The W.G. Grace Beeches on the Downs

These seven Beech trees on Clifton and Durdham Downs are the last surviving vestiges of some 16 trees which were planted in the late 1860s as the boundary markers for the first Gloucester County Cricket ground. The boundary was also marked by fence posts in between the trees.

Dr W.G. Grace was, of course, the major mover in the creation of the county team and of the original cricket ground. However, they found that it was more or less impossible to establish a paying audience on the site so, after just one match, moved it to Clifton College where they could more easily charge – and have a much better pitch! Unfortunately that meant that they could only play in August during the college’s summer vacation, so they then moved to the present county ground in Bishopston.

Using the girths with the Trees of Bristol Age Calculator, the tree ages range from 85 to 180 years. There is a cluster of ages around 150 giving a planting date of 1867, but we wonder why the range is so large. Were a couple replanted and why is the tree by the southernmost end so much larger than the others at over 4.5 metres in diameter – especially as it does not appear on either map below?

The 1880s Epoch 1 map shows the cricket ground but does not show the trees – though we understand that they had been planted by then.

Durdham Downs 1880

They do, however, appear the 1900 Epoch 2 map.

Durdham Downs 1900

These maps may be accessed by using the historic layers of Bristol City Council’s Pinpoint map.

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