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Chilterns Box Woodland History Sarah Wright. Conserving and celebrating box heritage Music event involving boxwood historic instruments played amongst.

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Presentation on theme: "Chilterns Box Woodland History Sarah Wright. Conserving and celebrating box heritage Music event involving boxwood historic instruments played amongst."— Presentation transcript:

1 Chilterns Box Woodland History Sarah Wright

2 Conserving and celebrating box heritage Music event involving boxwood historic instruments played amongst the old box trees at Tring Natural History Museum

3 Recognising Buxus sempervirens © C Smith Evergreen glossy box leaves and flowers

4 Trees managed and used by people over the centuries © C Smith Shaped box tree in Monks Risborough, Bucks

5 Long-lived trees, historic places Long-established box trees at Ashridge, Herts

6 Historic records of box Estate map of 1626 near Ellesborough in Bucks

7 Piecing together the story of box in the past and for the future New box plantations, cultural events and education materials can draw on historic information

8 Highlights of the box timeline – from the Ice Age to the present Sarah Wright

9 Cast your mind back to..... 200 – 300 000 years ago! Pollen and macroscopic records indicate box was flowering at a time before man could have been responsible during the Flandrian. Pollen records as far north as Lake District - limestone scars as potential sites for box. Five known ‘ice ages’ in Earth’s history. The current interglacial is called the Flandrian (which began 10 000 years ago or 8200 BC), with earlier interglacials known as the Ipswichian and Hoxnian (200-300 000 years ago). History of the British Flora, Sir Harry Godwin (1975) Pollen records indicate box was flowering during the Hoxnian at three English sites and three Irish sites and associated with species of fir, grape, holly and walnut.

10 Evidence of early uses - 4000 BC  Box charcoal found at the Neolithic site of Whitehawk Camp, Brighton.  Egyptians known to have clipped box hedges in their gardens.

11 Uses up to the Middle Ages (15 th century) Boxley, Kent – ‘ley’ is derived from the Anglo Saxon word ‘leah’ which means permanent clearing in woodland. In Northern France, a study suggests a relationship between medieval castles and locations of box. Decocq et al, A practical approach to assess the native status of a rare plant species: the controverse of Buxus sempervirens L. in northern France revisited (2004). In the Chilterns, there are place names such as Bix and Boxmoor. Numerous box locations are rich with archaeology including hill forts and warrens. The nature of these associationsis yet to be resolved.

12 16 th and 17 th century uses Sylva, or A Discourse of Forest-Trees and the Propagation of Timber in His Majesty's Dominions by the English writer John Evelyn is published as a book in 1664. It is widely recognised as one of the most highly influential texts on forestry ever published. He writes: ‘Of box are made wheels or shivers (as our ship-carpenters call them) and pins for blocks and pullies; pegs for musical instruments; nut- crackers, weavers-shuttles, hollar-sticks, bump-sticks, and dressers for the shoe- maker, rulers, rolling-pins, pestles, mall-balls, beetles, topps, tables, chess-men, screws, male and female, bobins for bone-lace, spoons’ as well as combs and inlays. Sailors on the Mary Rose used nit combs made from boxwood. The ship sank in 1545.

13 16 th and 17 th century music Chalumeau, a single reed instrument made from boxwood, becomes established in Europe as a late Baroque, early Classical folk instrument. Later, the English flageolet is developed and is made from boxwood. Katherine Spencer plays the chalumeau at an event in the Chilterns.

14 1600AD is a key date for woodlands In England, a wooded site is considered to be ancient if it has been continuously wooded since 1600 AD. The boxwoods at Ellesborough in Bucks are considered ancient. Historic lease of 1602 relating to Box Hill in Surrey states ‘the tenant is commanded to use his best endeavours to preserve Yew, Box and other trees growing thereupon, as also to deliver half-yearly an account of what hath been sold, to whom and at what prices’. In 1608 a number of trees were cut down and earned £50. 1696 deed referring to the ‘box wood’ near Ellesborough. W. Dallimore, Holly, yew & box, with notes on other evergreens (1908)

15 Box and the landscape designer Gilpin  William Gilpin, in his book Remarks on Forest Scenery published in 1791, described the picturesque appeal of twisted trees, exposed roots and irregular land forms. This book was popular and proved to be highly influential. He, amongst others, encouraged evergreen plantings.  William Gilpin described Box Hill as ‘shivering precipices and downy hillocks, everywhere interspersed with the mellow verdure of box, which is here and there tinged, as box commonly is, with red and orange’.

16 18 th century cont.... General History of Quadrupeds with prints by Thomas Bewick is published in 1790. Bewick made his blocks from boxwood which he would obtain as logs shipped up from London. London markets were being supplied by Ashridge in the mid 18 th century (Photo C Smith; items courtesy of Graham Carlisle).

17 In demand in the 19 th century G Wilkinson in 'Trees in the Wild' (1975) writes ‘The boxwoods near London became immensely valuable around 1830-40, for the wood was used for engraving illustrations to periodicals like the Penny Magazine and the Illustrated London News, which were printed in the new steam presses. Copper engravings, which had been the fashion, could not be printed alongside type in the machines.....Until the 1890s, when photo-engraving on metal became general, tons of boxwood blocks were used in printing.....The trade in boxwood reached many thousands of pounds a year in London. Trees were so expensive that they were sold bit by bit. It is only surprising that any boxwoods remain, for the trade must have dwindled gradually and there would be no incentive to replant. Loudon in Arb Frutic suggests that trees were cut down at Box Hill to the value of £10,000 in 1815. In the Chilterns, however, John Stuart Mill was still able to write in 1855 that box 'helps to adorn the hills between Tring and Dunstable‘.

18 In demand in the 19 th century cont... In 1895, the Diplomatic and Consular Report No 1717 dealing with the trade of Batoum on the Black Sea coast stated ‘although all the private forests of Box- wood have been exhausted the Government up to the present still refuse to sell or allow Box-wood to be cut in their extensive forests throughout Abkhasia, consequently the total exports from the Caucasus have not exceeded 1200tons ; and further this wood is fast losing its importance to the English manufacturers owing to the fact that in recent years other hard woods have been discovered which are equally suitable for making many articles for which Box-wood was formerly used. ‘ W. Dallimore, Holly, yew & box, with notes on other evergreens (1908) Boxwood was used to make early lace- making bobbins. Lace-making peaked in the early 1900s.

19 Conservation for Chiltern box thanks to Charles Rothschild In 1915, the Rothschild Reserves list identifies 284 places worthy of preservation for the nation due to their natural interest, including Ellesborough and Kimble Warren boxwoods (referred to as Cad’s Dene). The boxwoods are subsequently protected by a law of 1949 as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

20 Recent key events  Box blight observed at Box Hill in 2001 and the new fungus Cylindrocadium buxicola named in 2002.  First box woodland planted under WGS in the Chilterns.  Launch Chiltern Box Woodland Project! Lots of people already involved. © Dr Beatrice Henricot, RHS

21 Summary Rosary bead, Waddesdon Collection © Trustees of the British Museum

22 Summary  Building understanding.  Starting points are historic box locations in the Chilterns.  Information will be made available to assist conservation and enjoyment of box heritage in the Chilterns and beyond.

23 Questions and comments Sarah Wright 07775 010 414 or 01844 355500 Meet at 1.15pm outside the Museum to walk to the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies for afternoon session

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