24th February 2023
Earlier this week I visited Magdalen College, Oxford with my brother to record its Black Mulberry. I hadn't made an appointment so it was great good fortune to meet Head Gardener David Craft supervising work on a Wisteria on the New Building. We got talking and David kindly let us into the Grove deer park to measure the tree and get a closer look.
Black mulberry in the Grove deer park [Photo Peter Coles]
The Longwall, around the western edge of the College, was built in the 1480s and partly encloses The Grove, which has functioned as a garden ever since the College’s earliest days (it was founded in 1458). According to College archives, it was originally a garden for the use of the Fellows, but, "from the early 18th century at least, it was set aside for the College’s herd of deer, which has lived there ever since."
I hope to be able to help David do some research on the tree and to discover if there were others in the College. There is hope, as artist S H Grimm made an ink drawing of a mulberry, supposedly in Magdalen in 1783 and now in the British Library.
S H Grimm's ink drawing of a mulberry (1783) thought to be in Magdalen College [courtesy British Library]
The mulberry was blown over a while ago but still produces plenty of fruit [Photo Peter Coles]
The general public isn't allowed into the deer park but the tree can easily be seen from Addison's Walk, the footpath that runs along a branch of the Cherwell River to the east.