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Not even the great storm of '87 could move the old oak

PUBLISHED: 15:43 16 June 2009 | UPDATED: 09:10 11 August 2010

The Valence Park Holm oak

The Valence Park Holm oak

MORE than 15 million trees including a number of historic and famous oaks were destroyed when the Great Storm battered Britain in 1987. Dagenham, like most of the country got its fair share of the destruction with trees blocking roads and railways. But

MORE than 15 million trees including a number of historic and famous oaks were destroyed when the Great Storm battered Britain in 1987.

Dagenham, like most of the country got its fair share of the destruction with trees blocking roads and railways.

But the Holm oak tree outside of the Valance House Museum and at the time the library in Becontree Avenue, Dagenham, came out of it unscathed and the borough's Heritage Education Officer, Mark Watson, is adamant that it will be around by the time of the next great storm.

"The tree has weathered everything that man could throw at it for the last 340 years and it is still there and because of the way it has grown I doubt whether it will ever be blown over, even if we have another great storm", said Mark Watson.

Ten years after the Great storm the Holm Oak tree and a number of others throughout the country were recognised as one of the great trees of London and was given the title of the Valence Park Holm Oak.

Testimony

Reminiscing Mark said: "Trees were blown down all over the country so when people are thinking about marking the anniversary of the great storm the best way to do this is going out and finding the biggest trees out there and this tree is a great testimony to how living things can survive the forces of mother nature."

The tree finally being recognised as one of the greatest trees in the capital may have come as a surprise to people outside of Dagenham, but to those who regularly walk past the tree or work inside the museum the title was a long time overdue.

"It had been next to us and we could see it every day and we knew it was very old and very worthy of the title" said Mark.

The tree is part of the evergreen species and boasts a striking well balanced crown with small leaves which is noticeable all year round.

"I think this is probably one of the most impressive trees in the borough as it has got an enormous trunk and you can not get your arms all around it because it is so big, but the best way to see how big the tree is to have some children linking arms around the tree."

Planted in the early 1700 by the Mertinn family the tree provides a good insight into past attitudes towards the natural world as well as a good history of the family and Dagenham.

When the aspiring family brought the farm house estate in the early 1700s they wanted to fake the impression of being firmly established in the country so planted a number of trees including the famous Holm oak and a number of others around the estate to show their wealth.

The realities of this were far from the truth, just 50 years before this the family had immigrated to Britain from Germany and made their money in selling jewellery.

Mark said: "Everything was designed to look good and they planted the tree to make the estate look grander and better than it actually was.

"They were not titled people and were not lords so they planted the tree to make things look bigger."

From all the trees the family planted the Holm oak is one of very few that is still around and it is by far the most impressive.


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