Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Lady Anne Grimston’s grave

In 1913 three graves in Hertfordshire which had trees – in one case a fig, and in the other two sycamores and/or ash – growing on them were reported as being the graves of atheists who had declared their disbelief in certain aspects of the Christian faith.  It is said that they declared that in the unlikely event of Christian teaching being correct trees would grow from their graves.

One of these trees, a fig (Ficus carica) which until the 1960s grew in St Mary’s churchyard in Watford,  has been discussed elsewhere on the website, and the grave of William Hutchinson at Aldenham will be discussed at a later date.

It is said that over 40 versions of postcards were produced depicting the fig tree; the other trees also stimulated the production of a surprisingly large number of postcards.

At Tewin the tomb of Lady Anne Grimston (d.1713) was said to have an ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior) and a sycamore tree (Acer pseudoplatanus), both with seven stems, growing from it, though at present it has only a sycamore with four trunks.

The dying Lady Grimston is said to have gathered her friends round her and told them: ‘Bear witness, my friends, what I say.  If there is any truth in the Word of God, may seven trees grow from my grave.’

However, according St Peter’s Church’s current (2015) guide book: ‘All records of Lady Anne bear testimony to her piety and her belief in the Resurrection.  It would thus seem that there is no truth in the story, which does not seem to have been heard until around 1840.’

At present the grave is surrounded by substantial iron railings, which were, according to the guide book, installed in 1870.  The remains of older railings can be seen attached to the tree.  Thus it seems as if the grave has had continual protection from mowing and grazing animals, thus encouraging the survival of any tree seedlings which might start growing from it.

Images:  main, Lady Anne’s grave, October 2015; inset, postcard of  grave, posted 20 June 1907.

Edited 27 December 2021.