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Jack o' Legs

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This Jack was a legendary robber near Weston (Hertfordshire); he was tall enough to look in at the upstairs windows of large houses. Like Robin Hood, he robbed the rich but fed the poor; according to the earliest account, in Nathaniel Salmon's History of Hertfordshire (1728), certain bakers, furious that he had stolen their bread, caught him unawares, blinded him, and hanged him. Again like Robin Hood, his last request was to be handed his bow and buried wherever the arrow fell; two stones in Weston churchyard, fourteen and a half feet apart, are said to mark the grave in which he lies—doubled up!

A massive thighbone used to be displayed as his, but was bought from the parish clerk by the 17th-century antiquary John Tradescant. It passed to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, where in the early 19th century it was still labelled ‘Thigh-bone of a Giant’, until identified as an elephant's leg-bone and discarded. A signboard recently erected in the village illustrates Jack's story (Hertfordshire Countryside (June 1998), 28).

Jones-Baker, 1977: 47–9;E. P. Emslie, Folk-Lore 26 (1915), 156;Westwood, 1985: 139–40.

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