The Watch Elm
From A History of Stoke Gifford by the Rev. D. R. Evans
It may here be recorded that Stoke Gifford once had an Elm tree of exceptional size. This was known as the Watch Elm, and, in its prime, was probably one of the largest trees in the County. The first edition one inch O.S. shows that it stood near the home field entrance to Baileys Court Farm and that it gave its name to an adjoining farmstead immediately on the west side of Mead Road. Only the outbuildings at Watch Elm Farm now remain, the dwelling house, built on the south cast side of the premises, having long since disappeared.
Mr. John Player, writing in the Gentleman's Magazine for
November, 1766 (p.504), under the title of "Some Accounts of the Watch Elm at
Stoke Gifford in Gloucestershire" (with accompanying illustration), gives some
interesting facts, and concludes his article with the results of a 1765
population survey of the parish. The author says: "This Tree was called the Watch Elm, from its
being the place, where in former times those met who were appointed to do watch
and ward, and from ifs being the standard whence they went to make their
respective rounds." "It is so very ancient that no man living can
remember it in a sound state, tho' some can recollect it four score years ago by
the name of the Hollow Tree, and so long ago it was the sheltering place of
hogs, sheep, etc.
What remains of it now is in a manner dead, only that part of it which you see represented a flourishing young head, which is even now fresh and lively. The circumference of the trunk at the height of two feet above the ground, is forty-one feet. Its height at the lowest part where if seems to have broken down, is eight feet. It was blown down by the wind in 1760."
From the Gentleman's Magazine Nov 1766
Some account of the watch Elm, at Stoke Gifford in Gloucestershire: a view of
which is exhibited in the attached a plate.
This tree she was called the Watch Elm, from its being the place, where in of former times, those met who were appointed to do watch and ward, and at from the its being the standard of from whence they went to make their respective rounds.
It is so very ancient that no man and living can remember it in a sound state, though some of it can recollect it four score years ago by a and the name of a the Hollow Tree; and so long ago it was the sheltering place of hogs, sheep etc.
What remains of it now is in a manner dead, only a that part of it which you see represented a flourishing young head, which is even now worth a fresh and lively.
The circumference of and the trunk at the height of two feet above the ground is forty one feet. Its height at the lowest part where it seems to have broken down, is eight feet. It was blown down by the wind in 1760.
The parish of at Stoke Gifford is but small, consisting only of fifty families, as numbered by John Player in September 1765, and containing one hundred and eleven as heads, eighty six as children, and a fifty three servants, in all 250 souls; among which number, however, there are some remarkable instances of longevity; namely there were at the time of numbering, eight men whose ages added together made 573 years; and eight women whose ages and together made 617; a remarkable difference which perhaps may lead to consider how much more the hard labour of a man tends to wear out their constitutions than the lighter labour of women. Add to the above instances that of two other women who now live about half a mile out of the parish who was ages amount to 175; these till lately resided mostly in the parish.
Yours etc J. P.
Mike Hill adds the following notes.
The whole of area was an agricultural one and from the early records of Stoke Gifford we can learn a little more above the farms in the 18th century. One farmer, a John Hopkins, kept detailed accounts and relates how the livestock “consisted of a sheep, working oxen, milk and dry cattle, horses and pigs.” The wages of a shepherd, obviously a very important man on the farm, was 8/- [shillings] per six per day week corresponding to the 1/- [one shilling to 1/6 [one shilling and sixpence] of the farm labourer.