Photo of Syon Park
LocationSyon Park
Variety Nigra
AccessPark
OS grid referenceTQ 17646 76713
Site classHeritage Notable
Total mulberries6
Largest height (m)8

Originally the Brigettine Abbey of Syon, established in 1415, with close links to Tudor dynasty. Passed to Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset after the dissolution of the monasteries (1536-41) under Henry VIII. The property has been in the Percy family since 1594. There are several ancient multi-stemmed (layering) mulberries in an orchard to the south-east of the house. A solitary ancient mulberry stands in an adjacent field, towards the river, but was probably also part of the orchard, perhaps marking one corner. Somerset's physician, the botanist William Turner mentions the existence of mulberries in "diverse gardens" in England in his "Names of Plantes" in 1548/9, but.there is no evidence for any at Syon at that time. He may have planted some though. They do look old enough. Archives in the Percy family (9th Earl of Northumberland) have a record of the purchase of 10 mulberry trees and 6 quince trees in March 1604 (the year before the Earl was sent to the Tower (where he lived in style for the next 17 years), accused of involvement in the Gunpowder Plot. Forty years later in 1645 there is a bill for 6 mulberry trees and, in 1646, another six were purchased. If all survived, this would mean as many as 22 mulberry trees growing at Syon, up to 10 could be over 416 years old. Some in the orchard are certainly very old, having layered massively. Two are mound-planted and the central bole has almost disappeared, leaving a ring of trunks that will eventually appear like a grove, but is in fact a single tree. The solitary tree is shown in old images as leaning over and propped up. 19th century writers refer to a very old tree, with spreading branches touching the ground, suggesting a tree that could easily have been over 200 years old then.

Public transport: Syon Lane rail

Find out more at spitalfieldslife.com/2015/05/05/the-oldest-mulberry-in-britain/

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