The Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree

The Bethnal Green mulberry tree is an ancient black mulberry tree, on the grounds of the former London Chest Hospital, at Bethnal Green in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The tree’s exact age is unknown but is considered to be at least 200 years old; some sources suggest that it is over 400 years old, making it the oldest tree in the East End.


Many British mulberry trees have associations with famous people, and while evidence sometimes survives to confirm these associations, this is only sometimes the case. The Bethnal Green mulberry itself is the subject of an unconfirmed tradition linking it to the ill-famed Bishop Bonner. In the mid-sixteenth century, Bishop Edmund Bonner (known as Bloody Bonner) became notorious for his persecution of Protestants during a period of mutual intolerance. A tradition says Bonner sat beneath a mulberry tree while deciding which heretics to burn.


In 1945, later on in the tree’s interesting life, in the last few months of the Second World War, a bomb fell on a chapel adjacent to the tree. The chapel was destroyed, but the tree, though damaged, survived. Charring can still be seen on the tree today. 



Image Credit: V&A Collection