A popular nursery rhyme, still in circulation after 200 years. The first known printing dates from 1725, but the rhyme was taken up by the chapbook publishers and incorporated into a much longer rhyming tale entitled ‘The History of Jack Horner’ printed a number of times later in the 18th century. A 19th-century explanation of the story claims that it celebrates one Tom Horner who was steward to Richard Whiting, Abbot of Glastonbury, at the time of the Dissolution. Whiting entrusted Horner with a pie in which title deeds had been secreted to be delivered to Henry VIII. As in the rhyme, Horner opened the pie and thus became a major landowner. The story has little to connect it to the rhyme beyond the surname Horner, and is unlikely to be worth pursuing.
Opie and Opie, 1997: 275–9.