Council helps replace 'Shakespeare's Oak'


26 May 2016

Council staff have helped to replace a landmark tree planted to commemorate the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth.

An oak tree, known locally as ‘Shakespeare’s Oak’, was planted in 1864 on Low Tenter Fell in Kendal – so-called because for centuries cloth made locally had been dried there on ‘tenter’ frames - to mark the 300th anniversary of the playwright’s birth.

In 1864 three bands and a procession of 5,000 local residents attended the ceremony, when six-year-old John Wakefield had the honour of planting the tree. A placard was held up bearing the words ‘Kendal Green’, a reference to the Kendal cloth made in the area that was immortalised by Shakespeare in a line in Henry IV, Part 1 (see note 1), and from that day forward that area of Kendal was known as Kendal Green.

The oak planted in 1864 became a local landmark and grew to stand 60 feet tall but, by 2009, it had become diseased and was dying.

In order to protect the nearby road and properties from the risk of it falling, it was reluctantly decided in 2009 to take the original tree down, with a replacement being planted by South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) a short distance away on Kendal Green.

Now, to mark 2016’s 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, a further oak tree has been planted on the site of the original ‘Shakespeare’s Oak’.

Graham Nicholson, SLDC’s arboriculturalist, explained that it wasn’t possible to plant the 2009 replacement in exactly the same spot as the 1864 original because the land may have been affected by the original oak’s fungal disease, but now, seven years later, tests have shown the area to be free of disease so the site can be used for planting again.

Graham continued: “Kendal Town Council donated the tree and it was planted on 19 May. SLDC owns the land so we gave permission for the tree to be planted and we also helped the town council to source a suitable tree and arranged for contractors to prepare the site.’’

The new ‘Shakespeare’s Oak’ was planted last week by Councillor Chris Hogg, SLDC’s portfolio holder for Culture and Wellbeing, in his final duty in his town council capacity as Kendal Mayor, assisted by staff from Horticare, the horticultural unit in Kendal run by Cumbria County Council for people with learning disabilities.

Councillor Hogg said: “It is lovely to see a new oak tree on the exact spot of the 1864 original and it is a fitting way for us to mark this year’s 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and the association with Kendal Green.’’

Note 1: In Henry IV, part 1 (Act 2, scene 4) Falstaff says to Prince Henry: “But as the devil would have it, three misbegotten knaves in Kendal green came at my back, and let drive at me, for it was so dark, Hal, that thou could’st not see thy hand.’’