The Bute House Beech Tree
Our beautiful copper beech tree was planted about two hundred years ago in what was at the time the large parkland of the original Bute House and it was the last of the trees from that parkland still standing. This deer park was a beautiful area with a sweeping carriage drive to Bute House running through it. When the building became a school in the early part of the last century the tree, even then quite large, sheltered many generations of children from sun and rain; pupils from that time remember feeding the school lamb beneath it, climbing its branches and gossiping under it.
During the war the tree stood above a field of vegetables as pupils “Dug for Victory“ around it. The new building opened in 1958, after the original Bute House building was demolished, was closer to the beech tree and so it also provided shade for the classrooms and a wonderful view of the changing foliage over the seasons. The tree grew very large, allowing over twenty children to sit around it on the tree seat, which was donated by the parents and features on the school emblem. The tree also became a major focus of school life, being the subject of many poems, paintings, songs and stories by the children as well as their meeting place at break times and a shady area for picnics.
In late 2008 the children noticed some mushrooms growing around the tree’s base, these grew alarmingly large over the following weeks and consultants and tree experts were called in for diagnosis. To everyone’s horror it was discovered that the tree had succumbed to a tree fungus that had attacked the roots and it was given a death sentence. It was cut down just before Christmas 2008. The children, Head and staff of the school were all devastated on their return in the New Year 2009 to see the sad, stark stump that remained and so it was decided that our beautiful Beech Tree should be given an appropriate memorial. A talented tree artist Tom Harvey, was commissioned by the Parents Committee to carve the remaining three metre stump into a “tree of life”. The classes all chose an animal to be carved into it and he spent many weeks in the summer of 2009 producing, with just his chain saw, the stunning carving you see here.
The children returned from their holiday and were overjoyed with it, spending a long time finding all the little creatures hidden in the crevices. Fittingly a phoenix arises from the very top of the carving and flies across the sun. One chid summed it up by saying “it was as though the animals were hiding in there all the time and he just let them out”. A polished slice made from the wood of the tree will soon be displayed in school and wooden key rings have also been made, so that many children may keep a little piece of the history of Bute House.
A new copper beech tree, also kindly donated by the parents, has now been obtained and although it is a small tree now it will, we hope, grow into another magnificent specimen that will shelter generations of Bute House girls to come.This was officially planted on the 28th April 2011 by the childrens' author Camilla Cowell, an old girl of Bute House, and she also buried a time capsule nearby.
A brief snapshot of the last days of the magnificent Bute House Beech Tree.