As ancient as they are beautiful, our churches are the present custodians of yew trees planted and cared for over many centuries. From 500 year old trees planted in the Middle Ages, 800 year old trees planted by the Normans, even older specimens planted by Saxons and early Welsh saints and the possibility that some might even predate Christianity.
The church was built in the early 14th century, but its ancient yew is thought to be double the church's age. The tree is rich in tales and folklore. A door was attached 1820 and villagers held tea parties in its hollow trunk. A cannon ball was found embedded within the trunk, thought to be from the English Civil War. The yew has been documented since 1630 and is one of the 50 Great British Trees chosen to celebrate the Queens jubilee.
The gigantic yew looming over the porch is the oldest of a dozen yews in the churchyard. The bulging trunk is hollow inside but full of internal growth. The earliest record is found in an 1838 edition of The Farmers Magazine which notes its huge girth, but an 1807 painting of the church also shows a large tree by the church. In 1936 Arthur Mee wrote that it ‘is said to be as old as the throne of England, and it looks as flourishing’.
The church is home to six large yews over 500 years old, and was one of seven sites used by the Conservation Foundation to propagate saplings distributed to 8,000 churches to celebrate the Millennium. The church dates from the 13th century, but the site is considerably earlier and at least one yew is thought to predate the church. This tree separated into two and a rod is bolted to both fragments to prevent further separation.
The 13th century church is just the latest companion of the ancient yew found in the churchyard. Thought to be some 1,500 years old it has seen a medieval castle and Norman church, fragments of which are still visible. The yew has hollowed and a bench placed inside it. As with many ancient yews props have been installed to support its great limbs.
The huge and ancient churchyard yew was struck by lightning and pronounced dead in the mid 19th century. Miraculously it recovered, and now towers above the medieval church. Thought to be over a thousand years old it is one of the oldest trees in Surrey, and was immortalised on Royal Mail stamps as part of millennium celebrations.
Supported by props and chains, this immense yew looks every bit as antique as its age. An exceptional ancient tree, it grows near the ruins of Wilmington Priory and the ‘Long Man of Wilmington’. A stone sits its base, reportedly Roman and uncovered by the local well digger whose grave is below. The yew has two trunks, originally thought to have been from one tree until it hollowed and split, and has a vast canopy spreading across the churchyard.
This imposing tree is around 11m in girth and one of the finest in southern England. It is now protected by railings, part of which has buckled under the weight of a huge limb. Its heavy limbs are supported by giant props, visible in a postcard from 100 years ago, but now rotting. The church is early 13th century and little has changed since it was built. The church candlesticks were turned by a parishioner from wood from the yew.
Close to the path leading to this pretty village church is an ancient female yew. It was badly damaged by fire in 1998 but has been recovering well. The yew has a substantial girth with a large cavity that reveals an internal stem.
The church is a treasure trove of British history. A large yew tree in its churchyard, the trunk of which is twisting as if to escape from the brace that prevents it splitting, is accompanied by a Roman altar, a Saxon cross and the medieval font used to baptise Nicholas Ridley, one of the Oxford Martyrs.
Four preChristian standing stones, stand close to one of three yews found in Gwytherin churchyard. Two yews flank the entrance, whilst a third, badly damaged by fire, is found overlooking the valley. The yews were likely here when St Winifred, a 7th century noblewoman, came here to become a nun. The church was built on the foundations of the covenant.
Thought to be the oldest living tree in Britain, and one of the 50 Great British Trees chosen to celebrate the Queens jubilee. It is now only visible behind a wall, built to protect it from souvenir hunters. Thought to date from a post Roman Christian site, the yew is peculiar not just because of its age but also because one branch has changed sex, from male to female. Today’s church was built in 1901 in the Arts & Crafts style.