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The Mile End Mulberry

July 9, 2016
by the gentle author

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

You may also like to read about

A Brief History of London’s Mulberries

At the Velho & Alderney Rd Cemeteries

6 Responses leave one →
  1. July 9, 2016

    A beautiful corner of the old East End which has thankfully been preserved. Valerie

  2. July 9, 2016

    Now; this is a splendid blog by GA such depth and colour , showing fresh flushes of green. Most of the veteran mulberry’s in the UK are inherited and well cared for, some say the fruits are divine. Perhaps some keep these trees because there is an end product. There is a lot more to mulberry’s they are really loved and pruned with care. They provide a focal point in the garden they become your friend and are major talking points at garden parties, gathering around the tree. I have witnessed these events. Dare I say it the veterans deserve a sacred status. I am talking on behalf of all mulberry’s. People out there bring on more young trees invest for the future please. John

  3. Maura Bangs permalink
    July 9, 2016

    I found an old, abundantly fruiting, black mulberry yesterday, in the garden of the Geffrye Museum. It was wonderful to stain my fingers again with the purple juice & to watch a pair of blackbirds gorging on the windfalls.

    Thank you for the link, in your original article, to the Morus Londinium site. You’ve inspired me to go on a hunt for the mulberry trees of my childhood.

    My father was a police officer in the Met & we lived in police flats for a large part of my childhood. Both of the addresses we lived in had large, shared gardens & a mulberry tree featured in each. I remember the trouble I would be in, too – mulberries stain to a remarkable, permanent, purple hue.

    In fact, has any thought been given to whether some of London’s black mulberries were grown for dyeing silk, rather than to feed silkworms?

  4. Shawdian permalink
    July 9, 2016

    The Mullberry is weird and wonderful. In photos the an real time, the leaves look so fresh and yummy I could eat them! The trunks of the trees twist and turn and bulge out with their many elephantosas (did I just make up that word) bulges, lumps, that in anything else, would look ugly, but on the Mullberry are charasmatic splurts of wonder. I ❤️ Love Mullberry trees.
    Wasn’t there a childs nursury rhyme that started, ‘Here we go round the Mullberry bush, the mullbery bush, On a cold & frosty morning, by the aptly named James Orchard Halliwell.
    George Bernard Shaw’s Mullbery Tree is my favourite tree, having spent many a good day
    sat under that tree as I read a good Shaw book. Shaw often went for his daily walks through London when he lived at Whitehall and he comments about the beautiful London Mullberry Trees. May they last till London lasts, stay for ever in their beauty.

  5. Eleanor Rigby permalink
    July 10, 2016

    We had a mulberry tree in my school, Coborn Grammar school for girls in the Mile End road, quite an uncommon sight in a school garden.

  6. July 11, 2016

    May I introduce? MY TREE, an Oak Tree of more than 500 years, located at the Sensenstein near Kassel, a natural monument, has lost some of his larger branches during the last thunderstorms. But that doesn’t bother him. He has survived 500 years of human history!

    Love & Peace

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