Tree Following: The Mulberry in November.

At last the Mulberry is losing its leaves.
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One part of it still retains some yellow leaves though.
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Once more we have a clear view of the decaying, lichen-covered trunk from which new branches have sprung up.
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If you saw earlier posts about this tree you will know it was supposed to have been planted in 1550  by Adam Winthrop, the grandfather of John Winthrop who became the first governor of Massachusetts. So it is a very old tree.

John Winthrop

John Winthrop

Adam Winthrop was a clothier from Lavenham,who made his fortune with the boom in the cloth trade in Suffolk. Groton Manor was not an ancestral home, he bought it in 1544. In 1548 he was granted the right to bear arms and call himself a ‘gentleman’. By the late 1620’s the cloth trade was in decline and for this, and for religious regions John Winthrop set sail for Massachusetts Bay in 1630 on the Arabella. In 1631 Groton Manor was sold.

John Winthrop sailed with a company of men of learning and refinement. He was very keen not to take any poor people along. His first job was to draw up a church covenant which ensured that only church members had any civil rights. It seems that these early Puritans who had fled to the New World to escape religious persecution were soon indulging in persecution far more stringent than anything left behind. However John Winthrop was considered to be a just and honourable man, if rather austere. He founded the city of Boston and has been described as ‘The Father of New England’ .

Descendants of the Winthrop’s have long had an interest in Groton and have made regular visits. Even today, about once a year, you see a coach draw up and a string of Americans make their way round our little village. First,they visit our old church which dates back to the 15th century, although the tower is 200 years older than that.

St. Bartholemew's Church. Groton.

St. Bartholemew’s Church. Groton.

Inside they can admire the many memorials to the Winthrop family. There is a stained glass window erected in 1875 by his descendants to the memory of John Winthrop..
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Adam Winthrop, his grandfather, and Adam, his father are buried in the chancel. There is a bronze plaque telling you all about this.
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John’s first two wives and a baby daughter are buried in the chancel too.
Over the years, Winthrops paid for major repairs to the tower and they also contributed to the repair of the bell.
There is an old Church Chest, reputed to be one of only two of its kind. It dates from the 1560s. Its contents were examined in 1956 and there were many documents relating to the Winthrops.
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Just in case you missed all these signs of the Winthrops. A large sign catches your eye as you enter or leave the church.
DSC_0252After looking at the church the visitors walk up the road to see the Groton Manor. This house is now named after the family who lived in it before the Winthrops. It is divided into three homes. John Winthrop would no longer recognise it because it now has an 18th century façade. Nevertheless, the American visitors knock on the door of one of the houses so that they can look at the medieval wall painting.
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Finally the visitors make their way to The Croft to pay homage to the Mulberry Tree. Why this piece of land is called The Croft I can’t discover. It is not a Suffolk word. In Suffolk a parcel of land is called a ‘pyghtle’ which is an Anglo- Saxon word. The Croft  was purchased in 1993 as a local amenity. This means that everybody can enjoy looking at this venerable old tree.

Thanks to Lucy at Loose and Leafy blog for hosting this meme. On the 7th of every  month tree followers tell us about their chosen tree.

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51 Responses to Tree Following: The Mulberry in November.

  1. Cathy says:

    It’s good to see the gnarled skeleton that lies ta the skeleton of your tree and hear more about their background. I don’t suppose there will be coachloads of Americans visiting my tree in 500 years time….

  2. Tina says:

    What a fascinating history your tree has. I didn’t know there was an “American Heritage Trail” though I suppose it makes sense. Thank you for your research into this tree and the wonderful connection across The Pond.

    • Chloris says:

      I didn’ t realise there was such a thing as an American Heritage Trail either. I do wish they didn’ t feel the need to put large signs up in beautiful, ancient churches.

  3. Julie says:

    Your chosen tree is wonderfully gnarly and tactile looking, incredible that something this gnarled and twisted can survive so long. Your post reminded me of a trip to New England, we stayed for one night on the edge of Boston in the town of Winthrop at the Winthrop Arms. I have to say we had not realised the connection to back home when we were there, but do remember a beautiful view of the sea from our bedroom window.

  4. Debra says:

    I always like seeing your mulberry. yay mulberries! The lichen is amazing. I wonder how long a mulberry can live for.

    • Chloris says:

      It seems that mulberries can endlessly renew themselves by falling down and then springing up afresh from the point where the trunk touches the ground. I love the old gnarled trunk.

  5. mrsdaffodil says:

    Trees are amazing, and old, lichen-covered trees are especially so.

    • Chloris says:

      I wish I knew more about lichen, In fact I’ ve only recently learnt how to pronounce it. I believe there are many different sorts. I’ d like to know more.

  6. Cathy says:

    I love seeing the bare branches of trees covered in lichen and moss too. Very interesting history, and nice that the mulberry still gets appreciative visitors from abroad too!

    • Chloris says:

      I think the tree is even more beautiful in winter than it is in summer. The bark is so interesting. You can see the age of the tree better in that gnarled old trunk.

  7. Pauline says:

    Your tree is certainly magnificent, how wonderful that it has lasted so long. Its history is amazing as is the family that planted it, may it live for many more years to come!

  8. Who knew a tree could be so facinating? I’m glad you gave us a look at its innards. The Heritage Trail sign is a wrench; too bad it can’t be composted.

  9. Chloris says:

    I’ m glad you feel the same way as I do about this sign. I didn’ t like to say too much about it, but how crass and vulgar to put something like this up in a 500 year old church.

  10. Flighty says:

    An interesting post and terrific photos.
    I agree about that sign, it needs to much less obstrusive! xx

  11. sueturner31 says:

    You learn something new all the time on peoples posts and this is really interesting ..something we will have to come and see for ourselves one day

  12. The Puritans were excellent at spreading the idea that you were free to practice whatever religion you chose as long as it was their religion. As an American, our curiosity about our ancestry is both interesting and humorous since we have almost no cultural ties to the lands we immigrated from. But it would be wonderful to see a tree so old. Excellent post. 🙂

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Tammy, it is a wonderful tree.
      I have been reading a bit about those early Puritans… They inflicted terrible punishments on those who did not toe the line; whipping and death for adultery. There was even a punishment for idleness and not going to Church. There were spies to watch your every move. It sounds rather like the Taliban.

  13. Chloris what a fabulous tree following post. I adore your mulberry and it is fabulous in its old age. A very special tree with loads of history. History is another favorite of mine so this was wonderful to read about the Winthrops and their roots there.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Donna. I love history too.Specially local history. My house was built in the early sixteenth century and I am fascinated to think of all the people who lived here and the lives they led.

  14. snowbird says:

    The more I read about your mulberry tree the more fascinated I become, what a grand history, I do hope it lives on for many more years….I also hope seeds and cuttings? are taken for future generations. That old chest is fabulous isn’t it…..I’m smiling at the thought of tourists arriving to view the tree!xxx

    • Chloris says:

      I have a mulberry tree in my garden with a tag on it which says that it is a cutting from the Winthrop Mulberry. I think they are quite easy from cuttings.

  15. Your naked mulberry is very interesting with all its twisted branches. And we got some American history too! My own ancestors came from Scandinavia but my husband’s came from England in one of the first ships – I can see the Puritan roots there even if they all became scientists and, at best, could be called agnostic.

  16. CathyT says:

    Love the whole idea of the tree following Chloris – not to mention this superb mulberry. I’m going to share it on Facebook for my brother and sister-in-law who live in Boston. Wish I’d gone to see it in person when I lived in Suffolk. Next year, I might ‘share’ our walnuts on ‘Tree following’. One of them only comes into leaf very, very late (it was July this year). I’d like to keep a record for myself and it would be good to ‘compare tree habits’. Once again, enjoyed it so much …

  17. Chloris says:

    Thank you Cathy. I’ ve just been to look at your lovely blog. How wonderful to live in France. I always dreamt of having a house in France. Whereabouts in Suffolk did you live?

  18. That is a tree of history and character. Your village does look like it would be a wonderful place to visit, though I can’t get too excited about the puritans. You may be familiar with the HL Mencken observation that puritanism is the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

    • Chloris says:

      Our village is quite small, once you’ ve looked at the church and the mulberry tree and had a drink in the pub you’ ve pretty much used up all the sightseeing options.
      Good old Mencken, he hit the nail on the head. If something is fun, it must be a sin.

  19. I love the magnificent bared shape of your mulberry, but I really don’t much like the sound of a self-made man determined to discriminate against the poor and people who didn’t agree with his religious stance…

    • Chloris says:

      The tree looks wonderful in winter.
      Since I wrote this post, I have been reading quite a bit about John Winthrop He said that ‘Democracy is the meanest and worst of all forms of government’ .He was involved with the most appalling treatment of the Native American, Pequot tribe. After a terrible massacre, any survivors were sold into slavery. He owned 3 slaves. He had a woman executed for adultery. Neighbours had to spy on each other to make sure there were no secret vices. Living according to what the Puritans called God’ s Holy Ordinances was a bleak and miserable existence.

      • Yikes, that’s even worse than I thought! Religion-as-dogma, never good. Seems to make people think they are entitled to do whatever they like to anybody that dares to disagree or live differently than their own narrow model. Depressing then, depressing now.

  20. bittster says:

    That is an old chest.
    Good of John to try and keep the poor out of Boston, but I believe they have slipped in regardless. I always love what you do with this gnarled little tree. Who would have thought?
    Now if you can only do something with that sign.

  21. Chloris says:

    Thank you Frank. I have enjoyed writing about the tree, but I think I am going to make next month the last. I really can’ t think of anything else much to say about it.
    I would love to get rid of that sign. I don’ t think I’ m brave enough though. Somebody might see me and think I am stealing it to put up in my own house.

  22. It always hits me how closely tied our two countries are, and how much of our American heritage ties directly back to the U.K. That would be a grand place to visit next time I get over there, and if and when I do, I’ll look for the Mulberry tree. Thanks for taking us on this journey, Chloris!

  23. Robbie says:

    My great(s) grandmother + grandfather were on the Mayflower that came to American + I have others that have made the trip across the waters to live here …thankful to my mother for her research+ documentation before the computer…we have our history. Just like that amazing Mulberry—first thing, I thought—“That is old!” then you said how old it was:-)
    I hope some day, to travel to the countries of my relatives + knock on the doors to visit their past:-)…to visit my oldest daughter + family that now live across the waters:-)
    This was very interesting- what a beautiful place + that stain glass-STUNNING!!!

    • Chloris says:

      Your daughter is in Sweden isn’ t she? A wonderful country to visit.
      It is always fascinating to learn where your ancestors come from. I come from the North of England but when I did some research I found that a branch of my family came from very near to where I live in Suffolk. They left more than 200 years ago. Perhaps that is why I feel so at home here.

      • Robbie says:

        She lived in Bristol, England ( past 5yrs) since her husband was teaching at university there when they met — moved back to Sweden this past month:-)
        I bet it is why you feel at home:-)

  24. Lucy Corrander says:

    Your comment about the Taliban is a good one. It’s often easy to forget how many of our liberties were won only recently. And as for democracy – my grandmothers were adults before they were allowed the vote. Remembering this helps me be hopeful for all sorts of places in the world and helps me not fall into cultural and historical arrogance.

    About the pronunciation of lichen. I say it with a hard ch – like a K and with an I as in height. (!) But a friend insists it depends on where you come from and to say it as in ‘itch’ is standard in Hampshire.

    (You don’t say how you say it!)

  25. Chloris says:

    I listened to an interesting talk about lichens on gravestones recently. Apparently churchyards are very important for lichen conservation, particularly in an area like Suffolk which has no natural stone. A third of lichen species have been found on churchyard stones.
    I’ m likin’ the lichen! And that is how I heard it pronounced by the lichen experts. So I’ m sticking with the hard CH sound.

  26. Gillian says:

    Wow! What a fantastic tree and a very interesting article. I also say lichen like kitchen. We’ve got so much of it in our garden I’m expecting a herd of reindeer to pop in for breakfast soon.

  27. an amazing history for a revered tree. Looking suitably statesmanlike with one foot in autumn and the other in winter judging by the foliage. Did you harvest any of the berries I wonder?

  28. Anna says:

    Oh the near leafless mulberry grabs your attention just as much as it does when it is in full leaf Chloris. I wonder why one part still retains its leaves. I noticed this on our ash last week – all the leaves had set sail apart from those on one branch. Fascinating to learn more about the history of the family who planted the mulberry – perhaps John planted trees too in his new homeland.

  29. pbmgarden says:

    Your written such an interesting series of posts centered around the mulberry. I prefer it in this bare, gnarly state.

  30. What an interesting story, Chloris. Interesting too, that John came from humble origins and his family became rich (and a gentleman) through manufacturing and trade. Yet he turned around and discriminated against poor people and those who weren’t church members. So how does one do that and gain the reputation of being just and honourable? Ah, well.

    As for the mulberry – that’s a remarkable tree. If it really goes back all those centuries, that’s amazing.

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