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Saturday, 13 August 2011

Mapperton villagers pay tribute to 'Posy Tree'

The Posy Tree, Mapperton
Dark Dorset learnt of the sad news that the 'Posy Tree' of Mapperton has been removed due to health and safety fears.  Residents from Mapperton gathered last Saturday at the tree, with glasses of cider, to toast the historic landmark.

This tree was planted to commemorate victims of the terrible pestilence that occurred at Mapperton, near Bridport, some four hundred years ago.

Though the Black Death took the lives of twenty-five million Europeans between 1348 and 1351, outbreaks continued to occur in isolated villages, towns and cities throughout England for the next three hundred and eighteen years.  It was a common enough practice for the inhabitants of Mapperton to bury their dead at the cemetery of the neighbouring parish of Netherbury. Mapperton's cemetery was deemed unsuitable for burial because the soil was inadequate. In 1582 this routine of burial changed due to the outbreak of bubonic plague at Mapperton. Villagers of Netherbury gathered at the parish boundary refusing to let the residents of Mapperton bury the corpses of plague victims in their cemetery. This resulted in a bitter skirmish between the villagers but after some negotiations, it was agreed that the bodies should remain at the boundary, which the old Mapperton and Netherbury track crosses, now known as "Dead Man's Lane".

The sycamore tree known locally as the 'Posy' or 'Cosy' Tree, marked the spot where the 80 dead of Mapperton were collected and buried a mile away in a mass grave within a small enclosure on the summit of South Warren Hill. After burial a copse of Beech trees was planted on the site to make sure the area was not disturbed.

There have been several attempts made to save the tree.  On 1st February 2002 it was reported in the Bridport News, "that its fate was uncertain, two years after the news was reported that is was under threat”. "But in recent years it has deteriorated, despite being severely pollarded in the vain hope that it might spring to life".  But old age has taken its toll on the sycamore and safety fears meant it had to come down last weekend.

It was reported in the Western Gazette, 11th August 2011 that Rohaise Newall, who chairs the Mapperton parish meeting, said: "It was incredibly old and completely hollow. The tree man from the council came to look and he asked us to take it down because it was really dangerous. We went through all the proper channels. "We had the whole village there to have a glass of cider and wish it well and we are going to plant another one.” It was lovely because nearly everyone walked from the village to the tree and chatted and talked about what we're going to do. We will have a ceremony when we put the new one in."

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