Another month has past and again it is time to tell you new and exciting things about my chosen tree. I am a day late in joining in with the Tree Following meme hosted by Lucy at Looseandleafy. It is not too late if you want to join in. You can link in with her blog until the 14th July.
The tree is still sitting here, or rather sprawling; Mulberry trees seem to collapse and carry on growing from a prone position. This tree is very old so I am not surprised that it has decided to lie down. I think that it is very sensible, I’d do the same if I was getting on for 500 years old. Specially if I could lean on my elbows and grow new arms.
But apart from that there is nothing much to report. There has been a barn owl about here for the last few weeks. I saw him once and I hear him screech at night. I wish he would come and pose for a photo in the tree. But there are no birds when I look. Not so much as a sparrow. So once more I will turn to Shakespeare for some inspiration. The Bard never lets you down.
William Shakespeare bought his house, New Place in Stratford-upon – Avon in 1597. He moved in when he retired from London in 1610. The house was one of the best in Stratford. He died in the house in 1616. Being a man of taste and discrimination he planted a Mulberry tree in his garden before he died.
In 1756 the Reverend Francis Gastrell bought the house. By this time tourists came on pilgrimages to see the former home of Shakespeare. They were particularly keen to see the Mulberry tree which Shakespeare had planted. Gastrell said that he was tired of being annoyed by so many visitors and had the tree cut down. The people of Stratford were so angry that they broke Gastrell’s windows.
An enterprising chap called Sharp acquired the wood and found a local woodcarver, George Cooper who carved souvenirs from it. Even then people were thrilled to own something made out of Shakespeare’ s tree. There were an astonishing number of souvenirs that appeared from this tree; rather like the teeth and bones of saints really. Or heads of John the Baptist, of which, I believe there are several in circulation. Even now these souvenirs turn up sometimes. (Carvings from Shakespeare’ s Mulberry, not The Baptist’s Heads. Although these probably do as well.) Last year a beautifully carved tea caddy carved by Cooper sold at Christies for £13,750. It has a bust of Shakespeare and his coat of arms carved into it. It also has Cooper’ s name engraved on it.
It seems that Francis Gastrell was in some sort of dispute with the authorities about taxes. So not content with destroying the tree, in a fit of pique he demolished the house in 1759. The people of Stratford were so incensed that they sent him to Coventry. Eventually he was forced to leave the town and a by- law was passed that nobody of the name of Gastrell was allowed to live there again.
The site of Shakespeare’ s house is now an Elizabethan knot garden. The adjoining house is called Nash’ s House and it is a museum. You acquire admission to the garden through the museum. There is a Mulberry tree in the garden.
David Garrick the eighteenth century actor had a cup carved from Shakespeare’ s tree. It was presented to him by the Mayor of Stratford in 1769. His party piece was to stand up with his cup and sing a song of his own devising:
‘Behold this fair goblet t’was carv’d from the tree
Which oh my sweet Shakespeare was planted by thee.
As a relick I kiss it, and bow at the shrine
What comes from thy hand must be ever divine!
All shall yield to the Mulberry- tree
Bend to thee, blest Mulberry
Matchless was he who planted thee.
And thou like him immortal shall be.’