Oxford Based New College's Oak Trees | The Living Urn

The Living Urn

Oxford Based New College's Oak Trees

This story epitomizes the tremendous value we can reap from some long-term thinking.

Despite what the name may suggest, New College is one of Oxford’s oldest. Founded in 1379, at its heart lies a dining hall that features expansive oak beams across its ceiling. In the late 1800s, an entomologist discovered that the beams were infested with beetles and would need replacing. The college agonized over where they might find oaks of sufficient size and quality to make new beams.

Then, one of the Junior Fellows stuck his neck out and suggested that there might be some worthy oaks on the college lands. These colleges are endowed with pieces of land scattered across the country which are run by a college Forester. They called in the College Forester, who of course had not been near the college itself for some years, and asked him if there were any oaks for possible use.

He pulled his forelock and said, “Well sirs, we was wonderin’ when you’d be askin’.”

Upon further inquiry it was discovered that when the College was founded, a grove of oaks had been planted to replace the beams in the dining hall when they became beetly, because oak beams always become beetly in the end. This plan had been passed down from one Forester to the next for over five hundred years saying “You don’t cut them oaks. Them’s for the College Hall.”

Somewhere on the land owned by New College are more oaks that are, or will one day, be worthy of use in the great hall, assuming that they are managed in the same way they were before.

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