Druids' Grove, by Thomas Allom

The Druid's Grove, Norbury Park: Ancient Yew Trees by Thomas Allom 1804-1872). Illustration for E. W. Brayley's A Topographical History of Surrey (London: G. Willis, 1850), facing p. 453. Source of image: the Internet Archive edition from a copy in the University of Toronto Library. Text by Jacqueline Banerjee [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the University of Toronto Library and the Internet Archive and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.]

Allom has chosen to illustrate a description of a particular section of Norbury Park, near Box Hill in Surrey, where the trees are especially characterful:

The more verdant foliage of this demesne is, in one part, strongly contrasted by the dark masses of a grove of Yews, under whose sombrous shade the Druids themselves might have wandered in their most abstract hours of gloomy meditation. Many of these trees are of great age, and venerable aspect; and of a girth but seldom equalled. In some instances, the circumference of the stems is full seven yards, at three or four feet from the ground. Here is one yew, upwards of twenty-two feet in circumference, that has had seven huge limbs, two of which have been cut off; the other five are in girth as follow[s], — 1st, six feet five inches; 2nd, eight feet ten inches; 3rd, eight feet six inches; 4th, three feet six inches; and 5th, seven feet six inches. (453)

Notice the tiny dog running under the trees, giving some indication of scale. To some, the trees might seem spooky. But the poet and novelist George Meredith, who lived on the lower slopes of Box Hill, loved Druids' Grove. It is thought to have been the inspiration for his long poem, "The Woods of Westermain" (e.g. see Jones 132), in which he suggests that openness towards life banishes fear. Thomas Allom himself seemed to enjoy the scenery of well-wooded Surrey: he settled down in Barnes, then a part of this county (now absorbed into Greater London) in 1852.

Sources

Brayley, E. W. A Topographical History of Surrey. Vol IV. London: G. Willis, 1850. Internet Archive. Web. 17 July 2012.

Jones, Mervyn. The Amazing Victorian: A Life of George Meredith. London: Constable, 1999.


Victorian Web Homepage Visual Arts Victorian illustration next

Last modified 17 July 2012