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The stories behind Shamley Green's trees



There follows a brief history of some of the trees around the Red Lion pub and on Court House Green, to the best of our knowledge and with thanks to Michael Harding for historical information. The numbers are the reference in our inventory. The dates given are when we know, or think, they were planted:

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ASH TREES nos. 5, 6, 7 & 130 by the Red Lion pub, planted about 1950

The scene in front of the Red Lion now doesn't look all that different from that depicted by artist Thomas J. Purchas in the 1890s, but in fact the trees in his painting are elms, a tree once extremely common in the UK until Dutch elm disease virtually eliminated it from our landscape in the 1960s.

Thomas Purchas' elms were still around in the 1940s when there are records of wartime evacuees having fun climbing them, but they must have been in decline by then, maybe just due to old age, because in the great tidying up of the UK for the Festival of Britain in the early 1950s they were replaced with the row of ash trees we see there today.

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'Red Lion' painting by Thomas J. Purchas, 1890s
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Unfortunately the ash trees are now in trouble with Ash Dieback, as can be seen in this photo taken in early 2023. This is a serious fungal disease causing leaf loss and crown dieback in affected trees, eventually leading to the death of the tree.  Research from the UK and Europe has found that 7 or 8 out of every 10 ash trees may die (although there are some local variations), but some trees do show some levels of tolerance and may even recover over time.

As well as the very susceptible Common Ash (Fraxinus excelsior), we do also have three Manna Ash (Fraxinus ornus) trees on Easteds Green and one on the Cricket Green which have a better chance of survival because this species is only infected in the foliage not the wood.

Diseased branch on Ash no.7, photo by Patrick Mannix

Commemorative trees on Court House Green:

COPPER BEECH no.18 planted 1987- THE GREAT STORM!

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Copper beech no.18 planted 1987

This copper beech, no.18, was given to the village by the Women's Institute to replace one of the many trees in Shamley Green lost in the  great storm of October 1987, in this case probably one planted for King George's 1935 Jubilee.

The storm caused enormous damage to  trees in the whole of Southern England - the soil was saturated from weeks of heavy rainfall, and when 115mph hurricane force winds arrived with the trees still in full leaf they were simply torn from the earth, or if the roots held then the trunks snapped!

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Devastation in St. Mary's churchyard, Shalford, caused by the 1987 storm

Holidaymakers flying home to Gatwick over the devastated scene were horrified to see below them thousands of trees lying like matchsticks on the ground. Eighteen people died, and the repair bill was probably in the region of two billion pounds.  Amid the chaos of destroyed homes, blocked roads and railway lines, loss of power and telecommunications, it was estimated that some fifteen million trees were uprooted or smashed - in woodlands, forests, arboreta, parks and city streets.

King George BEECH no.19  and OAK no.20 planted 1935

These two trees on Court House Green, next to Woodhill Lane, were planted in commemoration of the Silver Jubilee of George V in 1935,  marking 25 years of his reign. King George and Queen Mary were the first British monarchs to celebrate a Silver Jubilee.

Now nearly a hundred years after planting and having survived the 1987 storm, both of the King George trees are in good health and maybe after another hundred years will add to our total of veteran trees.

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Oak no.20 planted 1935
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Beech no.19 planted 1935

Margaret Cawsey's  ORNAMENTAL APPLE no. 21 on Court House Green,  planted 2002

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Apple no.21 fruits, photo by Patrick Mannix

The little apple tree planted in  2002 in memory of Margaret Cawsey is lovely in spring when covered in blossom and later in the year laden with golden fruits. It's probably the variety known as 'Butterball'.

Margaret Cawsey was much loved in the village - she was a very kind person and very keen to help the elderly, often taking them food she had cooked. She set up Village Care in the 1990s, a service helping old people who couldn't get out and about, which is still going to this day. In complete contrast, as a young woman one of her first jobs was making prosthetic eyeballs!


Her sudden death in 2002 at Covent Garden where she was attending an opera was a shock to everyone. Her husband Graham planted this memorial tree on Woodhill Lane, just down the road from Woodhill Farm where they lived together.

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Apple no.21, April 2023

Michael Harding's  HORNBEAM no. 129 on Court House Green


This hornbeam has been planted to celebrate the 90th birthday of Michael Harding, who has lived in the village since his birth, and to thank him for all that he has done, and still does, for the community. He has a wealth of knowledge about the village, and a particular interest in trees, and his help has been invaluable in compiling this collection of Shamley Green's tree stories.

It was decided to plant a very young sapling to avoid the need for staking, which will in turn encourage robust root and trunk growth. There is protection against nibbling animals and clumsy mowers, but the little plant is able to move within that protection and it should develop a resilient root and trunk structure as a result.

When mature this will be a magnificent tree maybe 30m in height, providing a lovely display of catkins every spring and rich autumn colours for the next 300 years or more.

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Michael Harding and Hornbeam no.129
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This photo was taken only about 9 weeks after planting, and it has grown already!

For the stories behind some of the trees on Duck Pond Green and Malthouse Green see Tree Stories 1

and for trees on and around the Cricket Green and at Lords Hill see Tree Stories 3

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