bath, Bath Mineral Water Hospital, Bath United Hospital, British Monarchy, King Edward VII, Maori Chiefs, New Zealand, oak trees, Parks, Prince Albert Edward, Princess Alexandra of Denmark, Reverend William Jenkins, Royal Family, Royal Victoria Park Bath, The Prince of Wales, The Prince of Wales Oak, The Prince of Wales Oak Bath, Thomas Barter esq, trees
I wouldn’t normally stop to photograph a tree, even one as lovely as this one, but I noticed a small commemorative plaque in front of it, which made me curious. It informed me that this wasn’t just any oak, this was “The Prince of Wales Oak“, planted by the then Mayor of Bath, Thomas Barter esq, on the 10th March 1863. The Prince of Wales in 1863 was Prince Albert Edward, who would later become King Edward VII, who married Princess Alexandra of Denmark on the 10th March 1863, so I think it is safe to say that the tree was planted to commemorate the Royal wedding. The wedding was also commemorated in a painting, now in the Royal Collection, by William Powell Frith, which wouldn’t have known about if I hadn’t been researching the history of this tree! One of the most interesting fact I’ve managed to unearth about Thomas Barter esq is that, on the 19th September 1863, still in his official capacity as Mayor of Bath, met a party of Maori Chiefs from New Zealand, who were touring the United Kingdom. We know this because The Reverend William Jenkins, who travelled with the Maori party, compiled a souvenir autograph book for them, which includes Thomas Barters name [the list of other signatories can be see at www.nzpictures.co.nz]. The book also contains the name of Randle Wilbraham Falconer MD, “Senior physician Bath United Hospital and physician to the Bath Mineral Water Hospital“, so perhaps they visited one or both of these institutions. Later entries, I’ve noticed, contain comments about the visit, but the residence of Bath simply left their names. What an interesting web of stories!
The site now occupied by Castle Park seems to have had a chequered history. Bristol Castle was established, in the form of a simple motte and bailey affair, under William The Conqueror. By The Anarchy, which pitted the forces of Matilda and Stephen of Blois in a fight to fill the power vacuum left by King Henry I, the castle had become a formidable fortification. During the English Civil War the castle was occupied by Parliamentarian and Royalist troops and Oliver Cromwell decided Bristol Castle was a liability and it had to go. That’s why, if you go to Castle Park today, you only see the big clumps of wall Oliver Cromwell’s pioneers could not undermine. In homage to William The Conqueror’s original Bristol Castle, I’m assuming, a wooden castle commands a prominent position at the Lower Castle Street end of the park, complete with wooden men-at-arms. I was inspecting the fortifications in Castle Park at about 10 o’clock on a Monday morning in school term-time, so there were very few people about, but the play ground looks like a lot of fun.
What a great idea, instead of a stuffy old visitors book! I’ve christened it The Comments Tree, but I don’t know if it has an official title [in fact, I have only visited Preston once, so I don’t even know if it is still there]. Just in case you can’t see clearly, the visitors write their comment on a leaf and then attach it to the branches of the tree by means of circular clips.
The Comments Tree seems to have a very Autumnal feel to it, don’t you think? Lots of reds and yellows.
As far as I can recall, The Harris Museum and Gallery is well worth a visit, so why not drop by and leave them a comment on their beautiful Comments Tree.