Did the Kings of England hold parliaments under an ancient oak tree in Devauden?
Spoiler alert: probably not.

Local amateur historians have been engaged in research which could, potentially reveal a startling, long-forgotten, historically significant 'fact': the Kings on England held parliaments beneath an ancient oak tree in Chepstow Park, the woods adjacent to Devauden.

A recent trawl through the archives of the University of Chicago Library revealed the following snippet from a journal published in the first half of the nineteenth century.

"The oldest oak in England (sic) is the Parliament Oak (from the tradition of King Edward I holding a parliament underneath its branches) in Chepstow Park".  The New World, January 15 1842.  Volume 4, page 43.

The story appears to be corroborated in article in The Coventry Herald from 14th July 1899 which states that in 1290 Edward I held an parliament under an oak in Chepstow Park.

Similarly, The National Library of Wales holds an edition of the Weekly Mail from 28th May 1892 which mentions a tree "known by the name 'Parliament Oak'  because a tradition asserts that King John of Magna Carta fame, who was an ardent lover of sport and occupied during certain seasons of the year a place in the woods at Chepstow, once had occasion to call his parliament together, and the senators of his court assembled under the gigantic oak".  Could this be referring the hunting lodge in Chepstow Park Wood?

Local experts inspect the ruins in Chepstow Park Wood, December 2020
Local amateur, historical sleuths inspect the ruins in Chepstow Park Wood, December 2020

Unfortunately, a closer look into the archives seems to pour cold water on this.  An article in the 'Nooks and Corners of Old England' section of the edition of The London Illustrated News published on 23rd September 1843 places the Parliament Oak near to the village of Clipston in Nottinghamshire.  It is easy to see how a mistake could have led to Clipston Park being misspelled as Chepstow Park and then the initial mistake repeated in subsequent articles of the nineteenth century.

 

A depiction of the Parliament Oak from The London Illustrated News.

 

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