• Tree chopping with Mr. Gladstone

    Latest acquisition for the tree image archive rather oddly finds an early postcard entitled "Mr. Gladstone tree felling at Hawarden". The Liberal P.M. was rather more noted for his penchant for chopping down trees on his Flintshire estate rather than planting them (although I have little doubt that he did plant some). Here we see him with axe shouldered and his family arrayed around the fallen giant. It would appear that the local vicar was also visiting on this day, and the looming form of the big house is visible in the distance.

    The image is taken from a photograph of 1888 by Samuel E. Poulton. Postcards are seldom associated with the Victorian era, but I suspect that this one may have been printed before Gladstone's death in 1898 as a very interesting contemporary text on the reverse seems to indicate.

    The photogravure postcard was published and sold by Mr. Jones at the local post office in Hawarden, and may well have been stocked into the early years of the 20th century, but I believe the text suggests an earlier date for this example. Text as follows:

    'The men sitting on the tree are W.H. Gladstone [Gladstone's son, who seems to have an axe on his legs, so must have been helping his father] & the Rev. W. Drew. The children in the pony carriage are W.H. Gladstone's - Mrs. Gladstone [Catherine] in the large cloak.

    I asked the lodge woman if Mr. Gladstone really cut down the trees in Hawarden Park, & she said, "Oh yes indeed - but not lately, not since he has been so old; but before, oh yes - very often." [this statement surely indicates that Gladstone was still alive at this point, thus pointing to a date prior to 1898] - But there are so many trees left that one wonders why he didn't cut down more - You can see the favorite pony-carriage [with a donkey in charge on this day] too - it reminds me of the Queen.

    What a splendid little vignette of social history with a gratuitous tree felling thrown in for the benefit of the photographer perhaps. Maybe I misjudge - and the tree was ailing - we'll never know, but this fascinating postcard with its unique inscription is a real gem.

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