Lewisham council has placed a Tree Protection Order on the ancient Mulberry tree in the garden of Ladywell House, the former vicarage for St Mary’s Lewisham.
The Mulberry tree, thought to be around 300 years old, once formed the centrepiece for the vicarage garden on the corner of Ladywell Road and Lewisham High Street.
Ladywell House and grounds were purchased by a developer in 2022. Extensive clearance has been carried out in the former garden and fences erected.
The developer applied for permission to fell the ancient Mulberry tree and several other mature trees.
Local residents now report the garden has been crudely divided by a new fence.
“Since the erection of a very solid back gate, it is now quite difficult to see into the garden.
“The last time I took the 122 bus I could see from the upper deck that the Mulberry remains standing (pic attached).
“Unfortunately there were tyre tracks close to it, which is far from ideal. Veteran trees like this one should have a root protection zone to prevent soil compaction, but this does not appear to have been put in place.
“I have encouraged the Council to advise the owner on appropriate measures, but resources for this kind of thing are limited. Attempts to make direct contact with the owner have been fruitless.”
The division of the garden suggests the developer might have plans to build something new, but as yet no planning application has been submitted.
Peter Coles has updated the London Mulberries website with more evidence about the age of the tree https://www.moruslondinium.org/map/192
Threat to fell ancient Ladywell House Mulberry tree
The owners of Ladywell House, until recently used by the NHS, on the corner of Ladywell Road and Lewisham High Street, have applied for permission to fell an ancient Mulberry tree and several other mature trees. Ladywell House was the vicarage for St Mary’s Lewisham and dates back to 1689. The Mulberry tree forms a centrepiece for what was once the vicarage garden which has now been crudely divided by a new fence.
“It looks like a bomb has hit the garden,” according to Caroline Cupitt, a concern local resident with an interest in trees. The mature trees, including the Mulberry, have been indiscriminately hacked.
The original Ladywell House was subsequently rebuilt by the Rev Dr George Stanhope for the princely sum of £739 13s 0d (about £100,000 in today’s money). All this detail can be found on a great website – Morus Londinium and a page on Lewisham’s Mulberries. https://www.moruslondinium.org/research/ladywell-house-mulberry
“The tree is enormous –with a ‘dripline’ circumference of about 40 metres”, according to the website article by Peter Coles..
“Ducking under the branches I saw a great tangle of twigs, branches and undergrowth, hiding a huge bole, with several thick trunks pushing upwards and sideways. The tree looked much older than what I had thought was a Victorian building,” Peter adds.
The vicarage was altered in 1879 with the addition of rooms and again in 1894.
Peter concludes: “So, the bottom line here is that, without further evidence, we don’t know if the tree was planted around 1692 by Rev Stanhope, or whether it is a Victorian tree, possibly planted around 1879 (by Rev. A. Legge) or in 1894 (by Rev, Samuel Bickersteth) when the house was extended.
“Whether it is a 120 year-old, 140 year-old or 320 year-old tree, it is magnificent and one of the best preserved in South London. A hidden gem and worth further research.”
So it seems strange and irresponsible that the owners of the property appear to have little regard for these ancient trees.
The house was leased by the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. The trust is believed to have given up the lease in 2021.
It is not clear who owns the property but the house and once beautiful gardens are an important part of old Lewisham.
The summary of the planning application is as follows:
ONE Horse Chestnut (T12) (T3 on survey report) (Ht: 20m) SECTION FELL to 2ft stump, replace with Wild Service Tree ONE Lime (TG15A) (T2 on survey report) (Ht: 15m) GROUND FELL – tree dying ONE Lime (TG16A) (T1 on survey report) (Ht: 20m) SECTION FELL to ground level, replace with Small Leaf Lime ONE Mulberry (T20) (T4 on survey report) (Ht: 6m) GROUND FELL, replace with Liquid Amber or Tulip Tree
Documents can be found on the council planning portal under Planning Application DC/23/129956. Please comment. This link might work. https://planning.lewisham.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=_LEWIS_DCAPR_117878