New clues in mystery of Horsham tree that’s among the oldest in England

New clues have been revealed over the mystery of an ancient tree that has been growing in a South Downs churchyard for thousands of years.

Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 5:40 pm

The tree - a yew at St Giles Church in Coldwaltham - is among the oldest in England and has attracted much speculation over its exact age.

Some people, including Horsham District Council experts, have estimated its age at 1,000 years, but others have said it is at least 2,000 years old and some - including Arun Churches - say it is an amazing 3,000 years old.

And this week the vicar of St Giles, Father Peter Mallinson, agreed, putting its age also at 3,000 years - meaning it was already ancient before the birth of Christianity.

Father Peter Mallinson in Coldwaltham churchyard with the tree is thought to be 3,000 years old and is among the oldest trees in England. Pic S Robards SR2112014 SUS-210112-170319001

“The tree was here before the church was built,” he said. “The original church is Saxon and the Saxons very much respected these ancient trees.”

St Giles was built around 1,200 AD towards the end of the Dark Ages which spanned Britain for around six centuries from 410-1066.

The inside of the St Giles’ yew is now hollow but “growing on the outside,” according to Father Peter.

A sign in the churchyard reads: “This yew tree is one of the 12 oldest in the country and is the subject of a tree preservation order.”

The 3,000 year old tree in Coldwaltham. Pic S Robards SR2112014 SUS-210112-170507001
The ancient tree at Coldwaltham Church thought to be 3,000 years old. Pic S Robards SR2112014 SUS-210112-170434001