Historical Jack-in-the-Green – January
Each month I will be publishing a random newspaper article that featured the traditional Jack-in-the-Green. Each of these articles is a magical window into a bygone era. For more information about the Jack in the Green both current and historical visit our main website at: www.thecompanyofthegreenman.co.uk
Bedford Row, Holborn London
1836, 3 May: HATTON-GARDEN. – MY LORD AND MY LADY, OR JACK IN THE GREEN LUMBERED. – Yesterday George Sharpe, Edward Ellis, William Davies, and George Vincent, sweeps, were brought before Mr. Bennett and Mr. Halls, charged by Richard Bird, the street-keeper of Bedford-row, Holborn, with having created a disturbance, and assaulting him. The prisoners were dressed up in an eccentric style. Sharpe and Ellis were clowns; Davis [sic] was papered and spangled as “My Lord,” and Vincent, as “Jack in the Green.”
Bird stated that yesterday morning, about twelve o’clock, prisoners entered Bedford-row with a fife and drum, followed by an immense crowd of persons, when they commenced dancing and disturbing the whole of the neighbourhood. He ordered them to remove, when they refused ; and, on making an effort to move them, Davies struck him, and he was immediately surrounded and beaten by them, and he would have been murdered had it not been for the arrival of the police. A witness corroborated this evidence.
Mr. Barnett [sic] asked Davies what he had to say?
Davies (in a gruff voice) – Vy, my Lord, I’m a serveep ; my father was a serveep afore me ; and ve alvays vos ‘lowed to go about in May. The beadle pushed us along, ven I sartainly did strike him, but he hit my child on its head.
Eliza Sharpe, who held a child in her arms, said that Bird struck the child on its head with his staff, and pointed out a bruise on its forehead, but she could not say that he did it wilfully.
Mr. Barnett [sic] asked Bird why he used his staff?
Bird – I was obliged, in self-defence. They were all upon me, your Worship.
Mr. Bennett – You have acted rather intemperately ; you ought not to have used your staff.
Mr. Bennett – You have acted rather intemperately. You ought not to have used your staff. [sic]
Davies – We axed him if we might have a dance, and vile ve wer in the reel round “Jack in the Green” he cum’d and turned us avay for nuffen votsamdever ; there are some o’ these chaps vot goes about, vot are not serveeps (pulling up his trowsers), but if yer Lordship vants to be satisfied on that ere subject only look at my knees, (showing large corns on his knee-pans) I assures yer Vorship ve are reglar flue-flakers, and I’ve been up the smallest flues in the country. I was born a serveep, I’ve lived a serveep, and I’ll die a serveep. (Laughter.)
Mr. Bennett – I certainly must say that it is very irregular for such persons to go about the streets creating a mob and disturbance, but it is an ancient custom, and they ought not to be interfered with. (To Bird) – I do not mean to censure you ; but if you had not interfered you would have acted more wisely. If you call upon me to punish them for their conduct I must do so; but, under the circumstances, you having used your staff, I think you would act more wisely not to press the matter.
Bird said he would not, and the whole of the prisoners were discharged, and, on leaving the Court, Jack popped into the Green ; and, after regaling themselves at an adjacent public-house, they proceeded opposite the office and struck up a tune, and continued dancing in a most ludicrous manner until they got out of the neighbourhood.
The Morning Post, 4 May 1836, page 4.