About this image
The present inn was built in 1750, and is actually the result of two separate inns joining together. The Green Man has its origins in the Jack o'the Green, the main figure in medieval May Day festivities, put to death and then restored to life to comfort his disconsolate May Queen. He was no doubt originally a nature God, but later represented the Resurrection, hence his appearance in medieval carvings in churches as a head wreathed in leaves and foliage. The present Green Man sign depicting a hunter in a green jacket is an unfortunate modern idea. The present inn derived the addition of 'Royal' after Queen Victoria, when still a young princess, called in for tea one day. It became well-known through its connection with James Boswell and Dr Johnson. Indeed, as Dr Johnson remarks: 'There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good inn or tavern'. They never actually stayed there, but were given a meal by Mrs Killingley, the landlady, on one of Dr Johnson's visits to his friend Dr Taylor. Boswell records: 'I took my post-chaise from the Green Man, a very good inn at Ashbourne, the Mistress of which, a mighty civil gentlewoman, curtseying very low, presented me with an engraving of the sign of her house; to which she had sojoined in her own handwriting, an address in such singular simplicity of style that I have preserved it, pasted upon one of the boards of my original journal at this time, and shall here insert it for the amusement of my readers. M Killingley's duty waits upon Mr Boswell; is exceedingly obliged to him for this favour, whenever he comes this way, hopes for a continuance of the same. Would Mr Boswell name the house to his extensive acquaintance. It would be a singular favour conferred on one who has it not in her power to make any other return but her most grateful thanks and sincere prayers for his happiness in time and in a blessed eternity'. You will find the sign of the Green Man referred to in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest inn sign in the world. The full name is 'The Royal Green Man and Blackamoor's Head Commercial and Family hotel'.