SO8609 : Yews in St Mary's churchyard, Painswick

taken 10 years ago, near to Painswick, Gloucestershire, England

Yews in St Mary's churchyard, Painswick
Yews in St Mary's churchyard, Painswick
This description is based on information on St Mary's church website.

According to legend, 99 trees grow in this churchyard. The Devil would destroy the hundredth if it were ever planted. In the year 2000 the church was faced with a dilemma. Every parish in the Diocese of Gloucester was given a yew tree to plant to mark the millennium. Painswick was chosen to host a special service when all the young yews were blessed and given out. Parish officials bravely planted the 100th yew on the north side of the church near the bus stop. Contrary to legend it is doing well.

The other yews were all planted in the early 18th century and so are only about 300 years old. Many yew trees are much older - up to 900 years old. Apparently yew trees were considered sacred when Christianity was introduced to Britain. They were used a bit like a modern advertising logo to make the new religion familiar.

There are more than 100 trees in the churchyard. Visitors are invited to count them (this one didn't). The trees were planted to form avenues from the lychgate (where coffins were rested on the way to church for funerals) depicting the hope of resurrection. In Painswick churchyard the avenues of trees probably followed the paths of ancient thoroughfares.

Yews enjoy longevity because of their unique growth pattern. The branches grow down into the ground to form new stems, which then rise up around the old central growth as separate but linked trunks. The central part may decay, leaving a hollow tree, but with the new growth giving life around the original tree. So the yew tree has always been a symbol of death and rebirth - the new that springs out of the old.

Yew trees were planted in churchyards partly because they were more protected there from archers who liked to cut off branches to make arrows. Also yews are poisonous to many animals so the planting of yew trees effectively prevented farmers using the churchyard as grazing land.

Every year in September the clipping of the yew trees produces over 2 tons of material. Fresh yew tree clippings are a good source of the basic raw material for the anticancer drug paclitaxel. Thus every year specialist contractors come here to collect the clippings and ship them off for processing.

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SO8609, 295 images   (more nearby 🔍)
Jaggery   (more nearby)
Date Taken
Sunday, 23 March, 2014   (more nearby)
Sunday, 12 July, 2015
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SO 8667 0964 [10m precision]
WGS84: 51:47.1155N 2:11.6787W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SO 8671 0965
View Direction
West-southwest (about 247 degrees)
Clickable map
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Image classification(about): Geograph
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