The Traditional Jack-in-the-Green
The Company of the Green Man gathers, archives and makes freely available information and images relating to the traditional Jack-in-the-Green. The Company supports and promotes current traditions that feature the Jack-in-the-Green.
The Jack-in-the-Green was (and indeed is) a traditional participant in May celebrations and May Day parades mainly in the U.K. A large framework is covered in combinations of foliage and flowers and is sometimes topped with an intricate crown of flowers. The Jack then parades or dances, often accompanied by attendants as well as Morris Dancers, musicians and assorted unusual characters.
The tradition of the Jack-in-the-Green most likely stems from the creation of intricate garlands of flowers during the 17th century which were carried by milkmaids during May Day celebrations. Over time the garlands became more elaborate until milkmaids would sometimes be seen balancing garlands on their heads covered in huge quantities of silver household objects. As guilds and other trade groups became established they joined in and tried to outdo the other participants in an attempt to receive more coins from the watching crowds. It was probably the Sweeps Guilds intent on earning as many coins as possible, to help them through what was traditionally the quietest part of their year, who first expanded the size of the garland to such an extent that they came up with the idea of the all covering structure, now known as the Jack-in-the-Green. May Day was traditionally a holiday for the Chimney Sweeps and became known as “Chimney Sweeper’s day.” The connection between the Jack-in-the-Green and chimney sweeps continues today. Some organisers and participants still have direct or distant connections with the trade. The character of the sweep is a participant in many of the current Jack-in-the-Green parades or is represented by his accoutrements (the sweep’s brushes) or blackened sooty faces. Varied musicians became involved as did dancers, mummers, Morris dancers and a host of strange characters including the Lord and Lady, clowns, men dressed as women, blind fiddlers, dragons, the “traditional” fairy on stilts and a number of named characters. These included Black Sal, Dusty Bob, May Day Moll, Grand Serag, Jim Crow, Master Merryman, St George, The May King and Queen, and of course Robin Hood and Maid Marian.
The earliest known record of a Jack-in-the-Green is from The Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser of 2 May 1775:
“Jack of the Green had made his garland by five in the morning, and got under his fhady building by seven…”
By the early 1800s the Jack-in-the-Green had spread from London following the rapid unregulated growth of the chimney sweep’s profession through the suburbs across the south of England and beyond. Most towns had at least one, and often many sweeps who paraded rival Jacks on May Day. From the mid 1800s May Day celebrations and the Jack-in-the-Green began to die out. Victorian sensibilities clashed with the bawdy working class practices involving the Jack-in-the-Green. Newspaper reports of the events became increasingly negative and disparaging of the general mayhem and at times riotous behaviour that ensued at these events. In 1875 the Chimney Sweepers Act was passed. The practice of sending boys up chimneys was banned and all chimney sweeps had to be registered with the police. The Sweeps May Festivities were changed irrevocably and by 1875 the heyday of the Jack-in-the-Green was over. By the early years of the 20th Century the Jack-in-the-Green had all but died out across the UK. From the mid-1800s a number of Jacks were already tame ’revivals’ or even replacements created by the Victorians to become a part of their own more genteel May celebrations of the English Idyll.
The Jack-in-the-Green also emigrated during the 1800s, in many cases accompanying Sweeps’ families heading out to find work in the colonies. Jacks appeared and, in some cases flourished, as far away as Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania and Jamaica before eventually meeting the same fate as the Jack-in-the-Green in the UK.
The Knutsford Jack is probably the oldest continual annual Jack-in-the-Green. Apart from the war years it has paraded as part of Knutsford’s Royal May Day every year since 1889. However the Knutsford Jack was not one of the earlier Jacks but like many others in the late 19th Century was a much tamed Victorian revival having first appeared in May 1864 “based on earlier traditions and festivities” by the Rev. Robert Clowes the Vicar of Knutsford.
Brentham’s May Day tradition became established in 1919, after the end of the First World War, and expanded considerably for 1920 when the first Jack-in-the-Green appeared. The time between the wars up to 1951 seem to be the dark ages with regards to information about Jacks. Apart from Knutsford and Brentham there are illusive reports of a Jack sighted opposite Guy’s Hospital in Borough, London in 1923 and a Sweeps’ Jack in St Ebb’s, Oxford that went out until 1939. A number of other sightings appear to be smaller Jacks created by children, including one at Ely.
The Oxford Jack was revived in 1951 by The Oxford University Morris Men. At the time they were unaware that it was a revival and that a Jack had appeared in Oxford before. This Jack has paraded every year since.
Another revival appeared as a one-off in Hollington, near Hastings in the 1950s. This Jack was a small one built for a child as part of the May Day celebrations.
1974 saw the publication of Lionel Bacon’s ‘Handbook of Morris dancing’ which actively encouraged the revival and evolution of Morris traditions. Then in 1976 the Labour Government announced the introduction of a new May bank Holiday to start in 1978. May Day in 1976 was on a Saturday and in 1977, the year of the Jubilee, on a Sunday. All these factors provided the impetus for new Morris sides to form and for existing Morris sides to do something bigger and better than before. A number of revivals occurred some connected and some seemingly independently within the space of a few years.
In the mid-1970’s, Simon Garbutt built a reconstruction of a traditional Jack for a May Day celebration in Kingston and Surbiton, Surrey. His Jack was based on a photograph of May Day Festivities at Oxford by Sir Benjamin Stone c.1900.
Rumford Morris Men from Essex used to have a Green Man (which they called Jack in the Green) back in the mid-1970s. Their Jack in the Green wore a boiler suit (dyed green) upon which were sewn dozens of cotton strips of differing shades of green cut into the shape of Oak leaves. The leaves were cut from sample material cadged from a Laura Ashley shop. The material was not only different shades, but was of various pattern (striped, paisley etc.). Jack also wore a pith helmet adorned with long strips of the same material hanging down and covering his face and extending down to his chest. Apparently, it was extremely warm to wear, and Jack often had to be refreshed with lots of ale to prevent wilting!
In 1976 Pilgrim Morris of Guildford created a contemporary May Day celebration using a number of traditional elements from various sources including a Jack-in-the-Green known as “The Guildford Bush”. The Guildford Bush is still part of Guildford’s wonderful Summerpole celebration each May.
The Whitstable Jack-in-the-Green was revived in 1976 by Dixie Lee, Oyster Morris and a local folk group for their folk festival he first went out in 1977 and continues to this day.
Independently around this time a Jack in the Green was also briefly revived in Rye by Daisy Roots Morris from Hastings.
In the late 1970’s Dave Lobb of The Greenwood Morris Men and later The Earls of Essex Morris formed GOG (The Grand Order of Guisers). As well as reviving dancing giants that can still be seen parading to this day (including Gogmagog the London Giant), Dave Lobb and GOG also revived the Islington Milkmaid’s Garland in 1981 which can also still be seen every May Day paraded by New Esperance Morris, and a Jack in the Green that paraded in Covent Garden.
Around this time Greenwood Morris used to dance at dawn at Alexandra Palace, then bring their Jack-in-the-Green which was built by Dave Lobb into the City for an evening tour of London Wall and the Smithfield area and Mick Skrzipiec and the Earls of Essex Morris Men would parade a Jack-in-the-Green around the City of London.
The Bluebell Hill or Rochester’s Sweeps Jack was revived in 1981 by Gordon Newton as part of the Rochester Sweeps Festival. The Rochester Jack was based on accounts written by Charles Dickens in his ‘Sketches by Boz.’ The revived Rochester Jack-in-the-Green is brought to life every year during a fantastic ceremony that takes place at Dawn on May 1st at the top of Bluebell Hill. Jack is woken by Morris dancers whilst surrounded by twelve “bonfires”
In 1983 Mo Johnson and Andy Lamb built the first Deptford (Fowler’s Troop) Jack-in-the-Green. Both were members of Blackheath Morris a side morphed from the Blackheath Foot’n’Death Men who used to dance at events featuring bands like Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies. Mo, Andy and others were inspired by one of Thankful Sturdee’s photographs c.1900 of the original troop and Jack. The Fowler’s troop Jack has gone out every May Day since.
Also in 1983 Dave Lobb and Mick Skrzypiec of The Earls of Essex Morris were discussing old May Day customs over a pint one lunchtime and decided to create an all-day event and the concept of the City of London Jack-in-the-Green was born. As May Day fell on a Sunday three Jacks were paraded in London. One from The Greenwood Men at Wood Green, The Earls of Essex Jack from Wanstead Flats and The Fowlers Troop Jack from Deptford.
The Hastings Jack was revived by Keith Leech MBE (formally of GOG and the Earls of Essex) and Mad Jack’s Morris in 1983 after he moved from London to Hastings. Working with Folklorist Roy Judge Keith pieced together late 19th century references to the Hastings (or as Roy would correct him) The St Leonards on Sea Jack in the Green. The Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green is now the biggest Jack in the Green event in the world attracting thousands of participants and onlookers every year.
May Day in 1984 The Earls of Essex Morris, with Mick Skrzypiec in their Jack, met at dawn on Wanstead Flats to see the sun rise. After breakfast they travelled by commuter train into Liverpool Street. They were joined at the Magog’s pub in Milk Street by the Blackheath Morris’s Deptford (Fowlers Troop) with Mo Johnson inside. The Deptford Jack in the Green had travelled up to the City of London with a select group of Blackheath Morris members. They started at The George Inn in Borough High Street then to The Pavilion End Pub off Bow Lane and then on to The Magog’s Pub. They were also joined by a Jack carried by Mike Mullen of Hammersmith Morris from West London. On subsequent occasions they were joined by the Jack from Royal Liberty Morris, the Jack from Greenwood Morris (Carried by Alan Pearson) and members of other Morris teams and the Grand Order of Guisers (GOG)
In Tasmania the Hobart Jack in the Green was revived by The Jolley Hatters of Hobart Morris Team in 1987 and was still known to be parading in 1998. I have been unable to ascertain whether the Hobart Jack is still active and would love to hear from anyone with any information.
In Oakhanger, Hampshire in 1991 a Jack-in-the-Green was an addition to a new local tradition of Bower Decking that was started in 1988 by the local community and Morris dancers and Jack led the procession. This appears to have been a one off outing for Jack.
The Bristol Jack (a scion of the Hastings Jack) was revived by Pigsty Morris in 1992 and continues to this day in a magical and vibrant procession through the City of Bristol each year.
John Major’s Conservative Government tried to remove the new Bank Holiday in 1993. A group made up of representatives of all the active Jacks protested at Parliament. The Rochester Jack danced in Downing Street and the Hastings Bogies (Jack’s mischevious attendants) were allowed access to Parliament in full Bogie costume. It was most likely the appearance of the Bogies that caused the government to back down (I like to think so anyway).
Ilfracombe (another scion of Hastings) has had a Jack every year but one since 2000.
The High Wycombe Jack appeared in one form or another on Holywell Mead between 2005 and 2010 he did not appear in 2011 and was last sighted on Naphill Common in 2012.
Highworth in Wiltshire celebrated the 800th anniversary of it’s market charter with a Jack in the Green on 22nd April 2006. The Highworth Jack in the Green is now an annual tradition as part of the annual May Market.
A May Day celebration was established briefly from 2006 to 2011 at Edwinstowe, Nottingham which included a Jack in the Green.
In 2009 Members of Hammersmith Morris created the Hammersmith Jack. This Jack is unique amongst the modern revivals in that it is largely covered with artificial foliage and is therefore very lightweight and portable. The Hammersmith Jack can be seen in Hammersmith every May Day and often tours other locations as well.
The Winchcombe (Gloucestershire) Jack was revived on August 31st 2009 as part of “Marking the Year.” A Jack was recorded as visiting a local school by Emma Dent of Sudeley Castle in the 1890’s. The Jack was then resurrected for May Day 2010 and a local May bank holiday village fete and is now awoken every year at dawn on May Day by Happenstance Border Morris
A Jack used to parade in the Pagan Pride Parade or Beltane Bash in London. The last time it was sighted was 2010. If anyone can let me know when this Jack first went out and if there are any plans for it to go out again I would really appreciate it.
The Tunbridge Wells Jack-in-the-Green first went out on 30th April 2010 Jack (wearing a crown of May blossom) He lead a procession around the commons of Rusthall and Tunbridge Wells and was then slain to release the spirit of summer. He was seen out and about beating the bounds in 2012 but has not been sighted since then.
The Lands End Jack-in-the-Green went out between 2011 & 2013 He greeted the Dawn at Chapel Carn Brea on May Day accompanied by Boekka Border Morris and on occasion by Penkevyll, the Lands End Obby Oss.
A Hop Jack appeared as a one off at the Faversham Hop Festival in August 2013.
2013 saw a Jack go out in Yaxley Cambridgeshire. He appeared in 2013 and 2014 and then 2016 but has not been sighted as far as I know since then.
2014 saw a revival of the Cheltenham Sweep’s Jack. Jack joined the Winchcombe Jack at Sudeley Castle on May 5th 2014 and in 2016 The Cheltenham Jack-in-the-Green returned to the streets of Cheltenham for the first time in over 100 years parading through Cheltenham and recreating the photograph taken 124 years earlier. The Cheltenham Jack has not been sighted since then.
The Chagford (Devon) Jack-in-the-Green appeared as part of a May Day revival in 2015. It has not appeared again since.
In 2016 Hever Castle in Kent created a Jack in the Green as part of their May Day celebrations which is now an annual event.
Also in 2016 Kentwell Hall in Suffolk had a Jack O’Green as part of their Tudor May Day Celebrations and Wythenshawe Hall in Manchester had a Jack ‘O’ Green accompanied by bogies as part of their Summer wake up to raise funds for the Hall. These both appear to have been one offs.
In May 2017 Grand Hama Morris paraded a Jack in the Green in the city of Isehara in Japan accompanied by the Grand Hama Morris team who are based in Kanagawa, Japan and were established in 2015. The Grand Hama Jack was also sighted in 2018 but did not go out in 2019.
2018 saw 18 Jacks parade but no new additions.
2019 saw two new Jacks arrive. The Evercreech Jack in the Green was the central character of a wonderful parade through the village on Saturday 4th May and the Bradford on Avon Jack in the Green became part of the re-branded Green Man Festival on Saturday 18th May.
Further details on all the Jacks mentioned can be found below:
There are also a small number of Jacks who parade privately in the UK each year some of which have been established for many years.
The modern Jacks are often accompanied by musicians and Morris dancers or attendants sometimes known as Bogies dressed in green rags adorned with leaves and flowers and with their faces arms and hands covered in green paint. Some Bogies interact with those watching the proceedings as the Jack is paraded by handing out small gifts to children or by adorning the watchers faces with some of “Jacks magic” which to the uninitiated may look remarkably similar to green face paint! Some Bogies like those at Hastings are particularly fierce and will protect Jack from the unwanted attentions of those who get too close to Jack before he wakes or try to steal leaves from him during the procession.
Jack often dances and cavorts along, sometimes chasing those he takes a fancy to or who simply get in his way. He has also been known to have a voice on occasions and has been heard by the author to shout the words “bogey, bogey, bogey” before trying to invite himself into someone’s house.
Many argue that the Jack is in no way connected with the Green Men of Churches, particularly because there is no evidence of any extra attention being paid to the Green Men residing inside and outside places of Christian worship at this time of the year. Others are convinced that the connection is a strong one, and that they are merely different aspects of the ancient spirit of the wildwood, of re-birth and renewal and of the coming of summer.
For further reading I highly recommend the following publications which have been invaluable as source material for this article:
- The Jack-in-the-Green by Roy Judge: ISBN: 0 903515 20 2
- May Day in England An Introductory Bibliography by Roy Judge: ISBN: 0 85418 152 0
- The Hastings traditional Jack in the Green by Keith Leech: ISBN: 078 0 901536 10 5
- Jack-in-the-Green in Tasmania 1844-1873 by Keith Leech: ISBN: 1 8671903 00 9
- Yesterday’s Country Customs: A History of English Folk Traditions By Henry Buckton: ISBN: 0752477374, 9780752477374
- Fowlers Troop and the Deptford Jack in the Green by Sarah Crofts: ISBN: 0954266110
- May Day – The Coming of Spring by Doc Rowe: ISBN:1 85074 983 3
Another excellent source of information has been Keith Chandlers ‘It is the First of May’ – ‘Jack in the Green Revisited’ an online gazetteer of references to historical Jacks. Roy Judge’s own gazetteer included references sourced by himself and a network of correspondents (Keith Chandler included) and was updated and considerably expanded in the revised 1999 second edition of “The Jack-in-the-Green.” When Roy died in 2000 Keith took on the task of continuing to gather references for the next decade on the MUSTRAD website:
http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/jack_gre.htm Keith’s article adds significantly to Roy’s work and includes more than a hundred new references.
The continuation of these traditions is extremely important and I encourage everyone to head along to support their nearest Jack. I am in the process of visiting and photographing every Jack in the UK to create an archive of information and images and to provide as much publicity to these events as possible. If anyone knows of any current Jacks I may have missed I would love to know. I would also be very interested in receiving photographs and finding out more information about all the existing Jacks and the traditions that surround them.
This article is very much a work in progress and the author would be very grateful to hear from anyone with any corrections or further information about historical or modern Jacks especially from those who “were there”. The advantage of publishing via this blog is that the information contained is organic and can take seconds to update or correct when required.
Knutsford Jack-in-the-Green (Since 1890)
The Knutsford Jack in the Green is probably the oldest continual annual Jack in the Green. Apart from the war years and one recent year it has paraded every year since 1889. May Day in Knutsford (Cheshire) is celebrated over the May Bank holiday weekend. The main focus is the May Queen.
The person who plays Jack is chosen each year and is now played by a youngster rather than an adult as it used to be. The Knutsford Jack was not one of the early Jacks but like many others in the late 19th Century was a much tamed Victorian revival having first appeared in May 1864 “based on earlier traditions and festivities” by the Rev. Robert Clowes the Vicar of Knutsford.
Brentham Jack-in-the-Green (Since 1919)
Brentham has a big celebration every May which includes a Jack in the Green described as a walking talking bush who sometimes parades barefoot and is often formed of exotic foliage. Brentham’s May Day tradition became established in 1919 after the end of the First World War and expanded considerably for 1921 when the first Jack-in-the-Green appeared. May Day wasn’t celebrated in Brentham between 1927 and 1930 but from 1931 except for the war years, Brentham May Day has had an uninterrupted run. In 1981 the procession very nearly did not take place. “With just one day to go to the celebrations, the organisers received a letter from Scotland Yard instructing them to observe a 28-day ban on marches in London. Ironically, it seems that “May Day procession” had suggested extreme leftwing intentions to Scotland Yard. With extraordinary speed the May Day organisers arranged a High Court hearing, where the judge was shown photographs of past May Day processions. He concluded that the children “did not look like a very subversive lot”, and he gave permission for the procession to go ahead. In the meantime the police had exempted the procession from the ban, though, curiously, on “religious” grounds. May Day that year will be remembered as the first and only time in the history of the Brentham tradition that prayers were said at the beginning and the end of the proceedings.
Oxford Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 1951)
The Oxford Jack-in-the-Green appears every year in Oxford on May Morning. Oxford University Morris Men introduced Jack-in-the-Green to their May Morning festivities in 1951. At that time they were unaware that a Jack-in-the-Green was a common sight in and around Oxford in the 19th century. Oxford City Morris Men along with Oxford University Morris Men (Town and Gown) now share responsibility organising the Morris dancing in Oxford on May Morning led by Jack in the Green.
The Oxford Jack is usually first seen with the crowds near Magdalen Tower just before 6am and leads an informal procession up ‘The High’ to Radcliffe Square, where the first dance of the day: “Bonny Green” from Bucknell, starts at about 6.25am. Jack then moves through New College Lane and Broad Street, concluding with a massed ‘Bonny Green Garters’ outside St. John’s College in St. Giles around 8.30am. After breakfast the Oxford University Morris Men and Oxford City Morris Men usually take Jack to a display for the children of St. Ebbe’s school when May Morning falls on a weekday.
Guildford Bush (Revived 1976)
Known as The Guildford Bush, this Jack is accompanied by the Pilgrim Morris Men of Guildford during the annual Summerpole all day event in Guildford. They meet at the bottom of the High street and process to Holy Trinity Church with the Maypole. The Maypole is erected on Castle Green and the dancing involving guest Morris sides begins. This Jack was revived in 1976 by Pilgrim Morris. For many years the Jack was carried by folklorist George Frampton.
Pilgrim Morris were founded in 1972, during the summer months they dance around Surrey and north-east Hampshire, and occasionally further afield. The Guildford Jack is built from Laurel and usually stands just ten inches higher than the occupant who is “usually somebody of less than average height.” “The activity of the bush depends on the inclination of the carrier. Sometimes it gets in the way of the dancers and entertains the public and at other times it just stands around.
Whitstable (Oyster Morris) Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 1976)
A Jack-in-the-Green was revived for the Whitstable Folk Festival in 1976 and is now central to the Whitstable May Day celebrations. The Jack is supported by Oyster Morris who also have their own Green Man who combines the roles of Jester and announcer dressed in white and green. The Whitstable Jack is accompanied by two attendants dressed as Robin Hood and Maid Marian. Dixie Lee one of the original organisers said in 1992 “At the time it just seemed like the Jack was looking for a reason to come out again, and I must say that every year when Jack makes his appearance on the street I get such a feeling of power from him that I know it was the right thing to do” After 40 years of reviving the Whitstable Jack, Dixie Lee retired in 2016 at the age of 80 and Oyster Morris took over the Jack and the procession.
The Whitstable Times of 4th May 1895 included a report about a Jack in the Green catching fire on Whitstable High Street. Stephen Penn was in the Jack “encased in a pyramid of evergreens covered with thin colour paper…. “Jack” thought he would have a pipe and proceeded to light up” A spark from the pipe ascended to the upper part of the casing and caught alight. “He was instantly enveloped in flames” Fortunately the evergreens seem to have protected him and he only had his whiskers burnt off. His son Stephen Penn Jnr. however became ignited whilst attempting to help his father and was badly burnt, he was treated by the newly formed ambulance corps. A story circulated in 1977 that in 1912 the Whitstable Jack in the Green caught fire and the man inside burnt to death putting a stop to the tradition. There is no evidence of this and perhaps it is more than likely that the writer was in fact referring to the 1895 incident and perhaps embellishing it with their own memories of the 1973 film “The Wicker Man” for dramatic effect. In May 2016 Dixie Lee informed me of an addition to this story from a local lady that she knows well. Her Grandmother (whilst heavily pregnant) was walking to the shops when see saw the Jack catch fire. This caused such a shock that she went into labour. The result was a baby girl called May. May seems to have been unaffected by the incident and lived to the ripe old age of 99!
It was from Whitstable’s fame for oysters that the name Oyster Morris was adopted by a group of women who began to dance in the mid 1970s. The men soon followed, so that Oyster Morris now has a men’s side and a women’s side. They dance a vigorous Cotswold style. The music, played mainly on melodeons, or sometimes a flute, is a mixture of traditional and original tunes arranged to complement their dancing.
Deptford (Fowlers Troop) Jack-in-the-Green (Revived early 1980’s)
In 1983 Mo Johnson built a Jack-in-the-Green in the back garden of the ‘Dog and Bell’ pub . An off shoot of the Covent Garden Jack Mo was inspired by a photograph taken by contemporary historian Thankful Sturdee of the original Fowlers troop with their Jack in the Green c.1900. The revived Jack was paraded with Blackheath Morris (a side morphed from the Blackheath Foot’n’Death Men who used to dance at events featuring bands like Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies).
The current Fowlers Troop Jack goes out on the streets of South East London or the City of London each May Day accompanied by the current Fowler’s Troop a wonderful collection of costumed figures. The Deptford Jack often used to meet up with the now rarely sighted City of London Jack in the Green on May Day. When May Day fell on the Bank Holiday Monday both the Deptford and City of London Jacks often went to Hastings to join with the Hastings Jack in the Green in the celebrations. This last occurred in 2012. The Jack stands at around 11 feet tall when lifted. Graham Newson who took on the mantle as keeper and main carrier of the Jack in the early 90’s customised the interior of the Jack to include storage space for essentials including cigarettes, beer tankard a repair kit, a change of clothes and on occasions a set of morris sticks. After 30 years the original frame for the Deptford Jack in the Green was past its best and so, in 2015, a new metal frame was created specially and paid for from a fund left by Doug Adams who was the lead musician of Fowler’s Troop. The Jack was christened at the start of the 2015 May Day procession. The Jack is usually dressed on April 30th at the Dog & Bell pub.
Rochester (Blue Bell Hill) Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 1981)
The Rochester Jack was revived in 1981 by Gordon Newton and based on accounts written by Charles Dickens in his ‘Sketches by Boz.’ The Rochester Jack-in-the-Green is brought to life during a fantastic ceremony that takes place at Dawn on May 1st at the top of Bluebell Hill each year.
Originally revived by Boughton Monchelsea Morris, custodianship of Jack was passed to Motley Morris in 1984 who now Wake Jack with various other Morris sides at dawn on May Morning (approximately 5:32am) at the Bluebell Hill picnic area surrounded by twelve bonfires. Jack is also paraded through the streets of Rochester by Motley Morris usually on the bank holiday Monday as part of the very popular three day Sweeps Festival. An article in the Chatham and Rochester Observer in 1932 states that ” Sixty years ago (the 1870’s) it was not considered May Day if we had not seen at least three Jacks-in-the-Green and their attendants from Rochester and Chatham.”
Jack in the Green by Martin Graebe
Now winter is over I’m happy to say
And we’re all met again in our ribbons so gay
And we’re all met again on the first day of spring
To go about dancing with Jack in the green
Jack in the green, Jack in the green
To go about dancing with Jack in the green
Now Jack in the green is a very strange man
Though he dies every autumn, he’s born every spring
And every year on his birthday, we will dance through the streets
And in return Jack, he will ripen our wheat (as above)
With his mantle he’ll cover the trees that are bare
And our gardens he’ll trim with his jacket so fair
And our fields he will sow with the hairs on his head
And our grain it will ripen till old Jack is dead
Now the sun is half up and betokens the hour
That the children arrive with their garlands of flowers
So now let the music and dancing begin
And touch the young heart of young Jack in the Green
In 1981, several members of local Cotswold Morris teams decided to perform dances from the Welsh Borders on an occasional basis. They called themselves “Dartford Motley” after the town where practices were held. The name soon changed to “Motley Morris”.
Islington Milk Maid’s Garland (Revived 1981)
New Esperance Morris have paraded the Islington Milkmaid’s Garland through Islington every May Day since 1981 when it was first revived with the help of Dave Lobb’s research and inspiration. The Milkmaids Garlands date back to the 17th Century and were the precursor to The Traditional Jack in the Green.
The Islington Milk Maid’s Garland is about five feet tall, and needs two people to carry it. New Esperance also take the Islington Milk Maid’s Garland to Hastings for the Traditional Jack in the Green Bank Holiday each year.
New Esperance Morris (known as Esps to their friends) have been continuing the tradition of women’s Morris dancing in London since the 1970s. They draw on a rich heritage, specifically that of Mary Neal, who set up the first women’s Morris, Esperance Club in 1896 and later became involved with the suffrage movement. New Esperance dance Cotswold Dances in the traditions of Bledington, Fieldtown, Ilmington, and their own Esperance tradition.
Hastings Traditional Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 1983)
The Hastings Jack-in-the-Green festival was revived by Keith Leech MBE (formally of GOG and the Earls of Essex) and Mad Jack’s Morris in 1983 after he moved from London to Hastings. Working with Folklorist Roy Judge, Keith pieced together late 19th century references to the Hastings (or as Roy would correct him) The St Leonards on Sea Jack in the Green. There were at least two groups who paraded a Jack in the Green until about 1889, though the earliest mention of an already established Jack in the area dates back to 1848 “Clowns, shovels, dust and noise, Jack in the Green, a sooty queen, And half-a-dozen boys.”.
The revived Hastings Traditional Jack-in-the-Green event now spans four days and is one of the biggest annual gatherings of Morris Dancers in the country. It is a spectacular and magical event. The Jack is “released” from the Fisherman’s Museum every year in a wonderful ceremony and is central to the festival. The main procession or parade of the Jack takes place on the bank holiday Monday through the streets of Hastings Old Town starting from the Fisherman’s Museum. The Jack is accompanied by Mad Jacks Morris, Hannah’s Cat Morris, the Bogies, the Gay Bogies, sweeps, Black Sal, a milkmaid, the Fat Man with a Drum, dancers, giants, musicians and an incredible array of green participants who create elaborate costumes for the event. It has been described as one of the most bizarre parades in Britain and really has to be seen to be believed. At the end of the day Jack is slain and his foliage distributed to the crowds to release the spirit of summer. On some years other Jacks have been known to travel to Hastings to join in the festivities including The Fowlers Troop Jack and The City of London Jack.
The Hastings Bogies have become a folkloric legend in their own lifetime. They were originally thought up by Dave Lobb as an escort for the Jack to see him safely through the increasingly crowded streets and were camouflaged in green leaf suits to allow those carrying the Jack to swap places more discreetly. When not carrying or protecting Jack the Hastings Bogies paint the faces (and occasionally other parts of the body) of as many people as possible with green face paint. It is considered bad practice to try to take pieces of the Jack while it is processing and if caught the wrath of the Bogies is swift and may involve debagging and painting the back side of the offender. To be caught in the steely gaze of a Bogie is a fearful thing and to be avoided at all costs. At one point there were only twelve official Bogies that could always be found near the Jack-in-the-Green protecting and guiding him. One of the Bogies with twenty years service “in the green” commented “That may have been true once upon a time, but there are considerably more of us now. In the last two years some younger bogies have been recruited due to a lot of us nearing pensionable age. Nothing like young legs to carry the Jack up the hill.” The Hastings Jack is formed from Rhododendron which keeps green for longer than many other leaves. The crown of flowers worn by the Jack is often formed of red blue and gold flowers to represent the Cinque Ports of which Hastings is the first.
Rather than an open hole for the carrier to see out of the Hastings Jack’s “portal” is covered with an ornate mask. The original mask was made by Dave Lobb and since then other masks made by varying artists have been used. Between in 1993 and 1994 the mask used was created by artist Clive Hicks Jenkins and was based on the face of his late Father Trevor. Clive explained “After his death I was asked to provide a mask for the ‘Jack’ to wear at the Hastings Green Man Festival, and thereafter for a couple of years Trevor’s likeness was at the centre of that magnificent spectacle, an honour he would have delighted in.” The mask disappeared during Jacks demise one year and Clive would love to hear from anyone who knows where it might have ended up. A new mask was made by Marti Dean for the twenty fifth year of the Hastings Jack in 2008. The use of a mask has since been taken up by some other revived Jacks. Many of the “traditions” surrounding the Jacks in the Green that parade throughout the UK originated with the Hastings Jack including the waking of the Jack in the morning and slaying of the Jack at the end of the day, the distributing of Jacks leaves to the crowd for “good luck” and the burning of distributed leaves on a bonfire in the autumn.
For anybody interested in more information about The Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green and indeed the history of the Jack in general I would highly recommend Keith Leech’s excellent book, The Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green.
Bristol Jack in the Green (Revived 1992)
In 1861, the Western Daily Press reported that: “Throughout the city and Clifton there was the usual visitation of Royalty – perhaps a more plentiful crop of Kings and Queens than in former years – and Jack in the Green, with a band of music and a cohort of gaily dressed fraternal spirits, paraded the thoroughfares and drew much attention.” A Jack-in-the-Green was also recorded in Bristol around 1865 by a lady who remembered seeing him with a sweep and a queen on the outskirts.
The Bristol Jack in the Green was revived by a group including some members of Pigsty Morris in 1992 and is a scion of the Hastings Traditional Jack. The Bristol Jack appears on the first Saturday in May starting from the historic harbourside (outside the M Shed). Jack is “awoken” by his green clad attendants who recite part of William Anderson’s beautiful poem “The Green Man” in an evocative ceremony on the harbourside. Jack then leads a magical six hour procession through the streets of Bristol. The Bristol Jack is nine feet tall and is topped with an intricate colourful crown of flowers.
The Bristol Jack can be difficult to control, his attendants often have to keep him from chasing members of the public. Jacks attendants distribute Jacks magic (often mistaken for green face paint) amongst those watching him along the route. The Bristol Jack in the Green’s route varies slightly each year but he normally passes through St Nicholas Market where he dances before pausing for a well earned pint at The Crown.
The day always ends on Horfield Common where large crowds gather to witness the slaying of Jack to release the spirit of summer in another wonderful magical ceremony. Jack is sometimes killed with a spear but is always enthusiastically stripped of all his leaves by the crowd and his attendants and taken away as tokens of Jack’s magic.
The bark of the elder makes whistles for children
To call to the deer as they rove over the snow;
‘I am born in the dark, ‘says the Green Man,
‘I am born in the dark, ‘says he.
The Hungry birds harry the last berries of rowan
But white is her bark in the darkness of rain;
‘I rise with the sap, ‘says the Green Man,
‘I rise with the sap,’says he.
The reed beds are flanking in silence the islands
Where meditates Wisdom as she waits and waits:
‘I have kept her secret, ‘says the Green Man,
‘I have kept her secret, ‘says he.
The Alders are rattling as though ready for battle
Guarding the grove where she waits for her lover;
‘I burn with desire, ‘says the Green Man,
‘I burn with desire, ‘says he.
Green Man becomes grown man in flames of the oak
As it’s crown forms his mask and it’s leafage his features;
‘I speak through the oak, ‘says the Green Man
‘I speak though the oak, ‘say he.
The hedges of quick are thick with May blossom
As the dancers advance on the leaf-covered King:
‘It’s off with my head, ‘says the Green Man’
‘It’s off with my head, ‘Says he.
Ilfracombe Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2000)
Ilfracombe’s Jack-in-the-Green procession was started in 2000 by Lisa Sture. Local children were involved and it was supported by local morris teams. Another descendant of the Hastings Jack, the Ilfracombe Jack event also finished with the release of the spirit of summer and the distribution of leaves often on Ilfracombe beach. The Ilfracombe Jack did not appear in 2015.
In 2016 Kelly Raveney stepped in to help and Ilfracombe’s May Day Celebrations returned that year. The parade usually ends at the clapping circle where Maypole dancing takes place and Jack-in-the-Green is stripped of his leafy coverings to release the spirit of summer.
Whitstable (Dead Horse Morris) Jack-in-the-Green
Dead Horse Morris have a Jack-in-the-Green clad entirely in Ivy who takes part in the Dawn Rising celebrations on Whitstable Beach on May 1st each year. He then takes part in the Whitstable May celebrations. The Jack is built of ivy leaves tied together in bunches and then fixed to a light-weight frame. In it’s final form it also boasts a crown.
Dead Horse Morris are a Morris side from Whitstable in Kent made up of the Dead Horse Morris Men and the Broomdashers ladies team. They dance a regional style of the traditional English Morris Dance, although they lean more towards the “Border” style and “Molly Dancing” than the better known bells-and-hankies Cotswold dances.
Dead Horse Morris was formed in 1986 they dance in heavy hob-nailed boots, use short blackthorn sticks and their kit is based on the ordinary working clothes of a local fisherman or dredger of the late 19th Century.
Highworth Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2006)
Highworth in Wiltshire celebrated the 800th anniversary of it’s market charter with a Jack in the Green on 22nd April 2006. The Highworth Jack in the Green is now an annual tradition as part of the annual May Market. The Jack is accompanied by the Bang to Rites Drummers a group of community based performance drummers, based around the borders of Wiltshire, Oxfordshire & Gloucestershire who formed in the summer of 2013.
Hammersmith Jack-in-the-Green (2009)
In 2009 Members of Hammersmith Morris created the Hammersmith Jack. This Jack is unique amongst the modern revivals in that it is largely covered with artificial foliage and is therefore relatively lightweight and portable. Each leaf is made from a variety of materials, all of it re-used and recycled. The leaves were created by many different people including local schools and community organisations that Jack has visited as part of its May Day perambulations over the years. As well as leaves made of paper, fabric and plastic, the Jack has other items attached that have some significance to either Hammersmith, the team, or the person who attached it. These can be almost anything, as long as they are small and easily attached to the bamboo and net frame and include jig competition medals, badges, train tickets, melodeon bellows and an iPod! A crown of fresh flowers and foliage is used to top the Jack each year on May 1st.
The Jack is paraded through Hammersmith on May 1st, regardless of which day of the week this falls, and wherever else the Jack visits on this day. This included 2016 when The Hammersmith Jack travelled west by train to appear at dawn in Sherborne, Dorset on May 1st. Jack was back home parading through Hammersmith by lunchtime. When May 1st is a normal weekday then Jack and the team will visit schools and care homes in the local area, as well as local pubs. The Hammersmith Jack in the Green is very much a free spirited urban Jack, having no attendants other than the Morris Dancers and musicians and mostly being left to his own devices. As such the Jack can at times be spotted parading the streets of Hammersmith completely on its own, creating a special kind of gentle mayhem unique to The Hammersmith Jack.
People have reported an earlier incarnations but this is uncorroborated by current team members. On May Day in 1984 the Earls of Essex Morris, with Mick Skrzypiec in their Jack, met at dawn on Wanstead Flats to see the sun rise. After breakfast they travelled by commuter train into Liverpool Street and started the first City of London Jack-in-the-Green procession. They were joined at the Magog’s pub in Milk Street by the Deptford (Fowler’s Troop) Jack and one other Jack which a member of Fowler’s Troop recalls as being carried by Mike Mullen. Mike danced with Hammersmith Morris but this Jack appears to have been an individual effort by him rather than the work of the team.
The World Famous Hammersmith Morris Men or Smiffs were formed in 1959. Kitted out in blue and gold they continue to entertain audiences around the country with their lively and engaging style.
Winchcombe Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 2009)
The Winchcombe (Gloucestershire) Jack was revived on August 31st 2009 as part of “Marking the Year.” A Jack was recorded as visiting a local school by Emma Dent of Sudeley Castle in the 1890’s. The Jack was then resurrected for May Day 2010 and a local May bank holiday village fete and is now awoken every year at dawn on May Day by Happenstance Border Morris and appears at various events in the following days. The Winchombe Jack sometimes met up with the Cheltenham Jack-in-the-Green during the years it was active.
Happenstance is a mixed Border Morris side dancing to live music. They are based in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire nestling in the shadow of Cleeve Hill
Bovey Tracey/Grimspound Morris Jack-in-the-Green
The Bovey Tracey Jack-in-the-Green goes out with Grimspound Morris. He can be seen greeting the Mayday dawn up on Haytor and then afterwards puts in an appearance in Bovey Tracey.
Grimspound Morris was formed in 1994 from a group of ex-Cotswold style dancers and a few friends, some of whom were also Rapper Sword dancers. They dance with vigour and in an uncompromising “border” style. Many of their dances are now their own, using figures and movements from that style to create something that is unique to them.
Carshalton Straw Jack
A Celebration of Harvest this takes place in September each year. The Straw Jack is made from the last straw of the harvest and is ritually stripped in the evening so that all present can take a keepsake and then he is burnt in a brazier. It is hoped that he will be burnt as a complete figure one year. The Straw Jack is more closely related to the Jack in the Green than to traditional straw bears having no legs and being built around a frame.
Usually starting from around 11.00am Jack visits a number of public houses throughout the day. The burning takes place sometime around 7:30pm.
Hever Castle Jack-in-the-Green (2016?)
Hever Castle in Kent had their own Jack-in-the-Green and Green Man over the early May Bank Holiday weekend of 2016 joined by the Lord and Lady of the May on the Castle forecourt. The Green Man led a procession through the gardens waking up the plants for summer. This Jack is now an annual event.
Boss Morris Jack-in-the-Green (started 2017)
Boss Morris Jack in the Green is actually a Jacky in the Green. She was created in April 2017 and first appeared on Painswick Beacon at dawn on May Dawn 2017 at an annual hop hosted by Gloucestershire Morris Men with Boss Morris, Stroud Ladies Morris & Miserden Morris attending. She is entirely formed from recycled materials. The Boss Morris Jacky is not slain at the end of the day but instead the Spirit of Summer in the form of petals can be seen emanating from her. Jacky lives at an eco-housing community while she is sleeping throughout the rest of the year.
Boss Morris is an all female Morris Dancing side that sprang up out of the five valleys of Stroud, Gloucestershire in 2015. The twelve-strong group of dancers now regularly hops and performs across the UK with their unique take on the traditional English Folk dance. Boss Morris is an eclectic group of professional performers, dancers, musicians, artists and a horde of magical beasts who create tailored performances for vibrant and exciting events. Boss is well known by folk and artistic communities alike, with audiences and fans from far and wide. Cotswold Morris is the side’s main dance form but they take inspiration from many types of dance, old and new. Boss’s style pulls on ancient customs and traditional dances but gives them a modern twist with their striking attire, dazzling the crowds.
Alongside building strong roots in their local community and the wider folk scene, Boss also work extensively with prominent artists and musicians; touring and performing with bands, featuring in music videos and performing at music festivals.
Evercreech (Somerset) Jack-in-the-Green (started 2019)
Evercreech Jack in the Green is a community, folk revival, celebration. Jack is dressed by volunteers during the morning outside The Old Stores Studio in Evercreech, Somerset. Jack is then brought to life and is paraded along the main street accompanied by wonderful musicians, members of the local circus and a Morris Team.
Bradford on Avon Green Man Festival Jack in the Green (started 2019)
The Bradford on Avon day of dance was re-branded as a Green Man Festival in 2019 and introduced a wonderful Jack in the Green who parades around the town during the day. Morris teams from around the country dance in various locations around the historic town and at the end of the day all the teams gather at the the Tithe Barn where Jack is stripped of his leaves to release the Spirit of Summer. The Bradford Jack is adorned with a mask as well as a crown of flowers in the form of the Bradford Gudgeon. The Bradford on Avon Jack in the Green is one of only a very small number of Jacks who have been known to talk.
Hobart (Tasmania) Jack-in-the-Green (Started 1987 – Last sighted 1998)
The Hobart Jack in the Green was revived by The Jolley Hatters of Hobart Morris Team in 1987 and was still known to be parading in 1998. I have been unable to ascertain whether the Hobart Jack it is still active and would love to hear from anyone with any information.
City of London Jack-in-the-Green (Started 1984 – Last sighted 2012)
In the late 1970’s The Earls of Essex Morris Men would parade a Jack-in-the-Green around the City of London. On May Day in 1984 the Earls of Essex Morris, with Mick Skrzypiec in the Jack, met at dawn on Wanstead Flats to see the sun rise. After breakfast they travelled by commuter train into Liverpool Street and started the first City of London Jack-in-the-Green procession.
Rather than a revival, The City of London Jack-in-the-Green is based on descriptions and illustrations from early writings. The City of London Jack was first paraded in 1984. Tradition has it that the City of London Jack only comes out on City working days, on years when this is not the case it is rumoured that the City of London Jack may occasionally be spotted elsewhere. The City Jack was last sighted when he joined the Hastings and Fowler’s Troop Jacks in Hastings in 2012.
Beltane Bash/Pagan Pride Jack-in-the-Green (Last sighted 2010)
The Beltane Bash Jack-in-the-Green has not paraded since 2010. The parade used to start from the Conway Hall Red Lion Square London WC1 led by traditional giants, the Jack-in-the-Green and Bogies. There have been rumours that a Jack might take part in other Pagan Pride Parades.
High Wycombe Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 2005 – Last sighted 2012)
The High Wycombe Jack appeared in one form or another on Holywell Mead between 2005 and 2010 he did not appear in 2011 and was last sighted on Naphill Common in 2012.
Lands End Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2011 – Last sighted 2013)
The Lands End Jack-in-the-Green went out between 2011 & 2013 He greeted the Dawn at Chapel Carn Brea on May Day accompanied by Boekka Border Morris and sometimes by Penkevyll, the Lands End Obby Oss. The Lands End Jack-in-the-Green was last sighted in 2013.
Tunbridge Wells Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2010 – Last sighted 2012)
The Tunbridge Wells Jack-in-the-Green first went out on 30th April 2010 Jack (wearing a crown of May blossom) He lead a procession around the commons of Rusthall and Tunbridge Wells and was then slain to release the spirit of summer. He was accompanied by a number of drums and was flanked by a red flag and a flag of Kent. He was seen out and about beating the bounds in 2011 and 2012 but has not been sighted since then.
Kentwell Hall Jack O’Green (2016?)
Kentwell Hall in Suffolk had their own Jack O’Green over the early May Bank Holiday weekend as part of their Tudor May Day Celebrations. The bringing in of the tree was led by a Jack O’Green, covered in Greenery, and processing the May Queen. I would love to hear more about this Jack from anyone who saw it. In particular I’d like to know if this was a one off.
Wythenshawe Hall Jack ‘O’ Green (2016?)
Wythenshawe Hall in Manchester had a Jack ‘O’ Green on May 2nd weekend as part of their ‘Summer Wake Up’ to raise funds for the hall. People were encouraged to dress in green and become one of Jack’s Bogies for the day. I would love to hear more about this Jack from anyone who saw it. In particular I’d like to know if this was a one off.
Yaxley (Cambridgeshire) Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2013)
The Yaxley Jack-in-the-Green lead the traditional May parade on May 18th 2013 accompanied by Sap-Engro and Copperface as well as an attendant wearing the original Ancient Order of the Foresters sash, worn in the village’s parades in the nineteenth and early twentieth century and a host of boggarts – the mischievous imps of Fenland lore. He appeared in 2013 and 2014 and then 2016 but has not been sighted as far as I know since then.
Chagford Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2015)
The Chagford (Devon) Jack-in-the-Green appeared as part of a May Day revival in 2015. It has not yet appeared again since.
Cheltenham Sweeps Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 2014)
The Cheltenham Sweeps Jack appears in a photograph taken of May Day in Cheltenham in 1892. A Jack was first recorded in Cheltenham in 1830 and intermittently up until 1912. The 2014 revived Jack joined the Winchcombe Jack at Sudeley Castle on May 5th 2014 and in 2016 The Cheltenham Jack-in-the-Green returned to the streets of Cheltenham for the first time in over 100 years parading through Cheltenham and recreating the photograph taken 124 years earlier. The Cheltenham Jack has not been sighted since then.
This 1891 description of the Cheltenham Jack-in-the-Green was written by W.H.D. Rouse who was President of The Folklore Society 1904-1906 and is reproduced in Roy Judge’s wonderful book “The Jack-in-the-Green” available from The Folklore Society.
‘The dancers are the chimney-sweeps of the town, two of whom, dressed in ordinary clothes, but with faces blacked, play on a fiddle and a tin-whistle for the dancing. The centre of the group is formed by a large bush: on a framework of wood leaves are fastened, so as to make a thick cone of them, about six feet high, topped with a crown made out of two hoops of wood covered with flowers, fastened crosswise. The mass of leaves is only broken at one place where there is an opening contained by a straight line and the arc of a circle, like a ticket office, through which peers the face of Jack-I’-the-Green, or the Bush-carrier. Jack advances halfway down the street, and then sets down the bush. Three young men of the party are attached, so to speak, to the bush, and now begin to dance round it. Their faces are blackened; they are crowned with complete caps (not garlands) made of all manner of leaves and flowers. Their dresses are red, blue, and yellow respectively, each of one colour; loose-fitting bodies and trousers of calico, with flower-patterns upon them. These dance lightly round the bush, turning always to their left, in a tripping polka-step, three trips and a pause, mostly straightforward, but with a turn round now and then. I am informed that they always dance in the same direction.
‘The rest of the party are boys and two men, most fantastically dressed; it is almost impossible to describe the dresses. The leader of the whole procession – the Clown – wears a tall hat, whose crown has been cut almost round, and turned back, like the lid of a meat-tin. To this flapping crown is fastened what looks like a bird or a bundle of feathers, and a few ribbons hang from it; there is a wide pink ribbon fastened round the hat by the brim, with a large blue bird’s wing in front, the feather end rising to the crown. Over a dress of chequered calico and trousers of red and black stripes, is a very large pinafore, reaching from the neck to the knees, and fastened by one or two knots behind. Across the front run two fringes of coloured stuff, below the waist; and at the bottom is a yellow frill. This he used to flap and make quaint gestures with, now and again fanning himself languidly; indeed this personage greatly fancies himself. His face is stained by large black rings round the eyes, and a red dab over mouth and chin.
The second man wears a red fool’s-cap, with a tassel, all stuck with flowers. On the right and left breast of his white pinafore are stuck or painted black figures, meant for human beings; and behind, a large pattern in the shape of a gridiron, with a red bar crossing it diagonally.
‘The two boys have white pinafores, with similar figures, or stars, on the breast, and a fish on the back; their white pinafores are cut away in the shape of swallow-tail coats, the tails flying out behind. One wore a girl’s hat stuck with flowers.
‘Most or all of these last five carried in the left hand an iron ladle or spoon with holes pierced in the bowl, which they held out for contributions; in the right they had a stick, with some kind of bladder hung on to the end. Whirling this, they ran about, and tried to strike the passers-by, who scampered off shrieking as hard as they could go. They sometimes danced, sometimes roared, and pretended to bite any child who ventured too near. Their faces, like their leader’s , were painted in divers colours, fearful and wonderful to behold.
Grand Hama Morris Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2017?)
The Grand Hama Morris Jack-in-the-Green paraded in the city of Isehara in Japan in May 2017 accompanied by the Grand Hama Morris team who are based in Kanagawa, Japan and were established in 2015. The Isehara Jack was also spotted in 2018 but did not go out in 2019.
OTHER JACKS AND RELATED
Royal Liberty Morris Jack-in-the-Green
In the 1980’s the City of London Jack-in-the-Green was often joined by other Jacks including the Jack from Royal Liberty Morris. I have very little information about this Jack in the Green and would love to know more.
The Greenwood Jack-in-the-Green
In the 1980’s the City of London Jack-in-the-Green was often joined by other Jacks including the Greenwood Jack-in-the-Green with Alan Pearson carrying the Greenwood Jack. I have very little information about this Jack in the Green and would love to know more.
The Covent Garden Jack-in-the-Green
In the late 1970’s Dave Lobb of The Greenwood Morris Men and later The Earls of Essex Morris formed GOG (The Grand Order of Guisers). As well as reviving dancing giants that can still be seen parading to this day (including Gogmagog the London Giant), GOG also revived the Islington Milkmaid’s Garland Morris and a Jack in the Green that paraded in Covent Garden. I’m assuming that the Covent Garden Jack-in -the-Green was a predecessor of The City of London Jack in the Green but would love to know more.
The West London Jack-in-the-Green
On May Day in 1984 three Jacks met at the Magog’s pub in Milk Street. They were the Earls of Essex Morris Jack, the Deptford (Fowler’s Troop) Jack, and a Jack carried by Mike Mullen of Hammersmith Morris (The West London Jack). The West London Jack was also sighted in 1985. Hammersmith Morris would go on to create their own unique Jack in 2009.
In Oakhanger, Hampshire in 1991 a Jack-in-the-Green was an addition to a new local tradition of Bower Decking that was started in 1988 by the local community and Morris dancers and Jack led the procession. I would appreciate any more information about this Jack.
A May Day celebration was established briefly from 2006 to 2011 at Edwinstowe, Nottingham which included a Jack in the Green. I would appreciate any more information about this Jack.
Sometime around 1976 a Jack in the Green was briefly revived in Rye by Daisy Roots Morris from Hastings. Again, more information would be gratefully received.
Horsley Primary School Jack-in-the-Green
Horsley Primary School in Stroud has an annual May Day event. The oldest boy in the school plays Jack dressed in Beech leaves. Accompanied by the May Queen. Jack in the Green opens the door of the parish church to let in the morning light and welcome the day.
Shakespeare Morris were hoping to have their own Jack-in-the-Green for 2019 but so far there have been no sightings.
A Facebook page for the Sheffield Jack in the Green was started in March 2016. Planning looked to be in the early stages and so far there have been no updates.
Planned for 2018/19 but now unlikely to happen
GAZETTEER OF HISTORICAL & TRADITIONAL JACKS IN THE GREEN
This is a list of locations where a Jack-in-the-Green has been sighted at some point in history and where possible the dates mentioned. The main reference is Roy Judge’s The Jack in the Green. Please note that Roy’s index of locations includes mentions of other May Day customs including garlands as well as mentioning for example “The sweeps celebrated the day after their accustomed fashion”. The list below only details specific sightings of a Jack in the Green. I have also incorporated the wonderful work by Keith Chandler the music historian and “Professor of Morris Dancers” who was one of Roy Judges correspondents. Keith’s Article “It is the First of May” http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/jack_gre.htm adds significantly to Roy’s work and includes more than a hundred new references. As with Roy’s list I have attempted to include only specific sightings of a Jack in the Green. I’m also indebted to Keith Leech CBE (Keith Bogie) creator and guardian of the Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green for his book Jack-in-the-Green in Tasmania a great source of information on the overseas Jack-in-the-Green.
This page is a work in progress, more details of each Jack will be added but if you know of any errors or Jacks I have missed please don’t hesitate to contact me via the contact us tab above.
RJ – Roy Judge KC – Keith Chandler KL – Keith Leech
Berkshire – undated and unidentified location (possibly Oare near Chievely or Chaddleworth)- RJ
Cookham Dean – Date unknown – RJ
Newbury – After the WW1 until early 20’s Children’s Jack – RJ
Reading – 1828 – KC
Amersham – 1890 – RJ
Aylesbury – 1846, 1849, 1853, 1857, 1862, 1864, 1868, 1873, 1881, 1884, 1886, 1888, 1889 – RJ, KC
Beaconsfield – c.1860’s and early 1870’s – KC
Halton – 1910 RJ
High Wycombe – 1887 – RJ – Revived 2005
Marlow – pre 1886 date unknown – RJ
Marsworth – date unknown possible reference to the Tring chimney sweeps visiting Marsworth with a Jack-in-the-Green – RJ
Winslow – 1881 – KC
Cambridge – c.1890,s, 1891 – RJ, KC
Melbourn – undated – RJ
Yaxley – Started 2013
Knutsford – 1889 and every year since, excepting the war years – Current
Lands End – Started 2011
Ilfracombe – Started in 2000
Plymouth – Undated pre 1881? – RJ
Tavistock – Undated and possibly unreliable – RJ
Poole – Undated but Jack no longer seen 1852 – RJ
Chelmsford – 1837 – KC
Romford – Not recorded by Roy Judge this Jack is detailed in Romford Heritage by Brian Evans “An old Romfordian remembered his young days in 1875. ‘I recall the 1st of May. that being Sweeps week. Mr R Pinfold and his wife go out with a Jack-in-the-Green, Mr Pinfold playing the reeds and drum and his wife with a brush and pan dancing’
Walthamstow – 1892-93 – RJ
Wanstead Flats – A revival Jack was made by Mick Skrzytiec, taken round the locality, and then brought up to Liverpool Street and to the City of London. This continued as the City of London Jack-in-the-Green and can sometimes still be spotted on years when May Day falls on a City working day.
Bristol – 1865 A Bristol Lady recalls seeing Jack, with a sweep and a Queen, on the outskirts of Bristol about 1865 – RJ, KC – Revived 1983
Cheltenham – 1830 (reference to sweeps carrying “ambulatory bowers”,1840’s, 1892, c.1900, 1912 – RJ
Winchcombe – 1890’s A Jack was recorded as visiting a local school by Emma Dent of Sudeley Castle – Revived 2009
Burley – 1852 – RJ
Farnborough – mid 1800’s? – RJ
Hurstbourne Priors, Hampshire – undated – RJ
Isle of Wight, Ryde – 1865
Oakhanger – In 1991 a Jack-in-the-Green was an addition to a new local tradition of Bower Decking that was started in 1988 by the local community and morris dancers. Jack led the procession.
Portsmouth – 1819, 1891 – KC
St Mary Bourne – c.1838 – RJ
Hereford – 1871 – RJ
Berkhamstead – 1882 – RJ
Much? Hadham – c.1896
Ware – 1890’s – RJ
Blackheath – 1890’s – KC
Bromley – 1907 The first Bromley and Hayes May Queen Festival was held on 4 May 1907. Master Edward Leblond was Jack-in-the-Green – RJ
Brompton – 1862, c. 1875 – KC
Chatham – c.1870 (mentioned with Rochester) RJ
Dartford – 1883 – RJ
Dover – 1842 – RJ
Faversham (see Whitstable)
Gravesend – 1880 regularly (a family tradition) and 1910 (Empire Day Festival) – RJ
Margate – 1860’s (possibly Brighton) – KC
Meopham – 1910 – RJ
Ramsgate – 1850’s, c.1890 – RJ
Rochester – c.1870 – RJ – Revived 1983 and continues to present day
St Mary Cray – 1889 (revival of an old custom), 1890, 1892, 1893 – RJ
Tunbridge Wells – Started 2010, paraded 2011 and 2012 but not sighted in 2013
Whitstable – 1895 – RJ Revived 1976 and continues to present day
Leicester – 1839, 1844 – RJ, KC
Adelphi, Adam Street – 1850 – KC
Bermondsey – c.1900, 1907 – RJ
Blackfriars Road, London – 1828
Borough – 1923 – RJ
Catherine Street – 1899 – KC
Chancery Lane – 1864 – RJ, KC
Clapham – c.1887 – RJ
Chelsea – 1875, 1885, 1886 – RJ, KC
Deptford – 1886, c.1900 – RJ – Revived 1983
Dorset Square – 1888
Dulwich – early 1860’s – KC
Greenwich – 1910, 1913- Fowlers Troop (Deptford) Jack Regularly parades in Greenwich
Holborn, Bedford Row – 1836 – KC
Lewisham – 1892, 1894, 1896, 1903 – RJ
A photograph entitled “May Day Lewisham High Street” taken by George Collis in 1903 shows a Jack in the Green over 8 feet tall decorated with flowers and a large intricate crown of flowers parading with various other characters.
Limehouse – c.1900 – RJ
Marleybone, Harley Street – c.1856, 1890 – KC
Millwall – c.1913 or 1914 – RJ
Moorfields – 1864 – KC
Notting Hill – 1870’s Jack seen till as late as 1890 – RJ
Paddington – Date unknown – RJ
Pall Mall – 1867 – KC
Peckham – 1880’s – RJ
Piccadilly – 1850 (picture by Thomas Sevestre), 1860’s, 1861, 1905 – RJ, KC
Primrose Hill – 1895 – RJ
Regent Street – 1833 – KC
St Giles London – 1850 – KC
St John’s Wood – 1870’s or 1880’s – RJ
St Marylebone – 1829-30, 1837-47, 1856, 1870’s, c.1885 – RJ – This is the Jack recorded by E. H. Shephard in his autobiography Drawn from Memory
The Circus, Minories – 1858
Tooting – 1820 – RJ
Trafalgar Square – 1860’s – RJ
Wandsworth – c.1890 – RJ
Waterloo Bridge – 1832 – KC
Waterloo Road – 1858 – KC
Westminster – 1840’s, 1875, 1885, 1886 – RJ
West End – 1859 – KC
Whitehall – 1832, 1860, 1870, 1885 – RJ, KC
Unspecified London locations – 1775, 1825, 1832, 1835, 1839, 1842, 1844, 1848, c.1850, 1851, 1854, 1861, 1864, 1870’s, 1892?, 1897? 1900 – KC
Brentford- 1876 – KC
Brentham (see Ealing)
Chiswick – 1894, 1896 – RJ
Ealing (Brentham) early 1890’s, 1921 to current day
Uxbridge – c. 1850 – RJ
Northampton – 1835 – KC
Pitsford – 1880’s – RJ
Bampton – c.1850 – RJ
Banbury – 1854, 1894, 1890,s – RJ
Bicester – 1862, 1881, 1882 – RJ
Bloxham – 1883, 1889, 1890, 1892 – RJ
Burford – 1865, undated a mention that “they used to dance round Jack and the Green with handks. And bells, etc” – RJ, KC
Chislehampton – 1895, 1896 – RJ
Deddington – 1857, 1859, 1873 – RJ
Iffley – c.1895 – RJ
Kennington Oval – 1893 – RJ
Kensington – c.1913 – RJ
Kentish Town – 1860’s
Kilburn – John Pocock born in 1814 kept a diary and recorded on 1st May 1828 “Chimney sweepers day, plenty of Jacks in the Green like myself” (he was nicknamed Jack in the Green due to his green frock coat)
Oxford – 1828, 1853, c.1858, 1865, 1871, 1884, 1886, 1888, 1889, 1890, 1894, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1914, 1930’s REVIVED 1951 by Oxford University Morris Men and carried on to present day – RJ, KC
Thame – before 1880
Witney – c. 1840’s, 1850, 1896 and a dubious account of 1938 – RJ
Wormsley Park – 1840 – RJ
Lichfield – 1892, 1913 – RJ
Bury St. Edmunds – 1802 – KC
Sudbury – 1881 – KC
Camberwell – 1879, c.1860 – RJ, KC
Carshalton – Date not recorded – RJ
Chertsey – 1871 – RJ
Croydon – 1850’s (gone by 1887) – RJ
Dorking – c.1828 (gone by 1878) – RJ
Guildford – A contemporary Jack was created in 1976
Kingston-upon-Thames – 1860’s, 1911 (Coronation festivities) – RJ
Kingston – In the mid-1970’s, Simon Garbutt built a reconstruction of a traditional Jack for a May Day celebration in Kingston and Surbiton, Surrey. His Jack was based on a photograph of May Day Festivities at Oxford by Sir Benjamin Stone c.1900.
Lambeth – 1842, 1856 – KC
Merton – 1887 – RJ
Richmond-on-Thames – 1893 – RJ
Surbiton – see Kingston
Brighton – 1831, 1860’s (possibly Margate) – KC
Hastings – 1848, 1861, 1866, 1871, 1873, 1880, 1882, 1884 – RJ – Revived 1983
Rye – 1847, 1863, gone by 1879? – RJ
Birmingham – 1843 – RJ
Coventry – c.1850
Stratford-upon-Avon – 1860- c. 1870 – RJ
Highworth, Wiltshire – Started in 2006
Hobart – 1845 to 1873 – KL
Launceston – 1844 – 1866 – KL
Sydney – 1844, 1846 – KL
Adelaide – 1890
Sumner, near Christchurch – 1895 or 1896 – KL
1806-22 – KL
I have found a photograph of a very traditional looking modern Jack and am looking into the history of the Jack there. I would be grateful for any information.
Les Hommes de Feuile go out with the giants at the annual Ducasse festival held on the fourth weekend in August in Ath Belgium