National Tree Week

The UK’s largest tree celebration, National Tree Week, has been running since 1975 and launches the winter tree planting season. This week, in honour of our ‘treescape’, we take a look at the trees and forest in Hampshire through items in our University Special Collections.


King Edward VIII planting a tree at Adsdean Park, Mountbatten’s house in West Sussex, summer 1936. MB2/L17 p58

There is a long – and royal – tradition of tree planting for commemoration and celebration: in this photo, King Edward VIII wields a spade at Adsdean, Earl Mountbatten’s home in West Sussex – (note the pipe!) Mountbatten’s guests were often invited to plant trees. In April 1957, H.M. the Queen and Prince Philip planted mulberry trees in the gardens at Broadlands to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the granting of Romsey’s Royal Charter. During the royal jubilee in 1977 the Queen returned to Hampshire to plant trees at Ampfield and Woodley.


Watercolour view of Broadlands and Romsey, n.d. MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR Map 142.

Earlier owners of Broadlands were also concerned that trees should enhance the beauty of the pleasure grounds. After a ‘perfect hurricane’ in March 1842, Samuel Hereman, head gardener at Broadlands, wrote to Viscount Palmerston to report damage to a great many trees:

“One of the large elm trees in the pleasure ground immediately behind the dairy yard fell, broke down the cow shed, where the cows were, and took off a piece of the garden wall, but I am happy to say all the cows escaped unhurt. The large tree in the stable yard near the kitchen entrance to the mansion fell and took down with it all the wall from the small door leading through the shrubbery to the ashes and faggot shed immediately adjoining the brushing room.  The tiled roof of the stables is considerably deranged, many parts quite stripped.  The fine Cedar of Lebanon close by the large doors entering into the pleasure ground at the east front of the mansion lost two of its largest limbs, which in their fall, broke down the wooden fence and wall, and drove the coping stones to a considerable distance.  Besides these many of the finest trees have lost very large branches and others have been torn up by the roots both in the pleasure ground and park…” [BR114/5/17/1-2]

The Broadlands estate papers show that Palmerston was keen to replace these losses – in November that year Hereman listed more than 200 shrubs and trees ‘arrived from London’ including ‘40 Lombardy Poplars… 6 Leucomb [Lucombe] Oaks… 40 Pinus Pallasiana’ [pines] and ‘6 Upright Cypress’ trees [BR114/6/53]. One of the more exotic trees to be planted was the Monkey Puzzle tree.  In May 1842, Palmerston was sent a small box containing two cones of the Araucanian Pine from Colonel John Walpole in Chile.  “You will often have heard of the beauty of this tree in its conformation and I know of no one of the species which can rival it for size and proportions.  I send you these seeds because from the applications which I have directly and indirectly received from English nurserymen I have reason to think that they have not yet become common…”[BR114/5/37-8]

By May 1843, Hereman had carefully planted the seeds in the vinery, the melon yard, and the new greenhouse at Broadlands, exactly following ‘the last directions given in the Gardener’s Chronicle’ [BR114/8/17]. By this date the practice of managing and planting woodland was becoming more scientific, aided by the growing number of publications offering advice. Timber after all was a valuable resource for estate owners. Early examples among our rare book collection at Southampton include: The Manner of Raising, Ordering, and improving Forrest-Trees by M. Cook, published in 1676; and A sure method of improving estates by plantations of Oak Elm Ash Beech and other timber-trees, by Batty Langley, 1728 [Rare Books Perkins SD 391].  William Cobbett – the famous farmer and political commentator who lived in Hampshire – also wrote The Woodlands, a treatise that was serialised in the Political Register between 1825-8.

So trees have been associated with both profit and pleasure down the ages. Some are even visited as tourist attractions, famous due to their size or age. You might have seen the ancient Knightwood Oak near Lyndhurst, thought to be from 450 to 600 years old, and probably the oldest oak in the New Forest.  Other local trees acquired notoriety for more amazing reasons:


The Hampshire Wonder or The Groaning Tree being a full and true account of the Groaning Tree, in the New Forest, near Limington in Hampshire, which has been heard for some time past by thousands of people, who come from all parts to hear this amazing and portentous noise, by P.Q. M D. F.R.S., London, 1742, Cope 97.58.

The Groaning Tree apparently stood ‘about two Miles distant from Limington in a solitary part of the New Forest’. It was a famous elm tree ‘which has been heard to groan like a human Creature in the Agonies of Death, for several Hours together’…. ‘the amazing Groans which are now every Day heard to proceed from its Trunk; and these indeed are so terrible and shocking to human Nature, that few who hear them have Power to stir from the Place till proper Cordials have been administred to revive their sinking Spirits and confounded Imaginations.’

Enjoy National Tree Week!


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