“Earlier on today, apparently a woman rang the BBC and said she’d heard there was a hurricane on the way. Well if you are watching, don’t worry – there isn’t”. Michael Fish, 15 October 1987.
“How safe is your One Oak?” A question put to The Society by a BBC Radio 4 reporter on the eve of an expected storm in October 2013.
Nothing has done more to put Sevenoaks on the map than the “hurricane” of that night in October 1987, when six of the “Coronation Oaks” at the edge of the historic Vine Cricket Ground were flattened by winds of over 100 mph.
These oaks of course are not the town’s eponymous oaks. They were planted in 1902 to commemorate the coronation of Edward VII (and replaced, with seven, after The Great Storm). Nor are the oaks on London Road, south of the White Hart Inn, although early 20thC postcards describe them as “The Seven Oaks”. These were planted in 1955 as replacements for an earlier 18thC group.
No-one knows where the original oaks were – or if indeed they ever existed. The Textus Roffensis records that a church and place with the Saxon name of Seouenaca existed in 1112. The historian Hasted wrote in 1797 that the name Seouenaca “was given to it from seven large oaks, standing on the hill where the town is, at the time of its first being built”. It could be that travellers using the trackway that represented the first significant north/south penetration of the great forest of Andredsweald took shelter under the branches of a prominent road‐side grove of oaks. So the original site may well have been close to the settlement that grew up from around 900AD beside the small Saxon chapel and the subsequent church of St Nicholas. Click here to read our article on “The Oaks of Sevenoaks”.
But Sevenoaks is not just remarkable for its “official” oaks. There are dozens of other trees that are notable for their age, size, historical association, ecological value or appearance . They include:
- the many ancient trees and the grand avenues of Knole Park
- the “Waterloo” limes of Wildernesse Avenue planted to commemorate Wellington’s visit three months before the battle in 1815
- the lines of sweet chestnuts in the Wildernesse Estate which date back to 1509
- the sweet chestnut in Riverhead under which Archbishop Cranmer is said to have rested
- various fine specimens brought back by “Tree-Hunters” in Riverhill Himalayan Gardens
- relics from other grand estates in and around the town, including Montreal and Bradbourne
- mighty Wellingtonias and other conifers planted by wealthy Victorian land-owners, as in Kippington and elsewhere
The town also has remnants of ancient woodland, including Sevenoaks Common and Millpond Wood, which contains a prehistoric burial barrow.
For a background note on the etchings of oak trees in Knole Park by Anita McEwen, displayed in the exhibition, click here.
The souvenir booklet for our 2014 exhibition “The Remarkable Trees of Sevenoaks” is now completely sold out, but we intend to replace it with a full-colour book that will be on open sale, containing the same fascinating information, background stories and stunning images of our remarkable trees. Check the web-site for announcements of when it will be available.