Welcome back to an A to Z of discovery at Kiplin Hall and Gardens. With 400 years of history and 26 letters of the alphabet there is plenty to explore! Today we feature the letter O, O is for Oak.
The grounds and gardens at Kiplin Hall feature many great trees, including a large Oak known as Christopher Crowe’s Oak which is nearly 300 years old. English Oak trees support more life than any other native tree in the UK and hold a special place in our history and culture as a symbol of strength and longevity. Christopher Crowe owned Kiplin Hall from 1722-1749. He married Charlotte Lee, following her marriage to her first husband Leonard Calvert the 4th Baron Baltimore. Charlotte was a descendant of King James I of England. Christopher was not an aristocrat but was part of a rising class of 18th century country gentry.
He was a wealthy man following his work as British Consul at Livorno in Italy. He was also a successful merchant trading in wine and oil in the Mediterranean as well as an art dealer, shipping paintings and sculptures back to England for wealthy clients. Charlotte and Christopher were married in 1715 in Geneva. They returned to England and settled in Essex where they had 4 children. (Charlotte had already had 8 children in her previous marriage.) Charlotte died in 1721 at just 42 years old.
Christopher Crowe then purchased Kiplin from his stepson who was in financial difficulty. Kiplin became the Crowe family home for the next 100 years. Much of the art on display at Kiplin Hall today was brought to Kiplin by Christopher Crowe. Many changes were made to the house and grounds by the Crowe family, making the estate and house an elegant and fashionable Georgian home. They created the large walled garden and planted many trees. Including the oak, which still stands today. Records show that the Crowes invested heavily, a bill from 1744 shows the purchase of 200 elm trees at £8 each.
Christopher Crowes oak was planted on an artificial mound, as can be seen in a painting from 1780. You’ll notice in this painting that the oak was planted before the mock gothic extension to the Hall was built. Planting trees (or placing summer houses) on a mound was a popular tradition of Dutch compartmentalised gardens, which were fashionable at the time. The estate owner could sit on the mound, surveying their land.
This ancient oak is now suffering from some factures which could cause it to split or fall. To help prolong the life of this wonderful specimen tree surgeons have trimmed the crown of the tree to make it lighter. An exclusion zone of shrubs around the base have been planted to prevent any people from sitting under the tree as it could be unsafe to do so. The shrubs also help to protect the tree. In a symbiotic relationship the roots of the shrubs, the tree and the root microbiome (also called rhizosphere microbiome) help the plants to absorb nutrients from the soil. It’s hoped the oak will survive even longer with this extra care.
During August the south lawn, near Christopher Crowes Oak, will host Story Craft Theatre who will be performing as part of family fun activities “Marchant Mondays” inspired by the Annie Marchant Kitchen and Dairy Collection displayed in the museum. Event details HERE