Leeds nostalgia: Chip off the old block for Headingley’s Shire Oak

17 december 2010.'Susan Youell with the carving by Robert Thompson at St Michael's Church, Headingley.
17 december 2010.'Susan Youell with the carving by Robert Thompson at St Michael's Church, Headingley.
0
Have your say

Some of the fragments of wood from the old Shire Oak, which was famous in Headingley and leant its name to the two pubs nearest its former location, ended up being turned into scultpures.

Only a handful of these ornaments, crafted from wood which was growing at the time the Romans held power in the area, are thought still to exist and one of those resides in St Michael’s Church.

The carving, by famousNorth Yorkshire wood carver Robert Thompson, takes the form of Mary and baby Jesus and stands on a plinth in the Lady Chapel in a quiet corner of the enigmatic church.

There were three carvings made from bits of the old tree but where the other two reside remains a mystery.

It is not the only curiosity in the chuch, which is also home to a series of carvings, again by Kilburn artist Robert Thompson, whose trademark was to engrave and carve tinywooden mice on pieces of furniture. Indeed, Mr Thompson was known as the ‘Mouseman’ for this very reason and his work is famous throughout the world.

The old oak gave its name to the Shire Oak and Skyrack pubs on Otley Road. The tree itself collapsed in 1941.

According to local legend, it lived for over a thousand years and was the ancient meeting place for Saxon lords, who used it as the focal point for dividing up the surrounding shire.

Some even believe the tree was used as a look-out post by the Romans – at that time it would have formed just part of a great forest.

If you know where the other oak sculptures are, get in touch.

Christmas from the Archives 1936: Oldest man in Leeds looks back on 96 Christmases