13th September 1843. The Green Man.

Today in 1843 the opium taking and mystic, Rev. Robert Stephen Hawker is credited with being the founder of the church harvest festival, when in the parish of Morwenstow in Cornwall, he put up a notice inviting the parishioners to a special thanksgiving. ‘Let us gather together in the Chancel…and there receive the bread of the new crop’.

This identification of the ‘oneness’ with the earth was a theme of the medieval church reflected in the multitude of ‘Green Foliate Men’ on pillar and roof, a recognition of pagan practice never erased from Christianity, a tradition going back to the Roman depiction of Bacchus entwined with acanthus and vine leaves.

Disgorging medieval misericorde, Lord.

Disgorging medieval misericord, Lord.

Wood carving foliate man, Renaissance screen. Dore Abbey.

Wood carving foliate man, Renaissance screen. Dore Abbey.

Rites going back to the mists of time where Jack- in-the-Green was carried about on May Day, and the modern Maypole and Rogation-Tide ceremonies, on the fifth Sunday after Easter.

Celebrations, involving the blessing of crops, all to be revived in the Rev.Hawker’s Harvest Festival, with its associated Corn Dollies.


Kilpeck Green Man.

However nothing surpasses the most enduring pagan symbol: the Green Man, as at Kilpeck, near the Welsh Border, where the saints adorn the chancel arch, but the vault over the altar features the Green Man.

Medieval Roof Boss, Rochester, Kent.

Medieval Roof Boss, Rochester, Kent.

The ‘Green Man’ decorates for instance many of the thousand or so roof bosses at Norwich Cathedral, see below.

Green Man at Norwich

Green Man at Norwich.

Another example in Wales is at Pennal, Gwynedd, in the East Window of the church, probably the only example in Britain of a Green Man, in glass.


Pennal Green Man.

It was Lady Raglan’s work on Folk-Lore of 1939, which revived an interest in Green Men after being shown a carving at St Jerome’s Church at Llangwm Mons. She saw these as ‘Men’ -‘Green Men’-which name they have retained ever since.(1)

It is ironic that at the time when Hawker’s worshippers were thanking the Lord for the harvest, in the industrial towns there were bread riots.

However the rioters could at least find solace in the village pub: The Green Man.



(1) Folk-Lore Journal. V 50 Issue 1. 1939. Lady Raglan was the wife of the 4th Lord Raglan.



wikipedia.org/green men images.

The Green Man. Keith Batsford.

Green Man and Oneness with Earth. William Anderson.


fictionfanblog.wordpress/Pic of Kilpeck.

dailytelegraph.co.uk/Mike Haynes. Alamy/Pic of Norwich.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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