Page images
PDF
EPUB

stone, Esq., we are enabled to give the dimensions of this tree, as taken in November, 1836. Height, 49 ft.; circumference of the trunk, 16 ft. ; diameter of the head, 68 ft. “This tree stands in a wood of oaks, in which the Castle of Lochwood (the original residence of the Johnstone family) is situated. It is quite vigorous; but most of the other trees are in a state of decay. There are the remains of larger oaks, the diameter of the trunk of one of which is 6 ft. ; but little of its head remains.” An oak at Barjarg, in Nithsdale, in 1796, measured 17 ft. in circumference. In the year 1762, Lord Barjarg was informed by some very old people, that, about 90 years previous to that date, the tree had been bored, with a view to ascertain if it were sound, which it was; and from the margin of the hole bored some branches proceeded, one

of which was then (1762) a considerable bough. (Walker's Essays, p. 6.) The Blind Oak of Keir, on the estate of W. H. Hunter, Esq., is mentioned in the title deeds of the estate, about 200 years ago. In 1810, it measured 17 ft. 2 in. in circumference, at 4 ft. 6 in. from the ground.

Inverness-shire. In a very old oak wood on the north of Loch Arkeg, in Lochaber, Dr. Walker mentions a tree which measured 24 ft. 6 in. in circumference at 4 ft. from the ground. In the same county, Sir Thomas Dick Lauder found the remains of a “magnificent oak forest, not, as is commonly the case, embedded in peat earth, but lying on the surface of the solid ground, as trees would do that had been newly thrown down. Many years must have elapsed since these trees were laid prostrate; for there is now a very old and beautiful birch wood growing on the ground they formerly occupied. We measured one of these trunks, and found it to be 23 ft. long, without a branch; 16 ft. round the but end ; and 11 ft. in circumference towards the smaller end, under the fork. With the exception of an inch or two of the external part, which was weather-wasted, it appeared perfectly fresh. It lay within a yard of the root on which it grew; but it was not easy to determine, from appearances, how it was severed from it. The stump remaining in the ground was worn away in the centre, and hollowed out; so that it now encircles a large birch tree of more than 1 ft. in diameter, self-sown, and growing vigorously, within the ancient shell of the oak.” (Lauder's Gilpin, i. p. 253.) Renfrewshire. The Wallace Oak. (fig. 1621.) At

1621 Ellerslie, the native village of the hero Wallace, there is still standing “ the large oak tree,” among whose branches it is said that he and 300 of his men hid themselves from the English. Its circumference at the base is 21 ft. ; and at 15 ft., 13 ft. 2 in. : its height is 67 ft.; and the expanse

of its boughs is, E. 45 ft., w. 36 ft., s. 30 ft., N. 25 ft. ; thus spreading over an extent of 19 English, or 15 Scotch, poles. This oak, we are informed by Alexander Spiers, Esq., the proprietor of Ellerslie, is still in the same state as when Strutt's drawing was made, of which ours is a reduced copy. ACcording to another legend, Wallace hid himself among the boughs of this oak when his enemies were sacking his house at Ellerslie. (See Miss Porter's Scottish Chiefs, &c.)

Roxburghshire. Near Jedburgh, on the estate of the Marquess of Lothian, stands a remarkable oak, called the King of the Woods. “It is now (January 19. 1837) 16 ft. 6 in. in circumference, at I ft. from the ground; its whole height is 73 ft. ; the height of the trunk, before it forms branches, is 43 ft.; and it is as straight as, and something of the form of, a wax candle. It is, perhaps, the finest piece of oak timber in Scotland; and its beauty has probably saved it from the axe, for it, and its neighbour, the Capon Tree, seem to be a century older than any of the other old trees in the county. The Capon Tree is also an oak; but it possesses quite a different character from that of the King of the Woods; the trunk, and every branch of it, being excessively crooked. At one time, it must have covered an immense space of ground; but, from being long

[graphic]

neglected and ill pruned, the size has been for many years diminishing, though the marquess is now having every possible care taken to keep the tree alive. The circumference of this tree, at 2 ft. from the ground (for it is all root under that height), is 24 ft. 6 in.; and the whole height is 56 ft. : the space the branches overhang is above 92 ft. in diameter. This last tree is said to have been the place where the border clans met in olden times; and hence the name of Capon, from the Scotch word kep, to meet. It stands in a haugh (meadow) close by the side of Jedwater; and the King of the Woods on the top of a bank, about 300 or 400 yards south of it, and both near the old Castle of Ferniberst, and about a mile and a half above the burgh of Jedburgh.” We are indebted for the above account to Mr. Grainger of Harestanes, through the

kindness of the Marquess of Lothian, to whom he is agent.

Stirlingshire. Wallace's Oak, in Tor Wood, the dimensions of which are given by Dr. Walker, is said by some to have been the tree under the branches of which Wallace and 300 of his men concealed themselves, instead of the oak at Ellerslie; while others assert that Wallace concealed himself, after a lost battle, among its boughs. Even in 1771, when Dr. Walker saw it, this tree was in a state of great decay. It had separated in the middle, and one half had mouldered entirely away. “ The other half,” continues Dr. Walker,

remains, and is in one place about 20 ft. high.” The whole of this remnant, Dr. Walker adds, was red wood, from the heart to the very bark, and was “ so hard, even in its putrid state, as to admit of a polish. In this ancient Tor Wood it stands, in a manner, alone.” Compared to it, even the oldest tree near it “is but of very modern date. The memory of its having saved Wallace has, probably, been the means of its preservation, when all the rest of the wood, at different times, has been destroyed.” Dr. Walker concludes by stating his opinion, from the remains that existed in 1771, that the Wallace Oak had once been about 22 ft. in circumference at 4 ft. from the ground. “ Its trunk has never been tall ; for at about 10 ft. from the ground it has divided into several large arms. The tree stands in coarse land, in a deep wet clay soil.” (Essays, &c., p. 9.)

Ireland. There are no very old trees in this country, though there are some very large ones in a state of vigorous growth, as will be seen by our Statistics. On the subject of the old or celebrated trees of Ireland, we have received the following communication :-“ Generally speaking, no timber is suffered to attain any tolerable age now in Ireland ; which is much to be regretted, as, judging from the remains found in great abundance in the bogs, which now occupy the place of the ancient forests, the oak and Scotch pine formerly grew to an enormous size here. I have been assured, by a person of credit, that he has repeatedly found them 8 ft. in diameter, and hopes soon to obtain a specimen of that size.”

Celebrated Oaks in France. The Chapel Oak of Allonville (fig. 1622.) measures, just above the roots, 35 ft. in circumference; and at 5 ft. or 6 ft, 26 ft. A little higher up, it extends to a greater size; and at 8 ft. it throws out enormous branches, which cover a great extent of ground with their shade. The trunk is low, and quite hollow; but the branches produce abundance of leaves and acorns. The lower part of the trunk has been, many years since, trans

1622 formed into a chapel, carefully paved and wainscoted, and closed with an iron gate. Above is a small chamber, containing a bed; and leading to it there is a staircase which turns round the body of the tree. At certain seasons of the year, divine service is performed in this chapel. The summit of the tree has been broken off many years; and over the cavity is a pointed roof, covered with slates, in the form of a steeple, which is surmounted by an iron cross. The cracks which occur in various parts of the tree are also covered with slates. Over the entrance to the chapel there is an inscription, stating that it was formed by the Abbé du Détroit, curate of Allonville, in the

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

year 1696; and over the door of the upper room is a label, dedicating it to « Our Lady of Peace.” Allonville is about a mile from Yvetot, on the road between Rouen and Havre.

The following information we have received from our friend, the Abbé Gosier of Rouen. In the first volume of the Archives annuelles de la Normandie, printed at Caen in 1824, there is an article on the oaks of Fournet, in which, after mentioning that several of these oaks were of enormous size, the following particulars are given of some of them :— The Goulande Oak near Dourfront is about 30 ft. in circumference. The two oaks of Mayior, in the canton of Calvados, are of very great size. The largest is above 42 ft. in circumference at the surface of the ground, and above 30 ft. in circumference at the height of 6 ft. All these oaks have lost their leading shoots, and have their trunks hollow. The oak called La Cave is a very remarkable tree. It stands in the Forest of Brothone. The trunk is 26 ft. in circumference in its smallest part; it is hollow; and at a few feet from the base it divides into five large branches or rather trees, which rise to a considerable height. The trunk from which they spring has the appearance of a large goblet; it is hollow, cup-shaped, covered with bark inside, and nearly always filled with water, which is seldom less than 5 ft. deep. “ I visited this tree,” says M. Deshayes (who wrote the account which has been sent to us by the Abbé Gosier), “ on July 30th, 1825, and, though it was a season of extraordinary drought, I found the water in the tree was 2 ft. 6 in. deep. I visited it some months afterwards, and found the basin full.” At Bonnevaux is an oak, in the hollow trunk of which there is a circular table, round which 20 persons have sate to dinner. (Letter from l'Abbé Gosier.)

A large oak in the Forest of Cerisy, kdown under the name of the Quênesse, at a little distance to the right of the great road to St. Lo, is supposed, by comparing various data, to be 800 or 900 years old. In 1824, it measured 36 ft. in circumference just above the soil, and was about 55 ft. high. The trunk is now hollow, and will hold 14 or 15 persons. (Athenæum, Aug. 20. 1836.)

An immense oak was, in May, 1836, felled on the road from Vitre to Fougères. It was 22 ft. in circumference, had a straight trunk 30 ft. long, and weighed 24 tons. Ten pair of oxen and twenty horses were required to carry it away. (Galignani.)

Large Oaks in Germany. The ancient Germans, history informs us, had oak castles. In the hollow of one, we read that a hermit built his cell and chapel; and of some oaks of almost incredible bulk, which Evelyn says in his time were lately standing in Westphalia,” one was 130 ft. high, and reported to be 30 ft. in diameter; another yielded 100 loads of timber; and a third “served both for a castle and a fort.” (Amæn. Quer.) The following extract is from Googe's Four Bookes of Husbandrie (1586) :-“We have at this day an oke in Westphalia, not far from the Castle of Alsenan, which is from the foote to the neerest bowe, one hundred and thirtie foote, and three elles in thickness; and another, in another place, that, being cutte out, made a hundred waine load. Not farre from this place there grew an other oke of tenne yardes in thicknesse, but not very hie.” (p. 101. b.)

Having now given what may be considered a county biography of celebrated British oaks, and enumerated a few remarkable foreign ones, we shall next collect together, without reference to locality, the names of a few remarkable for some peculiarity in their trunks or branches ; in their origin; the trees with which they grow; for the quantity of timber they have produced, or their rate of growth; and which, for the sake of distinction, may be called the comparative biography of celebrated oaks.

Oaks remarkable for their Age. “ If we consider,” says Marshall (Plant, and Rur. Orn.) “ the quick growth of the chestnut, compared with that of the oak, and, at the same time, the inferior bulk of the trunk of the Tortworth Chestnut to that of the trunk of the Cowthorpe, the Bentley, or the Doddington Oak, may we not venture to infer that the existence of these truly venerable trees

[ocr errors]

commenced some centuries prior to the era of Christianity?” We can readily subscribe to this doctrine,” says a writer in the Magazine of Natural History, vol. iii. p. 379., "and feel, indeed, quite at a loss to set limits, under favourable circumstances, to the natural duration of this monarch of the forest.” Those oaks in England which are reputed to be the oldest are, the Parliament Oak (p. 1767.); Cowper's Oak (p. 1765.); the Winfarthing Oak (fig.1623.), which

[graphic][subsumed]

is said to have been an old oak at the time of the Conquest (p. 1764.); the Nannau Oak, which was a hollow oak in the reign of Henry IV. (see p. 1763.); the Salcey Forest Oak (see p. 1766.); and the Bull Oak in Wedgenock Park, which was made a park about the time of Henry I. (see p. 1770.). To these might be added several others, perhaps of equal age, such as the Flitton Oak (see p. 1757.), but which have not attracted public attention, in that particular, so much as those above enumerated.

The largest Oaks on Record. The Rev. Abraham De la Pryme records, in the Philosophical Transactions for 1701, that his friend Mr. Edw. Canby found within his moors, beneath the level of Hatfield Chase, in Yorkshire, the solid trunk of an oak tree, 120 ft, long, 36 ft. in circumference at the but end, 30 ft. in circumference at the middle, and 18 ft. at the small end, where the trunk was broken off; so that, by moderate computation, he says, this tree may have been 240 ft. in height. Dr. Plot mentions an oak at Norbury, which was of the circumference of 45 ft.; an oak at Rycote, under the shade of which 4374 men had sufficient room to stand. The Boddington Oak, in the Vale of Gloucester (see p. 1760.), was 54 ft. in circumference at the base; and Damory's Oak, io Dorsetshire (see p. 1758.), was 68 ft. in circumference within the hollow.

The largest Oaks still existing. These appear to be, the Salcey Oak, in Northamptonshire, with a trunk 46 ft. in circumference; the Grindstone Oak, in Surrey, 48 ft. ; the Hempstead Oak, in Essex, 53 ft. ; the Merton Oak, in Norfolk, 63 ft.; and the Cowthorpe Oak, in Yorkshire (fig. 1624.), 78 ft.

Oaks remarkable for their horizontal Expansion. The Three-shire Oak, near Worksop, was so situated that it covered part of the three counties of York,

[graphic][merged small][subsumed]

Nottingham, and Derby, and dripped over 777 square yards. An oak between Newnham Courtney and Clifton shaded a circumference of 560 yards of ground, under which 2420 men might have commodiously taken shelter. The immense Spread Oak in Worksop Park, near the white gate, gave an extent, between the ends of its opposite branches, of 180 ft. It dripped over an area of nearly 3000 square yards, which is above half an acre; and would have afforded shelter to a regiment of nearly 1000 horse. The Oakley Oak, now growing on an estate of the Duke of Bedford, has a head 110 ft. in diameter. The oak called Robur Britannicum, in the park at Rycote, is said to have been extensive enough to cover 5000 men; and at Ellerslie, in Renfrewshire, the native village of the hero Wallace, there is still standing "the large oak tree" (see p. 1772.), among the branches of which it is said that he and 300 of his men hid themselves from the English.

Size of Oaks, as compared with that of other Objects. “The circle occupied by the Cowthorpe Oak,” says Professor Burnet,“where the bottom of its trunk meets the earth, exceeds the ground plot of that majestic column of which an oak is confessed to have been the prototype, viz. Smeaton's Eddystone Lighthouse. Sections of the trunk of the one would, at several heights, nearly agree with sections of the curved and cylindrical portions of the shaft of the other. The natural caverns in Damory's and other oaks were larger than the chambers alluded to, as horizontal slices of the trunk would be considerably too large to floor any of them. The hollow space in Damory's Oak was, indeed, 3 ft. wider than the parish church of St. Lawrence, in the Isle of Wight. Arthur's round table would form an entire roof, or projecting capital, for the lighthouse: indeed, upon this table might be built a round church, as large as that of St. Lawrence, in the Isle of Wight, before alluded to, and space to spare; so that, if the extent of the sap wood be added, or the ground plot of the Cowthorpe Oak be substituted for Arthur's table, there would be plenty of room, not only to build such a parish church, but to allow space for a small cemetery beside it. Indeed,” continues Burnet,“ with reference to

« PreviousContinue »