Article MT239

'It is the First of May'

Jack-in-the-Green Revisited

Captioned 'Jack-in-the-Green - May-day scene sixty years ago', by Charles Green. Probably a 'typical' performance. From The Graphic, 3 May 1890, page 506.The older forms of popular culture - music, song, dance, tale - had been all but obliterated by 1900 within the social context which had sustained them for several centuries.  Within a decade they had to a great extent been revived, but were now in the possession of an audience with no previous history of engagement.  One of the more interesting of English calendar customs enacted prior to that date was that of the May Day performances by chimney sweepers, accompanied by a man clad in a conical construction covered with foliage, most commonly known as 'Jack-in-the-Green'.  The late Roy Judge (1929 - 2000) made a particular study of the phenomenon which culminated initially in a post-graduate thesis and subsequently in a volume published by the Folklore Society.  One important component of Judge's study was a gazetteer of performance locations, with supporting transcriptions of the relevant sources for each.  When this work went into a second, revised edition in 2000, the gazetteer had been updated and expanded to include references discovered by Judge and his network of correspondents (myself included) up to his cut-off point the previous year.1. Roy Judge, The Jack-in-the-Green. A May Day Custom, 2nd edition (London: The Folklore Society, 2000). Copies are still available from the Folklore Society for a very reasonable price.  During the decade since then I have continued to seek out additional material, and have amassed a considerable number of fresh sources.  These add - significantly in some cases, in minor ways for others - to the overall time span of performance at locations already chronicled.  In addition, a good number of communities previously undocumented by Judge have been identified.  More than one hundred fresh references, dating from between 1775 and 1910, are presented in literal transcription here, expanding our understanding of the phenomenon considerably.  As outlined in Judge's work, the custom enjoyed a well-defined hey-day spanning roughly a century from about 1775, and the additional references do nothing to alter that broad conclusion.

In addition to the obvious interest generated both by the outlandish physical form of the custom, and by the fact that it was largely confined to a single trade - that of chimney sweeping - there is the obvious further attraction for scholars of music and dance.  These aspects were glossed over by Judge in his published volume.  The dance forms associated with the ceremony were, by all accounts, generally ad hoc and choreographically fluid.  There appears never to have been a specific set of agreed figures (in the manner of, say, morris dancing), or even specific dance steps that crossed geographical boundaries.  What one might see performed in, say, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, though likely to be similar in its broadest elements, was not necessarily the same as that at Hastings, Sussex.  There was no documented three or four-handed reel, no synchronous movements involving more than one linked couple, and no solo step dance exhibitions, although all three of these (and others) are likely to have made a showing at times.  One obvious obstacle to documentation was the lack of a common terminology to describe dance movement and form, with the result that contemporary descriptions are of the very broadest type.  One party seen in Blackfriars Road, London, in 1828, 'were performing their grotesque capers in the road',2. The Morning Post, 2 May 1828, page 3.2 while another, at Holborn in 1836, were 'dancing in a most ludicrous manner'.3. The Morning Post, 4 May 1836, page 4.3  At the height of the polka craze, an observer in Leicester in 1844 spoke of, 'the spirit with which Jack-in-the-Green and Black Sall danced their "Polka," and the rest of the merrymakers their own original country-dances',4. The Leicester Chronicle, or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser, 4 May 1844, page 3.4 but in terms of understanding the choreography, all these descriptions are meaningless.  Perhaps the most visible common feature - though hardly recorded in even a majority of sources - is that of 'dancing round the Jack': 'the reel round "Jack in the Green",' as the observer at Holborn in 1836 had it.5. The Morning Post, 4 May 1836, page 4.5  But even here there is no hint of participants holding hands and circling, or expressing anything other than a solo effort.

One writer, evidently privvy to covert practices among at least one set of sweeps, apparently during the years around 1880, usefully noted how:

First of all, in priority of engagement, is the musician. He must be able to play the drum - a tolerably easy achievement, in their style of performance, I should say - and the Pandean pipes, or mouth organ ; a less easy thing to do. The number of musicians seems to diminish faster than even the greens themselves ; the organ men and the German bands have been great foes to them, and it is not easy to find a musician now, so the sweep tries to engage him fully three months before he is wanted. The musician is technically known as the "whistler," and he is required to assist in the rehearsals which take place a few days before the 1st of May, for, about the time when they buy the laurel boughs to sew on the green, the intended performers are called together to learn the dance. I have not the slightest idea as to what this dance is called, but all my readers have certainly seen it, and to them, as to myself, it has no doubt appeared a most monotonous, measureless jig, which anyone could execute, yet candidates are rejected every year because they cannot dance well. 6. All the Year Round, quoted in The Manchester Times, 7 May 1881, page 6.6
It is worth noting that around the same date the morris dancers at Bampton, Oxfordshire, were having similar problems in acquiring the services of musicians with a repertoire and playing style to suit their performances.  In 1943 William Nathan 'Jingy' Wells observed how his grandfather, George Wells, at that date the leader of the morris side:
... never had no trouble to get the dancers but the trouble was sixty, seventy years ago to get the piper or the fiddler - the musician. Sometimes they had a very great difficulty in getting one, they've had one from Buckland, they've had one from Field Town - Lea-field - and they've had to go out here to Fairford and Broadwell and out that way to get a piper.7. Washington, Library of Congress, MS. transcript of interview with William Nathan Wells, Bampton, no date; partially published as 'William Wells. 1868-1953. Morris dancer, fiddler and fool,' section headed 'Meeting with Cecil Sharp', Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society 8, no.1 (1956), pages 9-11; and as 'William Wells and the Bampton Morris. An interview', Country Dance and Song 4 (1971), pages 9-12.7
For the Jack-in-the-Green custom, the majority of contemporary sources which offer more detail than a mere note of occurrence, mention the accompaniment of a melody instrument, most often a fiddle, usually played in tandem with a drum, tambourine or other percussive accompaniment.  Of these musicians two only are specifically named.  John Potter, of Sutton (who also played pipe and tabor when servicing multiple morris dance sets), and George Broadis, of Brize Norton (both villages in Oxfordshire) I have previously documented in a series to be found on this site.  The involvement of Broadis with the 'Jack' party at Burford is likely to have been more extensive than the current sources will allow, and to have taken place over a succession of years.  That of Potter, however, appears to have been time-specific, occurring solely in 1886 and 1887.  In the latter piece I examine in some detail the revival of the custom in Oxford City during those two years, following an extended lapse in regular performance, and suggest that it is an early expression - albeit originating from within a grass roots context - of the impulse towards Merrie England so prevalent during the final two decades of the 19th century.

Further instruments recorded as accompaniment include banjo and bones, at Oxford in 1851 at any rate, coinciding with the first wave of popularity of the minstrel invasion from the United States.  Until this period the banjo was virtually unknown in England, but only five years later than those particular Oxford sweeps the morris dancers at Eynsham, six miles distant, were performing to fiddle and banjo accompaniment.8. Jackson's Oxford Journal, 17 May 1856, page 8; see also The Oxford Chronicle, 17 May 1856, page 8.8  But, in reality, any melody instrument might be pressed into service, as available : flageolet or tin whistle (1836/1886/1890/1893), transverse flute (1836) or fife (1852/1853/1854/1860), and, during the nadir of occurrence, concertina (in Oxford at an unspecified date during the half dozen years leading up to 1914).  On occasion a single musician is noted as providing both melody and percussion.  No references to pipe and tabor players have yet surfaced, unless the set seen in Portsmouth, Hampshire, in 1823 is one such: 'they had a drum & pipe, &c'.9. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS.Eng.hist.c.144. Frederic Madden MSS., 'Journal for 1823', f.86.9  Players of the Pandean pipes and bass drum, most often associated during the 19th century with Punch and Judy shows and mentioned above, were also on occasion hired as accompanists (1860/1871/1890s).  The revival of the custom at Ryde, Isle of Wight, in 1865, when the Jack-in-the-Green 'cut the usual capers to the music of a full band, consisting of chin-pipes, drum, scrapers, and shovels', may also refer to this instrumental combination.10. The Isle of Wight Observer, 6 May 1865, page 3.10

Some references note only the rhythmic accompaniment of the potentially percussive broom and shovel, with no melody instrument obvious.  Other such devices were noted also, as at Brentford, Essex, in 1876, when the sweep party, 'came up with their ton[g]s and shovel, warmingpan, marrowbones and cleaver band',11. The Freeman's Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser, 4 May 1876, page 3.11 while in Oxford a dozen years later, 'Four fantastically dressed males, three wearing masks and one being decked out as a female, danced frantically round the circling greenery to such music as could be extracted from a saucepan beaten by a wooden cudgel.'12. The Oxford Times, 5 May 1888, page 5.12  But even where a melody instrument was present this form of accompaniment was common.  Henry Taunt, recalling more than two decades later the performances in the streets of Oxford in 1886 (as outlined in my piece on John Potter) noted how, 'Jack-in-the-Green reeled round one way and the performers danced round it in reverse, clanging their poker and shovel and pot and ladle as they swung past, while the violin squeaked out a merry old English dance.'13. Henry Taunt, 'Reviving Merrie England : May Day Ceremonies', The Sphere, 2 May 1908, Supplement.13  No specific named tunes appear in the uncovered corpus of sources, and it may be imagined that any lively tune would suffice.  The nearest to a firm description may be found in a report referring to activity in Coventry, Warwickshire, 'About the middle of the nineteenth century'.  Quoting an otherwise as-yet-unrecovered source, one local historian writing a century later noted how, 'The fiddler played one particular tune - a country jig of three phrases.'14. F. Bliss Burbidge, Old Coventry and Lady Godiva (Birmingham: Cornish, [1952]), page 73.14

Perhaps surprisingly, the 'Jack-in-the-Green' ceremony was transplanted more or less intact to the Antipodes by a number of emigrant master sweeps.  Judge cites research by Keith Leech in Tasmania,15. Keith Leech, Jack-in-the-Green in Tasmania, 1844-1873 (London: Folklore Society, 1989).15 and gives a number of examples from that island.  A further group of references from the town of Hobart may be found in this update.  Some or all of these may already feature in the Leech volume, which I have not seen, but even should that prove to be the case they are now rendered in a more accessible form.  Unlike Judge, I consider the process in England after about 1880, whereby performance was hijacked and integrated into formal middle-class expressions of a supposed mythical 'Golden Age' - such as pageants, fetes and municipal parades - to be an invalid continuation of the older cultural form, and despite uncovering a slew of such references I do not give them here.  Nor do I have any interest in the current manifestations enacted by persons who have never cleaned a chimney in their life.


Images of Pre-1900 Performances on the WWW

Amended Gazetteer

1 - England

AbingdonBerkshireSU 4997

1853, 2 May: We had, on Monday last, the usual exhibition of garlands and the customary visitation of the sweeps. The latter custom appears fast declining.

The Oxford Chronicle and Berks and Bucks Gazette, 7 May 1853, page 8.

Adam Street, AdelphiLondonTQ 2982

1850, [?1] May: BOW-STREET. - A youngster, who gave the name of John Smith, and who has been charged at this court for his thieving propensities on other occasions, was brought before Mr. Henry, charged with robbing an elderly female.

    The complainant said her name was Catherine Cooper ... she was passing through Adam-street, Adelphi, where a crowd were collected to enjoy the freaks played by Jack in the Green, and having stopped in a doorway from the rain, she was surrounded by the prisoner and others, who immediately deprived her of every farthing she possessed...

The Morning Post, 5 May 1850, page 7.

AylesburyBuckinghamshireSP 8213

Captioned 'New May-day. A lament of the old order of chummies'. 'From Bell's Life in London, or Sporting Chronicle, 5 May 1839, page 2.1867, 1 May: MAY-DAY. - Wednesday last was May-day, and, in accordance with the usual custom, a considerable number of juveniles paraded the streets of the town with garlands and May-poles. The sweeps turned out in great force, and attracted much attention by their dresses and the horrible din which their musical instruments occasioned.

The Bucks Chronicle and Bucks Gazette, 4 May 1867, page 2.

1868, 1 May: THE FIRST OF MAY. - Yesterday (Friday) the ancient custom of commemorating the recurrence of the first of May was observed in Aylesbury, chiefly amongst the juveniles, many of whom were to be seen bearing garlands of flowers, some of which were tastily designed. "Jack-o'-the-Green" and his delectable party also made their appearance, perambulating the streets to the sound of a horridly-scraped violin, and touting for odd coppers for a "heavy after-wet."

The Bucks Chronicle and Bucks Gazette, 2 May 1868, page 2.

1870, 1 May: MAY DAY.- On Monday morning the usual specimens of garlands and May-poles were carried round the town to commemorate the first of the month. Later in the day, a party of "sweeps" paraded the streets, decorated in the customary manner, but their display was neither amusing nor attractive. The only apparent reason for perpetuating the action is that it affords an excuse for exacting contributions from the public.

The Bucks Chronicle and Bucks Gazette, 7 May 1870, page 2.

1881, 1 May: MAY DAY was celebrated as usual by a "Jack in the Green," accompanied by numerous boys parading the streets with music, and here and there making a pitch, the lads being dressed in costume...

The Bicester Advertiser and Brackley Observer, 6 May 1881, page 5.

1886, 1 May: MAY DAY AT AYLESBURY was celebrated in the usual manner. Bands of children with garlands paraded the streets soliciting alms, and the chimney-sweeping fraternity turned out with their "Jack-in-the-green," the smaller members being attired in fantastic costumes of parti-coloured materials, a primitive band, consisting of a tin whistle and drum, doing service for music.

The Bicester Herald, and Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and North Oxfordshire Courier, 14 May 1886, page 7.

1889, 1 May: MAY DAY was observed in Aylesbury by the usual display of garlands by the youngsters and the parade of "Jack-in-the-Green" by the sweeps.

The Banbury Guardian, 9 May 1889, page 8.

BeaconsfieldBuckinghamshireSP 8213

c.1860s & early 1870s, 1 May: Although I cannot go back quite so far as your correspondent, Mr. Cleaver, I have a distinct recollection of the annual arrival of a Jack-in-the-Green on each May day in my native village in Bucks. Jack, inside his conical erection of green boughs, danced and pirouetted along, and was accompanied by a maiden in best summer costume, and by the village sweep, well be-ribboned... - Mr. G. H. CHARSLEY.

The Times, 19 May 1930, page 10.

[NOTE : George Henry Charsley was born 12 July 1857 in Beaconsfield, moving away from that community between the dates of 1871 and 1881.]

Bedford Row, HolbornLondonTQ 3181

1836, 3 May: HATTON-GARDEN. - MY LORD AND MY LADY, OR JACK IN THE GREEN LUMBERED. - Yesterday George Sharpe, Edward Ellis, William Davies, and George Vincent, sweeps, were brought before Mr. Bennett and Mr. Halls, charged by Richard Bird, the street-keeper of Bedford-row, Holborn, with having created a disturbance, and assaulting him.
    The prisoners were dressed up in an eccentric style. Sharpe and Ellis were clowns; Davis [sic] was papered and spangled as "My Lord," and Vincent, as "Jack in the Green."
    Bird stated that yesterday morning, about twelve o'clock, prisoners entered Bedford-row with a fife and drum, followed by an immense crowd of persons, when they commenced dancing and disturbing the whole of the neighbourhood. He ordered them to remove, when they refused ; and, on making an effort to move them, Davies struck him, and he was immediately surrounded and beaten by them, and he would have been murdered had it not been for the arrival of the police.
    A witness corroborated this evidence.
    Mr. Barnett [sic] asked Davies what he had to say?
    Davies (in a gruff voice) - Vy, my Lord, I'm a serveep ; my father was a serveep afore me ; and ve alvays vos 'lowed to go about in May. The beadle pushed us along, ven I sartainly did strike him, but he hit my child on its head.'Jack-in-the-Green' as political satire. Note the player on Pandean pipes and drum. From The Penny Satirist, 2 May 1840, page 1.
    Eliza Sharpe, who held a child in her arms, said that Bird struck the child on its head with his staff, and pointed out a bruise on its forehead, but she could not say that he did it wilfully.
    Mr. Barnett [sic] asked Bird why he used his staff?
    Bird - I was obliged, in self-defence. They were all upon me, your Worship.
    Mr. Bennett - You have acted rather intemperately ; you ought not to have used your staff.
    Mr. Bennett - You have acted rather intemperately. You ought not to have used your staff. [sic]
    Davies - We axed him if we might have a dance, and vile ve wer in the reel round "Jack in the Green" he cum'd and turned us avay for nuffen votsamdever ; there are some o' these chaps vot goes about, vot are not serveeps (pulling up his trowsers), but if yer Lordship vants to be satisfied on that ere subject only look at my knees, (showing large corns on his knee-pans) I assures yer Vorship ve are reglar flue-flakers, and I've been up the smallest flues in the country. I was born a serveep, I've lived a serveep, and I'll die a serveep. (Laughter.)
    Mr. Bennett - I certainly must say that it is very irregular for such persons to go about the streets creating a mob and disturbance, but it is an ancient custom, and they ought not to be interfered with. (To Bird) - I do not mean to censure you ; but if you had not interfered you would have acted more wisely. If you call upon me to punish them for their conduct I must do so; but, under the circumstances, you having used your staff, I think you would act more wisely not to press the matter.
    Bird said he would not, and the whole of the prisoners were discharged, and, on leaving the Court, Jack popped into the Green ; and, after regaling themselves at an adjacent public-house, they proceeded opposite the office and struck up a tune, and continued dancing in a most ludicrous manner until they got out of the neighbourhood.

The Morning Post, 4 May 1836, page 4.

BicesterOxfordshireSP 5822

1882, 1 May: MAY DAY.- Monday last was ushered in at Bicester as usual by the children taking to the doors of the inhabitants garlands composed of flowers, &c. A jack-in-the-green and his satellites also paraded the town, being liberally patronised with plenty of coppers, although the hawthorn, for which the day is indicative, was not to be seen.

The Bicester Advertiser and Brackley Observer, 5 May 1882, page 4.

1882, 1 May: MAY DAY GARLANDS AT BICESTER were numerous on Monday last. The season having been favourable for flowers enabled the youngsters to make a lively display. We had also "Jack in the Green" and the accompanying "musicians."

The Bicester Herald, 5 May 1882, page 8.

BirminghamWarwickshireSP 0787

1858, 1 May: CHARGES OF POCKET PICKING. - William Richards, a snuffer polisher, living in Masshouse Lane, was charged with picking the pocket of a middle-aged woman, named Lucy Wilden, of Graham Street, on Saturday, about middle-day. Prosecutrix was standing at the end of an entry at the time named, with a number of people, looking at the chimney sweeps' customary May day procession. She saw the prisoner and some of his companions near her, and shortly afterwards missed her portmonnaie, containing a crown piece and a shilling. The prisoner who had hastened away, was stopped by a man upon hearing the cry of "Stop thief." A female neighbour of Mrs. Wilden's took the prisoner to her house, and he there offered 6d. and a threepenny piece as a compromise. In the short space of time which elapsed between the commission of the theft and the prisoner's apprehension, the crown piece had been changed for smaller coin, and divided between the prisoner and his companions. John Bateman, an intelligent little boy, stated that he saw the prisoner about the time named on Saturday. He was putting something in his pocket, which slipped down his trouser leg on to the ground. Witness saw it was a portmonnaie. He picked it up, and gave it to Emma Lane, who came up at the moment. Mr. Hinton, at whose house the prisoner changed the crown piece, deposed to afterwards seeing him with a number of others in an entry, dividing the money. Mrs. Wilden identified both the crown piece and the portmonnaie. Prisoner has been once before convicted, and is a well-known character. He was committed to the Sessions.

The Birmingham Daily Post, 4 May 1858, page 1.

Blackfriars RoadLondonTQ 3480

1828, 1 May: 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.

BlackheathKentTQ 3877

1890s: Fifty years ago Blackheath appeared much as it does would be a puzzle to find the back street where a great, green bush danced absurdly above a man's big feet, attended by a band of gaily dressed mummers. "Jack-in-the-Green," said Nurse...

The Times, 12 August 1936, page 13.

BrentfordMiddlesexTQ 1778

1876, [?1] May: Brentford, before the Town Hall, where, by ancient custom all Royal Proclamations are ordered to be read at the boundary of Middlesex, the announcement of the Queen's accession to the title of Empress [of India] took place amidst shouts of laughter and merriment but seldom heard in that sober place. Just as the officials had begun the merry troop of "Jack in the Green," with the May Day chimney sweeps in their spangles and tinsel, all bedraggled with the mud, their feathers and flowers all limp and discoloured with the rain, came up with their ton[g]s and shovel, warmingpan, marrowbones and cleaver band ; and deeming the opportunity of the gathering a meet one for collecting pence began their evolutions right merrily. Jack on the Green [sic] whirling his cage, Maid Marian flourishing her heath broom in good style. Of course they were summoned by the heraldic trumpeters to "silence," the first time perhaps that such an event had occurred in all the annals of the English people, and some of the folks actually regard the incident as emblematical of the conceit, the vanity, the gewgaw of the whole proceeding.

The Freeman's Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser, 4 May 1876, page 3.

BrightonSussexTQ 3105

1831, 4 & 5 May: Spring garlands were rife yesterday, and Jack-in-the-Green pursued his annual frolics. The streets to-day, but not in the same proportion, have been similarly visited.

The Morning Post, 5 May 1831, page 3.

c.1860s [possibly Margate]: I saw a Jack a few years later either at Brighton or Margate... - Mr. J. STANLEY LITTLE, Chichele, Parkstone, Dorset.

The Times, 21 May 1930, page 12.

BristolGloucestershireST 5872

Whatever may be the reason, it is certainly a fact that the observance of May Day dropped into the hands of the useful but grimy chimney sweep. "Jack in the Green" has long passed away. The parents of those who are now approaching middle age remember when a man - who, I believe, was the chimney sweep - made his way round the town in a sort of cage covered with green leaves, but I do not believe I ever saw it in fact more than once, many years ago...

Bristol BRENDA.

The Bristol Mercury and Daily Post, 2 May 1896, page 6.

BromptonKentTQ 7768

1862, 1 May: 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.

c.1875, 1 May: About 55 years ago I looked down with joy through my barred nursery window at Jack-in-the-Green, in his laurel-covered tower with attendant chimney-sweeps dressed in gay paper costumes, dancing down Chesham-street on May Day... – MISS MIRA F. HARDCASTLE, 4, Golf Links-avenue, Hindhead, Surrey.

The Times, 30 May 1930, page 12.

BurfordOxfordshireSP 2512

1865, 2 May: The well-known fiddler, George Brodie, accompanied the sweeps on May-day, and on returning to his van he accidentally set it on fire. He was dreadfully burnt, and having been taken to the house of the master-sweep, (Smith, of Burford,) he lingered until Wednesday last, when he expired.

The Faringdon Advertiser, 13 May 1865, page 4.

1865, 2 May: On the 11th inst. an inquest was held before F. Westell, Esq., at the Swan Inn, on the body of George Brodist, the well-known owner of a dancing-booth that frequented all our local fairs. From the evidence of Richard Forrest it appeared that the deceased had been round the town on the 2nd of May with the sweeps, who, with a "jack-in-the-green," fiddler, &c., paraded the streets, and that, after the day's work was over, he let his fiddle [sic] to be used in the "White Horse," for the amusement of the company (the woman with whom he lived waiting for it), and went to the back lane to his van.

The Oxford Chronicle & Berks & Bucks Gazette, 20 May 1865, page 7.

Bury St. EdmundsSuffolkTL 8564

1802, 8 May: On Friday last Peace was formally proclaimed in this town, by the Corporation walking in procession from the Guildhall to the Market Cross, where the Town Clerk read his Majesty's Proclamation and repeated the same in the Butter Market, and on Angel-Hill. – They were preceded by the Volunteer Corps, and a band of music, playing the favourite airs of God save the King and Rule Britannia, amidst the shouts of a joyful people. – A female was carried round the town, personating the Goddess of Peace, and several emblematical representations of the woollen manufactory, with a Jack in the Green, and morris-dancers, accompanied the procession ; but there was no regular celebration of Bishop Blaze or St. Crispin, as was expected.

The Bury and Norwich Post, or, Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex, and Cambridge Advertiser, 12 May 1802, page 2.

CamberwellSurreyTO 3376

1879, 3 May: Mr. W. Carter held an inquiry at the "Lord Raglan," Camden-grove, Peckham, respecting the death of William Thomas Coker, aged nine years, lately of 78, East Surrey-grove, Camberwell. From the evidence of the mother it appeared that on Saturday last a "Jack-in-the-Green" was dancing in the road, frightening her children very much. A few minutes afterwards a man dressed in a burlesque costume, with his face painted red, came into the passage where the deceased was, and directly the child saw the man he gave a scream and fell backwards. When picked up it was found that he was vomiting blood. A doctor was sent for, but the child died soon after his arrival. Medical evidence having been given showing that death had resulted from the rupture of a blood-vessel, caused by fright, the jury returned a verdict of death from natural causes.

The Illustrated Police News, 17 May 1879, page 4.

CambridgeCambridgeshireTL 4658

1866, 1 May: May Day. - ...These old customs are things of by-gone days - no garland now to be seen - the song is silent, the dance is over, and the revelry has ceased, while other pursuits usurp the place of those pleasant pastimes. Formerly, the poor chimney-sweepers in London with their shovels and brushes and finery, were wont to make right merry on the 1st of May, which was to them a gaudy-day; they made it their holiday, and dressed themselves up in garlands, put on merry looks, and made pyramids of flowers and "Jacks-in-the-green." This custom has not entirely vanished; it is kept up on a small scale, as was seen in Cambridge streets on Tuesday, but the show was a falling off and prognosticates its oblivion not far distant.

The Cambridge Chronicle, 5 May 1866, page 8.

Catherine StreetLondonTQ 3080

1899, 1 May: A "JACK IN THE GREEN." - Charles Thompson, builder's labourer, of Kent Street, Borough, was charged, before Sir James Vaughan, with begging. The prisoner's appearance caused much amusement in court. He was attired as a clown, and his face was plentifully bedaubed with chalk and ochre. Police-constable 297 E stated that at half-past two that afternoon he saw the prisoner begging from door to door in Catherine Street. He was not performing in any way, but simply asking for coppers. Sir James Vaughan : But did he say nothing when he asked for money? Witness : All he said was, "A penny to kick me, and twopence to kiss me." (Laughter.) Two people gave him coppers, but no one offered to kiss him. (Renewed laughter.) The Prisoner : I beg your pardon, sir, I am a working fellow as a general rule, and a union man, too. I was not begging on my own behalf, but for my employer, a chimney sweep, of Kent Street. The Constable : He told me that this man gave him 3s. a day to beg for him. The Prisoner : Yes, sir ; May-day, you know, sir. I was one of the carriers of Jack in the Green. The prisoner was remanded for enquiries.

The Illustrated Police News, 13 May 1899, page 10.

Chancery LaneLondonTQ 3181

1864, 4 May: WATCH ROBBERY. - Thomas Horren, aged seventeen, pleaded guilty to stealing a silver watch from the person of a lad named Frederick Sadler, while he was looking at a Jack-in-the-green, in Chichester-rents, Chancery-lane, on the 4th instant. The court sentenced the prisoner to nine months' imprisonment.

Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, 29 May 1864, page 4.

ChelmsfordEssexTL 7006

1837, 1 May: Monday being the first of May, the sooty fraternity having partially scraped their faces, according to annual custom, proceeded about the town with their "Jack in the Green" and the usual instrumental music. Their decorations owing to the backwardness of the season, exhibited more of the production of art than of nature.

The Essex Standard, and Colchester, Chelmsford, Maldon, Harwich, and General County Advertiser, 5 May 1837, page 2.

ChelseaMiddlesexTQ 2778

1837, 2 May: Yesterday evening, as a band of sweeps was passing Cadogan-place, Chelsea, keeping up the old May-day sports, a gentleman in a chaise upon approaching them was thrown from his vehicle in consequence of the sound of the drum, by which the sweeps were accompanied, causing the horse to take fright, and received a severe contusion of the brain, and was taken to the Westminster Hospital, where he shortly afterwards died. Three of the party of sweeps were taken into custody by the police, and examined at the Queen-square Police-office ; but Mr, White, the sitting magistrate, ordered them to be discharged.

The Courier, 3 May 1837, page 3.

1885, 1 May: May-day was observed in London in some respects more generally than in former years...At an early hour the chimney-sweeping fraternity, in accordance with their annual custom, turned out in Westminster, Chelsea, and other parts of the metropolis with their Jack-in-the-green.

The Star, 5 May 1885, page 4.

1886, 1 May: 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.

CheltenhamGloucestershireSO 9429

1878, 1 May: At 4 went to Cheltm. after ten Fr Mills & I went out this is the Yeomanry week - the town very busy - a group of sweeps performing at the Royal - called at Edwards & Marshalls - for bills - we rode down the H. Street in Jordan's Basket Carriage.

Gloucestershire Archives, D3981, MSS. diaries of William Thomas Swift.

The Circus, MinoriesLondonTQ 3381

1858, 3 May: MAY DAY FREAKS. - James Ward, whose appearance from "the realms below" was the occasion of an outburst of merriment through the court, for he was attired in "motley," and had his face painted clown-wise in addition to the tasselled cap of that jocose fraternity, was brought before the lord mayor charged with wilfully damaging a perambulator, the property of Mr. Lambert, of 1, America-square. - From the evidence of complainant's nursemaid it appeared that on Monday afternoon she was wheeling her master's baby, in a perambulator, along the pavement in the Circus, Minories, when she came upon a party of "Jack-in-the-Greens," who were enjoying themselves there ; and, to her own amazement and the terror of the baby, the prisoner suddenly jumped upon the vehicle as if he wanted her to draw him as well, but the perambulator being somewhat frail of construction, yielded to his weight, and, while the baby squalled, the carriage broke, and damage was done to the extent of 7s. - Lord Mayor : Well, Ward, what have you got to say to this? - Prisoner : Why, my lord, it wasn't me. There was five or six doing so, when she came up and picked me out, and I ain't the right one at all. - Lord Mayor : But she says you are l and I understand you Jack-in-the-green men are in the habit of doing such things, and I wonder the police should allow you to go about at all. - Inspector Newnhan : We never interfere, my lord, so long as they behave themselves. The practice has existed from time immemorial, and we have never been instructed to interpose. - Lord Mayor : Behave or not, it is quite time that it should be stopped, for I have heard of several accidents happening through horses being frightened by them. I quite forgot myself, or I should have given orders not to allow it at all. What do you do after the 3rd of May, prisoner? Prisoner : Why, I work at the docks. - Lord Mayor : Well, have you got seven shillings to pay for the damage? Prisoner : No, I ain't got no money at all. - Lord Mayor : Then you must go to prison for seven days ; and the first thing they will do when you get there will be to wash your face, which will do you some good, I should think.

Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, 9 May 1858, page 4

DeptfordKentTQ 3676

1886, 1 May: BRUTAL TREATMENT OF A CHILD. – At Greenwich Police Court on Saturday Joseph O'Hara (32), of 48, Charles-street, Deptford, was charged on remand with violently assaulting Rose O'Hara, aged ten years. The child was sent on an errand, and remained away nearly two hours looking at a "Jack-in-the-Green." The prisoner, on her return, chastised her very severely with a cane on her bare body. The neighbours took the matter up, and Detective Francis apprehended him. The girl was examined by a doctor, who found seventeen weals on her back, eight of which had bled. – Mr Marsham took into consideration that the man had been in custody a week, and bound him over to keep the peace for three months.

The North-Eastern Daily Gazette, 10 May 1886, page 3.

Dorset SquareLondonTQ 2782

1888, 1 May: Elizabeth Dickson, 12, of Matehouse-mews, and Alice Bowell, 13, of Great James-street, were charged, at Marylebone police-court, on Wednesday, with begging. - Police-constable Green, 157 D, said he was in Dorset-square on Monday evening, and saw the prisoners begging of foot-passengers. The younger defendant was dressed as a boy. The other girl was also dressed up. He understood the prisoners had been imitating "Jack-in-the-Green," the day being May 1. - The mother of the girl Dickson said she had never sent her child out to beg, and did not know that she was doing so on Monday. A statement had been made that it was her girl who had dressed up in boy's clothes, but it was not correct. She was, she believed, then attired in a light cotton dress, and her hat was bedecked with ribbons of various colours (laughter). (The girl was now very soberly attired.) - The girl Dickson : Yes, mother, and I was wearing a bustle (loud laughter). - Mrs. Dickson, who could not refrain from joining in the laughter, turned to her daughter, and, shaking her fist at her, said, "I will pay you at home, going out Jack-in-the-Greening" (laughter). - Mr. Marsham : That is not the way to encourage her to return home. - Mr. Bowell, father of the other defendant, in his evidence said his son was in court, and he could tell all about how his sister came to put his clothes on. - Mr. Marsham : They say she was dressed up as a boy ; was that so? - Mr. Bowell : Oh, yes ; she had her brother's clothes on (laughter). Of course we knew nothing about it. - Mr. Marsham told the girls they should have been at school. He did not think they were begging, and so should discharge them.

Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, 6 May 1888, page 8.

DulwichKentTQ 3373

early 1860s: When, being a very small boy, I was out with my nurse walking in the vicinity of Dulwich fields on the Kent-Surrey border, I distinctly remember seeing a "Jack-in-the-Green" in the form of an elongated bee-hive. It was covered with evergreens almost hidden in festoons of bright-coloured flowers. I think they were real, but I cannot be certain. In any case it was a blaze of colour, and this is the image that has been stamped on my memory through the years, one of the few recollections of infancy. There were several satellites around the trophy ; one of these was collecting pence in a large open receptacle - probably a sieve. This was in the early sixties. I saw a Jack a few years later either at Brighton or Margate, but although I have lived many years of my life in various parts of rural England, I have never seen one since. My wife recalls seeing a Jack at Ealing in the early nineties. - Mr. J. STANLEY LITTLE, Chichele, Parkstone, Dorset.

The Times, 21 May 1930, page 12.

EalingMiddlesexTQ 1781

... early 1890s: My wife recalls seeing a Jack at Ealing in the early nineties. - Mr. J. STANLEY LITTLE, Chichele, Parkstone, Dorset.

The Times, 21 May 1930, page 12.

KensingtonMiddlesexTQ 2778

1862, 1 May: 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...

The Standard, 2 May 1862, page 3.

LambethSurreyTQ 3078

1842, 2 May: SERIOUS ACCIDENT. - The remnant of Mayday mummeries - the Jack-in-the-green - led to a very severe accident yesterday morning, at ten o'clock. Mr. Le Maire, blacking manufacturer, Worship-street, and Mr. Hoopenham, of Hampton Wick, were driving a spirited horse past Walcot-plate [sic], Kennington-road, when some sweeps, accompanied with drums and fifes, startled the horse, which became wholly unmanageable, and in a few seconds dashed the vehicle against the iron corner post, completely smashing it. Another example of political satire. From The Odd Fellow, 14 May 1842, page 1The two gentlemen came with great violence to the ground. Mr. Le Maire was taken up insensible, and carried into the Three Stags Tavern, Lambeth-road. A surgeon was promptly in attendance, when it was found that he had received a very extensive and severe wound in the head, and his companion was much injured.

The Morning Post, 3 May 1842, page 7.

1842, 2 May: FRIGHTFUL ACCIDENT IN THE KENNINGTON-ROAD. – About 10 o'clock yesterday morning, as Mr. Le Maire, blacking-manufacturer, of Worship-street, and Mr. Hoppenheim, of Hampton-wick, were driving in a gig past Walcot-place, Lambeth, the horse was frightened by some sweeps who were in the road at the time with a "jack-in-the-green" and a band of music, and set off along the road at a furious pace until it was stopped by the off wheel of the chaise coming into violent contact with a lamp-post. Both gentlemen were thrown out of the vehicle, and Mr. Le Maire was picked up in a state of insensibility and carried into the Three Stags public-house, where a surgeon was immediately sent for, and it was discovered that he was suffering under a violent concussion of the brain and other injuries, which rendered his immediate removal impossible. Mr. Hoppenheim fortunately escaped with only a few slight injuries.

The Times, 3 May 1842, page 6.

1856, 3 May: On the 3rd inst. a young woman, named Mary Sullivan, residing in Paviour's-alley, Lambeth, was attracted by the display of a Jack-in-the-Green, accompanied by my lord and lady and clown. The latter individual indulged very freely in the clown's proverbial mischievous pranks, and suddenly catching hold of the young woman he embraced her. This unexpected act produced a shock on the nervous system. One fit succeeded another. She was removed to the hospital, but never rallied.

The Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle, 24 May 1856, page 6.

LeicesterLeicestershireSK 5904

1838, 1 May: [see 1839 report, below]

The Leicester Chronicle, or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser, 27 April 1839, page 2.

1839, 1 May: JACK IN THE GREEN. – We are requested to state that it is the intention of the chimney-sweeps generally in the town to get up a splendid procession, and parade the town on the 1st of May next, on a much more magnificent scale than that of last year.

The Leicester Chronicle, or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser, 27 April 1839, page 2.

1844, 1 May: "THE FIRST OF MAY" has been this year celebrated with more than usual eclat, under the auspices of Messers. Kelly, by the "arch little chummies that climb up aloft" and perform the useful office of soot scrapers, and those who substitute the "machine" for the "climbing-boy." A neater turn-out of the kind has never been witnessed in Leicester, and judging from the spirit with which Jack-in-the-Green and Black Sall danced their "Polka," and the rest of the merrymakers their own original country-dances, there is little doubt but they met with extensive patronage.

The Leicester Chronicle, or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser, 4 May 1844, page 3.

Londonunspecified locations 

1775, 1 May: Yefterday being the firft of May, the girls were feen tripping acrofs the fields with their companions by four o'clock in the morning : the blind fiddlers attended according to annual cuftom, at the different places leading to Kentifh Town, Mary-le-bone, and Liffon Green ; the tea-drinking houfes and gardens were open by five o'clock, as were alfo the public houfes within fix miles round the metropolis: a greater havock among the hot rolls and buns has not been known for many years paft ; at eight o'clock the company were feen coming in pairs to town, fome rather enlivened by the refrefhing glaffes that went round as foon as the tea-equipages were removed.
    It muft alfo be obferved, that the fons and daughters of mirth and good-humour, who inhabit the feveral fnug retreats within the ruins of St. Giles's, were not idle ; the females appointed to attend on the Bunters Garland, were dreffed in thofe rags of finery, which they had begged a few days before, whilst the chimney-fweepers were not lefs bufy in adorning their perfons withPerhaps a 'typical' scene of enactment. Note the Pandean pipes and drum player with another musician, apparently on flageolet. 'My Lady' collects money in a ladle at left. From The Penny Illustrated Paper, 3 May 1862, page 285. various forts of gold trimming, dreffing their wigs, chalking their faces, trying their different rough inftruments, practifing a few of the laft cotillion and allemande fteps, and taking each a glafs of gin, the better to enable them to bear the fatigues of the day - Jack of the Green had made his garland by five in the morning, and got under his fhady building by seven...

The Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, 2 May 1775, page 2.

1819, 1 May: Friday last, Lady Mary Lonsdale, of Charles-street, and Mrs Anderson, had an interview for some time with the Circassian lady, in the drawing-room of the Persian Ambassador's house. They found her particularly affable and communicative ; her person is remarkably slim, of low stature, rather swarthy, but her features are very handsome. She constantly sits in the front room, and generally wears a scarlet dress, the shadow of which may be seen through the blinds, which are so placed that she can see what passes in the street, and not be seen herself. - On May-day, when the chimney-sweepers were dancing before the house, she threw back the curtain, and was plainly seen by a number of persons.

The Caledonian Mercury, 13 May 1819, page 2.

1825, 1 May: MARLBOROUGH-STREET [Magistrates Court]. - A motley groupe of May-day sweeps, consisting of Jack-in-the-Green, May-day-Moll, a drummer, a mouth organ player, and a fiddler, with about nine persons of very suspicious appearance, were brought to this office by a party of the Bow-street Patrol. - The officers stated, that amongst all the prisoners, there was only one sweep, the rest were well-known characters, who were in league with a desperate gang of pickpockets. They (the officers) had watched the prisoners from one street to another, and saw their [?collectors] busily engaged in feeling the pockets of by-standers, who were gaping at the antics of the sweeps. - Mr. CONANT said, it would serve them all right to commit them, indiscriminately to prison, as rogues and vagabonds, but he did not wish to interfere unnecessarily with the customary amusements of the lower classes. This method had no doubt been adopted by some of the prisoners, to draw crowds together, that they might rob them. Some of the prisoners declared that they were mere lookers on. - The Bow-street officers pointed out four of the prisoners as well-known thieves, and they were committed to gaol ; two others were remanded till evening, and the rest were admonished, and set at liberty.

The British Lion, 8 May 1825, page 47.

1832, 1 May: A WET MAY-DAY. - The rain of yesterday morning wholly damped the spirit of the May-day. Melancholy and miserable looked "Jack-i'th'-Green," as his laurels dripped their wet contents over his black forehead ; one of these spectacles we encountered in Whitehall was a sad lesson to that spirit of sport which so frequently endeth in mourning. The chief sweep and his lady, paraphernalia'd in all their glistening finery (by the way, they understood the jeweller's rule of contrast admirably, setting "pearls and barbaric ornament" in black), slinked along one side of the street in the manner of an ejected dog beneath (oh, march of intellect, how much art thou to be thanked!) a silk umbrella ; close behind came a Falstaffian regiment of beardless sweep boys, 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 signs of tenantcy [sic].

The Morning Chronicle, 2 May 1832, page 3.


    This being May-day, the season of flowers, and the festival of Chimney-sweeps, we appropriately celebrate it by noticing that illustrious character, Ned, the King of the Sweeps. Ned would have written his own biography, but that his idication has been a little neglected in regard of writing ; he also objects to autobiography, and says that the word is as long as a kitchen chimney, and the work as difficult to get through. He has, therefore, appointed us his Boswell, and we trust his history will differ from all former biographies in being chiefly founded on fact...

The True Sun, 1 May 1832, page 3.

1832, 1 May: MARLBOROUGH-STREET [Magistrates Court].

    MAY DAY. - A lady and gentleman, two of the loyal and sooty subjects of Jack in the Green, having, after the May-day enjoyments, " kicked up a bobbery," they were taken into custody by a policeman, and placed at the bar on Wednesday, when " sweepy " made the following characteristic speech, in answer to the magistrate's question, " What are you?" "Oh, why I'm a chimbley sweep - a master sweep - and this here's my wife. Yesterday was our day, and so we went to John's wood, to the United Society of Chimbley Sweepers - master chimbley sweeps - and you see we were fatigued, and so we merely drank to squench ourselves ; and we'd got home comfortable enough, nearly, when we were hinsulted by some chaps, and they hit me and my wife : and my wife said, 'Bill, don't let them ere coves podger you,' and so we up and took'd our parts, your honour ; and we all larrup'd one another till this here hofficer com'd up, and oh, s'elp me, I never touched him." They were committed for seven days.

The Atlas, 6 May 1832, page 292.

1835, 1 May: 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.



Hail, morning of May ! in thy loveliness blooming,
    Come, breathing soft zephyrs and glittering with dew,
The air with thy buds and thy blossoms perfuming,
    Come, welcome to nature and lads of the flue.

The clown attendant upon the 'Jack' strikes a police officer : a not-unheard-of occurrence. From The Illustrated Police News, 11 May 1895, page 5. Hail, beautiful season ! o'er winter victorious,
    We greet thee with rapture as Queen of the Year !
Awaken, ye chummies, from slumber inglorious,
    And let all the smut from your mugs disappear.

On this day of rejoicing, this season of gladness,
    Let the pathway of sorrow with flowerets be strew'd,
Let gaiety brighten the features of sadness,
    And care fly away with his sour-visag'd brood.

" 'Tis all wery fine, but to one broken-hearted
    So pleasant a story is not to be told ;
Our glory on May-day, alas ! is departed,
    And vanished the sports of the chummies of old.

"On May-day I've waken'd with joyous emotion,
    As soon as the East glow'd with morn's rosy blush :
Now 'Concerts Mussard' are the new fangled notion,
    And the concerts discarded of 'shovel and brush.'

"Now 'tis wulgar with brick-dust to crimson our faces,
    Our gold-paper kicksies, alas ! are no more ;
Farewell to our jigs, and farewell to grimaces,
    And Jack-in-the-Green has been voted a bore.

"The change has been wrought by one Nickleby Nicholas :
    But all the old school of Fine Fakers must feel
That 'tis quite out of character, precious ridiculous,
    For a sooty-fac'd Chummy to gammon genteel.

"As to me I won't sanction so vain a proceeding,
    But bid sad farewell to the pastimes of May ;
Henceforth I'll devote all my leisure to reading,
    And bring up my kids in a soot-able way."

Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 5 May 1839, page 2.

1839, 1 May: 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.

1844, 1 May: MAY-DAY IN THE STREETS. - THE CHIMNEY SWEEPERS' "POLKA." - Wednesday being May-day, the more secluded parts of the metropolis were visited by Jack-in-the-Green and the usual group of attendants. Among numerous displays of this nature, the only one that exhibited any novelty was a group of tinselled holiday makers, attended, not by the usual "May lady," with a gilt ladle, but by a very sturdy-looking impersonation of the "Pet of the Ballet," attired in a remarkably short gauze petticoat, beneath which were displayed a pair of legs and ankles that had certainly been brought to a most extraordinary state of muscular development. This strapping representative of stage elegance was attended by a protector, in the garb of Jim Crow, and who addressed his lady by the title of "Marmselle Molliowski," introducing her to the spectators as a foreign dancer of some notoriety, who had that day condescended to make her first appearance in public, by dancing the Polka, as it really ought to be danced, and in such a manner as would at once satisfy everybody that it was the most extraordinary dance ever invented. After this introduction, Mademoiselle Molliowski went through a most facetious burlesque, combining all the various absurdities of stage dancing, and ending, by way of climax, with a regular somerset [sic - somersault], and the somewhat lavish display of a pair of yellow buskikins, the discovery of which, together with a mock curtsey that terminated the performance, excited shouts of laughter among the multitude, who rewarded Mademoiselle Molliowski with a heavy shower of "browns."

Lloyd's Weekly London Newspaper, 5 May 1844, page 12.

1842: MAY-DAY.

    "ALL things fair must fade," and are often fairest and most lovely at the moment which immediately precedes dissolution [.] The glorious orb of day is then most gorgeous to the sight - and, to appearance at least, largest in dimensions, when it touches the verge of the horizon beneath which it is about to sink. So, we imagine, with "Jack-in-the-green." Monday last beheld him in more than wonted triumph. The knights of the soot-bag, as though conscious of the approaching close of their vocation, resolved to invest their day of honours with peculiar attractions. Never did smarter ribands or more flaring tags of paper adorn the sable garments of our chimney friends. Their various processions were more gay than usual. Drums were more obstreperous in their expression of cheerful mirth, and pan-pipes whistled out more carelessly the joy suited to the occasion. The clatter of shovel and brush was perhaps at no former season so vigorous and hearty ; and never was the shuffle, which this tribe alone can appropriately perform, more truly shuffling and appropriate. Nature herself sympathised with the doings of the day. A favouring breeze gave full display to streaming ribands, and forth from the firmament the sun looked down in smiling good nature on the scene. The history of the climbing race draws to its close ; and, with a dignity suited to the occasion, it gathers about it the drapery of past glories, and exclaims
            " Farewell! a long farewell to all my greatness."
    Yes. The history of climbing boys, a history we imagine full of pathos, has nearly run out its course, and will terminate in July next. The legislature has said that climbing boys shall cease. Where was the conservative zeal of English country gentlemen when they allowed this bill for abridging the liberty of the subject to pass through parliament? How came it that no utterance was given, at such a time, of alarm at the inroads made upon our glorious constitution? Why did not some Wellington, who sees sweeps only on May-day, take up his parable against the cant of benevolence ; and declare that in his opinion sweeps were the happiest people on the face of the earth, and Jack-in-the-green the perfection of earthly bliss? Have our legislators no concern for vested rights? Do they see no importance whatever in keeping up a race of climbers? Is it wise thus to interfere with the ancient habits of a peculiar but most respectable profession? At all events, ought not reform to have been introduced by slow degrees, rather than at one fell swoop to level with the dust, and bury in their own soot, the rights and privileges of so many chimney sweepers? Alas! alas! we may all learn something from May-day - they especially who legislate for the people. We little know the staple which goes to make up the lives of those begrimed urchins who dance so merrily, in flaunting pride, one day in the year. Little can we judge, as they dance around the Jack, the sufferings they endure on chill winter mornings, when, after having waited until their toes were frost bitten before the door of some aristocratic house, they are sent up some narrow flue at the imminent risk both of bones and breath. The condition of these people - the every-day condition, cannot be ascertained from what is seen in May-day triumphs - nor would any sound-minded senator argue the happiness of the whole race from what then appeared. Well would it be for all, were they to exercise the same discretion in reference to the labouring classes generally. Well, if members of the House of Commons would cease to urge in bar of every motion for the well-being of the poor, the most frivolous and absurd objections - and, surely, well would it be in more senses than one, if, instead of looking at the millions in their holiday attire, and drawing conclusions as to their state from that only which appears in open daylight, they would bear in mind that pleasure is to these classes but an occasional exception to toil, and like the coloured rags which deck the sooty jacket of the sweep on Mayday, thrusts itself more prominently into notice because in such startling contrast with the sombre hue of life, with which the poor are most familiar.

The London Nonconformist, 4 May 1842, page 290.


No longer milkmaids dance along the Strand on May-morning - even the leaves of Jack-in-the-Green are withered - and the chimney-sweepers, who were wont to summon our half-pence by the rattling broom and shovel, no longer call on May-day for the yearly dole. True it is, that imposters, men lost to the sweetness of self-respect, do on May-day caper on the streets, and with ghastly merriment strive to make us smile and pay. But, reader, put no faith in such forlorn merry-makers ; they are not sweepers. They never made soot their daily bread. They know no more of the inside of a chimney, than did Falstaff in his days of sack and sin know of the inside of a church. They are hapless creatures, wanting the dignity of a fixed profession ; they are the gipsies of London, now boiling their kettle in one alley, now in another ; to-night sleeping in an eastern door-way, to-morrow slumbering in St. James's Park. Sometimes, too, to pay the belly-tax, to eke out feverish life, sometimes they pick a pocket. Sometimes, too, they become halfpenny panders to lying rumour, and sell apocryphal deaths of foreign kings - declarations of war - and particular accounts of the elopement of some unborn wife, who has gone off “with her husband's footman.” And on May-morning the deceivers take on the character of sweeps, and dance the unwary out of halfpence. As for the real sweeps, they have advanced in luxury, and dine at Copenhagen-house. They dance, too, but then it is to the sounds of hireling minstrels ; they have become respectable, and have left the streets to cheats and imposters, falsely calling themselves “my lord” and “my lady.” Thus, the London man of thrift, hurrying to business, is only reminded of May-day by rogues and vagabonds ! The May-day of the milkmaids is passed away - the May-day of hawthorn, garlands, and pipe and tabor is departed ; and in their place we have now the May-day of steam.

Punch [almanac] VI (London: Punch, 1844), page 196.



Oh, May's a month when everything
    In verdancy is seen
The sooty Jack then doff'd his black
    For Nature's-leafy green ;

But, oh ! the Ramoneur so grim,
    With scraggy, pointed hand,
Has coldly swept the merry sweeps
    From out our father-land.

I care not what a heartless world
    Shall either think or say,
But oh ! to me the little sweeps
    Were half the charm of May.

Punch [almanac] X (London: Punch, 1846), n.p. [ix].


A VERY interesting meeting of individual who were brought up as chimney-sweepers, was held yesterday at the Shovel and Brush, Seven Dials, to take into consideration necessary measures for the protection of what one of the speakers emphatically called “the wested rights of the Sweep's May-day.” The individuals had been educated for chimneys, but were now humble tradesmen.
    MR. WILLIAM BUNKHAM - dealer in hearth-stones - was called to the stool, and addressed the meeting. He said things was come to a pretty pass, when the May-day sveep was to ide his ed as if ashamed of the visdom of is hancestors. He didn't know what they'd make o' May-day next ; he 'sposed they wouldn't let the awthorns bloom nor the birds vistle ; for to prevent the English sveep - the lord and the lady o' May - havin their constitootional dance was a blow at the rites of the subject. (Cheers.) He vos not a sveep then, but the time vos ven he vos von , and - (here MR. BUNKHAM drew his cuff across his eyes) - he could never forget it. (Cheers.) He spoke for sveeps present and sveeps futur, and said, if they vanted to dance, they must boldly stand up for it. They were grudged the apence that they forced the people to give 'em, as their rights ; but he told the government that they would have 'em. (Cheers.)
    MR. BUMBLEPUPPY did not believe that the QUEEN was agin the chimbley-sveepers dance o' May-day. He read the noospapers, 'specially the pictur ones ; and if he was wrong, he should like to be put right, for he warn't above learning ; and he remembered a pictur where QUEEN ELIZABETH with HENRY THE EIGHTH, who afterwards cut off her ed - (Greet cheering.) - when both on 'em went on May-day, drest as my lord and my lady, and danced at the top of Shooter's Ill. If he, (MR. BUMBLEPUPPY) was known at all, he was known as a man who always thought woman as much the softer sex, and treated her as sich. Well, then, he begged to perpose a petition to the QUEEN, for the continiation of wested rights of the Chimbley-Sveepers' dance on the first of May. (Cheers.)
    MR. THREEOUTS, pot-boy, seconded the motion. He was the reader of the Dispatch, and rayther know'd how the cat jumped. Then, if the QUEEN thought to dare - (Cries of “Order,” “Chair!”) Whereupon the Chairman mildly interfered ; MR. THREEOUTS bowed, and with a sarcastic smile, full of treason as the thirty-six volumes of State Trials, said - they know'd what he meant. Well, he would say this - that Jack-in-the-Green was the brightest wreath on the brow of majesty - if he must say Majesty. They had been tvitted - yes, tvitted - because with a ladle they axed, while they danced for money. (Hear.) He should like to know whether the Chancellor-of-the-Checkers every session of Parliament - if it could be called a Parliament in which the people had no voice - didn't ax for money too. (Loud cheering.) Only there was jest this difference : the one that axed for money was the Ladle of the People - and the other the Spoon o' the Government ! (Vociferous cheering.) Because the little Princes and Princesses didn't know what it was to dance only once a year - was that any reason they shouldn't dance at all ? (Hear.) Wasn't a May-day sveep a man - he meant, a boy ? (Loud applause.) He would repeat it : Jack-in-the-Green was the brightest leaf in the QUEEN'S chaplain ; pluck that leaf away, and he for one - he was quite serious ; never more so - he for one could not answer for what might foller.
    The motion was then agreed to ; and the petition subsequently drawn out. It now lies on the table of the Shovel and Brush for signatures.

Punch [almanac] XII (London: Punch, 1847), page 121.

1848, 1 May: ...all that May day is now known by in London is the Jack-in-the-green vagaries of young chimney sweepers...

The Hampshire Advertiser and Salisbury Guardian, 29 April 1848, page 4.

1848, 1 May: On the 1st day of May in London of each succeeding year our own chimney-sweeps employ themselves in the celebration of ceremonies of an equally impressive character. A leafy cone, about ten feet in height, and of a sufficient area in the interior to contain an adult sweep, is constructed with great care. The arch-sweep takes his place. Captioned 'May-day at Hitchin, in Hertfordshire'. Note the fiddle player and bass drummer at left. From William Hone, The Everyday Book (1826).Certain other ladies and gentlemen of the same profession array themselves in fantastic costumes, and with a band of music accompany Jack-in-the-green from street to street.

The Times, 5 May 1848, page 4.

c.1849: Nor must we forget the "chummies" with their Jack-in-the-green, who, instead of sooty garments, cover in May their "innocent blackness" with spangles and tinsel. How Jack reels and staggers in the midst of his green portable arbour in ivy, which you expect every minute to fall ; reminding us of Orpheus, and the life he put into the timber toes of the hoary old oaks when the forest trees stood bough linked with bough as they danced a merry reel, making all their green array of leaves to tremble again. Merrily does the "Sweepess" or "Jackess" of the green, jingle her bright brass ladle before the doors ; and freely is the produce of that day spent in gin, until the drinking and fighting is ended, when, disrobed of their tinseled trappings, they snore happily on a couch of soft soot.

The Illustrated London News, 30 March 1850, page 214.

1850, 1 May: POCKET PICKING. - A young fellow, named Williams, was charged with having stolen a pocket handkerchief.
    Jarvis, a city officer, who was in plain clothes on the evening of the 1st of May,and watching [sic] the pickpockets in a crowd of dressed up vagabonds, who pretended to be chimney-sweepers, observed the prisoner at work. It was between nine and ten o'clock, a time peculiarly favourable to the class of thieves to which the prisoner was known to be attached, and the officer saw him dexterously whip a handkerchief out of the gentleman's pocket and put it back again the instant that he saw that it was cotton. The prisoner then touched the gentleman on the shoulder, and told him to take care of his handkerchief part of which was hanging out. The officer said to the prisoner, "You took out the handkerchief, and you put it back again as it didn't suit you." "No more it didn't," replied the prisoner, "it wasn't my game. What the devil was the use of it to me?"
    Alderman Carden - Had you seen him try other pockets?
    Jervis - I had seen him very active for some time, together with other thieves, but I particularly marked him, and when he said it wasn't his game, I took him into custody.
    Alderman Carden - I believe the fellows who were about the town on that day in noisy gangs, musicians and all, were pickpockets, and that the mummery of Jack in the Green is got up now for no other purpose than that of plunder.
    Prisoner - I never touched the handkerchief at all, and the moment I saw it hanging out I told the gentleman. Now, I would be glad to know what chance is there for a honest man, when a poor fellow is charged because he wanted to protect a person against robbery.
    Alderman Carden - What do you do for a livelihood?
    Prisoner - I work when I can get it ; and when I cannot get work, I confess I cannot live without victuals.
    Alderman Carden - You have proved to me that you are an experienced tactician. The handkerchief was not your game, because it was not silk, and therefore you restored it to the owner.
    The prisoner was committed to Bridewell for six weeks.

The Daily News, 6 May 1850, page 7.

c.1850, 1 May: There are some street clowns, to be seen with the Jacks in the Greens, but they are mostly sweeps, who have hired their dress for the two or three days, as the case may be.

The Morning Chronicle, 30 May 1850, page 5.

1851, 1 May: unfortunate "Jack in the Green" hoped to get some pence by calling it the "Original Exhibition Chimney Sweepers Green," but to no purpose...

The Leicester Chronicle, or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser, 3 May 1851, page 2.

1854, 1 May: It must be conceded, however, that a wet May-day in London is not calculated to lead to any great amount of refined fun in a street mob, and that, therefore, the fooleries of last Monday were more lugubrious and more repulsive than most of the exhibitions which have preceded it, could only be regarded as the natural result of so inauspicious a day. The Queen of the May, with clogs on her feet and an umbrella over her head, would hardly have inspired Spencer with a decent idea; and Jack in the Green, and Master Merryman, and Maid Marian, and the whole kit of stereotyped characters which form the dramatis personæ of the London chummies' annual burletta, may well be forgiven if, having no prompter by their side, they failed to draw down the usual amount of vulgar applause, and pitied for that they did not pick up the usual number of copper representatives of her Majesty's profile.

The Preston Guardian, 6 May 1854, page 4.

1856: MAY DAY. - This day, dedicated, according to popular belief, to the cuckoo and the sweeps, has been a day little suited to the appearance of either. A cold north-east wind, gusts of rain, muddy streets, and paletots, have been its distinguishing characteristics in London. Some of the public vehicles appeared this morning bedecked with flowers, new roses, and new ribbons, according to custom, but all were soon spoiled. The chimney sweeps did not show themselves ; indeed, Jack in the Green and his "ladie fair" have been for some years dying out. It is remarkable that May-day last year was a day of an equally cheerless character.

The Evening Star, 1 May 1856, page 2.

1858: MAY-DAY. - Formerly, dancing round the Maypole, and within our own time, the chimney sweeps used to mark the advent of this season ; both, however, seem to have given place to a new order of things, and thus it is, that as one institution becomes decayed and worn, it is effaced and succeeded by another. On Saturday morning (being May-day) a procession was formed of the waggon, teams, and vans employed in the goods department of the South Eastern Railway Company. The horses were profusely decorated with flowers and ribbons, and altogether the toute ensemble was showy and effective. The line extended from the Bricklayers' Arms-station, in the Old Kent-road, to a considerable distance down the Dover-road, and the day being fine, many persons were congregated to view the novel procession. The large number of fine cattle, their excellent condition, and equipments, affording a tangible idea that what is called, the "railway interest" is something more than a mere name.

The Evening Star, 3 May 1858, page 4.

1861, 1 May: THE gladsome first of May opened to-day, on the sinful world of the great metropolis, with a pleasant breeze from the West, and a genial gleam of sunshine quite charming to behold. The sweeps and stock-brokers of London hold high carnival on May Day...What the stock-brokers do with themselves nobody knows...The avocation of the sweeps on May Day is by no means enveloped in similar mystery. The juvenile members of the profession disport themselves in fancy dresses - faded finery from Drury Lane, and things that once were smart from Monmouth Street - and parade the thoroughfares with drums and fifes, some agile member of the fraternity consenting to become a "Jack in the Green" for the edification and profit of his friends. On this particular May Day there were lots of Jacks, but very few greens. Indeed, the frost of the last few days destroyed the few verdant things in the neighbourhood of the metropolis, so that the miserable Cockney "Jacks," instead of dancing in green bushes, gay with cowslips and primroses, and bunches of flowering hawthorn, and festoons of apple blossoms, had to go through their performance in a miserable thing like a skeleton crinoline, covered with green cut paper, upon which imitation roses were stuck all round with pins! So feeble an attempt at greenery was too pitiable to be ludicrous...The ceremonials of May Day were characterised this year by an innovation which shows that a secession, scarcely less formidable than that which prevails in the American States at present, convulses the chimney-sweeping fraternity. Formerly, you must know, it was a point of honor [sic] for the sweep to appear in professional attire and with an unwashed face. A sweep, whose physiognomy has been subjected to the soap and water process, is, of course, no longer a sweep, and the very "life, and tone, and color," as Mr. Ruskin would say, of the May Day exhibition, consisted in the black face, white teeth, and ruddy lips of the practitioner peeping out through the "green." To-day, however, in violation of all the canons of art in such matters, some of the sweeps set at nought the good old custom, and actually had the hardihood to appear in washed faces! I am happy, however, to be able to record the fact that, in these instances, the public resented the innovation, and indignantly refused to contribute coppers in any case in which the Jack in the Green did not appear in sooty face and habiliments, as sweeps should ever do.

The Belfast News-Letter, 3 May 1861, page 3.

1864, 1 May: What, for instance, is May-day now? You may, perhaps, see a Jack-in-the-Green in some of the back streets of London...but the old observances are gone...

The Times, 28 December 1864, page 5.

1864, 2 May: As May-day happened on Sunday, the annual saturnalia of the sweeps did not take place until Monday, when "Jack-in-the-green," accompanied by maids, marian, clowns, pantaloons, and others of a kindred character, were out betimes, notwithstanding that the streets were terribly muddy, in consequence of heavy rains. This state of muddiness and dirt did not by any means lend additional charms to the personages composing the aforesaid exhibitions, for it would be almost impossible to find rascaldom and dinginess more prominently represented than in these cases. And yet this kind of thing finds a large number of supporters, judging by the condition of the chief actors later in the day. It is an easy method of getting money, and consequently "light come, light go." But there are pleasant associations connected with May-day...

The Wrexham Advertiser, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Shropshire, Cheshire & North Wales Register, 7 May 1864, page 4.

early 1870s, 1 May: ...we have a bone to pick with our friends the sweeps, and if they heed not our remonstrance let them look to themselves next May Day. The Jack-in-the-Green shall dance himself into a collapse, the lord shall plead in vain, and the lady shall hear nothing rattle in her ladle if the obnoxious practice of sweeping chimneys at five o'clock in the morning is not discontinued.

The Era, 13 October 1872, page 9.

1874, 1 May: In rural districts the "Jack-'o-the-green" was [formerly] a special object of attraction on May-day. Unlike the tinsel-fluttering sweeps, whose dreary gambols render them a nuisance in the London streets on each recurring May festival, he was a rather pleasant character. Artistically arrayed in ribbons and flowers, he whisked about merrily in the dance, and walked before the procession in high state, carrying a long walking stick decorated with floral wreaths, and looking as if he were a lord mayor's lacquey [sic].

The Huddersfield Daily Chronicle, 1 May 1874, page 4.

1874, 1 May: Now the traditions of May-Day are almost forgotten. Jack-in-the-Green is rarely seen even in the streets of London, and the chimney sweeps are very lax in keeping up the time-honoured custom...

The York Herald, 8 May 1874, page 3.

1874: WESTMINSTER [Magistrates' Court].

Emma Lemon, 28, an ironer, was charged with stealing a pair of boots...

There were numerous charges against the prisoner, who it appears waylaid little children from the age of four years to seven, and under the pretence of buying them a doll took them to Hyde-park and other secluded places, and there stripped them of whatever was easiest to remove...The child asked the prisoner when she was going to take her to St. Giles's Church, and said the prisoner had brought her from school to see the Jack-in-the-green.

The Daily News, 20 May 1874, page 6.

1870s, 1 May: London, as we have said, has always taken it part in the revels of this season. The London Maypoles were the largest and the gayest, the London milk-maids were the most persistent dancers, and, by a curious antithesis, the only body that had a special ceremony of their own, besides the sellers of pure white milk, were the sweepers of soot black chimneys. There is none too young to remember something about Jack-in-the-Green, for the ceremony still survives, but its grandeur has been gradually dwindling away for many years, its glory has almost departed. A few of the roughest of the class may still be seen endeavouring to revive it, but the most respectable class of sweeps now steadily set their faces against, and the public have grown tired of encouraging an exhibition which, from its accompaniments of drunkenness and rough horseplay, has become an unmitigated nuisance both to pedestrians and shopkeepers. We may sometimes regretfully look back upon the customs which our fathers innocently enjoyed, but probably few are sufficiently attached to the habits of past times to contemplate with much sorrow the fast-approaching day, when the ceremony of Jack-in-the-Green shall take its place with the other customs which have been. It is all doomed to go ; the clowns shall cease their antics, "my lady's" gilt ladle shall be valuable only as a relic, the primitive music with brush and shovel shall cease to enchant, the green extinguisher shall no more be seen. The days of shows and pageants are past. England has little time for simple amusements of this sort.

H. E.

The Graphic, 4 May 1878, page 447.

1879, 1 May: THE MERRIE MONTH OF MAY. – The First of May was signalised by a sharp fall of snow in many parts of England. The Malvern Hills were quickly covered, and a thin coating of snow rested for some hours on the ground in the neighbourhood of Swindon. A little snow fell in London, and hail showers were recorded as occurring in Kent and Surrey. The carrying of garlands in country districts was generally observed, and the horses in the town, as well as at the plough, were gaily decked with ribbons of red or blue. Jack-in-the-Green and his attendant mummers were also to be seen in London, though, we believe, chimney sweeps are too aristocratic nowadays to condescend to this pastime.

The Graphic, 10 May 1879, page 463.

1892, 1 May: MAY DAY was ushered in with bright sunshine and the singing of birds...It is on this date when it falls on a week day that the London chimney-sweeps sally forth into the streets in quaint and picturesque garb, and levy contributions payable to Jack in the Green.

The Belfast News-Letter, 2 May 1892, page 5.

1892, 1 May: Judging by the old customs, fine May Days were more frequent, and were often consecutive. Our last one was in the Jubilee year, 1887. In the interval the boys and girls who went out with Jack-in-the-Green, and levied donations from an indulgent public, have grown into men and women, and no successors seem to have taken up their pleasantries. In the London thoroughfares there were few, if any, reminders of the day to be seen. No dancing Jack-in-the-Green, with the attendant troupe of children shouting, laughing, and making collections for his Majesty. Far away in the country there may still be Maypoles, and children may even have danced round them in a ring last Monday, but in London we are losing sight of these old customs, and, notwithstanding all the recent additions to open spaces for recreation grounds, outdoor sports of the olden type are virtually dead and gone among us.

The Star, 6 May 1892, page 1.

1893, 1 May: MAY DAY, generally speaking, has passed quietly, and what was at one time in England a day of merry-making and gladsome festivities appears nowadays to pass over unnoticed...To the mass of Londoners "Jack-in-the-Green" is as extinct as the Maypole, though we believe in some places, especially in the south of England, the quaint antics of that personage still delight the rural mind, but, as a London paper remarks, "the age is becoming too prosaic for these frivolities,"

The Yorkshire Herald, and the York Herald, 6 May 1893, page 4.

1894: May Day, our old festival, has changed its fashion. Jack-in-the-Green, with his roundabouts of yew, his pennants and ribbons, his sweeps, marrow-bones and shovels, and buffoons, is not to-day, in London at least, prancing along the streets...

The Westminster Budget, 4 May 1894, page 38.



    ...The days, then, of the May Queen are numbered. Tout passe, tout casse, tout lasse. Together with her fair majesty there is vanishing into the "eternity of the past" another May Day type. It is the famous Jack-in-the-Green, as black to look upon as the May Queen is white. His name is Jack-in-the-Green, and he has a famous past behind him. For on May Day, in the good old time, Jack, the chimney sweep, having been in many a tight and sooty place, went forth in great state, and played among the budding trees and bushes on the green. He was the hero of the day, and none of the "pale faces" of his neighbourhood were as great and as admired as he.
    He peers no longer from among young leaves on May morning ; the "green" knows him no longer in his heroic and historic aspect, but Jack is with us still, and his realm - since we cannot do without our "sweep" - is greater than ever. And not only is May Day still a great "occasion " with him, but he spreads his glory over many days before and after. For ever since the first busy housewife began her deadly feud with the accumulated dust and dinginess which winter has let in her house, Jack the sweep has been a most desired person. On his good grace and ministrations depended many a day's successful spring cleaning, and he is, therefore, flattered and cajoled by maid and mistress alike. In appearance the modern Jack is as magnificent as ever in his war paint, and it is reported that in private life he is often a "howling swell." Nor is he without a certain kind of (black) halo, for it requires more than ordinary valour to cope with the demon soot, day after day, and week after week. Still, the glamour which surrounded him half-a-century ago has departed. In connexion with this former magnificence it is interesting to recall the incident which brought Jack first into prominence. It was told to our representative by the oldest sweep in London, who, in the days of his extreme youth, before the humane Act was passed in 1841, which rendered a man liable to a fine of £5 a day for employing boys to climb chimneys, had been sent up hundreds of dark chimney shafts, after the manner of poor little "Oliver Twist." The old gentleman was asked whether May Day was still kept as a holiday by the descendants of the original Jack-in-the-Green.

    "No," he replied. "That really died out with the sweeps' dinner at Highbury Barn forty years ago.
    "Perhaps you have heard the story of the origin of this day?
    "Little Lord Montagu was out riding one day when his groom let him get out of sight, and afterwards was unable to find his young charge, and although his parents made ceaseless quest they were unable to hear anything of their missing child. Time passed, and the parents had almost given up all hope of ever seeing their son again, when one day the sweeps came to sweep the chimneys of his aunt's house in Portman-square.
    "In due course the sweep's boy, having made his journey down most of the principal chimneys of the house, descended that communicating with the dining-room, and on his arrival he timidly glanced around the room at the pictures and ornaments which it contained. Suddenly he uttered a cry, which attracted the attention of the servants who were in the room, for amongst the portraits he recognised that of his mother.
    "His story was soon told, and after his outer sooty covering had been removed, it was confirmed by the discovery on his arm of the birthmark of the lost son - a bunch of grapes.
    "The boy had originally been stolen by gipsies, and after a hard time with them he had been sold to a sweep, where he had a still harder time, and a sweep he would have lived and died had he not providentially been employed in the cleaning of the chimneys of Montagu House. The parents' joy can well be imagined, and in memory of the return of the lost boy his aunt instituted a dinner and frolics on the lawn in front of her home in Portman-square for all the sweeps in London, and it was continued on the anniversary of that day (May 1, about 1760) right down to forty years ago, and on every anniversary a maypole was erected on the green for the diversion of the boys.
    "For the convenience of later Lords Montagu the May Day dinner revels were removed to the Eyre Arms, and later to the Highbury Barn."
    It may be interesting to mention that the Mrs. Montagu referred to was the originator of the famous Blue Stocking Club, and was a famous woman in her time.

The Westminster Budget, 1 May 1896, page 8.

1897, 1 May: "May Day in Olden Times" forms the subject of an interesting article in this month's number of the Pall Mall Magazine. The writer observes :-

The only remains of May Day celebration now to be met with in London streets is an occasional show of the chimney sweepers. Fantastically decked out in tawdry finery, enriched with strips of gilt and various coloured papers, etc., they caper the "Chimney Sweepers' Dance" to the music of the fiddle. The centre of attraction is generally a "Jack-in-the-green" – a large piece of wickerwork, covered with leaves and flowers, borne by a man concealed within.

The Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle, 8 May 1897, page 11.

1900, 1 May: From time immemorial Jack-in-the-green has paraded the streets of London on the 1st of May. His run, however, has for the time being ceased, as he has been superseded by Jack-in-the-khaki. In place of the green-bedecked arbours under which Jack formerly danced, this morning structures, covered with paper of khaki colour, ornamented profusely with red, white, and blue ribbons, were to be seen in various parts of the Metropolis, and St George, who for many years has been a minor character in the drama of May Day, was also well to the fore with Union Jack tunic, khaki pantaloons, and the headgear of an Imperial Yoeman [sic]. Even Maid Marian had donned khaki, and in this costume danced a merry dance where the celebration was held...

The Courier and Argus, 2 May 1900, page 4.

Harley Street, MaryleboneLondonTQ 2882

c.1856: I have a perfect recollection of seeing about the year 1856 a "Jack in the Green" in Harley-mews. "Jack" was inside a structure shaped something like a beehive covered with ivy, but of course much higher and proportionately less in diameter. "Jack" danced about while a friend held a corn sieve in which passers-by placed a coin. Does anything of the sort exist to-day? - Mr. HENRY A. CLEAVER, Caérdeon, St. Asaph.

The Times, 5 May 1930, page 10.

c.1890, 1 May: I have a distinct recollection as a very small boy of having seen - and been much frightened by - a Jack in the Green in a May Day procession, which passed my father's house in Harley-street, about the year 1890. - SIR MONTAGUE CRITCHETT, the Bath Club, Dover-street, W.1.

The Times, 13 May 1930, page 12.

MoorfieldsLondonTQ 3281

1864, 1 May: 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.

Newport PagnellBuckinghamshireSP 8743

1861, 1 May: NEWPORT PAGNELL DIVISION PETTY SESSIONS. THE RURAL SWEEPS. - James Barnes was charged with assaulting George Martin at Newport Pagnell, on the 1st inst. The complainant and the defendant are chimney sweeps, both residing in Newport Pagnell. The bench convicted the defendant in the penalty of 1s. and 13s. costs.

The Bicester Herald, 24 May 1861, page 4.

NorthamptonNorthamptonshireSP 7561

1835, 1 May: During the few sunny intervals which the day afforded, our streets presented the novel spectacle, in Northampton, of "Jack in the Green," and dancing Chimney sweeps. The poor little fellows seemed to enjoy their holiday, and danced and plied the brush and shovel with a vigour not unworthy of the sooty craftsmen of the metropolis. They were very fortunate, we understand, in their collections, part of which, at least, was expended in the purchase of a stock of shirts and similar luxuries. The success of the speculation has awakened the enterprise of the fraternity ; who whisper of a pageant upon a far greater scale next year. We fear that the "vested interests" of the little garland lasses must suffer from the innovation.

The Northampton Mercury, 5 May 1838, page 3.

OxfordOxfordshireSP 5305

c.1858 passim, 1 May: The other event of the day was the performance of Jack in the Green. It was the sweeps' holiday, and they went about the town dancing round their 'Jack,' who was in a light cage decorated with flowers and evergreens and jingling bells. The rest, too, were ornamented with bits of bright stuff and flowers, whilst one of them was dressed up as Maid Marion.

[NOTE: Sherwood's father brought the family into Oxford from a village in the surrounding countryside at the beginning of 1858, at which date he was aged between six and seven years.]

Rev. W.E. Sherwood, Oxford yesterday. Memoirs of Oxford seventy years ago (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1927), page 68.

1884, 1 May: and there a "Jack in the Green" was to be met with.

Jackson's Oxford Journal, 3 May 1884, page 5.

1885, 1 May: MAY MORNING...A few garlands carried by children, and here and there a "Jack-in-the-Green" were to be seen in the streets.

Jackson's Oxford Journal, 2 May 1885, page 5.

1885, 1 May: MAY DAY.- ...May garlands were also carried round the streets by children, but the ancient "Jack in the green" seems to have entirely lost his place amongst the customs of the day in the neighbourhood...

The Oxford Times, 2 May 1885, page 5.

1886, 1 May: The charming weather of Saturday last...the most amusing, and one creating a great deal of mirth, was the revival of a very old custom which has not been seen in Oxford for many years, viz., "Jack-in-the-Green," excellently got up by Messers Hathaway, chimney sweepers...

Jackson's Oxford Journal, 8 May 1886, page 5.

1886, 1 May: MAY DAY.- ...During the day a number of "garlands" were to be seen in the City and also a "Jack in the Green."

The Oxford Chronicle, 8 May 1886, page 5.

1886, 1 May: "Jack in the Green" put in an appearance here after a prolonged absence and proved a source of enjoyment to many...From all appearances the interest in May-day in Oxford at least, seems to be increasing. We have received from Messers Taunt & Co., Broad Street, a well executed photograph of "Jack in the Green" and its sooty faced accompanists, taken apparently in front of Balliol College, with a number of onlookers in the back-ground.

The Oxford Times, 8 May 1886, page 5, and The Oxford Weekly News, 12 May 1886, page 5.

1886, 1 May: Reviving Merrie England: May-Day Ceremonies. Specially Described for The Sphere by Henry W. Taunt.

...This was very well carried out for a number of years by the Hathaway family, who, taking an amount of pains to build their "green" and dress their performers in orthodox fashion, were very successful...made of wicker work covered with leaves and laurel with flowers in between...Jack-in-the-Green reeled round one way and the performers danced round it in reverse, clanging their poker and shovel and pot and ladle as they swung past, while the violin squeaked out a merry old English dance.

The Sphere, 2 May 1908, supplement.

1886, 1 May: ...My old friend, Fred Taphouse, who sent me this picture of them, tells me it was taken in 1886 by the Oxford photographer, Henry Taunt, and according to him the performers are from left to right:
    Bob Potter, the fiddler of Stanton Harcourt; A. Hathaway with shovel and poker; Tom Dane with money box; John Hathaway, Jnr., as Jack in the Green; Lewis Bensley, the lady with the ladle; Robert Bensley, the Lord of Misrule; H. Bensley, the Fool with the Bladder; and R. Hathaway with money box. Does anyone remember, I wonder, what form their play took.

The Oxford Mail, 1 May 1969, page 6. Anthony Wood column [features a reproduction of the more common of the two Taunt photos].

1887, 1 May: There were a few May garlands about, but, so far as we know, no Jack in the Green was paraded.

The Oxford Times, 7 May 1887, page 5.

1888, 1 May: Other customs, both old and new, were also observed, there being a Jack-in-the-Green and children carrying garlands, the main purpose of those engaged in both being the solicitation of money from the general public. The first named was conducted by the members of a well-known family of chimney sweeps hailing from the Friars, and the "company" included an ancient-looking fiddler, a boy wearing a collegian's cap and carrying a sweep's brush and shovel, a gaudily-dressed female, and two or three men, whose principal ornament in their odd attire was bright-coloured ribbons, and who capered about around the man in green to the strains of the fiddle. Two of them with moneyboxes in their hands went hither and thither gathering halfpence, and apparently the party did not do a bad day's work.

Jackson's Oxford Journal, 5 May 1888, page 5.

1888, 1 May: Among the few of the charming old customs left to us in this age of realism and matter-of-fact incidents, is that of welcoming in May-morn - the herald of spring - with a burst of sweet and praiseful melody from the tower of Oxford's loveliest College, Magdalen...
    A "Jack-in-the-Green," with attendant mummers, paraded the streets, Sweet May-garlands, and May-horns that were far from sweet, were also about in large numbers.

The Oxford Chronicle, 3 May 1888, page 3.

1888, 1 May: MAY DAY.- ...In the High we noticed one elaborate Jack-in-the-Green, the shell hiding the occupant being surmounted by a crown of primroses. Four fantastically dressed males, three wearing masks and one being decked out as a female, danced frantically round the circling greenery to such music as could be extracted from a saucepan beaten by a wooden cudgel...

The Oxford Times, 5 May 1888, page 5.

1889, 1 May: During the day a few garlands were observed being carried round the streets, but the familiar "Jack-in-the-Green" did not make its appearance on this occasion.

Jackson's Oxford Journal, 4 May 1889, page 5.

1889, 1 May: MAY DAY.- ...During the day children carried May garlands, but the old-fashioned "Jack-in-the-Green" appears to have become almost obsolete.

The Oxford Times, 4 May 1889, page 5.

1890, 1 May: A "Jack-in-the-Green" was also paraded in the thoroughfares, accompanied by fantastically and glaringly attired male and female "dancers."

Jackson's Oxford Journal, 3 May 1890, page 5.

1890, 1 May: MAY-DAY IN OXFORD.- ...There were many garlands to be seen in the streets during the day, and at least one "Jack in the green."

The Oxford Chronicle, 3 May 1890, page 8.

1890, 1 May: MAY DAY.- ...During the day May-garlands were carried from door to door by children, and a "Jack-in-the-Green" danced in the streets...

The Oxford Times, 3 May 1890, page 5.

1894, 1 May:

May Day


On May Day the Oxford sweeps still keep up a procession which is made up of;-

1. Jack-in-the-Green

2. A "Lord" and "Lady" who are dressed in white, and decorated with ribbons. The "Lady" carries a ladle, and the "Lord" a frying-pan.

3. A fool, dressed as fantastically as possible, who carried a bladder on a string, wherewith to belabour the bystanders.

4. A fiddler.

6.Two or three men who carry money boxes [sic]

5.A Man with shovel and poker, as musical instruments.

The whole of the party, except the Lady, have their faces blacked, and are decked out with ribbons and flowers.

They sing the following song;-

Please to remember the chimney-sweeps,
Please, kind Sir, don't pass us by;
We're old sweeps, and want a living,
Spare us a copper, as in olden time.

(Mrs J. Hathaway, Oxford, Aug. 1894)

Oxford, Bodleian Library, Percy Manning MSS., Top.Oxon.d.199, f.134.

1908, 1 May: MAY DAY. - It was a most delightful May morning last Friday...Picturesque groups of children with garlands were seen in the streets during the day. A party with a Jack o' the Green also afforded amusement...

The Abingdon Free Press, 8 May 1908, page 8.

1910, 1 May: A number of men in approved garb visited various parts of the town during Monday, and gave performances of "Jack-in-the-Green," whilst children were now and again to be seen carrying May garlands, some of which were very pretty.

The North Berks Herald, 7 May 1910, page 7.

Pall Mall vicinityLondonTQ 2981

1867, 2 May: MARLBOROUGH-STREET [Magistrates Court].
    Wm. Smith or Dickinson (he gave both names), described as a labourer, but who was attired in the costume of a "clown," and was stated to have formed one of a "Jack-in-the-Green" party was charged before Mr. Knox, with stealing a bottle of claret, the property of Mr. Malpas, wine merchant, of Jermyn-street, and also with assaulting police-constable Watson, 222 A.
    There being no one present on the part of Mr. Malpas when the case was called on, the charge of assault was gone into.
    Police-constable Watson, 299 A [sic], said - Yesterday afternoon I saw the prisoner in company of another man running along Pall-mall, and turn into Crown-court. From what I was informed, I went after the prisoner and stopped him and asked him why he was running, when he replied, "I did not do it ; it was the others." Directly I took hold of the prisoner, the other man made a blow at me and ran away. I told the prisoner he had stolen a bottle of wine out of a man's basket as he was passing along, and he said, "I'm – if I did," and commenced kicking me, and tried to bite me. We both fell, and in doing so my hand got underneath him, and I was a good deal hurt. After struggling with the prisoner for a few minutes I agreed to leave go if he would leave quietly. He went quietly a short distance and then started off, but I pursued and caught him, and he then became again very violent, and seeing a Jack-in-the-green party, his companions, he called on them to rescue him. With assistance I got him to the station, and while in the dock he tried to bite my hand. On the charge being read over the prisoner said he would own he took the bottle of wine, but that the others were as bad, that he took the bottle and threw it at them, and then they threw it back.
    Mr. Knox remanded the prisoner.

The Morning Post, 4 May 1867, page 7.

PiccadillyLondonSJ 8498

1861, 1 May: under the trees at the western end of Piccadilly, there is positively a "Jack-in-the-Green" dancing, to the mingled bewilderment and delight of the children and the nursemaids ! It is twenty years since at that very spot I last saw the May-day masquerade of the chimney-sweep.

The Leeds Mercury, 7 May 1881, page 1.

1881, 1 May: [see 1861 report, above]

The Leeds Mercury, 7 May 1881, page 1.

PortsmouthHampshireSU 6501

1819: May 1st...The chimney sweepers adorned with ribbons &c as usual paraded the streets. They had a frame of hoops made in a conical shape & covered with may ivy &c - which one of them wore over his body & turned about. Another was dressed as a girl. They are precisely the same at present as Strutt depicts them in the reign of Elizabeth - & the Maid Marion [sic] & Morris dancers of earlier ages are now in many parts of kingdom [sic, though with a formless squiggle linking these latter two words] retained in the common companies of Mayers.

Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS.Eng.hist.c.140. Frederic Madden MSS., 'Diary for the Year 1819', f.41.

1822, 1 May: [see 1823 entry, below]

Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS.Eng.hist.c.144. Frederic Madden MSS., 'Journal for 1823', f.86.

1823, 1 May: The chimney-sweepers as usual paraded the streets, but with more pomp than last year. In addition to their ordinary finery they had a drum & pipe, &c.

Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS.Eng.hist.c.144. Frederic Madden MSS., 'Journal for 1823', f.86.

1891, 1 May: In brilliant sunshine that did much to retrieve the abandoned character of the average modern May Day, the annual Portsmouth and Gosport May Day Horse Show and Procession took place yesterday afternoon...
    ...The Portsmouth music-halls were represented by vehicles in which rode some of the performers, but not in character. They left the mumming on this occasion to a party of chimney-sweeps, who had rigged up a jack-in-the-green bower, and attired themselves in grotesqe [sic] costumes, reminiscent of the past May Day glories of their profession.

The Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle, 2 May 1891, page 6.

ReadingBerkshireSU 7272

1828, 1 May: MAY DAY ! – Thursday being the first of May, was celebrated in this borough by the sweeps with accustomed solemnity. Their black vestments were exchanged for tinsel finery, and their sable visages were bounteously bedaubed with vermillion. Their prescriptive attendant, Jack-in-the-Green, heightened the metamorphose admirably.

The Berkshire Chronicle, 3 May 1828, page 2.

1829, 1 May: Yesterday being "May-day," the chimney-sweeps held their annual gala, and paraded the streets bedizened in all the finery which ribbons and raddle could bestow.

The Berkshire Chronicle, 2 May 1829, page 3.

1866, 1 May: The first of May, instead of all sunshine and gladness, was ushered in this year with rain and cold weather. The old custom of the sweeps going about the town, dancing at various places, was observed, but their efforts did not appear to be very much appreciated.

The Berkshire Chronicle, 5 May 1866, page 5.

1867, 1 May: Wednesday being "May Day" some few individuals in grotesque attire endeavoured to improve the occasion by dancing about in certain parts of the town in the hope that the partially sane portion of the inhabitants would give them sundry spare coppers. The exhibition was a sorry one enough, but it possibly amuses some people.

The Berkshire Chronicle, 4 May 1867, page 5

Regent StreetLondonTQ 2782

1833, 1 May: MARLBOROUGH STREET [Magistrates Court]...
    ATTACK ON "VESTED RIGHTS." - A brace of chimney sweepers, bedizened in all the customary finery of a May day gala, were brought before Mr. Dyer, jun., charged with begging in the public streets. - The policeman averred that he saw the defendants cutting sundry capers to the primitive harmony of the soot brush and shovel, in Regent-street, and afterwards presenting a capacious ladle to the admirers of May-day gymnastics, for the purpose, as he verily believed, of compasssing an alms. The policeman further affirmed, that the elder of the masqueraders thrust his mystic spoon in at a carriage window, with the same unlawful design, the other defendant at the same time aiding and abetting by perpetrating a lively clatter upon his shovel.
    The "Ladle Bearer" indignantly protested against the present unconstitutional attack upon his "vested rights." The custom of soliciting eleemosynary bounty from patrons of the "arts" had existed time immemorial, consequently his right, being founded on "prescription," was as indefeasable as any other right held upon the same sacred tenure. Moreover, he laid claim to certain "hereditary" immunities and honours arising from the possession of the title, dignity, and emolument attached to the office of "Jack in the Green;" and as he had paid his "footing," which was equivalent to purchasing the fee-simple of the profits of the office, it certainly could not be construed into nothing less (if the present charge was admitted) than an attack on private property, unless some "compensation" was contemplated.
    Mr. DYER, jun., being of the opinion that the offence imputed to the defendants did not bear the construction placed upon it by the policeman, ordered them to be discharged forthwith.

The Morning Chronicle, 3 May 1833, page 4.

RydeIsle of WightSZ 5992

1865, 1 May: OLD CUSTOM. - The sweeps of Ryde revived Jack-in-the-Green on May-day, and he cut the usual capers to the music of a full band, consisting of chin-pipes, drum, scrapers, and shovels. Some old ones and all young ones were amused with the grotesque display, so the venture seemed a profitable one.

The Isle of Wight Observer, 6 May 1865, page 3.

St. GilesLondonTQ 3181

1850, 3 May: SHAMEFUL ASSAULT ON THE POLICE. - JACK-IN-THE-GREEN. - Two young fellows, who described themselves as costermongers, and gave the names of Dennis Leary and Thomas Leonard, were charged with having assaulted 94 E. in the execution of his duty. While on duty in St. Giles's last evening, between the hours of eight and nine o'clock, his attention was attracted to the upper end of the street, by a mob of persons, who appeared to be in an extraordinary state of excitement, shouting and yelling at the top of their voices ; on hastening to the spot he became aware of the presence of a "Jack in the-Green, " [sic] around whom were dancing a number of men and women dressed in chimney-sweep attire, and clattering their shovel and broom. The confusion that prevailed in consequence of the whole proceeding was so great, that witness was compelled to interfere, and singling out the most noisy, he mildly informed them that if the disturbance was not abated, some of the offenders would probably get into the station-house. The prisoners endeavoured to excite the others into a continuance of the nuisance, which at length became so great that foot passengers were forced from the pavement into the road and hustled among the crowd. Seizing what was considered a fitting opportunity, the constable attempted to take the prisoners into custody ; but he was immediately set upon by the mob, which had greatly increased, knocked down, and most unmercifully kicked. His person was covered with bruises, and finger marks were plainly visible on his throat arising from an attempt to strangle him. He was fortunately rescued by a brother constable. - The officer alluded confirmed this evidence [sic]. - The prisoners appeared to be two of the most riotous and vindictive. - In defence, the prisoners protested that they were merely lookers on ; but that the constables had beat them unmercifully with their truncheons. - Mr. Henry had not the least doubt that they fully merited the punishment the officers had found it necessary to inflict, in addition to which, he should now order them severally to be imprisoned for three months.

Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, 5 May 1850, page 7.

1850, 3 May: MURDEROUS ATTACK UPON A POLICE-CONSTABLE. - M. Leary and W. Lennard were charged with assaulting a police-constable.
    On Friday night upwards of 200 persons had assembled round a "Jack-in-the-Green," in Church-street, St. Giles's, and some of the men were dancing, and others were beating tin kettles and saucepans. They were causing a great disturbance, and the thoroughfare of the street was completely blocked up. The mob consisted of the lowest class, and when any of them were requested to stand aside to allow any pedestrian to pass, they became insulting and abusive. The attention of police constable 97, E division, was called to the mob, which he endeavoured to disperse, but without success. The prisoners were amongst the mob, and when desired to move on they persisted in staying. The constable, finding that he could not disperse the mob without adopting some stringent measures, proceeded to take Leary into custody, as he appeared the most obstinate. On his doing so, Leary struck him several blows upon the face and chest, and called out to his companions for assistance. Immediately the constable was surrounded by upwards of twenty ruffianly-looking fellows, who knocked him down. Leary then jumped upon him, and endeavoured to strangle him by pressing his knuckles in his throat, between his collar and neck. While Leary was in this position, Lennard and the other men commenced kicking the prostrated constable about the body in a very dangerous and violent manner. Leary held his knuckles at the constable's throat for some minutes, and some very serious result would have occurred but for the arrival of other constables, who succeeded in capturing the prisoners.
    Mr. Henry sentenced them to be imprisoned in the House of Correction for three weeks, without the alternative of paying a fine.

The Daily News, 6 May 1850, page 7.

Shipston-on-StourWarwickshireSP 2540

1887, 1 May: THE MAYPOLE DANCERS. - This old established fixture and custom round the town on May morning was scarcely visible on Tuesday morning, owing to scarcity of flowers to decorate the maypole and May queens.

The Shipston News, 7 May 1887, page 8.

SouthamptonHampshireSU 4212

1897, 1 May: The whole of the ancient May day customs and usages seem to have fallen into disuetude in Southampton. Are we getting too practical or too busy to waste time over Jack-in-the-green, or musical festivals at sunrise? At any rate, as far as the general public were concerned, there was nothing at all this year to distinguish May morning from any other one beyond the fact that the sun shone brilliantly. Personally I have great veneration for ancient ceremonies or customs that connect the past with the present, and it is a source of regret to me that the "sweeps' holiday" is no more, and that we have ceased at last to pay tribute to the Goddess Flora.

The Hampshire Advertiser, 5 May 1897, page 3.

SudburySuffolkTL 8741

1881, 2 May: MAY DAY. - On Monday a large party of sweeps, including representatives of the female sex, grotesquely dressed, perambulated the town, dancing in strange evolutions around their "Jack in the Green," and afterwards soliciting "backsheesh" from the amused spectators.

The Ipswich Journal, 3 May 1881, page 2.

Waterloo BridgeLondonTQ 3080

1832, 1 May: EFFECTS OF MUSIC. - On May-day, in the Commercial-road, Waterloo-bridge, a gentleman on horseback vainly endeavoured to pass "Jack in the Green," who was dancing in the middle of the road, surrounded by sweeps. The animal, to the infinite amusement of numerous spectators, kept time, after the manner of the horses which perform at Astley's, with wonderful precision. The gentleman endeavoured in voin [sic] to get his horse away ; but he continued moving round the Jack in the Green, and every now and then biting the green leaves. At last, the " gentle musician having ceased his strain," the rider was enabled to proceed some distance from the scene of hilarity ; but upon the music recommencing, back galloped Rozinante with his unwilling rider, and again commenced dancing round the Jack in the Green ; nor could the gentleman manage to get the animal from the spot, until heavy-fee'd Jack and his companions agreed to suspend their performances until the stage-struck animal was out of hearing of their instrumental assistants. Since writing the above, we understand the horse formerly belonged to Mr. Cooke, who some few years since enlivened the neighbourhood of Blackfriars-road by equestrian performances.

The True Sun, 5 May 1832, page 4.

Waterloo RoadLondonnot known

1858, 5 May: HIGHWAY ROBBERY. - Frederic Revell, a young fellow well known to the police, was brought before Mr. Burcham, charged with being concerned, with two others, in stealing a silver watch from Mr. James Mitchell, an elderly gentleman residing at Camberwell, under the following daring circumstances :-
    It appeared that on Wednesday afternoon last, about four o'clock, a mob of persons were collected round a "Jack-in-the-Green," in the Waterloo-road, and the prosecutor was endeavouring to pass towards the London-road, when he was hustled about by three young fellows. He, however, had no idea that he had been robbed, until a constable came up and asked him if he had lost anything. He immediately looked down to his waistcoat pocket and missed his watch, which he had seen safe a minute before. The fellows who had hustled him scampered off, and one of them was apprehended at the time, but the others escaped. His watch was found in a sack of corn which was standing at the door of Mr. Ripton, corn dealer, Lower Marsh, Lambeth, where one of the thieves (who was captured) had passed.
    John George Sheppard, 102 L, said he saw the prisoner and the other young fellows hustling the prosecutor about as he was near the "Jack-in-the-Green," and knowing them to be thieves he approached nearer, when they all ran off in different directions. He immediately asked the prosecutor whether he had lost anything, and learning that he had been robbed of his watch he pursued the prisoner's companion, whom he believed to have the watch, and after a smart chase succeeded in capturing him, and found the property in a sack of corn at a door of a cornchandler's where he had passed. That prisoner pleaded guilty in this court on Thursday last, and was sentenced to six months' imprisonment. The third man made his escape altogether.
    The prisoner denied being in the Waterloo-road at the time. The last witness must have been mistaken as to his identity.
    Sheppard informed his worship that a young man was in court who saw the prisoner with the two others hustling the prosecutor.
    William Redman was then sworn, and stated that he was standing looking at the "Jack-in-the-Green" on the afternoon in question, when he saw the prisoner, a young fellow who was committed on Thursday, and another hustling the prosecutor about, and as soon as the policeman came up they ran off in different directions.
    The prisoner was committed for trial, but ordered to be brought up on Thursday for the completion of the depositions, it being understood that he had been formerly convicted of a similar offence.

The Morning Chronicle, 11 May 1858, page 8.

West EndLondon[exact performance locations unknown - South Audley Street = TQ 2880]

1859, 1 May: MAY-DAY SWEEPS' FESTIVITIES. - John Doyle, James Robinson, and George Bennett, chimney-sweeps, were charged with being drunk and uproarious in South Audley-street at half-past two in the morning, and Robinson, in addition, with assaulting constable Pawson, C 121.
    It appeared that the defendants, after the fatigue of the May-day dance over the streets of the West-end, had been treating themselves with sundry pots of Barclay's refreshing beverage, and pipes of fragrant weed, in company with their Jack of the leafy green, at a public taproom in the neighbourhood, and so got muddled, and hence the row in a fashionable street, and the "whack on the nose" of Pawson, the policeman.
    Robinson fined 10s. or seven days ; the others discharged.

The Morning Chronicle, 4 May 1859, page 8.

1859, 1 May: MAY-DAY FESTIVITIES. - SWEEPS IN TROUBLE. - John Doyle, James Robinson, and George Bennett, sweeps, were charged at Marlborough-street, with being drunk and uproarious in South Audley-street, at half-past two in the morning - with this addition in Robinson's case that he did damage to police-constable 131, Dawson, by giving him a "whack on his nose." It appeared the defendants had been regaling themselves with Jack of the leafy green fame in "potations pottle deep," after their gay dances, and so got drunk, and thus the affray that roused the fashionables of South Audley-street from their slumbers. - Robinson was fined 10s, or seven days, and the others discharged.

The North Wales Chronicle, 7 May 1859, page 7.

WestminsterMiddlesexTQ 2979

1875, 1 May: INQUESTS. - Last night Mr. Bedford held a long inquiry respecting the death of Emma Ross, aged 12 years, living with her parents at 8, Cottage-Court, Orchard-street, Westminster. The evidence given showed that the father of the deceased being out of employment her mother was compelled to leave home to earn a livelihood for herself and family. The deceased used to run about the streets without shoes or stockings, and on the 1st of May in following a "Jack in the Green," she trod upon a piece of broken glass, cutting her foot severely. She was taken to Westminster Hospital, but owing to unskillful treatment erysipelas had supervened, and she died on Sunday last. The place where the family lived was a most wretched hole. When the jury preceded to view the body the Coroner advised them to enter the room singly, the boards being very rotten. A verdict of "Accidental Death" was recorded.

The Times, 27 May 1875, page 8.

1885, 1 May: May-day was observed in London in some respects more generally than in former years...At an early hour the chimney-sweeping fraternity, in accordance with their annual custom, turned out in Westminster, Chelsea, and other parts of the metropolis with their Jack-in-the-green.

The Star, 5 May 1885, page 4.

1886, 1 May: 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.

WhitehallLondonTQ 2980

1832, 1 May: 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.

WinslowBuckinghamshireSP 7627

1881, 1 May: MAY DAY. - This day was observed by an unusual number of children eager to get hold of a few pence ; the sweeps were also to the fore with "Jack-in-the-Green."

Jackson's Oxford Journal, 7 May 1881, page 7.

WitneyOxfordshireSP 3509

c.1840s: [see 1850 account, below]

The Oxford Chronicle, 4 May 1850, page 2.

1850, 1 May: MAY DAY. - This annual festive day of the chimney sweeps was kept up in the usual style: Jack in the Green, with the full complement of dancers gaily dressed, aided by the enlivening strains of the violin, paraded the town as customary. "Madame" came out in white and pink; in this character we certainly missed "Miss Dicky," who was wont for a number of years on this occasion to excite a laugh from old and young by his first-rate personification of "the ladye." We hear that Rich. Beadle died lately at Kenilworth.

The Oxford Chronicle, 4 May 1850, page 2.

[NOTE : Richard Beadle (evidently "Miss Dicky"), was enumerated in Witney at the date of the 1841 census, aged 45 and a Sweep. His death was registered in the Birmingham District, 1st Quarter 1850.]

Non-specific locations

1825: MAY-DAY CHIMNEY-SWEEPERS. Will anybody have the goodness to abolish the May-day Chimney-sweepers? They are a blot upon the season ; a smear ; a smutting of one's face ; a piece of soot in one's soup ; a cinder in one's gravy ; a rotten core to one's apple. They are like a tea-kettle on a sofa. They are "a story, alas! too true ;" "shadowy," without "setting off the face of things ;" children, yet not happy ; merry-making, yet nobody is the blither. They are out of their element at all times, and never more so than on this their only holiday. Their dancing is that of lame legs ; their music is a clattering of stumps ; their finery like a harlequin's leavings thrown in the dust-hole. They come like a contradiction to the season, as if, - because nothing clean, wholesome, and vernal could be got up, - the day should be spited with the squalidest and sickliest of our in-door associations. They do not say, We come to make you happy ; but, to show you the unhappiest man, on this very uncomfortable day, that there are youths and little boys who beat his happy lot. They understand their perverse business well, and dress up some of their party like girls, because of all masqueraders their dirty dinginess is least suitable to the sex. They contradict even the spirit of masquerade itself, and, like the miser in the novel, wear real chimney-sweeping clothes, with a little tinsel to make the reality the more palpable. It is doubtful even whether they keep their own pence, - whether the pittance, which Charity itself is ashamed to give them on such a day - (angry with the bad joke and with forgetting them at other times) - is not surrendered, at the close of their hopping exposure, to the sturdier keepers who attend them. Nothing is certainly their own but the dirt of which they cannot get rid, and a disease, or the liability to a disease, peculiar to the trade and disgraceful to human nature. - Our jest has become serious ; but so it must, if we think well of it. Will nobody undertake to admonish these Sorry-makers off the ground, or substitute real Merry-makers instead? - New Monthly Mag. Art. The Family Journal.

The Examiner, 8 May 1825, page 297.

1830s: ...At his usual places of resort was he seen ; and on May days rattled his shovel, danced round Jack-in-the-green, and was the very beau ideal of burlesqued nobility.
    There is, most certainly, an antithesis between the month of May - beautiful, balmy, and warm - and the Sweep - unshod, black in the face, and soot-besprinkled. But, notwithstanding this, the few first days of the 'merry month' (Shakspere [sic]), are shorn of half their glory, if we fail to encounter in our walks, my lord, my lady, their friends, and accompanying musicians.
    The first, my lord, is arrayed in a costume unique quite ; having a long tailed coat bedizened all over with coloured bows, tags, and lama. Then there is his cocked hat - surely the equal of that was never seen before. Large is it in dimensions, and at each corner has a feather. My lady's person was made more beautiful by an old gauze frock, which had a border of spangles and other bright looking things ; on her head was a turban, worn how many times, and by whom, God knows ; while her legs luxuriated in a pair of Turkish trousers and old silk stockings.
    The dancing of the worthies was - we say was, because the things to which we allude are of a past day - classical, inasmuch as there was nothing like it upon earth. The figures gone through were neither of the bolero, quadrille, nor waltz styles ; being exclusive of each, and, in the opinions of many persons, much more elegant. Nor have our after ball-room movements approached the Sweeps' dances ; for, by the side of them, what are your gallopades and your mazourkas? Nothing...

The Odd Fellow, 20 March 1841, pages 45 & 46.

1839: Even Jack in the green and the milk maid's garland, and the annual revels of our little sooty friends have nearly all been swept away by the philosophical besom of the march of intellect. Aldine Magazine.

The York Herald, and General Advertiser, 11 May 1839, page 4.

1869: Jack-in-the-Green was an institution in the South. The masquers were the élite of the profession of chimney-sweeping, assisted by their lady friends. Fantastically attired they danced and shouted – grotesquely and inharmoniously, if you will, but the sight pleased the children and did no harm to the men and women. So viva "Jack-in-the-Green!" which, or who, has doubtless come to utter or irremediable grief long before this present writing...

Berrow's Worcester Journal, 8 May 1869, page 6.


(From All the Year Round)

    Mr. Brush, the old-established chimney cleaner, as he is fond of calling himself, or rather Mrs. Brush, for it falls in her department - and I never knew an unmarried sweep, which fact forms a curious addition to our social statistics - goes round to her customers and buys any odds and ends of finery she can, often getting them as a present ; but she seldom can obtain enough for their purpose in this way, and so she goes to the draper. In expectation of this visit he has allowed his faded finery to accumulate, and so the necessary amount of frippery is collected.
    As there is a recognised dress for Hamlet, for Richard the Third, and the like, to which every orthodox actor of the "old school" feels bound, so the traditions of May Day prescribe a costume for my Lord, which all sweeps of a proper conservative turn must respect. His coat should always be blue, or black, and always trimmed with gold ; his trousers should be white, and also trimmed with gold ; and for him to wear anything but a cocked hat would be an outrage on propriety, on which even the most reckless would scarcely venture.
    The green is usually built by the sweeps themselves, and is composed of a framework of old hoops, connected by uprights of flexible wood ; the framework is covered with green baize, and on to this are sewn the boughs which make the green ; it is a very light affair. Not less than a dozen persons are required for the full staff of a Jack-in-the-Green, although this number is not always reached. First of all, in priority of engagement, is the musician. He must be able to play the drum - a tolerably easy achievement, in their style of performance, I should say - and the Pandean pipes, or mouth organ ; a less easy thing to do. The number of musicians seems to diminish faster than even the greens themselves ; the organ men and the German bands have been great foes to them, and it is not easy to find a musician now, so the sweep tries to engage him fully three months before he is wanted. The musician is technically know as the "whistler," and he is required to assist in the rehearsals which take place a few days before the 1st of May, for, about the time when they buy the laurel boughs to sew on the green, the intended performers are called together to learn the dance. I have not the slightest idea as to what this dance is called, but all my readers have certainly seen it, and to them, as to myself, it has no doubt appeared a most monotonous, measureless jig, which anyone could execute, yet candidates are rejected every year because they cannot dance well.
    Next come my Lord, my Lady, Jack-in-the-Green, the clown, and there should also be four boys and four girls. I was surprised that the business was not a commonwealth, but that the artists receive a fixed salary nearly always the same - I give the schedule - and in addition the employer has to provide food. So, in theory, he has to provide liquid refreshment, but as a matter of fact, the latter is most commonly provided by friendly public houses, or the customers thereof, by whom a very kindly feeling for the poor draggled exhibitors is generally manifested. My Lord is in charge, and has six shillings a day, my Lady has four shillings. Jack five, the clown four ; the boys and girls, according to age, have from half-a-crown to three shillings and sixpence.
    The takings of the third day, in a good bight May, usually pay the whole staff, leaving the two previous days for the master's profit. I doubt if anyone ever gave such interesting information as I impart when I say that the takings of very well-appointed green on the 1st of May, a year or two back, amounted to £8. 19s. 8½d. ! Wet, raw, cold days, such as have been the fashion with us so often of late, are of course terribly against the receipts. but something like the above amount may be looked for under favourable circumstances.

The Manchester Times, 7 May 1881, page 6.

1876: From the earliest period it has been the custom to hail the return of spring with peculiar sports, but latterly these have died out, and seldom, save in the most rural of villages, are the May-pole, the May Day dance, and their attendant frolics, now seen, whilst "Jack-in-the-Green" is relegated to the Society of Antiquaries.

The Huddersfield Daily Chronicle, 2 May 1876, page 3.



No Jack-in-the-Green,
    With his customs gay,
This year was seen
    On the First of May.
We have grown too dull in this age of spleen
For the frolic and fun of a Jack-in-the-Green.
With the Ibsen boom
    Has our life grown grey,
And wrapped in gloom
    Is the First of May.
And we haven't the heart for a joyous scene
Or the honest mirth of a Jack-in-the-Green.
The puritan ass,
    With his solemn bray,
Has settled, alas !
    The First of May ;
And girls and garlands have passed, I ween,
And so have the glories of Jack-in-the-Green.
No laugh rings out
    On the air to-day,
But we've fear and doubt
    On the First of May ;
And Labour swaggers with threat'ning mien
Where merrily once danced Jack-in-the-Green.

The Star, 18 May 1893, page 1.

2 - The Diaspora


1890, 1 May: ALL SWEEPS' DAY. - There was (says the Adelaide Register) a novel sight in the streets of the city on Thursday. Being the first of May and "All Sweeps' Day" a couple of chimney-sweeps perambulated after the custom of their calling in Old England. Having obtained permission from the City Council one of the sweeps of Adelaide appeared as "Jack-in-the-Green." Though not on such a pretentious scale as adopted in the Home cities the demonstration was sufficient to maintain the time-honoured custom. "Jack-in-the-Green" consisted of a garland formed of holly and ivy framed upon hoops, shaped like an extinguisher and crowned with the broom, which is such an essential part of the chimney-sweeper's scientific appliances. Inside was Jack, who walked almost wholly unseen, though his feet indicated the presence of a man within. The garland, which appeared like a moving hillock of evergreens, was supported by a couple of young men, whose duty apparently was to guard "Jack in the Green" from being roughly handled, and to guide him about the streets. Two youngsters with soot-black faces, carrying shovels and other familiar utensils, lent quite an ancient feature to the scene, while another son of soot, conspicuous by the coronals of flowers that decorated his head, went in and about the crowd of citizens, gathering in the coins that the chimney explorer expects to collect as a matter of course. The sight was new to most colonials, especially the "natives," many of whom were unacquainted with this old if not venerated institution.

The Mercury, 13 May 1890, page 2.


1854, 1 May: MAY DAY. - A few ragged Jacks in the Green, and a particularly dirty set of dancing chummies strolling through the streets, reminded the citizens this morning that the merry month of May had arrived to usher in the dismal season of winter. Whether the money market is tight, or whether the custom is looked upon by capitalists as one more honoured in the breach than in the observance, we cannot say ; but this we observed, that coppers seemed scarce, and that, with the exception of a little mouth honour from a tail of noisy urchins, nothing of a substantial kind rewarded the exertions of the "seedy ones."

The Courier, 1 May 1854, page 2.

1855, 1 May: 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.

1869, 1 May: JACK IN THE GREEN. - Business must be very bad among the sweeps of Hobart Town, or there must be a great lack of enterprise among them. Saturday was the 1st of May, but not a single "Jack in the Green" was to be seen in the city, at least none came under our observation, nor have we heard of any having been seen.

The Courier, 3 May 1869, page 2.

1870, 1 May: MAY DAY. - The old English festivities connected with the celebration of May Day, with but one exception, that of "Jack-in-the-Green," were altogether wanting in Hobart Town yesterday. Early in the morning, the streets were paraded by some half-dozen ludicrously-dressed individuals, who, to the noise produced by a cracked ancient-looking drum, danced round a May-pole, in which, as if seated upon a spindle, revolved some hardly-used individual, whose face the public were prevented from seeing. Whether from the attractions of the "music," the tripping on the light fantastic toe, the absurdity of the dresses worn by the company, or from the recollections of the old country induced by the spectacle, we know not, but the grotesque exhibition was followed by crowds of people, the number of the school-truant genus present arguing a small attendance at the various scholastic academies. The celebration of May Day is fast becoming an obsolete custom even in England, and we think Australasian institutions would not have much cause to mourn were it to be altogether discarded in this part of the world. Leaving out of the question the unmeaningness of the exhibition, to Australians in particular, the question is a very pertinent one, as to whether from the glaring colours adorning the irrepressible local sweeps on these occasions, and the noise, and crowds accompanying the exhibition, the shows do not seriously imperil the public safety, as on more than one occasion have horse boltings and other accidents been chronicled on previous May Days.

The Mercury, 3 May 1870, page 2.

1872, 1 May: JACK IN THE GREEN. - Yesterday being the first of May, the local chimney sweeps indulged in the old farce, "Jack in the Green." Attired in grotesque costumes a company of the ludicrous celebrants promenaded the streets of the town, their antics and capers round "the man in the green," to the music of a bass drum and concertina, receiving recognition in the form of innumerable small coins of the realm.

The Mercury, 2 May 1872, page 2.

1873, 1 May: "JACK IN THE GREEN." - Yesterday being the annual festivity among the sweeps was celebrated with the usual honours. From early morn till eve "Jack in the Green" might have been seen parading the streets with his attendant satellites, dressed in the most fantastical style, ever and again halting to give expression to their merriment, which appeared to be on their feet, from the extra shuffles and contortions they put these useful organs to. As usual the procession caused a great deal of fun, various attempts at practical joking being essayed, which generally resulted in favour of "Jack." No doubt after the extra exertions of the day, a proper provision had been made for a jovial evening, the feet having been in great requisition all day giving place to the other extremity, which, doubtless, had been preserved for the greater strain in the further commemoration of the time-honoured "Jack in the Green." The custom is a good old English one, and it is pleasant to see it kept up.

The Mercury, 2 May 1873, page 2.

Additional Acknowledgements

Thanks to Paul Burgess for the Cheltenham reference, and to Philip Heath-Coleman for a couple of geographical corrections.

Keith Chandler - 6.4.10

Article MT239

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