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/
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.
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!)
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
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”. 
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. 
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.