On May Day — aka, Wed 1st May — a tall green man will walk around parts of South London.
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.
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.
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.
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 Deptford or Greenwich to see the parade.
They plan to follow their usual route starting at the Dog and Bell, Prince Street from midday. The route should be posted on their website — so check here for the details.