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

The History of the Jack-in-the-Green

The Jack-in-the-Green was (and indeed is) a traditional participant in May celebrations and May Day parades mainly in the United Kingdom. A large framework is covered in combinations of foliage and flowers and is sometimes topped with an intricate crown of flowers. The Jack then parades or dances, often accompanied by attendants, dancers, musicians and people dressed as assorted unusual characters. Modern Jacks are usually closely associated with Morris teams.


MayDay highlighted


The earliest known image of a Jack in the Green (above) is undated and by an anonymous artist. It is titled “May Day”  and was probably published somewhere between 1775 and 1785. The picture shows a bustling May Day scene of Garlands, fiddlers, milkmaids, bunters, imps and more. In the background slightly right of centre is a lone group consisting of a fiddler, a Jack-in-the-Green and a male dancer with a stick.

The earliest known written record of a Jack-in-the-Green in The United Kingdom is from The Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser of 2 May 1775:

“Jack of the Green had made his garland by five in the morning, and got under his fhady building by seven…”

The true origins of the Jack-in-the-Green are somewhat complicated.

Jack in the Green a May Day scene sixty years ago Charles Green 1830

A popular theory and one detailed in Ronald Hutton’s “Stations of the Sun” is that the Jack may have evolved from the creation of intricate garlands of flowers during the 17th century which were carried by milkmaids during May Day celebrations. Over time the milkmaid’s garlands became more elaborate until they would sometimes be seen balancing garlands on their heads covered in huge quantities of silver household objects. As guilds and other trade groups became established they joined in and tried to compete with and outdo the other participants in an attempt to receive more coins from the watching crowds. Two particular groups began imitating the milkmaids; the Bunters (The women who picked rags) and the Chimney Sweeps who were intent on earning as many coins as possible, to help them through what was traditionally the quietest part of their year. Near the end of the 17th century the milkmaids and bunters abandoned the custom but the sweeps continued and the suggestion is that they expanded the size of the garland to such an extent that they came up with the idea of the all covering structure, now known as the Jack-in-the-Green.  

Charles Green - Jack in the Green 1869

In 1979 Roy Judge published “The Jack in the Green” the first systematic investigation of historical evidence of the Jack-in-the-Green and a must for anyone with an interest in the the history of the Jack-in-the-Green. Ronald Hutton takes as evidence for this theory Roy Judges book stating that;

“He discovered that the origins of the custom lay in the mid-seventeenth century, when London milkmaids began to dance in the streets upon May Day with their pails and heads crowned with flowers.”

Researcher Bryan Hammersley questions the connection between the milkmaids and Jack in the Green stating that this is a misinterpretation of what Roy Judge states. Bryan writes:

“Unfortunately this is nothing like what Judge actually says. He does mention the milkmaids. But he says that the only satisfactory answer to the question of the origins of the Jack is that he appears as an entity between 1775 and 1795 and in the shape and structure suggested in Sports and Pastimes of the People of England by Joseph Strutt (1801). Judge observes that George Phillips, writing in Folk-Lore (1951), deduced that the Jack developed from the Garland associated with the milkmaids. However Judge states that the resemblance between the Jack and the Garland is superficial, and he describes Phillips’ theory as “a theory that runs counter to all other available evidence”. He also refers to Phillips’ “bold and ill-founded assertion”.  Clearly Judge did not believe there was good evidence to link the 17th century milkmaids with the Jack.”

Roy Judge mentions the American scholar George Phillip’s theory that the Garland evolved directly into the Jack-in-the-Green through a process whereby the silver was lost from the pyramid, the frame was expanded downwards and the sweeps took over from the milkmaids. Judge wrote;

“To sum up this confusing subject, it seems indisputable that there were three kinds of entity: the head-borne garland, in which the canopy never covers the bearer’s head, let alone his body; the chair borne garland, which was the same kind of height as the Jack, but whose weight would have been an impossible burden for one individual; and the leaf-covered framework which would have been quite heavy enough without the addition of pewter or silver. Phillips’ intermediate stage between head-borne Garland and Jack may have existed as an occasional variation of the pattern…. but it cannot be thought of as forming part of a normal process of evolution.”


And as for the connection with Chimney Sweeps Bryan Hammersley writes:

The attribution of the earliest recorded instances of the custom to the sweeps alone also seems to be absent from Judge’s book. He refers to early evidence of Mayday festivities that involved bunters and cinder-sifters, as well as sweeps and milkmaids, though it contains the “clear implication” that the Jack-in-the-Green “was a different thing (or group) again.”

And so as you can see, it’s complicated!

Whatever the origins may be a very strong connection between the Jack-in-the-Green and chimney sweeps did form at some point in the 18th or 19th century.

Varied musicians became involved as did dancers, mummers, Morris dancers and a host of strange characters including the Lord and Lady, clowns, men dressed as women, blind fiddlers, dragons, the “traditional” fairy on stilts and a number of named characters. These included Black Sal, Dusty Bob, May Day Moll, Grand Serag, Jim Crow, Master Merryman, St George, The May King and Queen, and of course Robin Hood and Maid Marian.

By the early 1800s the Jack-in-the-Green had spread from London following the rapid unregulated growth of the chimney sweep’s profession through the suburbs and across the south of England and beyond. Jacks could be seen parading on May Day as far afield as Tavistock in Devon and Knutsford in Cheshire. Most towns had at least one, and often many sweeps who paraded rival Jacks on May Day. In it’s heyday hundreds if not thousands of Jacks would parade each May Day across London and far beyond.

From the mid 1800s May Day celebrations and the Jack-in-the-Green began to die out. Victorian sensibilities clashed with the bawdy working class practices involving the Jack-in-the-Green. Newspaper reports of the events became increasingly negative and disparaging of the general mayhem and at times riotous behaviour that ensued at these events. A number of Jacks were already tame ’revivals’ or even replacements created by the Victorians to become a part of their own more genteel May celebrations of the English Idyll.

Sheet music for 'Jack in the Green Quadrilles' by Warwick Williams, published by Francis Bros. & Day (colour litho)

Sheet music for ‘Jack in the Green Quadrilles’ by Warwick Williams (19th century)

In 1875 the Chimney Sweepers Act was passed. The practice of sending boys up chimneys was banned and all chimney sweeps had to be registered with the police. The sweeps boys who attracted the most affection, sympathy and coin during May Day revelries were no more and the Sweeps May Festivities were changed irrevocably. By 1875 the heyday of the Jack-in-the-Green was over and by the early years of the 20th Century the Jack-in-the-Green had all but died out across the UK. 

The connection with sweeps continues to this day. Some organisers and participants still have direct or distant connections with the trade. The character of the sweep is a participant in many of the current Jack-in-the-Green parades or is represented by his accoutrements (the sweep’s brushes) or blackened sooty faces. The Bluebell Hill Jack always puts in an appearance at the Rochester Sweeps Festival.

The Jack-in-the-Green also emigrated during the 1800s, in many cases accompanying Sweeps’ families heading out to find work in the colonies. Jacks appeared and, in some cases flourished, as far away as Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania and Jamaica before eventually meeting the same fate as the Jack-in-the-Green in the UK.

May Day or Jack in the Green



The modern revived Jack-in-the-Green is often linked to the Green Man in his varied forms. There is much debate as to whether this is a purely modern connection or one that previously existed.

In 1890 James Frazer’s The Golden Bough was published and included the following:

“In England the best-known examples of these leaf-clad mummers is the Jack-in-the-Green, a chimney-sweeper who walks encased in a pyramidical framework of wickerwork, which is covered with holly and ivy, and surmounted with a crown of flowers and ribbons, Thus arrayed he dances on May Day at the head of a troop of chimney-sweeps, who collect pence!  

Frazer went on to suggest that

“The mummer was regarded not as an image but as an actual representative of the spirit of vegetation”

This became a popular theory and in 1939 Folklore Society member Lady Raglan in her article “The Green Man in Church Architecture not only first coined the term Green Man in relation to the foliate faces found in churches but linked The Green Man, Jack-in-the-Green, Robin Hood, The King of May and The Garland together as being one in the same figure. She also suggested that they were representations of pre-Christian deities or spirits of nature. 

Roy Judge wrote:

“The discussion of origins suggested that the name and the character of Jack-in-the-Green appeared towards the end of the eighteenth century in a context of ‘lower most status’ festival activity. as yet no clear references have been found in earlier English material to a name or character that is at all comparable, This is an argument from silence, and as such it must be subject to modification by any further discoveries. None the less, having made this proviso, it is still true that a number of interpretations have been placed upon the Jack-in-the-Green which go well beyond the evidence available, and which make unjustifiable assumptions concerning his previous historical existence. At this point the issue is not so much the actual truth of the assumptions concerning character and identification, but the existence of adequate evidence from English historical sources”

He goes on to say that:

“Continually in folklore there is the temptation to seek for connections and for origins back into an ‘immemorial past’ there is every reason for resisting this temptation, and for starting from the diametrically opposite viewpoint”


It is difficult to overrate the influence of The Golden Bough. It offered a pattern which was immediately and attractively available, and it proceeded to dominate attitudes and thinking to a quite remarkable extent. The vegetation drama, ritual death and resurrection, the sacred tree, the ‘leaf-clad mummer’ as a representative of the spirit of vegetation’, all these became accepted elements in standard and authoritative works. It is this which is the basis for any interpretation of the Jack-in-the-Green as being linked with a pagan or mythological past.

Judge “Cautiously sought to show that such interpretations had no evidence to support them other than intuition and poetic insight”

Bryan Hammersley also writes:

“Frazer (Sir James George) points out that figures similar to the Jack-in-the-Green appear in customary practices in France, Switzerland and Germany. For instance “In some parts of Thüringen also they have a May King at Whitsun…A frame of wood is made in which a man can stand; it is completely covered with birch boughs and is surmounted by a crown of birch and flowers”. Frazer also gives examples from elsewhere, eg “in some parts of Russia on St. George’s Day…a youth is dressed up, like our Jack-in-the-Green, with leaves and flowers. The Slovenes call him the Green George”. There are also traditions of the Green George in Carinthia, Transylvania and Rumania. Similar figures are recognized among Whitsuntide mummers elsewhere. For Frazer, this leaf-clad person “represents the beneficent spirit of vegetation”. The activities of 17th century London milkmaids, whatever they were, cannot account for this widespread type of traditional practice. Judge states that Frazer’s Jack as a representative of the spirit of vegetation was “not to be supported within the English evidence”. But a possibility that might be considered here is that the Jack came to England from the continent in fairly recent centuries, in which case its true roots might be much older.”

Schembart Carnival (1590)

Possible Whiffler from the Schembart (Germany) Carnival Manuscript (1590) 

In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries a Green Man was a type of whiffler, someone  who walked in front of important processions banquets and pageants to clear the way or to clear space for plays to be performed. The whifflers themselves were known as being quite raucous and became a major attraction themselves, dressing  in elaborate costumes and carrying swords, clubs and even fireworks. They often dressed as Wild Men with shaggy hair and beards. The first mention of a Green Man whiffler is in act 1 scene 6 of George Whetstone’s 1578 play “The right, excellent and famous Historye of Promos and Cassandra” 

“Two men, apparrelled, lyke greene men at the Mayors feast, with clubbes of fyre worke. First. In Jesus Street to keepe a passadge cleare, That the King and his trayne, may passe with ease”

It would seem that the Green Man whiffler was already an established figure and part of common knowledge at this time. The London Mayor’s Feast of 1553 includes a figure described as;

“ij grett wodyn, [armed] with ij grett clubes all in grene, and with skwybes borning, with gret berds and syd here, and ij targets a-pon ther bake”

This figure exactly resembles the description of a character who took part in entertainment for Prince Henry in Chester on April 23rd 1610;

“Two disguised, called Greene-men, their habit Embroydred and Stitch’d on with Ivie-leaves with blacke-side, having hanging to their shoulders, a huge black shaggie Hayre, Savage-like, with Ivie Garlands upon their heads, bearing Herculian Clubbes in their hands”


Screenshot (376)


(Above Image) The cover of the 1654 book  by John Bate: “The composing of all manner of Fier-Works For Trumph and Recreacion, plainly and exactly taught” with a woodcut of a “Green Man” bearing a fire-club.

 The Green Man whifflers added to their costumes painting their skin green wearing leaves or greenery and garlands on their heads. They were also referred to as Wodehouses, Woudmen or Wildmen.

The Wild Man also began to appear on inn and tavern signs in the seventeenth century, the name was often used interchangeably with The Green Man and seems to refer to the Whifflers of pageantry. Over time many pubs called The Wild Man seem to have also become known as The Green Man. The History of Signboards published in 1866 by Larwood and Hotten refers to an undated quotation by John Bagford the English antiquarian and writer (1650-1716);

“They are called woudmen, or wildmen, thou’ at thes day we in ye signe call them Green Men, couered with grene boues and are used for singes by stiflers of strong watters … and a fit emblem for those that use that intosticating licker which berefts them of their sennes”

As well as pubs The Green Man also became a symbol for distillers. Two signs seem to have become popular; The Green Man and Still  which was based on elements of the coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Distillers and The Green Man, which again evolved over time to become a forester dressed in green.

In 1820, the poet Robert Southey wrote a letter in which he described a Jack-in-the-Green that he saw in London as both a Jack in the Bush and a Green Man.

The English writer William Hone in the second volume of his Every-Day Book published in 1827 describes the following figure along with this engraving;

Screenshot (378)

“Formerly a pleasant character dressed out with ribands and flowers figured in village May-games under the name of Jack-o’-the-Green. The Jack-o’-the-Greens would sometimes come into the suburbs of London , and amuse the residents by rustic dancing. The last of them that I remember, were at the Paddington May-dance, near the ‘Yorkshire Stingo’, about twenty years ago, from whence, as I have heard, they diverged to Bayswater, Kentish-town, and adjoining neighbourhoods, A Jack-o’-the-Green always carried a long walking stick with floral wreaths; he whisked it about in the dance, and afterwards walked with it in high estate like a lord mayor’s footman.”

Hone is considered a reliable witness as he was a prolific and important collector of folklore material but this seems to be the only real reference to Jack-o’-the-Green. Other accounts of the character almost certainly use Hone’s account as their source.

Whether the Whiffler, Wild Man, Green Man or Jack-o’-the-Green have any connection to the Jack-in-the-Green is unknown. It is however very likely that a form of Green Man Whiffler would have led parades that featured a Jack in the Green during the 17th -19th centuries and so the two would have met and even interacted. Many of the modern Jacks are created by or parade with Morris sides that have their own Green Man. The Bogies and other green clad attendants that accompany the modern Jacks have an uncanny resemblance to the Green man whifflers of old clearing the way for the parade and interacting with the crowds.


jack-in-the-green-a-may-day-scene-sixty-years-ago-charles-green-1830copy detail

The picture above is titled “Jack-in-the-Green – A May Day Scene Sixty Years Ago” and is by the artist Charles Green. It appeared in The Graphic dated May 3 1890.  I am indebted to Bryony Jayne who took the time to view every possible location on Google street view before coming to the conclusion that the pub behind is most likely The Green Man at Loughborough Junction which actually opened in 1880, ten years before the sketch, but not the 60 years ago it is remembering. The figure on the sign is difficult to make out even on an original copy that I am lucky enough to own. But it does appear to have legs. Is it a Whiffler, a Jack-o’-the-Green, Robin Hood, a forester or a wild man? I would love to find out.

And so we come back to the possible connection between the Jack in the Green and the Green Men or foliate faces found in churches. Many people still support a connection, believing that the Green Man has many faces and that each of these do indeed have deep seated and possibly spiritual links via an ancient race memory of a time when the Greenwoods covered most of what is now Britain.

But many also disagree vehemently with these connections arguing that there is no evidence that the Jack-in –the-Green dates back any further than that first mention in The Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser of 2 May 1775, That Robin Hood had no connections with The Green Man until Richard Carpenters cult series “Robin of Sherwood” created a link via the shamanic/deific figure of Herne the Hunter and his links with Cernunnos. That if the King of the May had any actual link with the Green Man carvings found in churches and other locations then there would be at least be some evidence that the carvings were in some way made a part of the May celebrations, or at least  mentioned, which it seems they were not!

I myself have been berateds on a number of occasions for daring to link the Green Man and the traditional Jack-in-the-Green together via The Company of the Green Man, something for which I do not apologise. Even if these connections never did exist, then they have now been created and therefore will henceforth be forever inseparably entwined in that magical way that myth, legend and folklore seem to take on an unstoppable life force of their own. Many of the modern Jacks have a route which passes by (and sometimes into) Green Man pubs or pass by foliate faces on churches or other buildings. Many of the modern Jacks have followers who dress as a form of Green Man be that Whiffler or Bogie, Wild Man, Forester, Herne, Cernunnos, Robin Hood or even foliate face sprouting leaves from the mouth.

Roy Judge summed it up perfectly by quoting the wonderful Kathleen Basford who wrote “The Green Man” 

The sensible thing to do is to accept, as Kathleen Basford shrewdly put it, that: ‘Images may pick up many different ideas during the course of time’ As far as the Jack-in-the-Green is concerned one may rejoice that the custom is in such remarkably good health, and also marvel at the part it now plays in this complex pattern of belief about the Green Man, and then seek cautiously to understand just how this has happened.





This is a list of locations where a Jack-in-the-Green has been sighted at some point in history and where possible the dates mentioned. The main reference is Roy Judge’s The Jack in the Green. Please note that Roy’s index of locations includes mentions of other May Day customs including garlands as well as mentioning for example “The sweeps celebrated the day after their accustomed fashion”. The list below only details specific sightings of a Jack in the Green. I have also incorporated the wonderful work by Keith Chandler the music historian and “Professor of Morris Dancers” who was one of Roy Judges correspondents. Keith’s Article “It is the First of May” adds significantly to Roy’s work and includes more than a hundred new references. As with Roy’s list I have attempted to include only specific sightings of a Jack in the Green. I’m also indebted to Keith Leech CBE (Keith Bogie) creator and guardian of the Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green for his book Jack-in-the-Green in Tasmania a great source of information on the overseas Jack-in-the-Green.

This page is a work in progress, more details of each Jack will be added but if you know of any errors or Jacks I have missed please don’t hesitate to contact me via the contact us tab above.

RJ – Roy Judge KC – Keith Chandler KL – Keith Leech

Locations with a current Jack in the Green are highlighted in green, more information about these current Jacks can be found on the Jack in the Green page



Berkshire – undated and unidentified location (possibly Oare near Chievely or Chaddleworth)- RJ
Cookham Dean – Date unknown – RJ
Newbury – After the WW1 until early 20’s Children’s Jack – RJ
Reading – 1828 – KC


Amersham – 1890 – RJ
Aylesbury – 1846, 1849, 1853, 1857, 1862, 1864, 1868, 1873, 1881, 1884, 1886, 1888, 1889 – RJ, KC
Beaconsfield – c.1860’s and early 1870’s – KC
Halton – 1910 RJ
High Wycombe – 1887 – RJ – Revived 2005
Marlow – pre 1886 date unknown – RJ
Marsworth – date unknown possible reference to the Tring chimney sweeps visiting Marsworth with a Jack-in-the-Green – RJ
Winslow – 1881 – KC


Cambridge – c.1890,s, 1891 – RJ, KC
Melbourn – undated – RJ
Yaxley – Started 2013


Knutsford – 1889 and every year since, excepting the war years – Current


Lands End – Started 2011


Ilfracombe – Started in 2000
Plymouth – Undated pre 1881? – RJ
Tavistock – Undated and possibly unreliable – RJ


Poole – Undated but Jack no longer seen 1852 – RJ


Chelmsford – 1837 – KC
Romford – Not recorded by Roy Judge this Jack is detailed in Romford Heritage by Brian Evans “An old Romfordian remembered his young days in 1875. ‘I recall the 1st of May. that being Sweeps week. Mr R Pinfold and his wife go out with a Jack-in-the-Green, Mr Pinfold playing the reeds and drum and his wife with a brush and pan dancing’
Walthamstow – 1892-93 – RJ
Wanstead Flats – A revival Jack was made by Mick Skrzytiec, taken round the locality, and then brought up to Liverpool Street and to the City of London. This continued as the City of London Jack-in-the-Green and can sometimes still be spotted on years when May Day falls on a City working day.


Bristol – 1865 A Bristol Lady recalls seeing Jack, with a sweep and a Queen, on the outskirts of Bristol about 1865 – RJ, KC – Revived 1983
Cheltenham – 1830 (reference to sweeps carrying “ambulatory bowers”,1840’s, 1892, c.1900, 1912 – RJ
Winchcombe – 1890’s A Jack was recorded as visiting a local school by Emma Dent of Sudeley Castle – Revived 2009


Burley – 1852 – RJ
Farnborough – mid 1800’s? – RJ
Hurstbourne Priors, Hampshire – undated – RJ
Isle of Wight, Ryde – 1865
Oakhanger – In 1991 a Jack-in-the-Green was an addition to a new local tradition of Bower Decking that was started in 1988 by the local community and morris dancers. Jack led the procession.
Portsmouth – 1819, 1891 – KC
St Mary Bourne – c.1838 – RJ
Southampton ?


Hereford – 1871 – RJ


Berkhamstead – 1882 – RJ
Much? Hadham – c.1896
Ware – 1890’s – RJ


Blackheath – 1890’s – KC
Bromley – 1907 The first Bromley and Hayes May Queen Festival was held on 4 May 1907. Master Edward Leblond was Jack-in-the-Green – RJ
Brompton – 1862, c. 1875 – KC
Chatham – c.1870 (mentioned with Rochester) RJ
Dartford – 1883 – RJ
Dover – 1842 – RJ
Faversham (see Whitstable)
Gravesend – 1880 regularly (a family tradition) and 1910 (Empire Day Festival) – RJ
Margate – 1860’s (possibly Brighton) – KC
Meopham – 1910 – RJ
Ramsgate – 1850’s, c.1890 – RJ
Rochester – c.1870 – RJ – Revived 1983 and continues to present day
St Mary Cray – 1889 (revival of an old custom), 1890, 1892, 1893 – RJ
Tunbridge Wells – Started 2010, paraded 2011 and 2012 but not sighted in 2013
Whitstable – 1895 – RJ Revived 1976 and continues to present day


Leicester – 1839, 1844 – RJ, KC


Adelphi, Adam Street – 1850 – KC
Bermondsey – c.1900, 1907 – RJ
Blackfriars Road, London – 1828
Borough – 1923 – RJ
Catherine Street – 1899 – KC
Chancery Lane – 1864 – RJ, KC
Clapham – c.1887 – RJ
Chelsea – 1875, 1885, 1886 – RJ, KC
Deptford – 1886, c.1900 – RJ – Revived 1983
Dorset Square – 1888
Dulwich – early 1860’s – KC
Greenwich – 1910, 1913- Fowlers Troop (Deptford) Jack Regularly parades in Greenwich
Holborn, Bedford Row – 1836 – KC
Lewisham – 1892, 1894, 1896, 1903 – RJ
Limehouse – c.1900 – RJ
Marleybone, Harley Street – c.1856, 1890 – KC
Millwall – c.1913 or 1914 – RJ
Moorfields – 1864 – KC
Notting Hill – 1870’s Jack seen till as late as 1890 – RJ
Paddington – Date unknown – RJ
Pall Mall – 1867 – KC
Peckham – 1880’s – RJ
Piccadilly – 1850 (picture by Thomas Sevestre), 1860’s, 1861, 1905 – RJ, KC
Primrose Hill – 1895 – RJ
Regent Street – 1833 – KC
St Giles London – 1850 – KC
St John’s Wood – 1870’s or 1880’s – RJ
St Marylebone – 1829-30, 1837-47, 1856, 1870’s, c.1885 – RJ – This is the Jack recorded by E. H. Shephard in his autobiography Drawn from Memory
The Circus, Minories – 1858
Tooting – 1820 – RJ
Trafalgar Square – 1860’s – RJ
Wandsworth – c.1890 – RJ
Waterloo Bridge – 1832 – KC
Waterloo Road – 1858 – KC
Westminster – 1840’s, 1875, 1885, 1886 – RJ
West End – 1859 – KC
Whitehall – 1832, 1860, 1870, 1885 – RJ, KC
Unspecified London locations – 1775, 1825, 1832, 1835, 1839, 1842, 1844, 1848, c.1850, 1851, 1854, 1861, 1864, 1870’s, 1892?, 1897? 1900 – KC


Brentford- 1876 – KC
Brentham (see Ealing)
Chiswick – 1894, 1896 – RJ
Ealing (Brentham) early 1890’s, 1921 to current day
Uxbridge – c. 1850 – RJ
Northampton – 1835 – KC
Pitsford – 1880’s – RJ


Bampton – c.1850 – RJ
Banbury – 1854, 1894, 1890,s – RJ
Bicester – 1862, 1881, 1882 – RJ
Bloxham – 1883, 1889, 1890, 1892 – RJ
Burford – 1865, undated a mention that “they used to dance round Jack and the Green with handks. And bells, etc” – RJ, KC
Chislehampton – 1895, 1896 – RJ
Deddington – 1857, 1859, 1873 – RJ
Iffley – c.1895 – RJ
Kennington Oval – 1893 – RJ
Kensington – c.1913 – RJ
Kentish Town – 1860’s
Kilburn – John Pocock born in 1814 kept a diary and recorded on 1st May 1828 “Chimney sweepers day, plenty of Jacks in the Green like myself” (he was nicknamed Jack in the Green due to his green frock coat)
Oxford – 1828, 1853, c.1858, 1865, 1871, 1884, 1886, 1888, 1889, 1890, 1894, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1912, 1914, 1930’s REVIVED 1951 by Oxford University Morris Men and carried on to present day – RJ, KC
Thame – before 1880
Witney – c. 1840’s, 1850, 1896 and a dubious account of 1938 – RJ
Wormsley Park – 1840 – RJ


Lichfield – 1892, 1913 – RJ


Bury St. Edmunds – 1802 – KC
Sudbury – 1881 – KC


Camberwell – 1879, c.1860 – RJ, KC
Carshalton – Date not recorded – RJ
Chertsey – 1871 – RJ
Croydon – 1850’s (gone by 1887) – RJ
Dorking – c.1828 (gone by 1878) – RJ
Guildford – A contemporary Jack was created in 1976
Kingston-upon-Thames – 1860’s, 1911 (Coronation festivities) – RJ
Kingston – In the mid-1970’s, Simon Garbutt built a reconstruction of a traditional Jack for a May Day celebration in Kingston and Surbiton, Surrey. His Jack was based on a photograph of May Day Festivities at Oxford by Sir Benjamin Stone c.1900.
Lambeth – 1842, 1856 – KC
Merton – 1887 – RJ
Richmond-on-Thames – 1893 – RJ
Surbiton – see Kingston


Brighton – 1831, 1860’s (possibly Margate) – KC
Hastings – 1848, 1861, 1866, 1871, 1873, 1880, 1882, 1884 – RJ – Revived 1983
Rye – 1847, 1863, gone by 1879? – RJ


Birmingham – 1843 – RJ
Coventry – c.1850
Shipston-on-Stour ?
Stratford-upon-Avon – 1860- c. 1870 – RJ


Highworth, Wiltshire – Started in 2006


Hobart – 1845 to 1873 – KL
Launceston – 1844 – 1866 – KL


Sydney – 1844, 1846 – KL
Adelaide – 1890


Sumner, near Christchurch – 1895 or 1896 – KL


1806-22 – KL


I have found a photograph of a very traditional looking modern Jack and am looking into the history of the Jack there. I would be grateful for any information.


Les Hommes de Feuile go out with the giants at the annual Ducasse festival held on the fourth weekend in August in Ath Belgium


For further reading I highly recommend the following publications which have been invaluable as source material for this article:

  • The Jack-in-the-Green by Roy Judge: ISBN: 0 903515 20 2
  • May Day in England An Introductory Bibliography by Roy Judge: ISBN: 0 85418 152 0
  • The Hastings traditional Jack in the Green by Keith Leech: ISBN: 078 0 901536 10 5
  • Jack-in-the-Green in Tasmania 1844-1873 by Keith Leech: ISBN: 1 8671903 00 9
  • Yesterday’s Country Customs: A History of English Folk Traditions By Henry Buckton: ISBN: 0752477374, 9780752477374
  • Fowlers Troop and the Deptford Jack in the Green by Sarah Crofts: ISBN: 0954266110
  • May Day – The Coming of Spring by Doc Rowe: ISBN:1 85074 983 3

Another excellent source of information has been Keith Chandlers ‘It is the First of May’ – ‘Jack in the Green Revisited’ an online gazetteer of references to historical Jacks. Roy Judge’s own gazetteer included references sourced by himself and a network of correspondents (Keith Chandler included) and was updated and considerably expanded in the revised 1999 second edition of “The Jack-in-the-Green.” When Roy died in 2000 Keith took on the task of continuing to gather references for the next decade on the MUSTRAD website: Keith’s article adds significantly to Roy’s work and includes more than a hundred new references.

The continuation of these traditions is extremely important and I encourage everyone to head along to support their nearest Jack. I am in the process of visiting and photographing every Jack in the UK to create an archive of information and images and to provide as much publicity to these events as possible. If anyone knows of any current Jacks I may have missed I would love to know. I would also be very interested in receiving photographs and finding out more information about all the existing Jacks and the traditions that surround them.

This article is very much a work in progress and the author would be very grateful to hear from anyone with any corrections or further information about historical or modern Jacks especially from those who “were there”. The advantage of publishing via this blog is that the information contained is organic and can take seconds to update or correct when required.

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