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Ankerwycke Yew

Did this tree witness the signing of the Magna Carta?

23 April 2009

The signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 was a land mark in social history. It remains the nearest thing to a bill of rights that Britain has ever had and forms the basis of the constitutions of many countries, including the USA.

There is no record of the exact spot where the signing took place. The Magna Carta itself mentions “the meadow that is called Runnymede between Windsor and Staines”. However, recent evidence has given rise to the opinion that the great yew tree in the grounds of the ruined Benedictine convent, on the small island of Ankerwycke – part of the Runnymede area - was the site of the oath-swearing to the Magna Carta.

The convent was founded in about 1160, right next to the yew tree which has already been there for about 1,700 years. The manor of Ankerwycke was owned by Richard de Montfichet, one of the 25 barons present at the signing of the Charter.

Runnymede is known to have been a special meeting place long before Magna Carta and is said to be called the meadow of the Runes (magical charms) and the field of council. In Saxon times it was known as Rune-mede, a place of council where runes would have been consulted and runes, at the time, had deep association with yew trees.. This one, I am sure you will agree is, most definitely, charming..

See an historical landmark tree

Ankerwycke Yew Photo:ATH/WTPL