Trinity Manor's oak tree

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The manor framed by the oak's branches

A magnificent oak tree stands in the front garden of Trinity Manor, and legend has it that the future King Charles II sat underneath it when he visited the manor during one of his stays in Jersey in 1646 and 1649.

The same oak?

This, however, seems highly unlikely. There may have been an oak in the garden in the 17th century, but it was almost certainly not the oak which is there today.

Joan Stevens, in her article on Trinity Manor in the first volume of Old Jersey Houses, writes:

The tree painted at about the end of the 18th century
"In front of the house there is a magnificent Turkey oak (Quercus cerris), known as the King's Oak, and reputed to have been already a large tree when King Charles was in the island, and may have visited Trinity Manor. The Turkey oak was not, however, introduced into Britain until 1735, and one might for this reason discard as impossible the traditional association between the King and this tree. But it is by no means impossible. This species of tree is a native of southern Europe, and occurred in its original habitat as far west as the Jura, on the Franco-Swiss border. Specimens of it could well have been brought in the middle ages, or even earlier, to Normandy and Brittany, and thence to Jersey, long before it reached England. The Turkey oak at Trinity is estimated to be 70 feet in height, with 90 feet spread of crown and bole girth of 19 feet. These dimensions are consistent with an age of several centuries, and there is no reason to doubt that the tree was there in the time of Charles II."

Unfortunately there is every reason to doubt that the tree which today stands in front of the manor is the same tree which was there in the first half of the 17th century, if indeed the future King Charles II ever visited the manor and sat underneath it.

The oak at the front of the manor in 1922
Today the tree is not described as a Turkey oak, but as a Lucombe oak, which is a hybrid which was not created until more than a century after Charles II was in Jersey. Quercus cerris 'Lucombeana', the Lucombe oak, was first raised by William Lucombe at his nursery in Exeter 1762 in 1762.

Further evidence is provided by the earliest known picture of the manor, a watercolour referred to in Joan Stevens' book, with a suggested date of 1820. This is the date given for the photograph of the painting which is in the Société Jersiaise photographic archive, but it is probably the same watercolour which the then Seigneur of Trinity, Athelstan Riley dates as 'late 18th century' in his 1922 article on the restoration of the manor.

This picture, whatever its date, shows a tree in front of the manor's south facade, but it is clearly not a particularly old tree. Indeed, its appearance would support the view that it was an early specimen of the Lucombe oak, planted in the late 18th century.

Perhaps the legend that the future King sat under an oak at Trinity manor is based on confusion with the story that he hid in an oak tree at Boscobel House when escaping following the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Even this better documented story does not suggest that the tree in which Charles hid is still standing today.

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