Monday, February 20, 2023

Elfin Oak

London The Unfinished City

When wandering around London, especially with my girls, we sometimes have a plan of where we are going. At other times we just arrive in London. Alight from the train. And then just follow our feet.

London The Unfinished City

Visiting the Elfin Oak was one of those planned days out, where we took in the Diana Memorial Playground, Kensington Gardens and the Italian Gardens, before heading through Hyde Park to Green Park.

After an exploratory of the Diana Memorial Playground both Erin and Keilyn were fascinated, as was I, with a fenced off stump of oak covered with elves, fairies, gnomes and animals.

London The Unfinished City

There were gnomes stealing eggs, a witch and a banquet hall among many other carvings. 

The girls were so captivated with the peace that Emma and I managed to finish our coffees, which were piping hot, long before we had finished looking at art in front of us.

London The Unfinished City

Brief History

In 1928 George Lansbury put in place a scheme to improve public spaces, in the Royal Parks. The hollow stump of oak, which came from Richmond Park, was donated to the park by Lady Fortescue. The stump was 900 years old.

London The Unfinished City

Ivor Innes would spend the next two years carving elves, fairies and gnomes on and in the trunk. These included;

  • Wookey the witch, with her three jars of health, wealth and happiness
  • Huckleberry the gnome, carrying a bag of berries up the Gnomes' Stairway to the banquet within Bark Hall
  • Grumples and Groodles the Elves
London The Unfinished City

Elise Innes, wife of Ivor Innes, wrote a children's book, in 1930, about the Elfin Oak, which her husband illustrated. 

London The Unfinished City

In 1996 Spike Milligan, the actor/author/comedian, personally financed a campaign to have the Elfin Oak restored to its former glory. Students from the Byam Shaw School of Art, led by the sculptor Marcus Richards, began restoring the tree, with Spike Milligan painting much of it himself.

In 1997 the Elfin Oak was declared a Grade II listed structure.

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