The Gospel Oak

One of the photos shown at the “Nostalgia with Old Photographs” day, organized by the Alresford Museum in January 2013, was a picture of a very old oak tree stump, behind metal railings, said to be “The Gospel Oak” and located at Avington Park. While no-one present could shed any light on the story behind this tree, or advise on its location, a short account on the history of the Gospel Oak was found in a small booklet entitled “Round About Alresford” published in 1958 by the Art Department of Alresford County Secondary School (Perins). The account is attributed to “W.E.Pearce” and is reproduced below.

The Gospel Oak

The Gospel Oak in Avington Park - maybe in around 1900?

The Gospel Oak in Avington Park – maybe in around 1920?

“William the Conqueror appointed Walkelin Bishop of Winchester, and he, in 1079, began building the largest mediaeval cathedral in Europe. It is often claimed that this mighty structure was completed within fourteen years. When we consider the conditions under which this was done, it is difficult to believe that it was completed in so comparatively short a time. However, when the stone structure was nearing completion, wood for the roof became urgently necessary.

Bishop Walkelin the approached William and expressed his needs. The Conqueror, an enthusiastic hunter, eventually agreed to let Walkelin have as much wood as he could cut in four days and nights from Hampage Wood. It was typical of the spirit and enterprise of Walkelin that he assembled every available man and marched his army to the wood.

Within the allotted time the wood was as bare as if a swarm of locusts had settled on a field of young corn.

It is on record that when William rode out to his delectable wood, he swore profusely. One tree was left standing, an aged oak under which Saint Augustine, to whom the coming of Christianity to this country is credited, was said to have preached the Gospel.”

W.E. Pearce.

If you have a more modern photo, please let us see it!

The Nostalgia day photos can be accessed on this page on the museum website:

Modern web-based information:

1) The Hampshire Library and Information Service adds the following picture from 1908, and the comment:

The hollow shell of a tree, kept together by iron bands and protected by an iron fence, still (1908) stands in the wood and is known locally as Hampage or Gospel Oak. The tree stands today (2004). The caption to the print shown gives a slight variant of the legend. Here, it was a petition of the neighbouring Priory of Yavington which saved the oak from the Bishop.

1908 sketch and newspaper story from Hampshire

1908 sketch and newspaper story from Hampshire LIS

2) Hantsweb gives the location as SU 542 311 2620 90, and has a TPO, but other modern reports suggest the tree is in poor condition, and dead.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Mike Hedges on March 29, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    The author (W E Pearce) of the article reproduced here would have been Bill Pearce, who, after leaving Perins, later had quite a change of career, becoming Commercial Manager of Plymouth Argyle FC in the 1970s.

    Mike Hedges


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