My Blog List

Friday, 1 September 2017

Is this London's oldest mulberry tree?

Inside a protective fence in the grounds of historic Charlton House in south-east London stands a mulberry tree. Gnarled and sprawling, it's said to have been one of the 100,000 mulberry saplings  planted as part of King James I's attempts to start a silk industry. His wife, Queen Anne of Denmark, herself established a mulberry plantation at Greenwich Palace. Charlton House (below, with its imposing Gateway Arch) was being built at the time for Sir Adam Newton, the tutor of their son, Prince Henry. However, there was one problem: the trees the King provided were black mulberries, and not the white ones that silkworms prefer. But over the years the Charlton House tree flourished, providing shade and an attractive feature for the garden.
Although a thriving silk industry did grow up some decades later, it centred on Spitalfields in east London and used mostly imported raw silk. Today, mulberry trees can be found across the capital, many planted in Victorian times. The fruit ripens in late July and August, but is seldom imported as it perishes soon after picking. The Charlton tree still bears a crop, and this features in the summer desserts served in the house's Mulberry Cafe.
Mulberries have been grown in London for centuries - they were first introduced by the Romans - and a  recent survey identified more than 135 sites with mulberry trees. While most date from more recent times, there's one in the Queen's Orchard in Greenwich Park that might have been planted by Queen Anne. But was the Charlton House tree put in first? We may never know.
Charlton House is free to visit.
Charlton Rd, London SE7 8RE  Ph 020 8856 3951

No comments:

Post a Comment