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St. Giles' Yews

The yew tree nowWhilst this yew tree may not be that impressive in terms of size, it could be something of a literary giant.

It was in this churchyard that the famous poet Thomas Gray wrote the poem Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, apparently whilst sitting under a yew, which is mentioned in the poem:

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The poem is not only notable for its beauty and popularity, which has endured since it was first published in 1751; it is also the source of a number of phrases which have entered the English language, such as 'far from the madding crowd', taken as the title for Thomas Hardy's book in 1874, and 'kindred spirit'.

The trees and church in 1911Is this the same tree that Gray sat beneath and pondered over the souls of those in the graves around him? It certainly is old, appearing on postcards from as far back as 1911. Do you know anything about the tree from before then? Do you know how big it is? If so let us know.

When Gray died in 1771 he was buried in St Giles', where his mother is also buried. A monument to him can still be found there.

The Churchyard has changed a lot over the years - the view from the 1911 postcard is now obscured by new trees, and even greater changes have happened since 1750, but it is still possible to sit under a yew tree and think of the past.

For more information on the history of Stoke Poges village go to the UBP website.

Location

Stoke Poges

Grid Reference

SU981841

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