UPDATE: There have been some slight changes to the route – the details below have been updated based on an email on Saturday morning.

Had an email over the weekend confirming the route for the Jack in the Green procession that takes place on May Day – and as that happens to be on a Saturday this year, it is worth highlighting as something to keep an eye out for.

The Fowlers Troop Jack in the Green was revived by members of Blackheath Morris Men and friends in the early 1980s. It is a revival of a Jack in the Green from about 1906 which was taken out around Deptford, South East London on May Day by the original Fowlers Troop.

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No one actually seems to be entirely sure what the Jack in the Green was, or how long the tradition of parading a decorated “wicker-man” around a town has been around, but it seems to be only a few hundred years old.

Wikipedia suggests that in the 16th and 17th centuries in England people would make garlands of flowers and leaves for the May Day celebration. After becoming a source of competition between Works Guilds, these garlands became increasingly elaborate, to the extent that it covered the entire man. This became known as Jack in the Green.

For some reason the figure became particularly associated with chimney sweeps; there are several explanations thereof, but none has been proven conclusively.

By the turn of the 19th century the custom had started to wane as a result of the Victorian disapproval of bawdy and anarchic behaviour (IanVisits passim). The Lord and Lady of the May, with their practical jokes, were replaced by a pretty May Queen, while the noisy, drunken Jack in the Green vanished altogether from the parades.

Over the past couple of decades, the revival of the tradition has progressed and quite a few towns now recreate the annual May Day procession – although the Rochester Sweeps is undeniably the largest example, and is now a whole weekend of events associated with the above mentioned chimney sweeps.

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As the Fowlers Troop & the Deptford Jack in the Green website noted “In contrast, the Deptford Jack in the Green, in South East London, is not very widely known although it has been running since the early 1980s.”

Well dear reader – now you also know about it, so get down to Southwark, or by St Paul’s Cathedral on Saturday and give them some encouragement!

The route for May Day is as follows (postcodes linked to Google Maps):

11.00: Greening the Jack at The Rake, 14 Winchester Walk, London SE1 9AG. Bring some flowers and help decorate the Jack.

12:30: Depart to Clink Street and then Bankside to:

12:45: Cross the Millennium Bridge to:

13.00: The Centre Page, 29 Knightrider Street, London EC4V 5BH,

13:50: Return to Bankside across the Millennium Bridge, then Hopton Street, Great Suffolk Street and Union Street to:

14.05: the Charles Dickens, 160 Union Street, London SE1 0LH,

15.00: Depart via Union Street and Southwark Street to:

15.15: The Wheatsheaf, 24 Southwark Street, London SE1 1TY,

15.45: Depart via Stoney Street to:

15.55: The Rake SE1 9AG.

All the photos from last year’s parade.

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for the article and the nice pictures – come and say hello if you are there this year.

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