Gracious Oak

In the Victorian Language of Flowers, the oak represented hospitality. With their capacious and sometimes conveniently hollow trunks, formed over hundreds or even over a thousand years, oaks are associated with tales of welcome, shelter, bravery and worship. Chêne chapelle oak in Allouville-Bellefosse, France, is between 800 and 1,200 years old. In its hollow trunk are two chapels built in 1696, still in use: Notre-Dame-de-la-Paix (Our Lady of Peace) and the Chambre de l’Ermite (Hermit’s room). Oak from Welbeck Park – which also features in the slide show below – formed some of the timber used in building St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. Fisher’s oak, in Kent, was said to have had the capacity to shelter thirteen men on horseback. And in the 18th century Damory’s Oak, in Dorset, had a trunk of sixty eight feet in circumference, capable of sheltering 20 people, it was said. In Cromwell’s time it was inhabited by an old man who sold ale to passers-by. Many a pub has been named after an oak since. England’s oldest oak, Bowthorpe oak, stands in a meadow near the town of Bourne in south Lincolnshire. Thought to be more than 1,000 years old, its 12 metre hollow was once used as a tearoom, with its own door. These are just a few of the many tales of the hospitality of the oak…

  • Chêne chapelle
  • Oak Tree and Beech, Lullingstone Park, Samuel Palmer
  • Spreading Oak with Seated Figure
  • Study of an Oak Leaf, John Ruskin.
  • Acorns and twigs of oak
  • Quercus robur
  • Quercus robur
  • The Weald of Kent, Samuel Palmer

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