Great Heritage Trees: The Parliament Oak at Sherwood 

The Parliament Oak near Edwinstowe (the burial place of the Saxon King Edwin) is a Sessile Oak. 

Today it looks rather like an ancient coppice due to natural re-growth from the shattered base of the old tree (mixing old wood and new growth) is protected by iron railings, and remains one of Sherwood’s greatest trees. 

Originally on the boundary of King John’s hunting park at Clipstone near Edwinstowe, the Parliament Oak is still present by the roadside, and whilst somewhat decrepit it is still alive. Even by 1896, it was described as a senile wreck, but still capable of bearing a good crop of acorns. Edwinstowe was a favourite place for the Angevin (i.e. Norman-French) kings of England. Sherwood provided good hunting but was not too far removed from the seat of power in London. 

The Hunting Palace at King’s Clipstone was sufficient to house the entire royal court and the story is that King John was hunting nearby when he heard of an uprising in Wales. In haste and annoyed that his recreation was interrupted, he called a parliament together under the boughs of the then great tree. The meeting was on Peafield Lane, the ancient route between Edwinstowe and Mansfield Woodhouse. 

When King John summoned his parliament he learned of the Welsh mutiny. 

In a foul mood, having heard the news, King John reputedly swore, ‘…by the teeth of God’ he would not eat bread until he saw with his own eyes all the Welsh hostages held at Nottingham Castle hanged. As good as his word he immediately returned to the Castle and the twenty-eight hostage Welshmen were indeed hanged. The deed done, John sped back to Sherwood to resume his hunt. 

Somewhat later, King Edward I on his way to Scotland summoned Parliament to meet at the same location. Though much collapsed in the early 1900s, it still had a girth of twenty-nine feet and was believed to be over 1,000 years old. Robert White of Worksop wrote of the tree in 1874, that ‘what remains of it is only a shell in three or four parts, one of which is nearly round’. 

At the site today – discover The Parliament Oak. Picture: atlasobscura.com

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