The Ladywell Mulberry (with content provided by Dr. P. Coles)

During 2019, I attended several Mulberry walks led by Peter Coles from Morus Londinium. In particular, we visited the Mulberries of Lewisham 13.2.19. From Elverson DLR station the road names - Silk Mill Road -  echo the 11 former silk mills that existed along the Ravensbourne. 
The last mill closed in 1936 and our bonus was to meet a resident who remembered it working. Our walk  ended at the top of the Ravensbourne where there was  a massive old prostrate Mulberry in its own grounds, opposite Ladywell House, along Lewisham High Street. See more about Peter and his walks here on the subject-of-mulberries

 Since our joyous visit, the site has been developed and the trees are destined to be felled under planning application DC/23/129956. Only four objections have been registered to date, although additional mature trees are due to be felled, which will have an effect on the character of the street scene.

The Mulberry will be replaced with a Canadian species of Tulip tree and so a connection to our past will be lost to a chainsaw. Biodiversity soon to be discarded in the  micro - habitat formed by the insect - loving  ivy in its boughs and the plants and fungi at its feet. The planting proposed is of amenity benefit, a people pleaser, and will not promote the web of life; it will not compensate for lost mature habitat. 

There should be compensation in the replacement of veteran trees or trees with veteranised features. Case Law on a Mulberry  in Tower Hamlets can be found here 

 On 9 October 2020, Tower Hamlets London Borough Council granted planning permission and listed building consent for residential development of the former London Chest Hospital at Bonner Road, both building and grounds, for residential purposes. Its use as a hospital ceased in 2015. It is a Grade 2 listed building, listed in 2016. It also lies within the Victoria Park Conservation Area. Within the grounds is a "veteran" mulberry tree, which was to be moved to another location within the site to enable the development to take place. The permission and consent were granted to Crest Nicholson Operations Ltd, the first interested Party, Crest Nicholson. Mr Juden, the Claimant, is a local resident, opposed to the development, which was locally controversial




Peter puzzles over the actual age of the mulberry and gives us some background into the old Vicarage asking if the tree is a Victorian, possibly planted around 1879 (by Rev. A. Legge) or in 1894 (by Rev, Samuel Bickersteth) when the house was extended.

Is it 120 year-old, 140 year-old or 320 year-old tree, and attests that it is magnificent and one of the best preserved in South London. A hidden gem and worth further research. Knowing the longevity of the species could the tree have even been planted around 1692 by Rev Stanhope.

In 1692 Rev. Stanhope had the old vicarage demolished and built a new house “sett some few yards backwards from the roade and into the orchard…” He footed the bill himself -- £739, thirteen shillings, (about £96,000 in today’s money), which included £42 six shillings and sixpence for “Turf, Gravel, Sand, Seeds, Trees, and Setting and Laying,” plus a further £114, six shillings and a ha’penny for “making of my garden and the fence of that and the yard.”

According to Duncan, the house stood “without any material alteration” until 1879, when the incumbent Vicar renovated it, adding “a drawing-room and other apartments on the garden side.” A few years later, the next Vicar added a wing on the left side of the house, using bricks recovered from Lewisham House, opposite, which was pulled down in 1894.

Please consider objecting to this application. Peter's own research for the site can be found at


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