Hainault Forest Website

Written, Designed and with Photographs by © Brian Ecott

Fairlop Oak

Legend has it that Queen Anne (1702-14) visited the Oak. A song sheet issued at the Fairlop Fair has a song called "Come, come my boys" in which one of the verses states:

To Hainault Forest Queen Anne did ride,

 And saw the old oak standing by her side,

 And as she looked at it from bottom to top,

 She said to her Court, it should be at Fairlop.

The Fairlop Oak, which was said "to have existed from halfway up the Christian era", was situated in the middle of a glade in Hainault Forest in a wooded area of some 3000 acres known as The Kings wood. Its approximate location would be by the boathouse on the sailing lake at Fairlop Waters, near Fairlop Station.  It was said that in the midday sun, its branches cast a shadow of 300 feet circumference or roughly an acre of land. It was under the branches of the Fairlop Oak that the Fairlop Fair was held annually on the first Friday in July from around 1725.

1748 Richard Warner of Harts, Woodford, Essex, pictured above took Peter Kalm a pupil of the Swedish Biologist Carl von Linné to see the oak. He was also known by the Latin name Carolus Linneus the founder of the binomial naming system

1774 Fairlop Oak and Fair by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm.

Various measurements of the Oak's trunk have been recorded - from 30 to 66 feet in girth. Two measurements that have some credence are those of Peter Kalm, a pupil of Linneus, who was taken to see the Oak by Richard Warner of Harts, Woodford, Essex in 1748, and measured the tree as 30 feet in girth at 4 feet from the ground, and the Rev. William Gilpin writing in his "Remarks on Forest Scenery" (1794) being 36 feet in girth at a height of three feet from the ground. Seventeen great branches grew from the crown and the tree's superficial appearance was more like that of a Beech, than an Oak

 

1790 The Fairlop Oak,  with a Meeting of The Hainault Foresters -

a Society of Archers.

1790 The Fairlop Oak.

1796 Fairlop Oak.

1800 Fairlop Oak.  An Archer has shot a Fallow buck. Engraving appears to have the name C or G. Trent on the right.

A Society of Archers - The Hainault Foresters - under the patronage of the Earl Tylney of Wanstead House met under the ageing Fairlop Oak. In an effort to halt the Tree's decline William Forsyth, gardener to George III was paid 6d in 1791 to apply his curative plaster after all dead and decaying wood had been cut away to expose the healthy wood. The poultice consisted of cow-dung, old ceiling lime, wood ash, river sand and burnt bones. Despite a notice  "All good foresters are requested not to hurt this old tree, a plaster having lately been applied to its wounds",  by 1805 many branches had fallen leaving a hollow interior in which several horses or cattle could shelter. People would often picnic inside the tree and light fires. In June of that year one such fire caught the tree alight and it burnt for more than 24 hours, despite attempts to put out the fire by local residents.

1800 Fairlop Oak Tree - a pastel drawing in St Pancras Church.   Placed in the new Church in 1820.

In the enlarged text above, it states Fairlop Oak Tree drawn by [?] Webster Anno Śtat [aged] 80 Of Chigwell Row, AD 1800

1801 Fairlop Oak Tree before Forsythe's plaster had been applied.

1802 View of Fairlop Oak on Epping Forest drawn and engraved by S. Rawle.

1805 The Fairlop Oak. July 1st 1805. J. Nichols & Son publishers.

1805 The Fairlop Oak

1808 The ruins of Fairlop Oak in Essex. Drawn by Humphrey Repton and engraved by J. Peltro

1808 The Celebrated Great Oak. Supposed to be above 1800 years old

1811 Fairlop Oak North-side, drawing by D. Redman  aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa1813  Fairlop Oak 1813  Published by J.Clay

1817 Fairlop Oak, Essex. Drawn and Engraved by I. Hassel

1816 Fairlop Fair by Henry Milbourne (known for his Countryside Landscapes). The Museum of London.

1818 Fairlop oak

The tree looked a sorry sight at the Fair in July. On Fair day in 1813 a gentleman paid a boy 2/6d (13p) to climb up and procure the last green sprig. Gales in February 1820 brought "Fairlop" crashing down.

1820 Final drawing of Fairlop Oak by Remington

The end of the Oak? Not quite. Oak timber was a valuable commodity and part of the Fairlop oak still exists today. The sounding board at Wanstead Church is said to have been made from the oak. Portions of the tree were purchased by a Mr. Seabrooke builder of St. Pancras Church in Euston Road, London which was consecrated in 1820. The ornate pulpit and reading desk were carved from the oak. A tea caddy and a pedestal table also exist and possibly other items. A small box presented to a Mr Hemmingway at the Fairlop Fair in 1834 is on display in the Redbridge Museum. 

Mr Hemmingway could possibly be the singer that accompanied the Fairlop Frigate to the Fairlop Fair. His name appears on the song sheets distributed at the time.

 

 

 

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  ▲▼ Ornate pulpit and reading desk made from the Fairlop Oak timber at St. Pancras Church in London, which was consecrated in 1820

St. Pancras Church in London, built 1820.

 

 

 

 

Left: Small pedestal table belonging to a private collector. The inscription on the column states " Warranted the Celebrated Fairlop Oak". Made by B.Oldacre.

Photo: A.G.Credland.

 

 

 

 

 

Left: A small box inscribed "A gift of Mr Peel to Mr Hemingway 1834. Cut out of the old Oak." 

 

Photo: Courtesy of Redbridge Museum.

Tea caddy made from The Fairlop Oak.

(From the Essex Field Club Collection).

 

See also the Fairlop Fair page

 
Why not visit the Museum at The Central Library, Ilford and see the Fairlop Fair exhibit and hear the songs that were sung at the fair.