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June 2016 – Ground breaking walnut trees

This month ceremonial spades will be used to ‘break ground’, marking the official start of the building works connected to the Inn’s new development. One of the spades which will be used has been in the Inn’s possession for a while, however.

When digging it out from storage, it was found to have a note attached to it that reads ‘Queen Mary’s spade’. The obvious questions then arose as to why Queen Mary’s name was attached to this item.

Searching the Black Books it quickly became apparent that Queen Mary, who was made a Royal Bencher of Lincoln’s Inn in November 1943, visited the Inn on 30 October 1945 to commemorate the centenary of the opening of the Great Hall. As part of the celebrations, she planted a walnut tree in the North Lawn opposite 2 and 3 Stone Buildings, the spade being used to put soil around the base of the tree. Below is the relevant extract from the Black Books (ref: A1a47) describing her visit followed by a photograph (ref: M6/10/17) showing her in the Great Hall after the tree planting.

Extract from the Black Books of Lincoln's Inn detailing the planting of a walnut tree by Queen Mary, a Royal Bencher
Photograph of Queen Mary in the Great Hall at Lincoln's Inn, following her tree planting ceremony

As can be seen reading this extract from the Black Books, Queen Mary also signed the Golden Book (ref: B4) and was presented with a souvenir copy of a booklet (ref: M1w) produced to commemorate the centenary of the opening of the Great Hall. Please see below her signature from the Golden Book and click on the cover of the souvenir booklet to read through it.

Signature of Queen Mary in the Golden Book of Lincoln's Inn

Unfortunately, along with a vast number of trees across the country and indeed quite a few within the Inn, the walnut tree Queen Mary planted blew down in the great storm of 1987. Photographs from the Archive (ref: M6/10/5) give an idea of the damage caused to the Inn’s gardens by this storm including the photographs below showing the felled walnut tree.

It was, however, decided to replace this tree with another in New Square gardens and Princess Margaret (made a Royal Bencher in 1956) was asked to do so on 5 October the following year as can be seen from this photograph (ref: M6/10/13). On the left is Sir Edward Eveleigh, the Treasurer that year, who looks on as Her Royal Highness wields what is in fact a second royal spade, supplied for this occasion by Wilkinson Sword and that is also still in the possession of the Inn.

Princess Margaret, Royal Bencher of Lincoln's Inn, planting a walnut tree in the gardens on 5 October 1988