A Jack-in-the-Green was once a traditional sight amongst English May Day celebrations. Dancing at the head of processions on the day, often noisy and drunk, the Jack-in-the-Green was a man who covered himself in a conical or pyramidal framework decorated with green foliage, concealing his body. He resembled a walking tree or bush. The parades were riotous affairs, usually consisting of a King and Queen (or a Lord and Lady) as well as the Jack-in-the-Green, together with jesters, clowns, chimney sweeps and musicians.
It is believed that the custom began from the tradition of making garlands of flowers for May Day and got a little out of hand, resulting in the Jack-in-the-Green being covered head to foot. Although no-one is too sure why the Jack-in-the-Green is usually associated with chimney sweeps. One theory is that it was the Sweeps Guilds who increasingly enlarged the size of the May Day garlands, hoping that the people watching the procession would give them their coins as they passed by rather than donate them to the other participants in the parade. (May Day was a traditional holiday for chimney sweeps; it is sometimes known as ‘Chimney Sweeper’s day’.) First recorded in London, Jack-in-the-Greens were soon appearing across the country.
Although Jack-in-the-Greens can still be seen in some town and village May Day celebrations, often associated now with the custom of the Green Man and signifying spring and rebirth, the custom largely died out in the Victorian era, replaced instead by a more sedate May Queen.
We’ve found some references to eighteenth-century May Day celebrations which include Jack-in-the-Greens in the newspapers. The earliest known reference dates to 1775.
Jack of the Green had made his garland by five in the morning, and got under his shady building by seven…
(Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, 2nd May 1775)
May Day in London, 1786 was awash with events which caused the newspapers to take note. Warren Hastings, statesman and first Governor of the Presidency of Fort William in Bengal, India was facing questions by government ministers over his role in the Maratha War, Frances Lewis stood trial at the Old Bailey for the murder of Ann Rose and a Jack-in-the-Green merrily cantered through the London streets.
Yesterday being the first of May, several curious Circumstances took Place. – The Sweeps and Milkmaids, with Jack o’ th’ Green, danced through the Streets – Mr. Hastings appeared at the Bar of the House of Commons to defend his Cause, though no Impeachment is yet made out – And a Woman tried a the Old-Bailey for the Murder of another Woman, was found guilty of Manslaughter.
(Northampton Mercury, 6th May 1786)
Yesterday being the 1st of May, the Honourable Mrs. Montague entertained the Chimney-sweepers according to annual custom, with roast beef, mutton, and baked plumb-pudding, in the lawn of her house in Portman-square, and after their regale gave them each a shilling. Mrs. Montague appeared in good spirits among the Nobility whom she invited to see the motley company. The outside of the place was thronged with people, carriages, and carts; among the latter several broke down by being overloaded with spectators. The Duchess of York, in her curricle, stopped some time, and seemed highly delighted with the Jacks in the Green, the pyramids of tankards, and the dancing of the sweeps and their ladies on the lawn.
(Staffordshire Advertiser, 6th May 1797)
We’ll leave you with this video of a modern day Jack-in-the-Green, from the May Day Festival at Hastings in 2016.
Sources not mentioned above:
Jack in the Green – a chimney sweep’s tale by Lucy Lilliman, Social History intern at Leeds Museums and Galleries, 2013
Edward Weld, son of Humphrey Weld and Margaret Simeons of Lulworth Castle was taken to court by his wife the Honourable Catherine Elizabeth, daughter of Lord Aston.
The couple married June 22, 1727, but according to Catherine her husband was impotent. The trial took place in 1732. The couple had lived together for the vast majority of their marriage, but Catherine confirmed that the marriage was never actually consummated. Edward acknowledged that she was ‘able, apt and fit for the procreation of children’.
At this point Catherine decided that they could no longer cohabit; Edward’s view however, was, that ‘many married people live together like brother and sister’. The couple were Catholic and as such deemed marriage to be as sacrament. Edward confirmed to Catherine’s father that it was true, the marriage had not been consummated, the reason for this being that he had ‘an outward defect which prevented him from consummation‘. Catherine’s father recommended that Edward visit a doctor who he felt sure would be able to quickly remedy this problem.
Three midwives were produced:
…that they are all well skilled in the art and practice of midwifery, and have very carefully and diligently inspected the private parts of the Hon. Catherine Elizabeth Weld, which are naturally designed for carnal copulation; and that to the best of their skills and knowledge she is a virgin and never had carnal copulation with any man whatsoever.
Depositions on behalf of Edward were made:
Edward Weld Esq. deposed, that he was of the age of 26, and has all the parts of his body which constitute a man perfect and entire, more particularly those parts which nature formed for the propagation of his species and the act of carnal copulation, in full and just proportion and was and is capable of carnally knowing Catherine Elizabeth Weld, his wife, or any other woman. And during the time he cohabited with his wife, his private member was often turgid, dilated and erected, as was necessary to perform the act of carnal copulation; and that he did as such time consummate his marriage by carnally lying wit and knowing his wife.
Mr Williams, an eminent surgeon, deposed that Mr Weld came to him in June 1728 and that upon examining his penis, he found the frenulum too straight, which he set at liberty by clipping it with a pair of scissors, and on examining that part again the next day, found nothing amiss in the organs of generation.
Five surgeons carried out an inspection of Edward too and agreed that he was perfectly capable of carnal copulation.
Having heard all the evidence, in a nutshell, Catherine Elizabeth was told to return to her husband and, in effect, to ‘put up and shut up’ the wording being that she should ‘remain in perpetual silence’. It was a decision which many felt at the time was cruel and unjust. In order to save face, Edward decided to counter-sue Catherine for libel and won but could not remarry until Catherine died in 1739.
Edward died in 1761 and his will dated April 17, 1755, makes for interesting reading as he left the majority of his estate to his son, Edward (born 1741), with other beneficiaries named as his second son John (born 1742), third son Thomas (born 1750) and daughter Mary (born 1753).
So, was the marriage eventually consummated? Presumably not, for after Catherine’s death Edward went on to marry Mary Theresa Vaughan (who died 1754) with whom he had the above named children.
June 12, 1773, Edward Weld’s son, Edward wrote his will. He made reference to his late wife, the Honourable Lady Juliana (who died 1772) and left everything to his brother Thomas. His will was proven November 7, 1775, just after he died from a fall from his horse and only four months after he married Maria Smythe (married July 13, 1775 at Twyford, Hampshire), who was later to become Maria Fitzherbert, the secret wife of the future King George IV but, as Edward Weld junior didn’t have chance to update his will, Maria was left with nothing at his death.
Lulworth Castle created by Margaret Weld, mother of Edward Weld senior. Courtesy of SPL Rare Books
Recently, I wrote an account of the life and times of Dr Thomas Gibson (1648/9–1722) for Early Modern Medicine. Gibson is best known for his book The Anatomy of Humane Bodies Epitomised (at least six editions from 1682), but he was briefly physician-general to the British Army while in his 70s. He is also known in the context of his second wife, Anne Cromwell, who was a granddaughter of the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell.
While researching the piece, I read about how Gibson’s first wife, Elizabeth (1646–1692) was a widow from Stanstead St Margaret’s, Hertfordshire. Most accounts of Thomas Gibson describe Elizabeth as the widow of Zephaniah Cresset, which indeed she was, but what is left out is that Elizabeth was also widowed a second time, before marrying Gibson in 1684.
The information about Elizabeth’s life comes from her third husband who published an autobiography along with her funeral sermon, A Sermon Preach’d on the Occasion of the Funeral of Mrs Elizabeth Gibson, together with a Short Account of her Life (London, 1692), shortly after her death at the age of 46.
Gibson opens by describing how his wife had lately lived a quiet, retired life, and that she was a deeply pious woman who spent her days in charitable endeavours and prayer, and who unfortunately did not enjoy good health. He hoped her life story might provide an instructional text and others should follow her example. He claimed he was best placed to represent her life and views because of his ‘long Conversation’ with his late wife but also how he had observed her Christian walking. Their marriage was in fact only around eight years long, but it was a full six years before Gibson made a new marriage to Anne. Throughout the short autobiography, Gibson quotes extensively from Elizabeth’s spiritual meditations, explaining to the reader that her words will always be surrounded by ‘Double comma’s’ (sic) or speech marks.
Elizabeth was the third daughter of a lawyer, George Smith who practiced at Grey’s Inn, London, and who was appointed judge to Scotland in 1658. He died shortly after the family relocated to Edinburgh and Elizabeth described how vulnerable she, her mother, Hannah, and younger sister felt at being alone in a strange place 300 miles from their nearest relatives. Her father’s death then was the first of the ‘great afflictions’ which Elizabeth lived through. Soon afterwards and from the age of fourteen, Elizabeth contracted a ‘Quatane-ague’ which she had for two years. It was Gibson’s opinion that this illness was the root of all the subsequent ill-health Elizabeth endured.
It was when she was 17, and somewhat recovered, that she was married to Zephaniah Cresset. Cresset was the son of Edward Cresset Master of the alms house and school Charter-House in London from 1650-1660, but was like Elizabeth, from Stanstead St Margaret’s in Hertfordshire – indeed the Smith and Cresset family graves are alongside one another in the same church(1).
Zephaniah was educated at Magdalene College, Oxford and who was planning on working as a doctor of physic in the future. The Cresset marriage only lasted a few months. The couple were living in Elizabeth’s mother’s home at St Margaret’s, and while travelling back there from London Zephaniah fell from his horse, which caused him to contract a fever and he died within a few days of the fall.
While still a teenager, Elizabeth found herself both widowed and expecting her first child. Her son, named after his father, was born seven months after her husband’s death. Worse was to come when the child, a healthy and thriving toddler died suddenly aged just 18 months in October 1665. Elizabeth’s younger sister Mary, died at this time too, both were victims of the Great Plague which swept the country that year, and which claimed five members of Elizabeth’s family, including her father-in-law (who died in December 1665).
Her family began putting pressure on Elizabeth to remarry almost immediately, but it was around three years later that she felt moved by God to marry a physician called Thomas Dawson. Dawson graduated with a medical degree from Jesus College, Cambridge in summer 1669, and was admitted to the College of Physicians a decade later. Elizabeth and Thomas were married for almost fourteen years, and it was a source of great sadness to her that they had no children together.
Throughout the marriage it seems that she suffered from bouts of ill-health including gallstones, colic, bowel problems and jaundice. Like during her first marriage, the couple lived with Elizabeth’s mother in St Margaret’s, but following her mother’s death in 1677 the couple relocated to London.
In 1682, Elizabeth went back to her country home to recuperate from the measles. She had not been there long when she got the sad news that Dr Dawson had died suddenly in their London house. He was buried in St Alphage, Cripplegate (2).
Gibson describes how this latest bereavement caused her to suffer from ‘hysterical Colick’ for a ‘year or two’ afterwards. It was two and half years after losing her second husband that Elizabeth married Gibson. She was never wholly well during their entire seven year marriage, suffering from loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, painful limbs, and even convulsions.
It seems as though she still had some hopes of a family when she wrote a will on 20 December 1687. In it she bequeathed lands she owned in Hertfordshire to her husband, followed by any children she might yet bear him. She also placed on record her desire to be buried back at St Margaret’s next to her mother and son (3).
While the autobiography describes Elizabeth’s exemplary Christian suffering and ‘good death’, it does not appear that her stated wish to be buried back in St Margaret’s was accommodated and her place of rest is not noted.
If this post has piqued your interest in health matters at this time, Sara’s next book Maladies and Medicines: Exploring Health and Healing, 1540-1740, co-authored with Dr Jennifer Evans, is coming out with Pen and Sword in July 2017! Keep an eye on Sara’s Twitter feed for more information (@saralread) and also Jennifer’s Twitter feed (@historianjen).
Dr Evans will also be appearing on the ‘Inside Versailles‘ programme with Greg Jenner and Kate Williams on BBC2, 26 May, so keep an eye out for it.
1 Sir Henry Chauncy, The Historical Antiquities of Hertfordshire (1826), p. 569.
Today the majority of us rely on computers, tablets, mobile phones etc. for communication, but obviously, such things did not exist in the eighteenth-century when – shock horror – they used paper and hand-wrote everything. So once again we dip into a most useful book The London Tradesman for today’s article.
The process of manufacturing paper
The use of paper is an ancient invention so the writer of this book has provided a description of how paper was made in the mid eighteenth-century.
Our paper in Europe is made of linen rags; the rags are then picked, separated into parcels, according to their fineness, washed and whited; then they are carried to the paper mills, where they are pounded amongst water till they are reduced to a pulp. When they are beat to a due consistence, they are poured into a working tub where there is a frame of wire, commonly called the paper mould, which is composed of so many wires laid close to one another, equal to the dimensions of the sheet of paper designed to be made; and some of them disposed in the shape of the figure which is discovered in the paper when you hold it betwixt you and the light.
This frame the workman holds in both his hands and plunges it into the tub and takes it quickly up again. The water runs through the spaces between the wires and there remains nothing on the mould but the water pulp, in a thin coat which forms the sheet of paper.
A flannel cloth is laid upon the top of the mould as the paper turned off upon it; then they dip it as before and continue to supply the vessel with fresh matter as it decreases. The flannel cloth sucks up the remaining moisture and the paper, after some time will suffer to be handled and hung up to dry in place properly suited for the purpose.
The writer then describes the process of manufacturing of a French invention, snuff boxes.
Snuff boxes are made of the same material as paper; are to be had at Paris of any colour, but are most commonly black, as ebony and are actually as hard and durable as any made of wood, horn or tortoise-shell. They are made of linen rags, beat to a pulp, as if intended for paper. A large quantity of pulp is put into a vessel and the water allowed to drain off; the pulp is dried and coheres together in a hard vessel, and the water allowed to drain off; the pulp is dried and coheres together in a hard, uniform lump, out of which they turn upon the leath (lathe), boxes or any other kind of toys which for their novelty fetch a large price.
He ends his article with a complaint about how much money is spent in the UK on paper purchased from France, Holland and Genoa who, according to the writer produce the best paper. The French excel in writing-paper and the Genoese in printing paper.
Basically, he is saying that the UK needs to ‘get its act together‘ and to produce a better quality of paper so that it stops buying from abroad!
Collier, John; Trompe l’oeil Painting; The Fitzwilliam Museum.
With Easter almost here, we would like to wish everyone a Happy Easter and share with you some snippets about the way Georgians spent their Easter with some extracts from the newspapers of the day – partying being the most obvious!
We begin with a letter of complaint, clearly from someone who didn’t appreciate many of the celebrations that took place during the year and felt it appropriate to vent his/her annoyance to the editor of the Whitehall Evening Post, we’re only focusing on a snippet from it about Easter though…
Whitehall Evening Post (1770), August 2, 1783 – August 5, 1783
Some things customary refer simply to the idea of feasting, according to the season and occasion. Of these, perhaps, are lambs-wool on Christmas eve; furmety on Mothering Sunday; Braggot (which is a mixture of ale, sugar and spices) at the festival of Easter … lamb at Easter to the Paschal Lamb. This, perhaps, may be the case also with respect to pancakes on Shrove Tuesday; unless that shall be supposed to allude to ‘the egg at Easter’ an emblem of the rising up out of the grave; in the same manner as the chick, entombed as it were in the egg, is in due time brought to life. So also the flowers, with which many churches are ornamented on Easter-day, are most probably intended as emblems of the resurrection having just risen from the earth during the severity of winter, they seem to have been buried.
A custom, which ought to be abolished as improper and indecent, prevails in many places of lifting, as it is called, on Easter Monday and Tuesday. Is this a memorial of Christ being raised from the grave? There is, at least some appearance of it; as there seems to be trace of the decent of the Holy Ghost on the heads of the Apostles in what passes at Whitsuntide fair in some parts of Lancashire; where one person hold a stick over the head of another, whilst a third, unperceived, strikes the stick, and thus gives a smart blow to the first. But this, probably is only local.
The Hampshire Chronicle, Sunday, March 31, 1788
Of the multitude of customs and ceremonies which formerly commanded attention at this season, but very few are preserved; it is however, universally considered as a time appropriate to recreation and innocent festivity. Amongst the common people it is even now a custom in the North to rise early, in order to see the sun dance. We suppose this o have arisen from some metaphorical expression in the sacred writings. Boys carry a vessel of water into the fields, that the sun may seem to dance from the tremulous motion of the water.
Paper eggs, properly pasche eggs, are stained of different colors and covered with gold leaf, and given to young children in the North of England as a fairing. This is a relic of Popish superstition; an egg being considered a type of the resurrection. This custom prevails in Russia; a long account may be seen in Hackluyt’s voyages. Dr. Chandler also in his travels in Asia Minor says ‘they made us presents of coloured eggs and cakes of Easter bread’.
Durand says, that on Easter Tuesday wives used to beat their husbands, on the day following husbands beat their wives.
In the city of Durham the following custom is still preserved: On one day the men take off the women’s shoes, which are only to be redeemed by a small present. On another day the women take off the men’s in a like manner.
In Yorkshire tansy puddings and cakes are made, which custom Seldon, in his ‘Table Talk‘, has referenced to the bitter herbs which the Jews greatly use at this season.
At Newcastle, on Easter Monday a great match is always played at hand ball for a great tansy cake.
Many other incidents might be enumerated, most of which are obsolete, and many generally forgotten; we sincerely however regret, that the memory of anything should be lost, which, by introducing innocent merriment, strengthens the sweet bond of social life.
The Hampshire Chronicle, Monday, April 28, 1794
The belles and beaux, from the fineness of the weather, exceeded far, very far, any number that ever were seen at that favourite spot. From six to eight o’clock, on their return to London, it was one continued throng of holiday people of all ranks and descriptions, from Greenwich park to Westminster bridge. There was no resisting the torrent; and many an honest young woman who was so yesterday morning, will have fatal cause to repent, before this day twelvemonth, the frolic of tumbling down the hill in the park – drunkenness, riots, battles and thefts, as usual, dignified the proceedings. Not less than one hundred thousand persons were present.
At ten in the morning, at least ten thousand equestrians and pedestrians were upon the forest: every species of vehicle from the hand cart and buggy to the light waggon and splendid chariot was there. At one, the stag, bedecked with ribbons was turned out on Fairmaid Bottom – and then the fun began, with running, riding, crossing, jostling, tumbling, hooting, shouting, screaming and howling; which formed the scene that may be seen, but cannot possibly be described, and that indeed never before was exhibited but in a nation of madmen. At four, the stag was at bay in a thicket, near the Royal Oak and was taken and put in a cart and with continual shouts was brought to the starting house in order to afford fresh sport in future.
The Easter Hunt at Epping Forest by Henry William Bunbury, Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Collection
Hugh Dalrymple, father of the celebrated courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliott, had two surviving brothers, Cathcart Dalrymple, a Glasgow merchant and Primrose Dalrymple, a naval officer. Primrose’s wonderfully unusual forename is given a possible explanation in our book An Infamous Mistress: The Life, Loves and Family of the celebrated Grace Dalrymple Elliot.
Primrose had a steady naval career, dying in London at the age of only thirty years and, in his will, leaving everything he owned to the woman he had loved and had intended to marry.
Primrose’s intended spouse was his cousin Susan, the daughter of the Reverend Alexander Orr and his aunt Agnes Dalrymple and, from his will written in 1766, he clearly loved her deeply. The marriage never took place though for Primrose died in 1767 and Susan, after a year of mourning for her lost love, married another man, William Murray of Murraythwaite. She was keeping it in the family too! William Murray’s mother was Elizabeth Dalrymple, and William Murray was therefore also related to both Susan Orr and Primrose Dalrymple.
Susan’s brother was Alexander Orr, a man who would become a Writer to the Signet, trusted (perhaps mistakenly) by all the extended Dalrymple and Brown family (Grace’s maternal relatives); he was named as executor on Primrose’s will but left it unadministered until 1773 when it was finally proved. Neither Hugh nor his family were mentioned at all in the will despite Hugh living in London and being the closest geographically to Primrose at his death, hinting at a rift in the family.
Lieutenant Primrose Dalrymple was buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Islington on 17th April 1767.
You can find out more details of Grace Dalrymple Elliott’s extended family in our biography of her, available now at all good bookshops and via the links above and in the sidebar.
Overmantle painting of Newport c.1740 from a private collection via “Another Pair Not Fellows“; Adventures in Research and Reinterpreting the American Revolution