Jack O'Legs

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The Grave of Jack O'Legs in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, Weston

In folklore, Jack O'Legs is a giant from Hertfordshire, England. Jack is said to have been an archer who, like Robin Hood, robbed the rich to give to the poor. His supposed grave is in the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, Weston.

Legend[edit]

According to local legend, Jack lived in a cave in a wood at Weston near the mediaeval town of Baldock,[1] When one year there was a poor harvest, the Baldock bakers raised the price of flour, so Jack ambushed the bakers and gave the flour to his friends in Weston. In revenge, the bakers caught and blinded him. They gave him a final wish. Jack asked to be pointed in the direction of Weston, so he could shoot an arrow with his bow. Where the arrow landed, he wished to be buried. The bakers gave him his huge bow which nobody else could pull. He shot his arrow three miles, into the churchyard of Holy Trinity Church, Weston, which is where he was buried.[2]

History[edit]

A polemical poem attacking Cardinal Wolsey, Speak Parrot, by John Skelton, written c. 1521, mentions that "The gibbett of Baldock was made for Jack Leg".[2] Baldock was founded c. 1148, so the legend dates from after that time.[2] The practice described in the legend of capturing and locally executing a person caught in the act of stealing, called infangthief, is early mediaeval.[2] Nathanael Salmon recorded the legend in his 1728 History of Hertfordshire.[2][3]

Legacy[edit]

The board on the grave of Jack O'Legs

Two stones, supposed to be 14 feet (4.3 m) apart, mark the head and foot of Jack's grave.[2] The field on the site of Jack's cave is called 'The Cave' and the neighbouring field is called 'Weston Wood'. A steep incline on the Great North Road near Graveley is called "Jack’s Hill". There is a Jack O'Legs storyboard sign on Weston village green. Tring Brewery brews an ale named after Jack O'Legs.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "History of Baldock: The Knights Templar". Baldock Museum & Local History Society. Retrieved 2013-06-12. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Lewis, Katy (September 2008). "Myths and Legends: Jack O'Legs: A tall tale!". BBC. Retrieved 2013-06-12. 
  3. ^ Salmon, Nathanael (1728). The History of Hertfordshire describing the County and its Ancient Monuments. 

External links[edit]