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

Posts tagged “Jack in the Green

Grand Hama Morris Jack in the Green

I’m delighted to announce that a new Jack in the Green went out this year. The Grand Hama Morris Jack-in-the-Green paraded 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.

I’m having a little bit of trouble translating information about Grand Hama Morris but would love to know more if any members of Grand Hama Morris read this post and could get in touch with me please.

Brentham May Day Jack in the Green

I’m very pleased to report that the Brentham May Day Jack-in-the -Green was sighted and photographed in the Garden Suburb of Brentham in West London yesterday. My thanks to @MPSClevelandHob for a great picture.

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.

Bristol Jack in the Green

I’m delighted to report that the magical Bristol Jack-in-the-Green paraded through the highways and byways of Bristol spreading joy and Jacks magic in equal measure.

My thanks to Roger Hinchliffe @cow_photography for permission to use his fantastic pictures.

The Bristol Jack in the Green was revived by 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 in an evocative ceremony on the harbourside and then leads a magical six hour procession through the streets of Bristol. The Bristol Jack is nine feet tall and is top with a crown of flowers, he 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. Jacks leaves are then distributed to the watching crowd. 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.

Hammersmith Jack-in-the-Green

I’m delighted to report that the Hammersmith Jack was spotted out and about on May Day. My thanks to Brixton Windmill for permission to reproduce their photo.

On May Day in 1984 a Jack carried by Mike Mullen of Hammersmith Morris joined a number of other Jacks at the Magog’s pub in Milk Street. The trail of the Hammersmith Jack then goes cold for 25 years until 2009 when Members of Hammersmith Morris created their Jack in it’s current form possibly unaware of its earlier incarnation. The Hammersmith Jack, is largely covered with artificial foliage, although it does have a crown of fresh flowers on May 1st. The leaves are made in a variety of materials, some created by children at local schools that the Jack visits as part of its May Day perambulations. 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. The overall appearance of the Hammersmith Jack is quite spectacular. 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, in some of which the children will have made leaves out of paper to attach to Jack. There are no attendants other than the Morris Dancers and musicians. The rest of the year the Hammersmith Jack is stored at Cecil Sharp House the home of the English Folk Dance and Song Society where he sometimes takes part in events.

2017 Jack-in-the-Green update

Jack in the Green © Dan Pearce 2017

In a spectacular start to this years Jack in the Green season I can confirm that fifteen Jacks have been spotted so far! They are:

  • The Hastings Traditional Jack-in-the-Green
  • The Oxford Jack-in-the-Green
  • The Whitstable Jack-in-the-Green
  • The Ilfracombe Jack-in-the-Green
  • The Bovey Tracey (Grimspound Morris) Jack-in-the-Green
  • The Fowlers Troop (Deptford) Jack-in-the-Green
  • The Hever Castle Jack-in-the-Green
  • The Hammersmith Jack-in-the-Green
  • The Guildford Bush
  • The Bluebell Hill (Rochester Sweeps) Jack-in-the-Green
  • The Highworth Jack-in-the-Green
  • The Winchcombe Jack-in-the-Green
  • The Dead Horse Morris (Whitstable) Jack-in-the-Green
  • Kentwell Hall (Suffolk) Jack O’Green
  • Wythenshawe Hall (Manchester) Jack ‘O’ Green

There are still at least three Jacks to come including:

  • The Bristol Jack-in-the-Green
  • The Knutsford Jack-in-the-Green
  • The Brentham Jack-in-the-Green

Full details and links can be found on our Annual Events Page

As you will see from the posts below I’ve received pictures of a number of Jacks for which I am extremely grateful, but please do keep them coming. I’m more than happy to receive multiple pictures of each Jack for our online photographic archive to help record these wonderful events. It is my intention to create an archive of pictures of every Jack from every year.

There are a few Jacks that I’ve not yet received pictures for and would be extremely grateful if any readers can help to source. They are:

  • The Hammersmith Jack-in-the-Green
  • The Winchcombe Jack-in-the-Green
  • The Dead Horse Morris (Whitstable) Jack-in-the-Green
  • The Hever Castle Jack-in-the-Green
  • Kentwell Hall (Suffolk) Jack O’Green
  • Wythenshawe Hall (Manchester) Jack ‘O’ Green

And if you know of another Jack in the Green that I’ve missed please do get in touch.

And as a magical May Day ends for those who missed it this morning above is Hastings Artist Dan Pearce’s incredibly atmospheric picture “Jack in the Green” To see more of Dan’s art go to I am extremely grateful to Dan for allowing me to reproduce his picture here on our blog.

Whitstable Jack-in-the-Green

The wonderful Whitstable (Oyster Morris) Jack in the Green paraded through the town of Whitstable in Kent today. My thanks to Barry O’Brien for letting me use his pictures here.

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!

Hastings Traditional Jack-in-the-Green

The spectacular Hastings Traditional Jack-in-the-Green awoke this morning and paraded through the streets of Hastings.

My thanks to The Crown in Hastings for allowing me to reproduce their pictures here.

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.

The Bogies 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. There are always only twelve official Bogies and they can always be found near the Jack-in-the-Green protecting and guiding him. 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.

Guildford Jack-in-the-Green

I’m pleased to announce that the Guildford Bush or Jack in the Green was spotted out and about on the streets of Guildford on Saturday 29th April. My thanks to Helena for allowing me to reproduce these pictures.

Known as The Guildford Bush, this Jack was revived by the Pilgrim Morris Men in 1979 and is built from Laurel. For many years the Jack was carried by folklorist  George Frampton. The parade commences at 10:30 outside The Star on the High Street. The Jack processes with the Pilgrim Morris Men to Castle Green where the Maypole is erected and the dancing involving guest Morris sides begins. 2016 marked the 40th Summerpole.

Bluebell Hill (Rochester Sweeps) Jack-in-the-Green

I’m delighted to be able to report that the Bluebell Hill (Rochester Sweeps) Jack in the Green was sighted on Bluebell Hill at dawn this morning. Jack then travelled down to Rochester to take part in the Sweeps Festival. My thanks to ianfmcl for permission to reproduce his pictures of the event.

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 paraded through the streets of Rochester 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.”

Highworth Jack-in-the-Green

I’m very pleased to be able to report that the Highworth Jack-in-the-Green paraded through Highworth in Wiltshire on Saturday 29th April. My thanks to Paul Baskerville of the Bang to Rites Drummers for letting me reproduce his pictures.

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.