All things Green Man & the traditional Jack-in-the-Green

Posts tagged “london

Historical Jack-in-the-Green – April

jack green

Each month I publish a  newspaper article that featured the traditional Jack-in-the-Green along with a picture or photograph from the archive. Each of these articles is a fascinating 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

1st May 1855: MAY DAY

The old English spectacle of “Jack o’ the Green,” with his attendant swarthy and sooty satellites, was pirouetting gaily through the city streets to-day in celebration of the 1st of May, with an eye to erratic tributes from those stopping to observe the somewhat indescribable dance. The “most respectable master sweep in the colony,” yclept Gordon, astonished the native youth by a grand display of glazed pink, yellow, red, and silver ribbons of a retiring colour, with which he and his “mates” were unlimitedly adorned, and merrily did they dance in mysterious steps to the accompaniment of one fife, one fiddle, and one tambourine, a perambulating orchestra, most effective in attracting the attention of passers-by, and shy quadrupeds. The “morrice dancers” we suppose are not out, as we have not heard of them, and so the sweeps win the stakes of the day.

The Courier, 1 May 1855, page 2.

The picture featured this month is by an unknown artist (any information would be appreciated)


Historical Jack-in-the-Green – March

Red Set Girls and Jack in the Green by Isaac Mendes Belisarion 1837 8 3

Each month I publish a  newspaper article that featured the traditional Jack-in-the-Green along with a picture or photograph from the archive. Each of these articles is a fascinating 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

1st May 1886: MAY-DAY IN LONDON

May-day was yesterday observed in the metropolis in the usual manner….the day, as usual, was kept as far as possible by the chimney sweeping fraternity as a holiday. At an early hour several of the sweeps resident in Westminster, Chelsea, and other parts of London turned out with their “Jack in the green,” but their shows were nothing to those of previous years, in some cases only being got up by apprentices. The shows were only in a very few instances accompanied by the traditional fairy on stilts, and the “Black Sall” and “Dusty Bob” of bygone days were conspicuous by their absence.

Reynolds’s Newspaper, 2 May 1886, page 1

The picture featured this month is Red Set Girls and Jack in the Green by Isaac Mendes Belisarion (1837 -38)


Historical Jack-in-the-Green – February

Samuel Collings May Day in London1784

Each month I publish a  newspaper article that featured the traditional Jack-in-the-Green along with a picture or photograph from the archive. Each of these articles is a fascinating 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

May 1st 1832: A WET MAY-DAY

The rain of yesterday morning wholly damped the spirit of the May-day. Melancholy and miserable looked “Jack-i’-the-green,” as his laurels dripped over his black forehead ; one of these spectacles in Whitehall was a sad lesson to that sport which so frequently ends in mourning. The chief sweep and his lady, in all their glistening finery (by the way, they understand the jeweller’s rule of contrast admirably, setting “barbaric pearl and gold” in black), slinked along one side of the street in the manner of an ejected dog, beneath (oh, march of intellect!) a silk umbrella ; close behind came a Falstaffian regiment of beardless sweeps, melancholy, miserable, and muddy, vainly striving to look sedate and sober – your wet day is a great gin provoker – and the rear was brought up by “Jack” – at least “the green,” moved along but danced not, neither did it rejoice as of old on May-day ; twirl gave it none, and but that it did move, bore no other sign of tenancy.

The True Sun, 2 May 1832, page 1.

The picture featured this month is May Day in London by Samuel Collings (1784)


Historical Jack-in-the-Green – January

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

Each month I publish a  newspaper article that featured the traditional Jack-in-the-Green along with a picture or photograph from the archive. Each of these articles is a fascinating 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

1st May 1864: GOING A-MAYING.

The boughs and flowers were used to decorate the doors and windows of the houses, and were often associated with superstitious ceremonies, including protection against witchcraft and securing a good milking season. Indeed, the milkmaids appear always to have had a special interest in May Day festivities ; and even within living memory a number of them would assemble, in a street near Moorfields, on the first day of the month, there to perform a sort of grotesque dance around a figure which was evidently the original “Jack in the Green.” This was a man who bore upon his head a pyramid of May flowers and green boughs, all hung round, with mugs and silver tankards ; and it not frequently happened that the party was afterwards joined by a number of sweeps’ climbing-boys who were decked out with ribbons and accompanied the milkmaid’s fiddle and tabor with a brush and shovel obbligato. These sweeps, who by a popular fiction were supposed to have their holiday in virtue of its being the anniversary of the recovery of young Montagu, who had been stolen for a climbing-boy, soon had May Day to themselves; and now the “Ramoneur” – which recent Parliamentary disclosures prove has not superseded climbing-boys, enactments notwithstanding – has nearly abolished May Day, even amongst the sweeps…

The Illustrated Times, 7 May 1864, page 302.

The picture featured this month is “Jack in the Green a May Day scene sixty years ago” by Charles Green (1830)


Historical Jack-in-the-Green – December

May Day or Jack in the Green

Each month I publish a  newspaper article that featured the traditional Jack-in-the-Green along with a picture or photograph from the archive. Each of these articles is a fascinating 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

May 1st 1839: THE ENGLISH CARNIVAL

 The 1st of May is unquestionably a species of carnival in this country ; it comprises among Charles Lamb’s friends the chummies or sweeps, “fiddling, masking, dancing, and other things that may be had for asking” – that is, a few pence ; and, thanks be to this cold northern clime of ours, nothing more. Pity it is that they should be to the busy – those intent on worldly gain – a nuisance. They are so in the strait-built streets of the city, where the commerce of the world is transacted. But who of kindly heart, on the 1st day of May, cares for the growls of the obstructed merchant, or the curses of the hemmed importer? Look at the children how they flock together – how they run after “Jack-in-the-green,” and his masked, and piping, and fiddling, and drum-beating suite. Wednesday was a lovely May-day, and the streets of the metropolis profited by it. Jack-in-the-green had been seldom seen clad in greener or gayer colours, and rarely has he been followed by a more numerous or laughing cortège. Every lane and alley – hotbeds of population – poured out its juvenile and imitating admirers after him.

The Charter, 5 May 1839, page 230.

The picture featured this month is entitled “May Day or Jack in the Green” The artist and date are unknown 


Historical Jack-in-the-Green – November

Mayday or Jack in the Green possibly by Isaac Cruikshank published by Laurie and Whittle 1795

Each month I publish a  newspaper article that featured the traditional Jack-in-the-Green along with a picture or photograph from the archive. Each of these articles is a fascinating 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

May 1st 1862: MAY-DAY AND THE SWEEPS

Yesterday there was scarcely any room in London for that ingenious class of persons who, under the general designation of “Sweeps,” contrive to make a holiday of the first of May, and to levy contributions on the public. Chimney sweeping by machinery was a sad blow to the festivities of May-day, and although there were yesterday some specimens of Jack-in-the-Green, with his attendant satellites, they were, as a rule, only to be found in retired districts which formed no part of the road to the Great Exhibition, and were but very feeble representatives of the sweeps of bygone years. In the neighbourhood of Brompton and Kensington a few appeared but the thoughts of the people seemed bent on the Exhibition, and the sooty fraternity – always, by the way scrupulously clean on May-day – seemed to meet with very little encouragement. Many foreigners who came into contact with the moveable Jacks-in-the-Green, appeared to be profoundly astonished at the wonderful system by which such apparently lifeless bodies could have had such wonderful activity imparted to them, and upon the principle of Omne ignotum pro magnifico, rewarded to some extent the ladies and gentlemen who politely extended the familiar long-handed spoons, in which they are accustomed to receive their favours. Jack is supposed to have three days’ holiday at this time of year, and it might be hoped for his sake, that as to-day and to-morrow will be less exciting days than this has been, he may reap a bountiful harvest before the week has drawn to a close.

The Standard, 2 May 1862, page 3

The picture featured this month is Mayday or Jack in the Green possibly by Isaac Cruikshank published by Laurie and Whittle 1795


Historical Jack-in-the-Green – October

Charles Green - Jack in the Green 1869

Each month I publish a  newspaper article that featured the traditional Jack-in-the-Green along with a picture or photograph from the archive. Each of these articles is a fascinating 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

May 1st 1828: DREADFUL ACCIDENT

About ten o’clock yesterday morning a very frightful accident occurred in the Blackfriars-road. A group of May-day sweeps, decorated with ribbons, accompanied by what is called “Jack in the Green” and drums, were performing their grotesque capers in the road, when suddenly the horses of a Gentleman’s carriage near them started and plunged into the crowd, unfortunately knocking down a little sweep and the man called “Jack in the Green.” The affrighted horses were, almost in a minute after, stopped, but, unhappily, the unfortunate boy was so dreadfully injured by the wheels passing over him, that he died instantly, and was removed into a public-house. The “Jack in the Green” was severely bruised , and being extricated from his drapery, was carried to the Hospital.

The Morning Post, 2 May 1828, page 3.

The picture featured this month is Jack in the Green by Charles Green (1869)


Historical Jack-in-the-Green – September

May Day by George Cruikshank from Charles Dickens the First of May 1836

May Day by George Cruikshank from Charles Dickens the First of May 1836

Each month we publish 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

1st May 1835 MAY-DAY.

There was but a very limited show of sable masqueraders on the 1st instant. The sweeps, in fact, have become too enlightened for such wulgar exhibitions. Jack Scroggins, who is “up and down to every move,” did not let the chance go by, and was out as “grand Serag,” to a tolerably decent set of Carnivalists. He displayed a cocked-hat, bag wig, nankeen decencies, silk stockings, and a dress-coat, with brick-dust varnish to his mug. Mrs. Scroggins was, of course, with him, carrying the ladle, and wore a complete full dress suit of the “good old days of Queen Bess.” Her carroty locks induced many persons to believe she meant to assume the appearance of the virgin Queen. Josh Hudson was “Jack in the Green,” but was little seen save when he poked his sooty bill through the wentilator to receive his reglars of heavy wet. All three complained that their pumps were out of order from the disorderly state of the pavement ; but they forgot all their troubles when seated at the Half Moon in the evening, where there was the customary May-day ball and trimmings. Scroggins on this occasion played his celebrated solo on the salt-box ; and Mrs. Scroggins sung “Had I a heart for falsehood framed,” with a degree of pathos that made poor Josh, who has naturally a feeling heart, blubber like a bull in convulsions. All the elite of Leadenhall were present, and continued to “foot it merrily,” till summoned by the calls of the carcase butchers to their customary duties on market morning. Lord Winchester, although invited, did not attend. It is clear there is “a screw loose” between him and Josh. Old Frank Hobler, his chief secretary, was, however, as usual, among the happiest of the happy, and, as “Billy Waters,” stumped it right jollily upon his timber toe. Being incog., he was only known to the marshalmen who were observable in the maizy throng. Frank being a musical genus [sic], acted as cat-gut scraper for the night, and it was clear had “enough of it,” for he did not mount his perch at the Mansion till one o’clock, and then could scarcely see a hole through London bridge without his glass.

Bell’s Life in London, and Sporting Chronicle, 3 May 1835, page 3.


The Green Man at the Twelfth Night celebration events: Sunday 5th January

Twelth Night

The 2014 TWELFTH NIGHT Celebrations will be held from 2.30pm on Sunday 5th January 2014.

Twelfth Night is an annual seasonal celebration held in the Bankside area of London. It is a celebration of the New Year, mixing ancient seasonal customs with contemporary festivity. It is free, accessible to all and happens whatever the weather.

The Twelfth Night celebration events:

The Holly Man from the Thames

To herald the celebration, the extraordinary Holly Man (the Winter guise of the Green Man from pagan myths and folklore) decked in fantastic green garb and evergreen foliage, appears from the River Thames brought by the Thames Cutter, Trinity Tide (boat subject to weather!) rowed by hardy volunteers.

The Bankside Wassails

With the crowd, led by the Bankside Mummers, the Holly Man ‘brings in the green’ and ‘wassails’ or toasts the people,  the River Thames and the Globe – an old tradition encouraging good growth.

The Mummers Play

The Mummers then process to the Bankside Jetty, and perform the traditional ‘freestyle’ Folk Combat Play of St. George, featuring the St George, Beelzebub, the Turkey Sniper, the Doctor, Clever Legs, the Old ‘Oss and many others, dressed in their spectacularand colourful  ‘guizes’. The play is full of wild verse and boisterous action, a time-honoured part of the season recorded from the Crusades.

King Bean and Queen Pea

At the end of the play, cakes are distributed  –  a bean and a pea hidden in two of them. Those who find them are hailed King and Queen for the day and crowned with ceremony.

They then lead the people in procession through the streets to the historic George Inn in Borough High Street for a fine warming up with Storytelling, the Kissing Wishing Tree and more Dancing.


The Green Man at the Twelfth Night celebration events: Sunday 6th January

Twelth Night 2013

The 2013 TWELFTH NIGHT Celebrations will be held from 2.45pm on Sunday 6th January 2013.

Twelfth Night is an annual seasonal celebration held in the Bankside area of London. It is a celebration of the New Year, mixing ancient seasonal customs with contemporary festivity. It is free, accessible to all and happens whatever the weather.

The Holly Man from the Thames

To herald the celebration, the extraordinary Holly Man (the Winter guise of the Green Man from pagan myths and folklore) decked in fantastic green garb and evergreen foliage, appears from the River Thames brought by the Thames Cutter, Master Shipbroker (boat subject to weather!) rowed by hardy volunteers.

The Bankside Wassails

With the crowd, led by the Bankside Mummers, the Holly Man ‘brings in the green’ and ‘wassails’ or toasts the people, the River Thames and the Globe – an old tradition encouraging good growth.

The Mummers play

The Mummers then process to the Bankside Jetty, and perform the traditional ‘freestyle’ Folk Combat Play of St. George, featuring the St George, Beelzebub, the Turkey Sniper, the Doctor, Clever Legs, the Old ‘Oss and many others, dressed in their spectacularand colourful ‘guizes’. The play is full of wild verse and boisterous action, a time-honoured part of the season recorded from the Crusades.

King Bean and Queen Pea

At the end of the play, cakes are distributed – a bean and a pea hidden in two of them. Those who find them are hailed King and Queen for the day and crowned with ceremony.

They then lead the people in procession through the streets to the historic George Inn in Borough High Street for a fine warming up with Storytelling, the Kissing Wishing Tree and more Dancing.

More information at: http://www.thelionspart.co.uk/twelfthnight/