Tree roots

Here’s a brief enquiry for the landscape historians amongst us. I’m preparing the ground for a post about the Sire Oak – not the pub, but the tree itself. Cut down and lost in the late Victorian era, this arboreal marker has become the subject of discussion between myself and top local history operative [Howmuch?]. We know the tree was lost in the 1890’s, and we know it stood at the former junction of Lichfield Road and Holly Lane, near the ridge fault that runs across the southern slope of Shire Oak Hill. We also know that a preserved chunk of the tree was polished, varnished and mounted, and donated as  a memorial to Shire Oak School. Many of us will remember gazing at the unfortunate chunk of oak whilst stood outside the Headmaster’s office awaiting a bollocking from Betty.

I’m after several things. The tree is marked properly on very few maps. It just touches the online record of the ordnance survey,  appearing on an 1884 map, but is gone by the following 1902 issue. I’m after a better map – I know of the one in ‘The Stonnall Mysteries’ by Julian Ward-Davies, but I’m after something with more technical precision, possibly about 1850. I’d swear I’ve seen one somewhere, but can’t find it. I’m also after a decent photo and details of the inscription on the Shire Oak exhibit in the school – can anyone get a decent picture for me? Who was it donated to, and is it genuine? What was the lump of wood doing for 60 years before it was polished and screwed to a table?

Lets see what we can get. Any anecdotes, or even pictures (I know that’s an awful long shot) – this landmark has existed in the community psyche of Brownhills for generations. It would be nice to see what we can assemble as a record of a great tree. Please either comment on this post or mail me at BrownhillsBob at googlemail dot com.

1884 Ordnance Survey plan showing the Shire Oak (ringed in red). Can't be sure if this is precise, or figurative for the tree position.

By 1902, the landmark had disappeared from mapping, as this section shows.

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9 Responses to Tree roots

  1. Hi Bob

    There are now two maps relating to the Shire Oak tree in the Stonnall Mysteries article. A second map was added after you reviewed the article, so you might have missed it. It is a detail from the 1840 Tithe Map of the Parish of Shenstone. It shows the location of the tree on the south side of Walsall/Lichfield Road and on the Walsall side of the parish boundary. The map was the result of a very precise survey of the area and so you can determine the exact location of the tree to within a few inches.

    There is also a sketch of the tree as it appeared in the 1840s. You can download the images and post them if you like.

    A recent correspondent has told me that there was another oak tree beside the eponymous pub at Shire Oak by Chester Road and that some people thought it was the original landmark which, of course, it was not.

    By the way, this correspondent has come up with some new and fascinating facts with regard to the Stonnall Mysteries and there will be a major update soon as a direct result.

    How about a campaign to set a new oak tree at the site of the original?


    Julian Ward-Davies

  2. Roger Jones says:

    In case you haven’t found these already …..
    In Google Books ….

    a sketch and a few words about the Shire Oak in “The wanderings of a pen and pencil” By F P Palmer 1846 (p 295)

    “A Survey of Staffordshire, containing the antiquities of that county” by Sampson Erdeswick 1844 (p429) describes the tree as reduced to a mere trunk.

    “Miscellaneous antiquities, (in continuation of Bibliotheca …, Issue 4” By Henry Sanders (The History and Antiquities of Shenstone) 1794


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  4. The Edditer says:

    Hi Bob,

    And here it is:

    A portion of the old Shire Oak, held at the time by the library of Shire Oak Grammar School, Walsall Wood.

    The plaque reads: “The ancient shire oak stood for centuries at a spot now marked by the junction of Lichfield Road with Holly Lane. The great tree was a meeting point for gatherings of note in this corner of Staffordshire.

    This authentic portion was retrieved from the decaying bole when it finally disintegrated early in the twentieth century.

    It was mounted and presented to the school by the Brownhills Urban District Council, March 1969”.

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  8. D.Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    ” Brownhills, a walk through History ” by Gerald Reece, published by Walsall Local History Centre, in 1996
    ISBN 0946652422, has a reference to Shire Oak…
    On page four there is an Ordinace Survey 1″ map circa 1850 which shows “Shire Oak” at the junction of Holly Lane and Lichfield Road Walsall Wood..where the tree stood.
    Interestingly, whilst Sandhills is listed, the hamlet of Springhill is not named, but is shown as Ogley Hay. I wonder if this is a cartographer’s omission .

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