The St Mary Cray Jack-in-the-Green
I recently managed to get hold of an original copy of The Graphic from the 10th May 1890 featuring a wonderful illustration of the May Day festivities that took place in St Mary Cray. I’ve included part of the full-page picture above and the article in its entirety below. Roy Judge records mentions of a Jack taking part in this revival between 1889 and 1893. This Jack is a particular favorite of mine as it would have paraded just down the road from what would eighty four years later become my own childhood home.
MAY DAY AT ST. MARY CRAY
“Of all pretty revivals, one of the prettiest , the May Day fete, attracted last Thursday great crowds to the usually quiet Kentish village of St Mary Cray. The May Queen, attended by her maids of honour, had her throne on a triumphal car, drawn by four Sussex bullocks, with drivers in Old English costume. The procession was led by Druids, with flowing beards and flowing robes (one very much like Father Christmas, out of season), followed by Friendly Societies with their banners and tilters on horseback, by maskers, clowns and sweeps, Jack-in-the-Green, living chess characters, milkmaids leading a decorated cow, children representing wild flowers, maids with garlands, and a living pack of cards.
Starting from the paper-mills of Messrs. W. Joynson and Son, the merrymakers, after passing through Cray and Orpington, proceeded to the Recreation Grounds, where the sports and the crowning of the Queen of May took place. After the principal event, the crowning of the queen, the sports began with a game of chess, played by living characters. The dance round the Maypole, and especially tilting at the ring by farmers of the countryside in Old English costume, attracted great notice, and were greatly admired. There were also quarter-staff, quintain, and all sorts of other games, ending with a fete of lanterns.
Cray was gaily decorated with bunting, flags, and archways of greenery; and everybody praised Mr. Joynson, to whose liberality and initiative the success of the fete was principally due.”
The Dartford Express of 3rd May 1890 reported:
“The sweeps were, without doubt, a genuine trio. They had, everyone of them, been professional chimney sweeps for years, and they are well known throughout the Crays district…..Albert Blackstone was….”Jack-in-the-Green” , and it was fortunate for him, considering the length of the route taken, that his novel house of greenery was not nearly so heavy as was that of last year. It was an extraordinarily good one, we think, judging by appearances”
By 1895 it was reported the event was not held again, ‘because of the unmanageable crowds that came by railway”
If anyone has any more information about the St Mary Cray Jack-in-the-Green please do get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org