The Mile End Mulberry
Mulberry in Mile End Place
A tip-off from a reader sent me down to Mile End Place to visit an ancient Mulberry tree there and I was delighted for the excuse to visit this appealing hidden enclave of old cottages where an atmosphere of peace prevails that feels almost rural.
A Mulberry tree stands conspicuously in the front garden of a house on the west side of the Place, with a pair of branches outstretched which give it the appearance of a monstrous creature about to reach out and grab you. Yet this was not the object of my quest but perhaps a younger relative of the venerable Mulberry I was seeking, that crouches in the back garden of a cottage on the east side of the street. Traversing the boundary of two gardens, this is a black Mulberry which still bears prolific fruit each summer.
My first thought was that this Mulberry might be contemporary with the cottages in Mile End Place which date from the early nineteenth century, until I climbed up and looked over the garden wall to discover the Velho Sephardic Cemetery on the other side. This is Britain’s oldest Jewish cemetery, which opened in 1657, a year after Cromwell’s re-admission of the Jews – while upon the west side of Mile End Place is the Alderney Rd Ashkenazi Cemetery, which dates from 1697.
The proximity of these hidden green spaces flanking Mile End Place accounts for the peaceful nature of this secluded street and may also explain the presence of the ancient Mulberry tree, dating it to the seventeenth century.
Elsewhere in London, I have discovered Mulberry trees which predate the houses around, speaking of an earlier time when these urban locations were gardens, and I like to think this specimen in Mile End is another example. This is the enigma of these charismatic trees laden with stories as well as fruit, if only we know how to gather them.
The ancient mulberry in the back garden
The gardens of Mile End Place seen from the Velho Cemetery
Mile End Place seen from Alderney Rd Cemetery
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