1 JANUARY 1898, Page 24


[To THE EDITOR OF THE " SPECTATOR:] Sin,—To the letter of Major Crofton which appears in the Spectator of December 25th perhaps you will kindly let me add a few particulars. My brother, Mr. Ware, the present owner of Tilford House, has in his possession two plans of different parts of the property adjoining or close to Tilford Green, dated 1767, when William Cobbett was a child, and 1776, when be was about fourteen years old. At those dates the Tilford House property belonged to Mrs. Elizabeth Abney, the last of the family of Sir Thomas Abney, the friend of Dr. Watts. The plans were made, as stated on them, by George Cobbett and John Jarrett. In each of them the old oak is shown as much larger than any other tree in the plans. The plan of 1776 gives what may be called a little drawing of it more than half an inch in diameter, indicating, according to the scale of the plan (12 perches to the inch), a spread of more than 100 ft. I enclose a tracing of that part of the plan. It shows that the tree was then a very large and important one, and apart from all other considerations, proves that Cobbett's recollec- tion of it, as being, when he was a boy, a very small tree, was altogether wrong. In both plans it is called "Novel's Oak," which appears to have been its local name. The story which I have heard in the village is that Mrs. Abney (Lady Abney they call her) redeemed the Oak for £40 from the money-loving Bishop who wanted to cut it down, obtaining for the villagers the right, which they used, of driving spikes into the oak to protect it,—as stated in Bray and Manning's "Surrey," and Brayley's "Surrey." By the Tilford Enclosure award of 1853 a small piece of ground on which the oak stands was reserved, for so long time as the same should stand thereon, to the Bishop of Winchester (the lord of the manor and his suc- cessors upon trust to preserve it from injury. Why the oak was called "Novel's Oak," and who and what "Novel" was, probably it is now impossible to ascertain ; but it is curious that the Jubilee Oak on Tilford Green, planted a few weeks ago, was planted by another Novel, James Novel, as the oldest inhabitant of Tilford. The trunk is now 24 ft. 5?,- in. round in girth about 5 ft. from the ground, where it is smallest, below where it branches out. If measured 9 ft. from the ground, as Cobbett appears to have measured it, it would be

much larger.—I am, Sir, &c., C. J. WARE. 11 Phillimore Gardens, W., December 29th.