The Grantham Oak

The Oak of Belton Lane – referred to in some places as the Grantham Oak – is perhaps the most surprising and impressive tree in town. The oak stands on the eastern side of Belton Lane, to the north of the town of Grantham, beside a pedestrian crossing and surrounded by a crescent of residential housing. This is not the typical location for a tree which is likely to be over 500 years old!

The Grantham Oak, dominating the scene with the pedestrian crossing across Belton Lane to one side, and residential housing to the other

The Grantham Oak – a pedunculate or English Oak (Quercus robur) – has a girth of 7.02m when measured at 1.5m above the ground. To give a rough visualisation of this – it would take over four adults reaching finger-tip to finger-tip to hug this tree. Using this measurement of girth, we can estimate the age of this tree – although this is not an exact science, and is subject to speculation over the early growing conditions of the tree and the stresses or privileges it might have endured or enjoyed over the years.Using the methodology produced by John White – the tree may be 530 – 560 years old, indicating a possible planting date around the 1450’s. To put this in context – this is around the time of the War of the Roses; the founding on the Inca dynasty; and when Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake.

Sunday morning walkers passing the Grantham Oak

The tree is a pollard – this means that in the distant past, it was cut above the height at which animals can graze. This was generally done to faciliate sustainable harvest of a tree either to provide fodder for animals or for wood timber. Retaining the base of the tree but continually taking new growth allows it to be harvested regularly without killing the tree. Indeed, one result of pollarding trees is that they often live for much longer than non-pollarded specimens.

A ‘wolf tree‘ is one which is older and larger than those around it – it often has a shape and structure which seems unaffected by external influences such as shading or competition, whilst it’s establishment means the younger trees grow and develop in response to it. I often see this in woodlands – especially where an old oak is situated towards the edge of a more recent forestry plantation – but the Grantham Oak is an example of a ‘wolf tree’ in a residential setting – the houses which line Belton Road were built to arch in a crescent surrounding this magnificent tree at its centre. This tree is still valued by many who live close or drive past it – it was nominated in the hunt for the UK’s 2014 Tree of the Year competition.

The Grantham Oak with the crescent of houses set back from the canopy

The map below illustrates the current location of the tree – set at the edge of residential development, a little way offset from the green corridor along the River Witham which passes through the town to the west.

2016 tree location.jpg
The OS map below shows the current location of the tree in a changed environment – extensive residential development now covers its previously countryside landscape.

The housing around this tree was only established in the 20th century and inspection of older maps before this date indicate that in 1905, the land around Belton Lane was agricultural countryside.

This map from 1905 positions the tree opposite entrance road to Harrowby Mill. Beyond the Oak would have been open fields to the east and west in sharp comparison to the residential housing which populates this site now.

The Harrowby Mill, still present but converted to residential use, lies opposite this tree on the west of Belton Lane and this can be seen as the only marked development in close proximity to the tree back in 1835. Although this was almost 200 years ago, even then the Grantham Oak would have been an impressive specimen of some 300 years old and would have stood dominantly across the road as workers left the mill.

An extract of a map from 1835 showing the approximate location of the tree with the red dot. The road on which the tree is situated – now Belton Lane – was already in existence along with the Harrowby Mill adjacent to it.

This is registered as Tree 2560 on the Woodland Trust Ancient Tree Register – a link to the tree’s individual page can be found here. The tree is included in the ‘40 Special Trees of Lincolnshire40 Special Trees of Lincolnshire‘ book produced by the Lincolnshire Tree Awareness Group (TAG) under the title ‘The Grantham Oak’. The text describing this tree states that it was originally enclosed by Belton Hall Park although a contact at Belton said that the land at Belton Lane was never within parkland indicating it may never have been a ‘parkland’ tree.

The incongruous yet magnificent Grantham Oak

I have done my best to piece together a little history and information on this tree, but I would love for this to be just the beginning. If you have any information, photographs or stories relating to this tree, please get in touch with me or leave a comment below and I can update the post to grow the story around this magnificent resident of Grantham.

The Grantham Oak in November 2016 – just beginning to take on the tones of Autumn

For a similar post on one of Grantham’s impressive trees, take a look at this post on the copper beech on the high street!

12 thoughts on “The Grantham Oak

  1. Richard Teague February 6, 2017 / 10:55 am

    I grew up in 1950s/60s at no100, left hand semi in photo, crescent of houses built early 50s, only other building on that side of road towards Belton Park was old factory (Vac u Lug), some houses on left, none opposite, according to my 95yr old mother when she was growing up in the 20s it was said to be 500yrs old & it is in a Brownlow will that the oak can only be felled by act of God! Drove passed in yesterday while visiting still as impressive as when I was young, memories…

    • Grantham Ecology February 7, 2017 / 5:52 pm

      That’s brilliant info Richard – thank you! Interesting about the Will too – I certainly hope that’s the case as it would be a tragedy if it were lost!

    • Gordon Jeffery Maltby November 4, 2019 / 9:55 pm

      Hi Richard how are you. I remember this tree well. Probably if you look closer you might just see the nails that helped us to climb it. Regards Gordon Maltby

  2. Becky February 15, 2017 / 4:29 pm

    Love this webpage..the sunday walkers are myself, my partner Nick & our dog Samson. This is our absolute favourite tree of all time.

    • Grantham Ecology February 27, 2017 / 11:17 am

      That’s brill – what a great place to walk past each day! Thanks for letting me know – I hope you’re OK with the image staying up?

  3. DARREN EATON. March 29, 2017 / 11:45 am

    My family and i moved into 102 Belton lane which is in the crescent of semi’s that surround the tree in the summer of 1980,i’ve since moved on but my parents still live there some 37 years later,i still visit them a couple of times a week and we often talk about the tree.As a child i enjoyed climbing it and a few years ago i managed to grow a small sapling from one of the trees acorns which i’ve since planted in Londonthorpe woods.I was once told by an old lady that has lived near the tree even longer than my parents that many many years ago a large round seat surrounded the tree,this i expect was a resting place for walkers ect. when the tree was some way from town before any houses were built.Since living near the tree my parents have also seen groups of people forming a human chain around the tree in some form of spiritual worship.

    • Grantham Ecology April 5, 2017 / 8:04 pm

      That’s brilliant Darren – thanks! I could well imagine a bench circling the tree – even going back 100 years or more, this tree would have been an amazing specimen! I like the idea of people worshiping it too – from speaking to a collegue about a Nottinghamshire woodland, it’s more common than I’d realised! Nice to hear you’ve got one of its offspring growing too – it’s legacy will live on! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. Julie Ashworth February 27, 2018 / 1:57 pm

    Hi there. I’m running a family day in Wyndham Park Grantham and I wondered if you’d like to join us?
    Bugs, Bats and Beasties – Saturday 17th March 2018 11.00am – 4.00pm.

    ‘Find out more about the animals, birds and river creatures that call Wyndham Park home.

    Meet the bugs and beasties from White Post Farm.

    Children can join in with fun, interactive crafts and activities whist learning.’

    Please can you get in touch? Thanks.

    • Grantham Ecology February 28, 2018 / 1:10 pm

      Sounds like a great day – unfortunately I’m away that weekend so won’t be able to come along. If you could let me know a contact email though, I can drop you a line as I’d definitely be interested in getting involved in the future! James

  5. Denise Tegerdine October 19, 2018 / 3:38 pm

    Please can you contact me via email to discuss the Grantham Oak on Belton Lane? Many thanks. Denise

  6. Tom Reed August 30, 2019 / 11:08 am

    Hello, I work for the Woodland Trust and oversee the Ancient Tree Inventory. Nice piece about the Grantham Oak! I happened to notice that the link in your article to the Grantham Oak page on the Ancient Tree Inventory wasnt working, so thought I would share it here so that you can update the link. &nwLat=52.96181822001242&nwLng=-0.8141466268487996&seLat=52.88150555305688&seLng=-0.5106493123956746#/

    Hope that helps and thanks for using the ATI.

    • Grantham Ecology January 11, 2020 / 11:03 am

      Thanks for flagging that up – I’ve updated the link so this should work properly again now!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s