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I saw Charlie First Oak

King Charles I was held prisoner at Causham Lodge (an earlier building on the site of today's Caversham Park) from 3rd - 22nd July 1647. During his imprisonment he was permitted to go bowling, one of his favourite pastimes. Escorted by a Troop of Horse, he went frequently to Collins End, where a bowling green was attached to the inn.

I saw Charlie First Oak - photo by John Morris

This magnificent oak, which would already have been over 200 years old then and was close to the inn, could lay claim to having seen 'Charlie First' play bowls.

Some years after King Charles' execution, Lord Augustus Fitzclarence, rector of Mapledurham presented a portrait-sign of the king (a copy of the famous Van Dyke portrait) to the inn and the name was changed to the King's Head. The following verse was later attached under the sign:

Stop, traveller, stop! In yonder peaceful glade
His favourite game the royal martyr played;
Here stripped of honours, children, freedom, rank,
Drank from the bowl, and bowled for what he drank;
Sought in a cheerful glass his cares to drown,
And changed his guinea ere he lost his crown.

The inn is now a private house and an orchard was planted on the bowling green many years ago. However, the royal association with the area has not been forgotten and, when a new public house was opened on the main road (the A4074), it was named "King Charles Head".

Volunteers Tony and Doug who have researched into the history of this area believe King Charles I may have visited on at least one previous occasion. During the Civil War, King Charles took a detachment from Wallingford to Caversham, over the hills, as part of an unsuccessful attempt to lift the siege of Reading. One recorded comment was that the trees were so thick in places on the hills that advance of only 3 or 4 horse abreast was possible. This made them very vulnerable but the Parliamentarian scouts did not detect their passage.

This oak is on the Hardwick Estate. More information about the history of this historic Estate is available on the 'Where Thames Smooth Waters Glide' website.

Getting There

This magnificent tree can be seen from a nearby public footpath

Grid Reference

SU659785

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