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Thursday, February 25, 2010

4: The Crowhurst Yew

Another church yew, another trail of mysteries to solve. Such as: when was the door built into this ancient, hollow tree? Or where did the cannonball come from that was found embedded in its side? And is it really 4,000 years old - as locals claim - or a mere 1,000?

The Crowhurst Yew in Surrey clearly outdates the 12th Century St George's Church, which it stands next to. It's likely that the church was built in recognition of the holy site already afforded to the field in which the yew stood. The fact that Crowhurst housed a Royalist stronghold might explain the cannonball, as Roundheads fired on the farmyard opposite during the English Civil War, most probably in 1643.

The first record of the tree appears at about the same time, when the writer and antiquarian John Aubrey measured its girth at 30ft. The door was added sometime between 1820 (when villagers discovered the cannonball - possibly while cutting a hole for the door) and 1850, when the door is first mentioned in Edward Brayley's History of Surrey. A bench seat and table was also added to the tree's hollow interior around the same time. Brayley also noted that, following a storm, "the roof, such as it may be termed, has fallen in."