All Things Green Man & The Traditional Jack-in-the-Green

Posts tagged “Green

Yuletide Greetings

Salisbury Cathedral Copyright © The Company of the Green Man

It’s that time of the year when the Santa hatted green man from Salisbury Cathedral puts in his annual appearance on our blog!

Wishing all members and followers of The Company of the Green Man a Very Merry Yule. My thanks to everyone for all the contributions and support during 2019.

The next newsletter is being lovingly crafted and will hopefully be with you some time over the festive period.


The Green Man in Stone

Rob Stephens, artist extraordinaire, new grandad and creator of our fabulous logo dropped me a line to tell me that his stone carver brother Shaun has got the green man bug. Rob sent me these pictures of his incredible workmanship. The paler coloured one is a piece of stone that came out of the restoration work at York Minster. There must be a cathedral out there somewhere who would like their very own new Green Man?

RS3


Yuletide Greetings

Salisbury Cathedral Copyright © The Company of the Green Man

Wishing all members and followers of The Company of the Green Man a Very Merry Yule. My thanks to everyone for all the contributions and support during 2018.

Here is a picture of my favourite seasonal Green Men from the roof of Salisbury Cathedral…I’m still convinced he is wearing a Santa hat!


Andrew Findlay – Blacksmith

Blacksmith Andrew Findlay kindly sent me this picture of an incredible Green Man that he crafted. Andrew wrote “One I made using blacksmithing techniques which I thought may be of interest. I became a blacksmith because the process of creating in the forge is spiritual, alchemical and elemental all at the same time. A magical experience. Using the transforming fire we shape a sterile, cold and hard material into beautiful and permanent organic forms.”

You can see more of Andrews work at http://www.andrew-findlay.com


The Rumford Morris Jack-in-the-Green

Rumford Morris Men and Royal Liberty of Havering 1977

The history of the revival of the Jack in the Green in the 20th Century is extremely complicated as anyone who has read my article The Traditional Jack in the Green will know. Some revivals were linked directly with or inspired by others whilst many popped up completely unconnected. Every now and then I discover another little piece of the jigsaw puzzle. I was really surprised and delighted when Paul Woloschuk contacted me to let me know about the Green Man that his old Morris side used to have and to send me the wonderful pictures on this post.

Paul wrote “Rumford Morris Men from Essex used to have a Green Man (which we called Jack in the Green) back in the mid-1970s. Our 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. So, 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! Jack was the idea of one of our members. The bloke who appeared as Jack left the side after four or five years, and nobody carried on with the character.”

Trying to work out where this Jack fitted I asked Paul if they had any connections with Greenwood Morris or the Earls of Essex both of whom started Jacks in the 1970’s? Paul confirmed that “We had no historic connections with any local traditions or other sides. Jack was out with us from May Day throughout the summer. We didn’t know Greenwood Morris, but we often danced with the Earls of Essex (and I used to play regularly with the wonderful late Dave Roberts from the Earls both in ceilidh bands and at Folk Camps).

So it would seem that this is another example of those wonderful Jacks that sprang out of nowhere in the 1970s. I would love to hear from anyone who can fill in more detail on any of the Jacks or indeed make any corrections to my article.

Rumford Morris Men canal trip Stoke Bruerne Northamptonshire 1979


20 Years Young!

I still can’t quite believe that 2018 marks 20 years of The Company of the Green Man! Ronald Millar wrote the book “The Green Man Companion and Gazetteer” in 1997 and in a note at the back of the book invited interested people to join The Company of the Green Man. Keen and eager upon reading his freshly printed book and with an avid interest in Green Men I wrote to Ron in early 1998 and asked to join the Company, to be told that I had caught him slightly unprepared. The book had gone out earlier than he had anticipated and the Company did not yet officially exist. And thus (with a little bit of encouragement) in 1998 The Company officially began.  Ron’s first newsletter was published in September 1998.

20 years and 43 newsletters later The Company is still going strong with nearly 800 members worldwide.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our members and followers for their contributions and encouragement over the years, without you The Company of the Green Man would not exist.

Here’s to the next 20 years!

 


#FolkloreThursday Article

Rochester Sweeps Festival Jack-in-the-Green 2017 © Clem Rutter

My Traditional Jack in the Green article has gone live today on the wonderful #FolkloreThursday website www.folklorethursday.com

My thanks to Dee Dee and the team for featuring it and helping to raise the profile of this magical living tradition #jackinthegreen


Amanda Bates – Green Man & Lady

Amanda Bates is an artist, based in Kingsclere north Hampshire, with a growing interest in the tradition of the Green Man. One of the things to spark that interest was a chance visit to St. Peter’s in Upper Wolhampton, West Berkshire, where she found a delightful pair of Victorian Green Man stone carvings on the exterior of the church that were previously undiscovered.

Amanda didn’t have a camera with her so instead recorded them in pencil (above). Amanda then created the wonderful pictures accompanying this post using Acrylic Ink on rough watercolour paper, entitled Green Man & Green Lady.

Amanda wrote: “The faces are Victorian (the church was rebuilt in 1857) and, with their surroundings of leaves, the gentleman’s leafy moustache and the vegetation emerging from the lady’s mouth, are in the Green Man tradition. I fancy that they might represent the local landowner and his wife.”

My thanks to Amanda for getting in touch and sharing her incredible work with us. You can see more of Amanda’s work on her website: www.amandabatesart.co.uk  All pictures copyright © Amanda Bates


Sightings – St Telio’s Church, South Wales

St Telio’s Church, St Fagans National History Museum © Derek Penrose

I’m grateful to Derek Penrose for letting me know about this Green Man with a fascinating history and for sending in this wonderful picture. St Telio’s Church was  originally located at Llandeilo Tal-y-bont, Glamorgan in Wales. It was built in the late 12th century and furnished in 1530. Between 1984 and 1985 the whole church was dismantled and moved to St Fagans National History Museum.

The following is from St Fagans own website:

“St Teilo’s church is believed to have been built during the late 12th or 13th century on the site of an earlier Celtic church. Over the ensuing centuries the building was altered and extended.

The oldest parts of the present structure are the nave and chancel. During the 14th century, small chapels were built onto the north and south sides of the chancel, and during the late 14th or early 15th century the church’s capacity was increased by the addition of an aisle to the south side of the nave. The old south wall was replaced by two arches, with a third arch opening into the chancel, and finally, a porch was added to the entrance door leading into the south aisle of the church.

The roof timbers are of typical early fifteenth century design (arch-braced collar-beams), though they may in fact be slightly later in date. The west wall of the nave was altered in the early 18th century (datestone 1736) and in 1810 the interior was furnished with box pews and a three-decker pulpit. Most of the stone-mullioned windows appear to have been blocked up at this time, and were replaced by new ‘Georgian gothic’ lancet-shaped windows. One original two-light stone-mullioned window (14/15th) survived in the south aisle. Probably the oldest surviving feature of the church is the stone font which is believed to date from the 13th century or earlier.

St Teilo’s church has been refurbished as it may have appeared about the year 1530, complete with all the elements associated with a late medieval Catholic church, including a rood screen and loft (between the nave and chancel), altars, carvings and brightly-coloured paintings on all the walls.”

You can find more information about St Telio’s Church and all of the wonderful Historical Buildings at St Fagans National History Museum here: https://museum.wales/stfagans/


Sightings – St Mary’s, Scilly Isles

Sideboard from the wreck of Thomas W Lawson in the St Mary's Museum, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly copyright © Vanessa Piggott

Sideboard from the wreck of the Thomas W Lawson – copyright © Vanessa Piggott

My thanks to Vanessa Piggott for sending in this picture of a cast iron Green Man on a sideboard she discovered in St Mary’s Museum on the Scilly Isles. The sideboard is from the wreck of the Thomas W. Lawson a seven-masted, steel-hulled schooner used to haul coal and oil along the East Coast of the United States. She was launched in 1902 and holds the distinction of being the largest schooner and largest sailing vessel without an auxiliary engine ever built. The Thomas W. Lawson was destroyed off the uninhabited island of Annet, in the Isles of Scilly, in a storm on December 14, 1907, killing all but two of her eighteen crew and a harbor pilot already aboard. Her cargo of 58,000 barrels of light paraffin oil caused perhaps the first large marine oil spill in history.


Yuletide Greetings

Salisbury Cathedral Copyright © The Company of the Green Man

Wishing all members of The Company of the Green Man and all visitors to our blog a fantastic Yuletide Season. (And yes it is a real Green Man – No photoshopping!)


The Armouring of Gawain (Clive Hicks-Jenkins)

The Armouring of Gawain - Gouache and pencil on paper © Clive Hicks-Jenkins

The Armouring of Gawain – Gouache and pencil on paper © Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Clive Hicks-Jenkins is devising a series of fourteen prints based on the medieval verse drama, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – a classic vividly translated for the 21st century by Simon Armitage.  Clive has kindly given me permission to reproduce one of the images on our blog each month.

Clive’s work often features some wonderful representations of the foliate Green Man. If you can track down a copy of Marly Youman’s wonderful book “The Foliate Head” I highly recommend it for Marly’s beautiful poetry and Clive’s wonderful illustrations of The Green Man that appear throughout the book.

 You can find more information on Clive’s website: http://www.hicks-jenkins.com


Gawain and the Green Knight: Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Crown of Leaves. Gouache and pencil on gessoed board.© Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Crown of Leaves. Gouache and pencil on gessoed board. © Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Gawain and the Green Knight: Clive Hicks-Jenkins and the Penfold Press

The Martin Tinney Gallery, Cardiff

Thursday 8th Sept – Saturday 1st Oct, 2016

In collaboration with Dan Bugg of Penfold Press, Clive Hicks-Jenkins is devising a series of fourteen prints based on the medieval verse drama, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – a classic vividly translated for the 21st century by Simon Armitage. The exhibition will present the first seven prints, marking the half-way stage in this major project, together with paintings and drawings on the theme.

Art commentator James Russell writes of the series:

“The story is the kind you might find in The Mabinogion. Sir Gawain is more human than your average legendary hero. Having taken up the challenge offered at the Camelot Christmas feast by the terrifying Green Knight, he embarks on a quest to find this ogre, only to be tested – and found wanting – in unexpected ways. Sir Gawain is both a glittering knight and a fallible young man, and it is this flawed human character that intrigues Clive. Each print is inspired by the text and rooted stylistically in its world, but beyond that Clive and Dan have allowed their imagination free rein.”

You can find more information on Clive’s website: http://www.hicks-jenkins.com

The Green Knight's Head Lives. Screenprint. Edition of 75 © Clive Hicks-Jenkins

The Green Knight’s Head Lives. Screenprint. Edition of 75 © Clive Hicks-Jenkins


The Green Man: A powerful image lives on – Muriel Fraser

We all know how fast and far a good tune can travel. Shortly after the haunting melody of “Lili Marleen” was heard broadcast to among German troops in WWII, it was eagerly adopted by Allied ones. And think, too, of the travels of a song which began as “God preserve Franz the Kaiser”. This lovely tune by Haydn was recycled as “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles” and eventually appeared as the hymn, “God who touches earth with beauty”.

Just as a catchy tune travels, so does a powerful image. The ornate leaf masks or foliated heads, now often called the “Green Man”, were developed by Roman artists in connection with nature gods like Dionysus and the satyrs. But this image was too good to end with Roman paganism. In the Middle Ages, as the pageants of chivalry became widespread, Green Men appear with increasing frequency in Christian churches, too.

A clue to this is offered by a ritual from 16th-century Sweden. There we find a May Day jousting contest between Winter and Summer. The idea was to dramatise — and help advance — the coming of spring. The two sides in the tournament were clothed accordingly. Duke Winter was “clad in various pelts and armed with pokers, scattering ice and snowballs to prolong the cold”. His opponent, Count Floral, was “garbed in the green boughs of trees, together with leaves and flowers”. Of course, whatever the weather on the day of the tournament, “and to everyone’s joy, the victory is awarded to Summer”. [1]

This gives us a glimpse into the mediaeval meaning of faces decked with foliage. No longer were they Roman gods, but harbingers of spring. And, of course, spring in the metaphorical sense, was a central theme in Christianity. It applied to both the rebirth of the soul in heaven and the general Resurrection of the Dead. As such, the foliated head had a firm claim to its place in Christian churches.

But the transformations didn’t end there. The Green Man could represent, not only the resurrection of the soul, but also the rebirth of the Christianity during the Reformation. This seems to be why the Reformers adopted it initially. (However, they soon backed off from this transformed satyr. After all, they were the ones who liked to accuse the Catholic Church of being “pagan”.)  But at first, presumably as a symbol of the rebirth of the church, a Green Man appears in a portrait of Martin Luther by Cranach the Elder, also on the title page of Luther’s petition to the Papal Council in 1520, and even in his church in Wittenburg. [2]

Mediaeval people loved symbols precisely because they regarded them as having magic power. This symbol is simple, vivid, and closely connected to people’s hopes and fears: to their longing for the return of the sun — to a “springtime” through resurrection — and, for some, to a new and reformed Christianity. It’s no wonder that the Green Man, in its various guises, survived for two millenia.

1. Olaus Magnus, Description of the Northern Peoples (1555), Volume 2, 15:9.
2. Clive Hicks, http://www.geomantie.net/article/read/6093.html


Highworth 2016 Jack-in-the-Green

Highworth Jack in the Green 2016 © Terry Portsmith

© Terry Portsmith – Highworth 2016 Jack-in-the-Green

My thanks to Terry Portsmith for permission to use the picture above of this years Highworth Jack-in-the-Green, and my thanks to Paul Baskerville of the Bang to Rites Drummers for sourcing it for us.

The Highworth Jack in the Green was started in 2006 when the Wiltshire town celebrated the 800th anniversary of it’s market charter 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.

It has long been my hope to be able to obtain at least one picture of every Jack that goes out across the UK (and beyond) each year to add to our online Flickr archive and provide a visual record of this wonderful tradition for generations to come. At least twenty one Jacks went out this year and I’m extremely grateful to everyone who has helped me to gather pictures of thirteen Jacks so far.

I’m still trying to track down pictures of eight Jacks from this year. If you can help and have the copyright owners permission please get in contact via the ‘Contact us’ tab at the top of this blog. Copyright of any pictures added to our archive always remains with the original photographer and pictures are only ever used with permission of the copyright owner.

The eight Jacks I’m still looking for pictures of from 2016 are:

  • Ilfracombe Jack-in-the-Green
  • Winchcombe Jack-in-the-Green
  • Knutsford Jack-in-the-Green
  • Yaxley Jack-in-the-Green
  • Brentham Jack-in-the-Green
  • Bovey Tracey/Grimspound Morris Jack-in-the-Green
  • Kentwell Hall Jack O’Green
  • Wythenshawe Hall Jack ‘O’ Green

If you haven’t seen a Jack-in-the-Green yet this year there is still at least one more to come. The Carshalton Straw Jack is a celebration of Harvest that takes place in September each year. The straw Jack 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 date for this event is still to be confirmed but you can visit the website here: Carshalton Straw Jack


Whitstable Jack in the Green 2016

Whitstable 2016 Jack-in-the-Green © Joe Eddington

Whitstable 2016 Jack-in-the-Green © Joe Eddington

I am indebted to all those who have sent in pictures of this years Jacks. The pictures accompanying this post are of the wonderful Whitstable Jack-in-the-Green, thanks to Joe Eddington for the photographs and to Dixie Lee for getting them to me.

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” 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 has long been my hope to be able to obtain at least one picture of every Jack that goes out across the UK each year to add to our online Flickr archive and provide a visual record of this wonderful tradition for generations to come.

I’m still trying to track down pictures of a number of Jacks from this year. If you can help and have the copyright owners permission please get in contact via the ‘Contact us’ tab at the top of this blog. Copyright of any pictures added to our archive always remains with the original photographer and pictures are only ever used with permission of the copyright owner.

The Jacks I’m still looking for pictures of from 2016 are:

  • Ilfracombe Jack-in-the-Green
  • Winchcombe Jack-in-the-Green
  • Knutsford Jack-in-the-Green
  • Yaxley Jack-in-the-Green
  • Brentham Jack-in-the-Green
  • Bovey Tracey/Grimspound Morris Jack-in-the-Green
  • Hever Castle Jack-in-the-Green
  • Kentwell Hall Jack O’Green
  • Wythenshawe Hall Jack ‘O’ Green
Whitstable 2016 Jack-in-the-Green © Joe Eddington

Whitstable 2016 Jack-in-the-Green © Joe Eddington


Jack’s Alive!

 

7

My thanks to everyone who took part in the revival of The Cheltenham Jack-in-the-Green today for putting up with me and my camera.

The Cheltenham Sweeps Jack was first recorded in 1830, it appears in a wonderful photograph taken of May Day in Cheltenham in 1892 (below) The last recording of a Jack still processing in Cheltenham was in 1912. The Cheltenham Jack was revived in 2014 by Mike Bottomley & Phil Collins and this year saw it’s first return to the streets of Cheltenham for over 100 years. To celebrate the occasion the original photograph was recreated using both the original photograph and a detailed description of the Mayday celebrations from 1891. The Cheltenham Jack will also be appearing at Sudeley Castle’s Victorian May celebrations on Monday May 2nd. There are many more Jack-in-the-Green events to come, for the full list please see the post below this one. And if anyone has pictures of any of this years Jacks please do send them in. 

1600px-Illustration_at_page_50,_Folk-lore,_volume_4,_1893

 More photos from this years Cheltenham Jack-in-the-Green can be found in our online Flickr archive at: www.flickr.com/photos/thecompanyofthegreenman


Sighting – East Budleigh, Devon

All Saints Church, East Budleigh, Devon, copyright Alice Nunn

My thanks to Alice Nunn for verifying and photographing this wonderful disgorging green man from All Saints Church at East Budleigh in Devon.

There are also some bench ends reported here which Alice verified but unfortunately it was too dark to photograph them. One for the next visitor!

I’m always grateful for any new sightings, photographs or verifications for the Gazetteer and the Flickr photographic archive. Please use the contact tab above to get in touch.

Any new sightings or verifications are added to the gazetteer and the finder/verifiers name is always detailed (unless they prefer to remain anonymous).

Copyright for any pictures added to our Flickr archive always remains with the original photographer as does full control over how the pictures are used. I will never use anybody’s images for any commercial use without full written permission. occasionally I get requests to use pictures for books, magazines etc. and these requests are passed directly on to the original photographer so that they can benefit from their own work.

You can visit our Flickr archive HERE


New Sightings – France

France, Loire, Place Pommeraye, copyright Alice Nunn

My thanks to Alice Nunn for these new additions to the gazetteer from The Loire in France. The disgorger above is from Place Pommeraye and the rustic chap below is from Chateau Serrant.

I’m always grateful for any new sightings, photographs or verifications for the Gazetteer and the Flickr photographic archive. Please use the contact tab above to get in touch.

Any new sightings or verifications are added to the gazetteer and the finder/verifiers name is always detailed (unless they prefer to remain anonymous).

Copyright for any pictures added to our Flickr archive always remains with the original photographer as does full control over how the pictures are used. I will never use anybody’s images for any commercial use without full written permission. occasionally I get requests to use pictures for books, magazines etc. and these requests are passed directly on to the original photographer so that they can benefit from their own work.

You can visit our Flickr archive HERE

Chateau Serrant, Loire, France, copyright Alice Nunn


New Sighting – Ilsington Devon

Ilsington 1

During a recent holiday on Dartmoor in Devon a little bit of Green Man hunting took place. This remarkable disgorging roof boss was discovered in the 15th century church of St Michael at Ilsington.

A number of intriguingly moustachioed bosses tried to distract and confuse us. But finally there he was peering down from on high to add as a completely new entry to the gazetteer. Always a great feeling when a previously unreported green man appears out of the gloom of a church ceiling.

More pictures are available in our Flickr archive HERE


Yuletide Greetings

Salisbury Cathedral Copyright © The Company of the Green Man

I would like to wish all members of The Company of the Green Man a  wonderful Yuletide and a very Merry Christmas. My thanks to everyone for all the contributions and support during 2015.

The green man above is from Salisbury Cathedral and I promise has not been edited at all!

I’m working on the next e-newsletter and hope to publish it early 2016.


Merry May Day One And All!

Winchcombe 2013 55

A Riddle

I am born on May Morning by sticks, bells, and ribbons
I am the sap in the dark root
I am the dancer with his six fools
I am the tump behind the old church
I am the lost soul under the misericord
I am the oak against the stars
I am the face that peers through the leaves
I am the fear in a childs mind
I am the demon on the roof-boss
I am killed in October and laid on church altars
I am the guiser on the bright bonfire
I am the old grain sown with the seed
I am the flame in the pumpkins grin
I am the spirit in the kern-baby’s bosom


Jack-in-the-Green is stirring!

Hastings Jack-in-the-Green

It is now less than a week until Jack-in-the-Green awakes!

Details of all this years events can be found on the events page HERE

If you are going to a Jack-in-the-Green event this year it would be great to make the most of the wonders of technology and post details of sightings of Jack as they occur. Please do e-mail me pictures and I will attempt to post live updates to this blog.

If you are a technophobe please don’t feel left out.  It would be great to get pictures and personal accounts of as many of these events as possible for our archives. All pictures that are used on the blog or added to the Flickr archive are copyrighted to the original photographer and are never reproduced without prior permission. Our aim is to provide a living archive of all the wonderful traditional Jack-in-the-Green events that take place every year.

If you are thinking of going to an event please do drop me a line to let me know and please consider taking an extra picture of Jack for our archives.

And if you know of a Jack-in-the-Green or Green Man event that I have missed or that has just started please do let me know.

You can contact me via the “contact us” tab at the top of this page or via THIS LINK

CURRENT JACKS-IN-THE-GREEN

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 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.

Brentham Jack-in-the-Green Brentham has a big celebration every May which includes a Jack in the Green described as a walking talking bush who sometimes parades barefoot. 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.

Oxford Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 1951)

The Oxford Jack-in-the-Green appears in Oxford on May Morning. OUMM (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. The Oxford Jack is usually first seen 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 University & City Men usually take Jack to a display for the children of St. Ebbe’s school when May Morning falls on a weekday.

Guildford Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 1976)

Known as The Guildford Bush, this Jack is accompanied by the Pilgrim Morris Men of 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 The Pilgrim Morris and is built from Laurel. For many years the Jack was carried by folklorist George Frampton.

Whitstable 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. Jack is also 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”

Deptford (Fowlers Troop) Jack-in-the-Green (Revived early 1980’s)

The Fowlers Troop Jack was revived in the early 1980s by members of the Blackheath Morris Men and friends. It is a revival of a Jack in the Green from about 1900 which was paraded by the original Fowlers Troop. The Fowlers Jack goes out on the streets of South East London or the City of London each May Day. The Jack is usually dressed on April 30th.

City of London Jack-in-the-Green (Started 1984)

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 did not go out in 2013 but many of his followers joined the Deptford Jack.

Rochester (Blue Bell Hill) Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 1981)

The Rochester Jack was revived in 1981 by Gordon Newton from accounts by Charles Dickens and is still part of the Annual Sweeps Festival. 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 paraded through the streets of Rochester usually on the bank holiday Monday as part of the Sweeps Festival.

Hastings Traditional Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 1983)

The Hastings Jack-in-the-Green festival was revived by Keith Leech in 1983 and is now one of the biggest annual gatherings of Morris Dancers in the country. The Jack is “released” every year and is central to the festival. The main procession of the Jack takes place on the bank holiday Monday through the streets of Hastings Old Town starting from the Fishermans Museum. The Jack is accompanied by Mad Jacks Morris, the Green Bogies, dancers, giants, musicians and various others. At the end of the day Jack is slain to release the spirit of summer.

Bristol Jack in the Green (Revived 1992)

A Jack-in-the-Green was recorded in Bristol around 1865 by a lady who remembered seeing him with a sweep and a queen on the outskirts. The revived Bristol Jack in the Green is a descendant of the Hastings Jack and appears on the first Saturday in May starting from the historic Harbourside (outside the M Shed) and leads a magical procession through the streets of Bristol eventually ending the day on Horfield Common where he is slain to release the spirit of summer.

Ilfracombe Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2000)

Ilfracombes Jack-in-the-Green was started in 2000 by Lisa Sture. A procession starts at approximately 11am winds its way through the High Street, along the sea front towards the harbour area where children and Morris Men dance around a Maypole. Another descendant of the Hastings Jack the Ilfracombe Jack event also finishes with the release of the spirit of summer and the distribution of leaves on Ilfracombe Pier.

High Wycombe Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 2005)

The High Wycombe Jack has appeared in one form or another on Holywell Mead between 2005 and 2010 he did not appear in 2011 but in 2012 was sighted on Naphill Common. There were no reported sightings in 2013.

Highworth Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2006)

Highworth in Wiltshire celebrated it’s 800th anniversary with a Jack in the Green on 22nd April 2006 and the Jack is now an annual tradition as part of an annual May Market.

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.

Tunbridge Wells Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2010)

The Tunbridge Wells Jack-in-the-Green is a new Jack. He first went out on 30th April 2010 and has was seen out and about beating the bounds in 2011 and 2012 but did not go out in 2013. Jack (wearing a crown of May blossom) leads a procession around the commons of Rusthall and Tunbridge Wells and is then slain to release the spirit of summer. He is accompanied by a number of drums and is flanked by a red flag and a flag of Kent.

Lands End Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2011)

The Lands End Jack-in-the-Green first went out in 2011. He greets the Dawn at Chapel Carn Brea on May Day accompanied by Boekka Border Morris and sometimes by Penkevyll, the Lands End Obby Oss.

Yaxley (Cambridgeshire) Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2013)

The Yaxley Jack-in-the-Green is a brand new Jack. He 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.

Beltane Bash/Pagan Pride Jack-in-the-Green

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. I would love to hear from anyone participating or organising the current Pagan Pride Events who may know if a Jack will be participating again.

 

 


Jack-in-the-Green is nearly here!

Hastings Jack-in-the-Green

Hastings Jack-in-the-Green

Regularly updated details of all this years events can be found on the events page HERE

It would be great to get pictures and personal accounts of as many of these events as possible for our archives. All pictures that are used on the blog or added to the Flickr archive are copyrighted to the original photographer and are never reproduced without prior permission. Our aim is to provide a living archive of all the wonderful traditional Jack-in-the-Green events that take place every year.

If you are thinking of going to an event please do drop me a line to let me know and please consider taking an extra picture of Jack for our archives.

And if you know of a Jack-in-the-Green or Green Man event that I have missed or that has just started please do let me know.

You can contact me via the “contact us” tab at the top of this page or via THIS LINK

The Revival of the Jack-in-the-Green

The Knutsford Jack is probably the oldest continual annual Jack-in-the-Green. Apart from the war years it has paraded every year since 1890. However the Knutsford Jack was not one of the early Jacks but like many others in the late 19th Century was a Victorian revival having first appeared in May 1864 “based on earlier traditions and festivities.”

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. 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 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. 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.

The Whitstable Jack-in-the-Green was revived in 1976 by Dixie Lee and a local folk group for their folk festival. In the late 1970’s Morris dancers from various sides would gather to dance-in the summer on May Day in the Guildhall Yard, Leadenhall Market and various pubs in the City of London during their lunchtime. Dave Lobb and Greenwood Morris used to dance at dawn at Alexandra Palace, then bring their Jack into the City for an evening tour of London Wall and the Smithfield area. Dave Lobb and Mick Skrzypiec of the Earls of Essex Morris Men were discussing old May Day customs over a pint one lunchtime and decided to make it an all-day event and the concept of the City of London Jack-in-the-Green was born. In 1983 Mo Johnson made a Jack-in-the-Green in the back garden of the ‘Dog and Duck’ and 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) revived the Deptford (Fowlers Troop) Jack. Mo was inspired by one of Thankful Sturdee’s photographs c.1900 of the original troop and Jack.

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. They were joined at the Magog’s pub in Milk Street by Blackheath Morris’s Deptford (Fowlers Troop) Jack and a Jack carried by Mike Mullen of Hammersmith Morris. On subsequent occasions they were joined by the Jack from Royal Liberty Morris and members of other Morris teams and the Grand Order of Guisers (GOG) with Alan Pearson carrying the Greenwood Jack.

The Bluebell Hill or Rochester’s Sweeps Jack was revived in 1981 by Gordon Newton as part of the Sweeps Festival. The Hastings Jack was revived by Keith Leech (formally of GOG and the Earls of Essex) in 1983. The Rye Jack-in-the-Green was briefly revived by Daisy Roots Morris dancers from Hastings. 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 mischievous 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).

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. Jack led the procession. Bristol (a scion of the Hastings Jack) was revived by Pigsty Morris in 1992. Ilfracombe has had a Jack since 2000 and many other places have since followed suit including High Wycombe, Highworth, Winchcombe, Tunbridge Wells, and Lands End. A Jack has also been known to parade in the Pagan Pride Parade or Beltane Bash. 2013 saw a brand new Jack go out in Yaxley Cambridgeshire. There are also a small number of Jacks who parade privately in the UK each year.

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 two books both of which have been invaluable as source material for this article:

  • The Jack-in-the-Green by Roy Judge: ISBN 0 903515 20 2
  • The Hastings traditional Jack in the Green by Keith Leech: ISBN 078 0 901536 10 5

This article is the basis for a forthcoming book on the history and revival of the traditional Jack-in-the-Green. It is a work in progress and I would be very grateful to hear from anyone with any corrections or further information about historical or modern Jacks.

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.

CURRENT JACKS-IN-THE-GREEN

 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 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.

Brentham Jack-in-the-Green Brentham has a big celebration every May which includes a Jack in the Green described as a walking talking bush who sometimes parades barefoot. 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.

Oxford Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 1951)

The Oxford Jack-in-the-Green appears in Oxford on May Morning. OUMM (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. The Oxford Jack is usually first seen 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 University & City Men usually take Jack to a display for the children of St. Ebbe’s school when May Morning falls on a weekday.

Guildford Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 1976)

Known as The Guildford Bush, this Jack is accompanied by the Pilgrim Morris Men of 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 The Pilgrim Morris and is built from Laurel. For many years the Jack was carried by folklorist George Frampton.

Whitstable 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. Jack is also 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”

Deptford (Fowlers Troop) Jack-in-the-Green (Revived early 1980’s)

The Fowlers Troop Jack was revived in the early 1980s by members of the Blackheath Morris Men and friends. It is a revival of a Jack in the Green from about 1900 which was paraded by the original Fowlers Troop. The Fowlers Jack goes out on the streets of South East London or the City of London each May Day. The Jack is usually dressed on April 30th.

City of London Jack-in-the-Green (Started 1984)

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 did not go out in 2013 but many of his followers joined the Deptford Jack.

Rochester (Blue Bell Hill) Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 1981)

The Rochester Jack was revived in 1981 by Gordon Newton from accounts by Charles Dickens and is still part of the Annual Sweeps Festival. 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 paraded through the streets of Rochester usually on the bank holiday Monday as part of the Sweeps Festival.

Hastings Traditional Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 1983)

The Hastings Jack-in-the-Green festival was revived by Keith Leech in 1983 and is now one of the biggest annual gatherings of Morris Dancers in the country. The Jack is “released” every year and is central to the festival. The main procession of the Jack takes place on the bank holiday Monday through the streets of Hastings Old Town starting from the Fishermans Museum. The Jack is accompanied by Mad Jacks Morris, the Green Bogies, dancers, giants, musicians and various others. At the end of the day Jack is slain to release the spirit of summer.

Bristol Jack in the Green (Revived 1992)

A Jack-in-the-Green was recorded in Bristol around 1865 by a lady who remembered seeing him with a sweep and a queen on the outskirts. The revived Bristol Jack in the Green is a descendant of the Hastings Jack and appears on the first Saturday in May starting from the historic Harbourside (outside the M Shed) and leads a magical procession through the streets of Bristol eventually ending the day on Horfield Common where he is slain to release the spirit of summer.

Ilfracombe Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2000)

Ilfracombes Jack-in-the-Green was started in 2000 by Lisa Sture. A procession starts at approximately 11am winds its way through the High Street, along the sea front towards the harbour area where children and Morris Men dance around a Maypole. Another descendant of the Hastings Jack the Ilfracombe Jack event also finishes with the release of the spirit of summer and the distribution of leaves on Ilfracombe Pier.

High Wycombe Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 2005)

The High Wycombe Jack has appeared in one form or another on Holywell Mead between 2005 and 2010 he did not appear in 2011 but in 2012 was sighted on Naphill Common. There were no reported sightings in 2013.

Highworth Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2006)

Highworth in Wiltshire celebrated it’s 800th anniversary with a Jack in the Green on 22nd April 2006 and the Jack is now an annual tradition as part of an annual May Market.

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.

Tunbridge Wells Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2010)

The Tunbridge Wells Jack-in-the-Green is a new Jack. He first went out on 30th April 2010 and has was seen out and about beating the bounds in 2011 and 2012 but did not go out in 2013. Jack (wearing a crown of May blossom) leads a procession around the commons of Rusthall and Tunbridge Wells and is then slain to release the spirit of summer. He is accompanied by a number of drums and is flanked by a red flag and a flag of Kent.

Lands End Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2011)

The Lands End Jack-in-the-Green first went out in 2011. He greets the Dawn at Chapel Carn Brea on May Day accompanied by Boekka Border Morris and sometimes by Penkevyll, the Lands End Obby Oss.

Yaxley (Cambridgeshire) Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2013)

The Yaxley Jack-in-the-Green is a brand new Jack. He 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.

Beltane Bash/Pagan Pride Jack-in-the-Green

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. I would love to hear from anyone participating or organising the current Pagan Pride Events who may know if a Jack will be participating again.