A Broken Covenant: Sheffield’s WWI Living Memorials
Recorded on 13 May 2021
Speaker: Camilla Allen (University of Sheffield)
Roadside trees and avenues are part of our rich landscape heritage, yet the long term maintenance of this arboreal legacy often falls on cash-strapped local authorities. Western Road in Sheffield became one of the most iconic focal points in the protest against tree felling in the city when a century-old living-memorial to soldiers who died during the First World War was threatened with felling. Western Road, however, didn't represent the only commemorative planting, with other avenues also facing the axe (or chainsaw, as it may be). As a conciliatory gesture, new memorial avenues to the War were to be planted in Sheffield's parks, yet the replacement of old with new presented more issues than it resolved: how legible would the new plantings be? Is it possible to 'move' a living memorial? And was the act of commemoration most meaningful in its first inception at the end of the conflict one hundred years ago? This paper frames the trees of Western Road within pre and post-WW1 attitudes towards tree planting, afforestation, and living memorials in Sheffield and beyond, and asks what lessons can be learned for their future by looking closely at their past.
Dr Camilla Allen recently completed her doctorate on the twentieth century forester and conservationist Richard St. Barbe Baker (1889-1982) in the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Sheffield. Camilla's research as an environmental historian allows her to explore the places, people and events that illuminate our relationship with trees and the natural world, and has previously taken taken tree cathedrals, Africa's Great Green Wall and the preservation of coast redwood forests as her subject matter. She is currently co-editor of The Politics of Street Trees with Dr Jan Woudstra to which she is contributing a chapter on Sheffield's 'living memorial' plantings.
IHR Seminar Series: History of Gardens and Landscapes