The Revival of the Jack-in-the-Green
For the History of the Traditional Jack in the Green please click HERE
The Knutsford Jack is probably the oldest continual annual Jack-in-the-Green. Apart from the war years and during the Covid19 pandemic it has paraded as part of Knutsford’s Royal May Day every year since 1890. However the Knutsford Jack was not one of the early Jacks but like many others in the late 19th Century was a much tamed Victorian revival having first appeared in May 1864 “based on earlier traditions and festivities” by the Rev. Robert Clowes the Vicar of Knutsford.
Brentham’s May Day tradition became established in 1919, after the end of the First World War, and expanded considerably for 1920 when the first Jack-in-the-Green appeared. The time between the wars up to 1951 seem to be the dark ages with regards to information about Jacks. Apart from Knutsford and Brentham there are illusive reports of a Jack sighted opposite Guy’s Hospital in Borough, London in 1923 and a Sweeps’ Jack in St Ebb’s, Oxford that went out until 1939. A number of other sightings appear to be smaller Jacks created by children, including one at Ely.
The Oxford Jack was revived in 1951 by The Oxford University Morris Men. At the time they were unaware that it was a revival and that a Jack had appeared in Oxford before. This Jack has paraded every year since.
Another revival appeared as a one-off in Hollington, near Hastings in the 1950s. This Jack was a small one built for a child as part of the May Day celebrations.
1974 saw the publication of Lionel Bacon’s ‘Handbook of Morris dancing’ which actively encouraged the revival and evolution of Morris traditions. Then in 1976 the Labour Government announced the introduction of a new May bank Holiday to start in 1978. May Day in 1976 was on a Saturday and in 1977, the year of the Jubilee, on a Sunday. All these factors provided the impetus for new Morris sides to form and for existing Morris sides to do something bigger and better than before. A number of revivals occurred seemingly independently within the space of a few years.
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.
Rumford Morris Men from Essex used to have a Green Man (which they called Jack in the Green) back in the mid-1970s. Their Jack in the Green wore a boiler suit (dyed green) upon which were sewn dozens of cotton strips of differing shades of green cut into the shape of Oak leaves. The leaves were cut from sample material cadged from a Laura Ashley shop. The material was not only different shades, but was of various pattern (striped, paisley etc.). Jack also wore a pith helmet adorned with long strips of the same material hanging down and covering his face and extending down to his chest. Apparently, it was extremely warm to wear, and Jack often had to be refreshed with lots of ale to prevent wilting!
In 1976 Pilgrim Morris of Guildford created a contemporary May Day celebration using a number of traditional elements from various sources including a Jack-in-the-Green known as “The Guildford Bush”. The Guildford Bush is still part of Guildford’s wonderful Summerpole celebration each May.
The Whitstable Jack-in-the-Green was revived in 1976 by Dixie Lee, Oyster Morris and a local folk group for their folk festival and continues to this day.
Independently around this time a Jack in the Green was also briefly revived in Rye by Daisy Roots Morris from Hastings.
In the late 1970’s Dave Lobb of The Greenwood Morris Men and later The Earls of Essex Morris formed GOG (The Grand Order of Guisers). As well as reviving dancing giants that can still be seen parading to this day (including Gogmagog the London Giant), GOG also revived the Islington Milkmaid’s Garland Morris and a Jack in the Green that paraded in Covent Garden.
The first London revival Jack was paraded by Greenwood Morris in 1978. Greenwood used to dance at dawn at Alexandra Palace, then bring their Jack-in-the-Green into the City for an evening tour of London Wall and the Smithfield area and Mick Skrzipiec and the Earls of Essex Morris Men would parade a Jack-in-the-Green around the City of London.
In 2019 Mo Johnson of Blackheath Morris confirmed that the first London revival Jack was paraded by Greenwood Morris in 1978 he said “GOG was formed and started bringing Jacks into the City from about ’80 onwards. Initially there was the Greenwood Jack and one from the Earls of Essex. The latter became the “City” Jack, kept going by Mick Skrzypiec after the Earls ended. Blackheath were, I think, present at the Jack City Tour for a couple of years before I built the first Deptford Jack.”
The Bluebell Hill or Rochester’s Sweeps Jack was revived in 1981 by Gordon Newton as part of the Rochester Sweeps Festival. The Rochester Jack was based on accounts written by Charles Dickens in his ‘Sketches by Boz.’ The revived Rochester Jack-in-the-Green is brought to life every year during a fantastic ceremony that takes place at Dawn on May 1st at the top of Bluebell Hill. Jack is woken by Morris dancers whilst surrounded by twelve “bonfires”
In 1983 as May Day fell on a Sunday a number of Jacks were paraded in London. Dave Lobb and Mick Skrzypiec of The Earls of Essex Morris were discussing old May Day customs over a pint one lunchtime and decided to create an all-day event and the concept of the City of London Jack-in-the-Green was born.
In the early 80’s members of Blackheath Morris (a side morphed from the Blackheath Foot’n’Death Men who used to dance at events featuring bands like Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies) were joining up with The Greenwood Jack in London. In 1983/4 Mo Johnson revived the Deptford (Fowler’s Troop) Jack. Mo built a Jack-in-the-Green in the back garden of the ‘Dog and Bell’ pub in Deptford. Mo was inspired by one of Thankful Sturdee’s photographs c.1900 of the original troop and their Jack. The Fowler’s troop Jack still goes out every May Day.
On May Day in 1984 the Earls of Essex Morris, with Mick Skrzypiec in the Jack, met at dawn on Wanstead Flats to see the sun rise. After breakfast they travelled by commuter train into Liverpool Street and started the first City of London Jack-in-the-Green procession. They were joined at the Magog’s pub in Milk Street by Blackheath Morris’s Deptford (Fowlers Troop) Jack and a Jack carried by Mike Mullen of Hammersmith Morris. On subsequent occasions they were joined by the Jack from Royal Liberty Morris, the Jack from Greenwood Morris (Carried by Alan Pearson) and members of other Morris teams and the Grand Order of Guisers (GOG)
The Hastings Jack 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. The Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green is now the biggest Jack in the Green event in the world attracting thousands of participants and onlookers every year.
In Tasmania the Hobart Jack in the Green was revived by The Jolley Hatters of Hobart Morris Team in 1987 and was still known to be parading in 1998. I have been unable to ascertain whether the Hobart Jack is still active and would love to hear from anyone with any information.
In Oakhanger, Hampshire 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 and Jack led the procession. This appears to have been a one off outing for Jack.
The Bristol Jack (a scion of the Hastings Jack) was revived by Pigsty Morris in 1992 and continues to this day in a magical and vibrant procession through the City of Bristol each year.
John Major’s Conservative Government tried to remove the new Bank Holiday in 1993. A group made up of representatives of all the active Jacks protested at Parliament. The Rochester Jack danced in Downing Street and the Hastings Bogies (Jack’s mischevious attendants) were allowed access to Parliament in full Bogie costume. It was most likely the appearance of the Bogies that caused the government to back down (I like to think so anyway).
Ilfracombe (another scion of Hastings) has had a Jack every year but one since 2000.
The High Wycombe Jack appeared in one form or another on Holywell Mead between 2005 and 2010 he did not appear in 2011 and was last sighted on Naphill Common in 2012.
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.
A May Day celebration was established briefly from 2006 to 2011 at Edwinstowe, Nottingham which included a Jack in the Green.
In 2009 Members of Hammersmith Morris created the Hammersmith Jack. This Jack is unique amongst the modern revivals in that it is largely covered with artificial foliage and is therefore very lightweight and portable. The Hammersmith Jack can be seen in Hammersmith every May Day and often tours other locations as well.
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
A Jack used to parade in the Pagan Pride Parade or Beltane Bash in London. The last time it was sighted was 2010. If anyone can let me know when this Jack first went out and if there are any plans for it to go out again I would really appreciate it.
The Tunbridge Wells Jack-in-the-Green first went out on 30th April 2010 Jack (wearing a crown of May blossom) He lead a procession around the commons of Rusthall and Tunbridge Wells and was then slain to release the spirit of summer. He was seen out and about beating the bounds in 2012 but has not been sighted since then.
The Lands End Jack-in-the-Green went out between 2011 & 2013 He greeted the Dawn at Chapel Carn Brea on May Day accompanied by Boekka Border Morris and on occasion by Penkevyll, the Lands End Obby Oss.
2013 saw a Jack go out in Yaxley Cambridgeshire. He appeared in 2013 and 2014 and then 2016 but has not been sighted as far as I know since then.
A Hop Jack appeared as a one off at the Faversham Hop Festival in August 2013
2014 saw a revival of the Cheltenham Sweep’s Jack. Jack joined the Winchcombe Jack at Sudeley Castle on May 5th 2014 and in 2016 The Cheltenham Jack-in-the-Green returned to the streets of Cheltenham for the first time in over 100 years parading through Cheltenham and recreating the photograph taken 124 years earlier. The Cheltenham Jack has not been sighted since then.
The Chagford (Devon) Jack-in-the-Green appeared as part of a May Day revival in 2015. It has not appeared again since.
In 2016 Hever Castle in Kent created a Jack in the Green as part of their May Day celebrations which is now an annual event.
Also in 2016 Kentwell Hall in Suffolk had a Jack O’Green as part of their Tudor May Day Celebrations and Wythenshawe Hall in Manchester had a Jack ‘O’ Green accompanied by bogies as part of their Summer wake up to raise funds for the Hall. These appear to have been one offs.
In May 2017 Grand Hama Morris paraded a Jack in the Green 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 article and could get in touch with me please. The Boss Morris Jacky in the Green was created in April 2017 and first appeared on Painswick Beacon at dawn on May Dawn 2017 at an annual hop hosted by Gloucestershire Morris Men with Boss Morris, Stroud Ladies Morris & Miserden Morris attending
2018 saw 18 Jacks parade but no new additions.
2019 saw two new Jacks arrive. The Evercreech Jack in the Green was the central character of a wonderful parade through the village. The Bradford on Avon Jack in the Green became part of the re-branded Green Man Festival.
2020 saw the most unusual Jack in the Green season in history. Lockdown and social distancing measures were still in place due to the covid19 pandemic and public gatherings were banned. Most events were cancelled whilst others went virtual via social media.
There are also a small number of Jacks who parade quietly and privately in the UK each year some of which have been established for many years.
The modern Jacks are often accompanied by musicians and Morris dancers or attendants sometimes known as Bogies dressed in green rags adorned with leaves and flowers and with their faces arms and hands covered in green paint. Some Bogies interact with those watching the proceedings as the Jack is paraded by handing out small gifts to children or by adorning the watchers faces with some of “Jacks magic” which to the uninitiated may look remarkably similar to green face paint! Some Bogies like those at Hastings are particularly fierce and will protect Jack from the unwanted attentions of those who get too close to Jack before he wakes or try to steal leaves from him during the procession.
Jack often dances and cavorts along, sometimes chasing those he takes a fancy to or who simply get in his way. He has also been known to have a voice on occasions and has been heard by the author to shout the words “bogey, bogey, bogey” before trying to invite himself into someone’s house.
This a list of all the current Jacks and information about them. If you know of any Jacks that I have missed or any details that need amending or adding please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me HERE
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 and one recent year 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. The Knutsford Jack was not one of the early Jacks but like many others in the late 19th Century was a much tamed Victorian revival having first appeared in May 1864 “based on earlier traditions and festivities” by the Rev. Robert Clowes the Vicar of Knutsford.
The Knutsford Jack did not appear in 2020.
Brentham Jack-in-the-Green (Since 1919)
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.
The Brentham Jack did not appear in 2020 and will not appear in 2021.
Oxford Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 1951)
The Oxford Jack-in-the-Green appears every year 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.
A wonderful virtual Jack in the Green was created for May 2020 from photos of Spring foliage sent in by members from around the UK, and even from as far afield as Toronto and Pnom Penh.
Guildford Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 1976)
Known as The Guildford Bush, this Jack is accompanied by the Pilgrim Morris Men of Guildford during the annual Summerpole all day event in 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 Pilgrim Morris. For many years the Jack was carried by folklorist George Frampton. Pilgrim Morris were founded in 1972, during the summer months they dance around Surrey and north-east Hampshire, and occasionally further afield. The Guildford Jack is built from Laurel and usually stands just ten inches higher than the occupant who is “Usually somebody of less than average height.” “The activity of the bush depends on the inclination of the carrier. Sometimes it gets in the way of the dancers and entertains the public and at other times it just stands around”
The Guildford Bush did not appear in 2020.
Whitstable (Oyster Morris) 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. 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!
In 2020 The Whitstable Jack did put in an appearance of sorts – in invisible form walking the route of the usual parade though Whitstable as part of a wonderful online event hosted by Dixie Lee.
Deptford (Fowlers Troop) Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 1983/4)
In 1983/4 Mo Johnson built a Jack-in-the-Green in the back garden of the ‘Dog and Bell’ pub. Mo was inspired by a photograph taken by contemporary historian Thankful Sturdee of the original Fowlers troop with their Jack in the Green c.1900. The revived Jack was paraded with Blackheath Morris (a side morphed from the Blackheath Foot’n’Death Men who used to dance at events featuring bands like Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies).
The current Fowlers Troop Jack goes out on the streets of South East London or the City of London each May Day accompanied by the current Fowler’s Troop a wonderful collection of costumed figures. The Deptford Jack often used to meet up with the now rarely sighted City of London Jack in the Green on May Day. When May Day fell on the Bank Holiday Monday both the Deptford and City of London Jacks often went to Hastings to join with the Hastings Jack in the Green in the celebrations. This last occurred in 2012. The Jack stands at around 11 feet tall when lifted. Graham Newson who took on the mantle as keeper and main carrier of the Jack in the early 90’s customised the interior of the Jack to include storage space for essentials including cigarettes, beer tankard a repair kit, a change of clothes and on occasions a set of morris sticks. After 30 years the original frame for the Deptford Jack in the Green was past its best and so, in 2015, a new metal frame was created specially and paid for from a fund left by Doug Adams who was the lead musician of Fowler’s Troop. The Jack was christened at the start of the 2015 May Day procession. The Jack is usually dressed on April 30th at the Dog & Bell pub.
In 2021 – A slightly trimmer than usual Deptford Jack in the Green put in a great online appearance on May 1st during the first coronavirus lockdown.
Rochester (Blue Bell Hill) Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 1981)
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.”
The following has been sung over the years to greet the dawn at Bluebell Hill. I would love to know if it is still sung and who wrote it:
Now winter is o’er
I’m happy to say
And we’re all met again
In our ribbons so gay
Now we’re all met again
On the first day of spring
To a go with a dancing
with Jack in the green
The Blue Bell Hill – Rochester Jack-in-the-Green did not appear in 2020.
Hastings Traditional Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 1983)
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. At one point there were only twelve official Bogies that could always be found near the Jack-in-the-Green protecting and guiding him. One of the Bogies with twenty years service “in the green” commented “That may have been true once upon a time, but there are considerably more of us now. In the last two years some younger bogies or ‘snots’ have been recruited due to a lot of us nearing pensionable age. Nothing like young legs to carry the Jack up the hill.” The Bogies are sometimes fuelled by a mysterious liquid known as Bogie Juice.
The Bogies are very much supported (sometimes literally) by The Beer Fairies. These magical beings travel just ahead of the procession to ensure that there is always a supply of Bogie juice available for the Bogies and to ensure that they have no need to visit every single one of the public houses on the route. One of the know abilities of the Beer Fairies is to be able to carry a three pint horn of fresh Bogie juice whilst wearing high heels.
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.
In 2020 The Hastings Jack in the Green put in a spectacular appearance as part of an incredible three day online event.
Bristol Jack in the Green (Revived 1992)
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 who recite part of William Anderson’s beautiful poem “The Green Man” in an evocative ceremony on the harbourside. Jack then leads a magical six hour procession through the streets of Bristol. The Bristol Jack is nine feet tall and is topped with a colourful crown of flowers, he
The Bristol Jack 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 in another wonderful magical ceremony. Jack is then stripped of his leaves by the crowd and his attendants and taken away as tokens of Jack’s magic.
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.
The Green Man
The bark of the elder makes whistles for children
To call to the deer as they rove over the snow;
‘I am born in the dark, ‘says the Green Man,
‘I am born in the dark, ‘says he.
The Hungry birds harry the last berries of rowan
But white is her bark in the darkness of rain;
‘I rise with the sap, ‘says the Green Man,
‘I rise with the sap,’says he.
The reed beds are flanking in silence the islands
Where meditates Wisdom as she waits and waits:
‘I have kept her secret, ‘says the Green Man,
‘I have kept her secret, ‘says he.
The Alders are rattling as though ready for battle
Guarding the grove where she waits for her lover;
‘I burn with desire, ‘says the Green Man,
‘I burn with desire, ‘says he.
Green Man becomes grown man in flames of the oak
As it’s crown forms his mask and it’s leafage his features;
‘I speak through the oak, ‘says the Green Man
‘I speak though the oak, ‘say he.
The hedges of quick are thick with May blossom
As the dancers advance on the leaf-covered King:
‘It’s off with my head, ‘says the Green Man’
‘It’s off with my head, ‘Says he.
The Bristol Jack in the Green did not appear in 2020
Ilfracombe Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2000)
Ilfracombe’s Jack-in-the-Green procession was started in 2000 by Lisa Sture. Local children were involved and it was supported by local Morris teams. Another descendant of the Hastings Jack, the Ilfracombe Jack event also finished with the release of the spirit of summer and the distribution of leaves often on Ilfracombe beach. The Ilfracombe Jack did not appear in 2015 after the previous committee were unable to continue. Kelly Raveney stepped in to help and Ilfracombe’s May Day Celebrations and the Jack in the Green returned in 2016. The parade usually ends at the clapping circle where Jack-in-the-Green is stripped of his leafy coverings to release the spirit of summer and local children dance around a maypole.
The Ilfracombe Jack-in-the-Green did not appear in 2020.
Whitstable (Dead Horse Morris) Jack-in-the-Green
Dead Horse Morris have a Jack-in-the-Green clad entirely in Ivy who takes part in the Dawn Rising celebrations on Whitstable Beach on May 1st each year. He then takes part in the Whitstable May celebrations. The Jack is built of ivy leaves tied together in bunches and then fixed to a light-weight frame. In it’s final form it also boasts a crown. Dead Horse Morris was formed in 1986 they dance in heavy hob-nailed boots, use short blackthorn sticks and their kit is based on the ordinary working clothes of a local fisherman or dredger of the late 19th Century.
The Dead Horse Morris Jack in the Green did not appear in 2020.
Highworth Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2006)
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.
The Highworth Jack did not appear in 2020.
Hammersmith Jack-in-the-Green (2009)
On May Day in 1984 the Earls of Essex Morris, with Mick Skrzypiec in their Jack, met at dawn on Wanstead Flats to see the sun rise. After breakfast they travelled by commuter train into Liverpool Street and started the first City of London Jack-in-the-Green procession. They were joined at the Magog’s pub in Milk Street by the Deptford (Fowler’s Troop) Jack and one other Jack which a member of Fowler’s Troop recalls as being carried by Mike Mullen of Hammersmith Morris. This appears to have been a one off outing for this particular Jack.
In 2009 Members of Hammersmith Morris created the Hammersmith Jack. This Jack is unique amongst the modern revivals in that it is largely covered with artificial foliage and is therefore very lightweight and portable. The leaves are made in a variety of materials, some that were created by children at local schools that Jack has visited as part of his May Day perambulations over the years. 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 and include badges, bus and train tickets and ribbons. A crown of fresh flowers or foliage is used to top Jack each year on May 1st.
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 sometimes visit schools and care homes in the local area. The Hammersmith Jack in the Green is very much a free spirited urban Jack, he has no attendants other than the Morris Dancers and musicians who accompany him but he is mostly left to his own devices. As such he can at times be spotted parading the streets of Hammersmith completely on his own creating a special kind of mayhem unique to The Hammersmith Jack. The Hammersmith Jack has been known to make various noises and can very occasional be heard to speak. Jack and the Hammersmith Morris visit and dance at local pubs in the Hammersmith area on May 1st and invariably will traverse Hammersmith Bridge at some point during the day.
The World Famous Hammersmith Morris Men or Smiffs were formed in 1959. Kitted out in blue and gold they continue to entertain audiences around the country with their lively and engaging style.
In 2020 The Hammersmith Jack-in-the-Green appeared in a wonderful online event accompanied by The Smiffs.
Islington Milk Maid’s Garlands (1981)
New Esperance Morris have paraded the Islington Milkmaid’s Garland through Islington every May Day since 1981 when it was first revived with the help of Dave Lobb’s research and inspiration. The Milkmaids Garlands date back to the 17th Century and some believe they were the precursor to The Traditional Jack in the Green. The Islington Milk Maid’s Garland is about five feet tall, and needs two people to carry it. New Esperance also take the Islington Milk Maid’s Garland to Hastings for the Traditional Jack in the Green Bank Holiday each year.
The Islington Milk Maid’s Garland did not appear in 2020.
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. The Winchombe Jack sometimes met up with the Cheltenham Jack-in-the-Green during the years it was active.
In 2020 The Winchcombe Jack in the Green put in a socially distanced solo appearance on the streets of Winchcombe in the early hours of May 1st.
Bovey Tracey/Grimspound Morris Jack-in-the-Green
The Bovey Tracey Jack-in-the-Green goes out with Grimspound Morris. He can be seen greeting the Mayday dawn up on Haytor and then afterwards puts in an appearance in Bovey Tracey. I would love to receive more information about this Jack and its history.
The Bovey Tracey Jack-in-the-Green did not appear in 2020. Instead Grimspound Morris shared photographs of May Dawn via their Facebook page.
Horsley Primary School Jack-in-the-Green
Horsley Primary School in Stroud has an annual May Day event. The oldest boy in the school plays Jack dressed in Beech leaves. Accompanied by the May Queen. Jack in the Green opens the door of the parish church to let in the morning light and welcome the day.
The Horsley Jack in the Green did not appear in 2020.
Carshalton Straw Jack
A Celebration of Harvest this takes place in September each year. The Straw Jack is made from the last straw of the harvest and is ritually stripped in the evening so that all present can take a keepsake and then he is burnt in a brazier. It is hoped that he will be burnt as a complete figure one year. The Straw Jack is more closely related to the Jack in the Green than to traditional straw bears having no legs and being built around a frame.
I suspect that the Carshalton Straw is a scion of The Hastings Jack in the Green but I would love to know more about the history of this Jack.
I do not believe that the Carshalton Straw Jack went out in 2020.
Grand Hama Morris Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2017?)
The Grand Hama Morris Jack-in-the-Green paraded in the city of Isehara in Japan in May 2017 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 article and could get in touch with me please. The Isehara Jack was also spotted in 2018.
I do not believe that the Grand Hama Jack went out in 2020.
Hever Castle Jack-in-the-Green (2016?)
Hever Castle in Kent had their own Jack-in-the-Green and Green Man over the early May Bank Holiday weekend of 2016 joined by the Lord and Lady of the May on the Castle forecourt. The Green Man led a procession through the gardens waking up the plants for summer. This Jack is now an annual event.
The Hever Castle Jack did not appear in 2020.
Evercreech (Somerset) Jack-in-the-Green (started 2019)
Evercreech Jack in the Green is a community, folk revival, celebration. Jack is dressed by volunteers during the morning outside The Old Stores Studio in Evercreech, Somerset. Jack is then brought to life and is paraded along the main street accompanied by wonderful musicians and a Morris Team.
The Evercreech Jack in the Green was adorned in his greenery and displayed in the window of the Old Stores Studio from the first weekend of May in 2020.
Bradford on Avon Green Man Festival Jack in the Green (started 2019)
The Bradford on Avon day of dance was re-branded as a Green Man Festival in 2019 and introduced a 9′ tall giant Green Man accompanied by his Herald, a Bogie and two Squires – Winter and Spring along with one or more drummers. They started the day at The Castle pub and then wandered the town “greening” people. As the highlight of the closing activities they performed Bradford on Avon’s Jack In The Green mummers’ play to herald in the summer. Morris sides with Hobby Horses joined in. The day ended with Holt Morris celebrating their 30th anniversary performing their haunting “Signposts” dance around Jack and his entourage.
The Bradford on Avon Jack did not appear in 2020 but the organisers created a wonderful three hour online festival.
Boss Morris Jack (Jackie) in the Green (2017)
The Boss Morris Jacky in the Green greets the dawn on top of Painswick Beacon each Mayday accompanied by Morris Dancers. Boss Morris Jack in the Green is actually a Jacky in the Green. She was created in April 2017 and first appeared on Painswick Beacon at dawn on May Dawn 2017 at an annual hop hosted by Gloucestershire Morris Men with Boss Morris, Stroud Ladies Morris & Miserden Morris attending. She is entirely formed from recycled materials. The Boss Morris Jacky is not slain at the end of the day but instead the Spirit of Summer in the form of petals can be seen emanating from her. Jacky lives at an eco-housing community while she is sleeping throughout the rest of the year.
The Boss Morris Jackie did not appear in 2020.
Jacks that have been sighted in recent years but do not currently go out annually. I would love to receive any further information about any of the Jacks listed below.
Hobart (Tasmania) Jack-in-the-Green (Started 1987 – Last sighted 1998)
The Hobart Jack in the Green was revived by The Jolley Hatters of Hobart Morris Team in 1987 and was still known to be parading in 1998. I have been unable to ascertain whether the Hobart Jack it is still active and would love to hear from anyone with any information.
City of London Jack-in-the-Green (Started 1984 – Last sighted 2012)
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 was last sighted when he joined the Hastings and Fowler’s Troop Jacks in Hastings in 2012.
Beltane Bash/Pagan Pride Jack-in-the-Green (Last sighted 2010)
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. There have been rumours that a Jack might take part in other Pagan Pride Parades.
High Wycombe Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 2005 – Last sighted 2012)
The High Wycombe Jack appeared in one form or another on Holywell Mead between 2005 and 2010 he did not appear in 2011 and was last sighted on Naphill Common in 2012.
Lands End Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2011 – Last sighted 2013)
The Lands End Jack-in-the-Green went out between 2011 & 2013 He greeted the Dawn at Chapel Carn Brea on May Day accompanied by Boekka Border Morris and sometimes by Penkevyll, the Lands End Obby Oss. The Lands End Jack-in-the-Green was last sighted in 2013.
Tunbridge Wells Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2010 – Last sighted 2012)
The Tunbridge Wells Jack-in-the-Green first went out on 30th April 2010 Jack (wearing a crown of May blossom) He lead a procession around the commons of Rusthall and Tunbridge Wells and was then slain to release the spirit of summer. He was accompanied by a number of drums and was flanked by a red flag and a flag of Kent. He was seen out and about beating the bounds in 2011 and 2012 but has not been sighted since then.
Kentwell Hall Jack O’Green (2016?)
Kentwell Hall in Suffolk had their own Jack O’Green over the early May Bank Holiday weekend as part of their Tudor May Day Celebrations. The bringing in of the tree was led by a Jack O’Green, covered in Greenery, and processing the May Queen. I would love to hear more about this Jack from anyone who saw it. In particular I’d like to know if this was a one off.
Wythenshawe Hall Jack ‘O’ Green (2016?)
Wythenshawe Hall in Manchester had a Jack ‘O’ Green on May 2nd weekend as part of their ‘Summer Wake Up’ to raise funds for the hall. People were encouraged to dress in green and become one of Jack’s Bogies for the day. I would love to hear more about this Jack from anyone who saw it. In particular I’d like to know if this was a one off.
Yaxley (Cambridgeshire) Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2013)
The Yaxley Jack-in-the-Green 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. He appeared in 2013 and 2014 and then 2016 but has not been sighted as far as I know since then.
Chagford Jack-in-the-Green (Started 2015)
The Chagford (Devon) Jack-in-the-Green appeared as part of a May Day revival in 2015. It has not yet appeared again since.
Cheltenham Sweeps Jack-in-the-Green (Revived 2014)
The Cheltenham Sweeps Jack appears in a photograph taken of May Day in Cheltenham in 1892. A Jack was first recorded in Cheltenham in 1830 and intermittently up until 1912. The 2014 revived Jack joined the Winchcombe Jack at Sudeley Castle on May 5th 2014 and in 2016 The Cheltenham Jack-in-the-Green returned to the streets of Cheltenham for the first time in over 100 years parading through Cheltenham and recreating the photograph taken 124 years earlier. The Cheltenham Jack was not sighted again until 2020 when it sent a May Day greeting from where it was hibernating in the Hedgerow.
This 1891 description of the Cheltenham Jack-in-the-Green was written by W.H.D. Rouse who was President of The Folklore Society 1904-1906 and is reproduced in Roy Judge’s wonderful book “The Jack-in-the-Green” available from The Folklore Society.
‘The dancers are the chimney-sweeps of the town, two of whom, dressed in ordinary clothes, but with faces blacked, play on a fiddle and a tin-whistle for the dancing. The centre of the group is formed by a large bush: on a framework of wood leaves are fastened, so as to make a thick cone of them, about six feet high, topped with a crown made out of two hoops of wood covered with flowers, fastened crosswise. The mass of leaves is only broken at one place where there is an opening contained by a straight line and the arc of a circle, like a ticket office, through which peers the face of Jack-I’-the-Green, or the Bush-carrier. Jack advances halfway down the street, and then sets down the bush. Three young men of the party are attached, so to speak, to the bush, and now begin to dance round it. Their faces are blackened; they are crowned with complete caps (not garlands) made of all manner of leaves and flowers. Their dresses are red, blue, and yellow respectively, each of one colour; loose-fitting bodies and trousers of calico, with flower-patterns upon them. These dance lightly round the bush, turning always to their left, in a tripping polka-step, three trips and a pause, mostly straightforward, but with a turn round now and then. I am informed that they always dance in the same direction.
‘The rest of the party are boys and two men, most fantastically dressed; it is almost impossible to describe the dresses. The leader of the whole procession – the Clown – wears a tall hat, whose crown has been cut almost round, and turned back, like the lid of a meat-tin. To this flapping crown is fastened what looks like a bird or a bundle of feathers, and a few ribbons hang from it; there is a wide pink ribbon fastened round the hat by the brim, with a large blue bird’s wing in front, the feather end rising to the crown. Over a dress of chequered calico and trousers of red and black stripes, is a very large pinafore, reaching from the neck to the knees, and fastened by one or two knots behind. Across the front run two fringes of coloured stuff, below the waist; and at the bottom is a yellow frill. This he used to flap and make quaint gestures with, now and again fanning himself languidly; indeed this personage greatly fancies himself. His face is stained by large black rings round the eyes, and a red dab over mouth and chin.
The second man wears a red fool’s-cap, with a tassel, all stuck with flowers. On the right and left breast of his white pinafore are stuck or painted black figures, meant for human beings; and behind, a large pattern in the shape of a gridiron, with a red bar crossing it diagonally.
‘The two boys have white pinafores, with similar figures, or stars, on the breast, and a fish on the back; their white pinafores are cut away in the shape of swallow-tail coats, the tails flying out behind. One wore a girl’s hat stuck with flowers.
‘Most or all of these last five carried in the left hand an iron ladle or spoon with holes pierced in the bowl, which they held out for contributions; in the right they had a stick, with some kind of bladder hung on to the end. Whirling this, they ran about, and tried to strike the passers-by, who scampered off shrieking as hard as they could go. They sometimes danced, sometimes roared, and pretended to bite any child who ventured too near. Their faces, like their leader’s , were painted in divers colours, fearful and wonderful to behold.
Other Jacks that have been sighted at one time or another. I would really appreciate any further information about any of these Jacks.
Rumford Morris Jack-in-the-Green
Rumsford Morris Men from Essex used to have a Green Man (which they called Jack in the Green) back in the mid-1970s. Their Jack in the Green wore a boiler suit (dyed green) upon which were sewn dozens of cotton strips of differing shades of green cut into the shape of Oak leaves. The leaves were cut from sample material cadged from a Laura Ashley shop. The material was not only different shades, but was of various pattern (striped, paisley etc.). Jack also wore a pith helmet adorned with long strips of the same material hanging down and covering his face and extending down to his chest.
Royal Liberty Morris Jack-in-the-Green
In the 1980’s the City of London Jack-in-the-Green was often joined by other Jacks including the Jack from Royal Liberty Morris. I have very little information about this Jack in the Green and would love to know more.
The Greenwood Jack-in-the-Green
In the 1980’s the City of London Jack-in-the-Green was often joined by other Jacks including the Greenwood Jack-in-the-Green with Alan Pearson carrying the Greenwood Jack. I have very little information about this Jack in the Green and would love to know more.
The Earls of Essex Jack-in-the-Green
In the late 1970’s The Earls of Essex Morris Men would parade a Jack-in-the-Green around the City of London. On May Day in 1984 the Earls of Essex Morris, with Mick Skrzypiec in the Jack, met at dawn on Wanstead Flats to see the sun rise. After breakfast they travelled by commuter train into Liverpool Street and started the first City of London Jack-in-the-Green procession. It is my assumption that the Earls of Essex Jack-in-the-Green and the City of London Jack-in-the-Green are one in the same but I would love to know more.
The Covent Garden Jack-in-the-Green
In the late 1970’s Dave Lobb of The Greenwood Morris Men and later The Earls of Essex Morris formed GOG (The Grand Order of Guisers). As well as reviving dancing giants that can still be seen parading to this day (including Gogmagog the London Giant), GOG also revived the Islington Milkmaid’s Garland Morris and a Jack in the Green that paraded in Covent Garden. I’m assuming that the Covent Garden Jack-in -the-Green was a predecessor of The City of London Jack in the Green but would love to know more.
In Oakhanger, Hampshire 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 and Jack led the procession. I would appreciate any more information about this Jack.
A May Day celebration was established briefly from 2006 to 2011 at Edwinstowe, Nottingham which included a Jack in the Green. I would appreciate any more information about this Jack.
Sometime around 1976 a Jack in the Green was briefly revived in Rye by Daisy Roots Morris from Hastings. Again, more information would be gratefully received.
Jacks that have been planned but not yet seen the light of day.
Shakespeare Morris were hoping to have their own Jack-in-the-Green for 2019 but so far there have been no sightings.
A Facebook page for the Sheffield Jack in the Green was started in March 2016. Planning looked to be in the early stages and so far there have been no updates.
Planned for 2018/19 but now unlikely to happen