Tree struck by lightning in Madam’s Close (in 1911!)

Former villagers Carol and Austin Pirie have kindly supplied an amazing postcard showing the results of a lightning strike in 1911 on the tree which once stood in Madam’s Close. The tree was effectively cut in half but produced further vigorous growth and survived for almost another 100 years. A more detailed reproduction of the postcard, together with later images of the tree, can be seen on the next page.



Enlargement of the inscription.

From the size of the trunk and the branches on the ground, the original tree was clearly a mighty specimen, probably an elm although my memory is imperfect on that point.

The stunted remains of the tree can be seen next to the Madam’s Close footpath in this aerial photograph from the late 1920s or early 1930s.

Photograph: Colin Wootton

However, by 1974, when this photograph was taken, it had recovered sufficiently once more to present a splendid sight in the Close, in the 1940s and 1950s providing shelter for cattle and cricket spectators alike (often at the same time!)

Photographer unknown

From this photograph taken at about the same time, the additional growth of the tree after the lightning strike can be well seen. The top of the original trunk rotted away, leaving a perfect, concealed den, beloved of generations of village children.

A rather grainy enlargement of part of the postcard, showing the village children assembled by the unknown photographer.

This is the original postcard, which is signed on the back “Mrs Seeney”. She was my Aunt Gladys, being the only daughter of Joseph and Catherine Wootton, and at the time of the lightning strike she would have been living with her seven brothers in Wootton House, a short way up Little Street from the entrance to Madam’s Close. She would have been about 11 or 12 years old at the time and could well be one of the girls in the photograph. Her daughter, Kathleen, married Sandy Munro, a former wartime airman. Kathleen and Sandy’s eldest daughter, Carol (who supplied the postcard) now lives with her son Austin in Brackley.

Colin Wootton (with many thanks to Carol and Austin)


3 Responses to “Tree struck by lightning in Madam’s Close (in 1911!)”

  1. Lindsay says:

    I lived nextdoor to Carol, Alan, Austin and Angus at St Hilary from Dec 1975 to August 1981. We had several motorbikes. Lots of water under the bridge now. I have been in Wales for almost 25 years. Lovely to see some familiar names from the past…

  2. Peter Cherry says:

    Just spoke to my dad tonight (Roger). It was an Elm tree which of course contracted Dutch Elm disease & finished it off. He & I remember another tree being struck by lightning in that same field around the late 1970’s / early 80’s. It was one of the trees (Lime?) nearer to the Manor, Raymond Wootton saw the lightning strike which went down the tree & unfortunately hit/killed a bullock too. Madams Close isn’t a field to hang around in during a storm!

  3. Tremayne Elson says:

    Peter, I remember that thunderbolt clearly, I was at the window watching the storm and the it seemed to come in right over Syd Wooton’s house (I lived in Stable Court). It knocked me off my feet! Of course a bunch of us went to look later on and the bullock was under a tarpaulin.

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