street according to the trade and street directories, we can conclude that the pub is the building shown on the earliest of the 25" maps at the western side of Duke Street at this street's northern end. On the eastern side of the northern end of Duke Street no building existed when the trade directory entries were made. This means the pub was located a few meters east of the stairs that lead from the present Horse Guards Road to King Charles Street (see photo). It cannot have been far from the Churchill War Rooms. David Rogers believes the land was owned by the East India Company. As is generally the case with public houses in urban areas, the name of the Robin Hood and Little John is not included on the O.S. maps.
[7 Apr. 1825:]
[...] MATTHEW WILSON was indicted for stealing, on the 7th of February, twenty-eight brass cocks, value 50s., thirty brass rods, value 70s.; 5 lbs. of nails, value 2s., and eighteen sheets of sand paper, value 1s., the goods of David Evans.
MR. PHILLIPS conducted the prosecution.
MR. DAVID EVANS. I am a stove-grate manufacturer, and live in Crutched-friars. The prisoner was in my service about three years, in the capacity of steel-burnisher—he had access to my premises—I have missed the articles stated in the indictment.
ROBERT ADAMS. I am a carpenter, and live in Charles-street, Westminster. I know the prisoner—he produced some brass cocks, and other articles to sell, on the 7th of February.
Cross-examined by MR. LAW. Q. Did you not say that it would be better for him to give you some information? A. No, I did not.
MR. PHILLIPS. Q. Did you buy any of them? A. Yes, I bought eight cocks of him, at the sign of the Robin Hood public-house—I took them home and Mr. Evans came about a month or five weeks afterwards and I delivered them to him—I gave him 11s. for the cocks and some nails; he paid me 4s. which he owed me—I asked how he got them—he said he worked for different employers, and they sometimes paid him in goods—his father-in-law had worked for me five years—I had no suspicion—I also bought of him some stair carpet rods for 18s. which I delivered to the officer, and the cock likewise.
ELIZABETH ADAMS. I saw the prisoner at my husband's house some time after the 7th of February—he brought a bundle of rods and a bundle of cocks.
JOHN WHEEL. I am an officer of Queen's-square. I received this property from Mr. Adams, which I have kept ever since.
(Property produced and sworn to.)
JOHN JORDAN. I am apprentice to Mr. Adams. These marks on the paper are my writing—I tied the cocks up in it—there are twenty-eight, which are worth 2l. 16s.
Prisoner's Defence. There are a great many cocks on the premises, and Mr. Evans can swear to no marks on them—he promised me a free pardon if I would tell him of them.
GUILTY. Aged 22.
Transported for Seven Years.
[8 Apr. 1839:]
[...] HODGES HYDER was indicted for stealing, on the 13th of March, 2 sixpences; and 1 knife, value 9d.; the goods of George Courtney, from his person.
GEORGE COURTNEY. I have enlisted in the 94th regiment of foot, and lodge at the Robin Hood public-house, in Duke-street, Westminster. On the 13th of March I fell asleep in the parlour of that house—when I awoke I saw the prisoner lying on a stool, pretending to be asleep—I felt in my pocket, and missed two sixpences and a knife, which had been there when I went to sleep—I told the prisoner, if he gave me what he had of mine I would not trouble him about it—he said he would give me a rap on the head if I asked him for it again—I got a policeman, who searched him, and found sixpence in his trowsers' pocket, and my knife—I had given him 9d. for that knife that very morning.
FRANCES WILLIAMS. I live in Gardener's-lane, Duke-street, and work at the Robin Hood. On the 13th of March I saw the prosecutor in the parlour, and the prisoner down on his knees, picking the prosecutor's pocket—I went up, took him by the neck, and asked what he was doing there—he said he would knock me down—I made an alarm, and the people came up stairs—he ran from the man, laid down on the settle, add pretended to be asleep—we forced him out of the house, and gave him in charge.
JOHN MASSEY TIERNEY. I am a policeman. The prosecutor came to the station-house, and I went with him to the Robin Hood—I afterwards found the prisoner in Charles-street—I searched him at the station-house, and found half a crown and sixpence concealed in the waistband of his trowsers, and in his pocket 6d., some coppers, and two knives, one of which the prosecutor claimed.
Prisoner. When I was first taken, the prosecutor said he had lost a shilling; but when no shilling was found on me, be said it was sixpences—he said nothing about the knife till it was found. Witness. He said nothing about the knife till it was found—the moment he saw it he said, "That is my knife, I bought it of him this morning for 9d."—he at first said he had lost shilling, but directly said, "No, it was two sixpences"—I cannot remember whether that was before I found them—he was sober, but appeared to have been drinking—the prisoner appeared tipsy, but whether that was affectation I cannot say.
Prisoner's Defence. I went with Courtney, and another young man, to the Robin Hood—he bought the knife of me for 9d. and a pot of beer—we tossed for four or five quarterns of rum, and, in stooping for a halfpenny I broke my thumb nail—I asked him to lend me the knife to cut it—he did, and I put it into my pocket—we tossed for more rum—he put his hand into his pocket, and said, "That is the last shilling I have," and paid for it—we laid down to get sober—I fell asleep, and pitched, head foremost, down—the witness came up, hearing me fall, and said, "Oh, you rogue, you want to pick Courtney's pocket"—I said I did not, but I had stumbled over the stool—she brought up two or three men, and charged me with robbing Courtney—I asked him if he had lost any thing—he felt, and said he had not lost any thing—the witness said, "Feel again, for this young man was trying to pick your pocket"—he felt again, and said, "Yes, I had a shilling, which is gone," and said, "Give me the shilling"—I said I had no shilling belonging to him—he said I had, and was going to strip to fight me for it—when I came down stairs, three or four of them pushed me out of the house—the officer said, I had better go, and sit down at the cook's shop, and get sober—I came out of there in a few mintues, and saw Courtney and two policemen at the corner—I went up to speak to them, and he gave me in charge.
JOHN MASSEY TIERNEY re-examined. I took the prisoner in Charles-street—he was apparently coming from the coffee-shop towards me—nothing was said about having lent the prisoner a knife.
GEORGE COURTNEY re-examined. He did not break his finger nail that I know of—I never lent him the knife, I am certain.
FRANCES WILLIAMS re-examined. I was in the tap-room, and heard a noise up stairs—it was not like a man tumbling off a stool—it was like a scuffle—I swear I saw the prisoner's hands in the prosecutor's pocket.
GUILTY. Aged 21.—Recommended to mercy.—Confined Three Months.
- 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
- Not included at UK Pub History: Public Houses, Inns & Taverns of Westminster – St Margaret London.
- Harland-Oxley, W. E. '"The Essex Serpent" and Other Westminster Taverns', Notes & Queries, Series 10, vol. XII (1909), pp. 322-23
- UK Pub History: London 1839 Public House & Publican Directory - R3
- UK Pub History: London 1841 Public House & Publican Directory - R3
- UK Pub History: London 1842 Robsons Public House & Publican Directory - R2
- UK Pub History: London 1856 Public House & Publican Directory - R2.
- 25" O.S. map London XLIII (1878; surveyed 1869)
- 25" O.S. map London LXXV (1897; rev. 1893-94) (georeferenced)
- 25" O.S. map London LXXV (1897; rev. 1893-94)
- 25" O.S. map London V.13 (1916; rev. 1914)
- 6" O.S. map Surrey III (1880; surveyed 1868-73)
- 6" O.S. map Middlesex XVII (1880-82; 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) (georeferenced)
- 6" O.S. map London Sheet K (1920; rev. 1913-14)
- 6" O.S. map London Sheet K (c. 1946; rev. 1938).
- Thornbury, Walter; Walford, Edward. Old and New London: A Narrative of its History, its People, and its Places (London, Paris, and New York, ), vol. 4, p. 29
- Wikipedia: Government Offices Great George Street
- Wikipedia: Westminster.
- Wikipedia: Government Offices Great George Street.
- Harland-Oxley, W. E. '"The Essex Serpent" and Other Westminster Taverns', Notes & Queries, Series 10, vol. XII (1909), pp. 322-23.
- Mail from David Rogers via IRHB's Contact page.
- UK Pub History: London 1839 Public House & Publican Directory - R3; UK Pub History: London 1841 Public House & Publican Directory - R3; UK Pub History: London 1842 Robsons Public House & Publican Directory - R2; UK Pub History: London 1856 Public House & Publican Directory - R2.
- Thornbury, Walter; Walford, Edward. Old and New London: A Narrative of its History, its People, and its Places (London, Paris, and New York, ), vol. 4, p. 29.
- Proceedings of the Old Bailey: Matthew Wilson, Theft > grand larceny, 7th April 1825.
- Proceedings of the Old Bailey: Hodges Hyder, Theft > pocketpicking, 8th April 1839.