The Kitchener Tree

From Hidden Warwickshire by Betty Smith.

“To the West of Whichford, Warwickshire, stands Whichford Wood, thought to be so ancient in origin as to be almost primeval.

What is extraordinary about Whichford Wood is the Kitchener Tree. Very difficult to find, its location is down an old track known as Doctor’s Barn, named after a village doctor who did pretty well out of the Enclosure Act in the 19th Century. Looking for a tree in a wood is even harder than finding a needle in a haystack. And the wood, despite its good management, or because of it, is very thick. The ground is always moist and muddy, and has never been turned.

The story is that a Corporal Ivens, home on leave in July 1916, was wandering in the wood. Many people wander in it; it is that kind of wood, and no matter how far or how long you wander, you never cross the same track twice, nor do you ever seem to meet anyone else. Young Corporal Ivens had just heard of the death of Kitchener of Khartoum on the HMS Hampshire and it would appear that to Ivens he was something of a personal hero. Taking out his knife, without no true countryman stirs from home, Corporal Ivens carved upon a young tree ‘K of K. Drowned. 6. 6. 16. RIP’.

Years passed, the tree grew, and so did the letters carved upon it. thus making a remote, truly hidden memorial in the most dense part of an ancient piece of Warwickshire woodland, in commemoration of a man who had become a nationally mourned hero.”

I was passed this information by Rosemary Birnie, (nee Ivens) of Newbold on Stour, and previously of Shipston on Stour, Warwickshire. Rosemary had visited the tree before it fell down of natural old age, and photographed the carving. I gather that nothing is left of it now.

I had met Rosemary’s brother Arthur ivens accidentally in the Shipston on Stour doctor’s surgery. They called for Mr. Ivens and I jumped up. it was only when they tried to give me the wrong medicine that the confusion unravelled, and the other Mr. Ivens was found still in the waiting room.

P.S. Whichford Wood belonged to the de Mohun family, of Norman origins, and they have a chapel in the church of St Michael, parts of which date from 1150. Within it is a tomb with an engrailed cross, to John de Mohun who died in the Scottish campaign of 1320. The last John de Mohun was one of the first Knights of the Garter, and when he died in 1376 he left no heirs. The de Mohuns ceased to live at Whichford around 1405, and thir castle was allowed to fall into a complete ruin.   Source: Hidden Warwickshire by Betty Smith.
Note: Elinor Mohun married Sir John Carew, and their son, also Sir John Carew (b.circa 1320) married Margaret Mohun. Another link to the Ivens family!

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