In the village of Aston-on-Clun in the beautiful South Shropshire Hills the very ancient custom of Tree Dressing survives to this day. Where once was the village green, opposite these cottages on the main route through the village, stands the Arbor Tree, which each year on Arbor Day, the 29th May, is dressed with flags; originally these were flags of the Commonwealth, but these days a few other flags are added.
A local land-owning family, the Marstons, reinstated the custom in the 18th century, on the occasion of the marriage on 29th May 1786 of Mary Carter of Sibdon to John Marston of Aston-on-Clun. A large rice pudding also used to be eaten by the villagers, but this ceased in the 19th century.
Apart from acquiring things like phone lines the village has probably not changed very much since Mary Carter came here as a young bride.
The custom of tree dressing is ancient. The shrine of the Celtic goddess Bride was a tree and trees used to be dressed in her honour. When, in the fifth century, the daughter of a Celtic chief founded a church near a Bride tree at Kildare in Ireland, she became known as Brigid and was later venerated as a saint. Tree dressing was revived in 1660 when Charles II proclaimed 29th May, the day of his Restoration, as Arbor Day to commemorate his concealment in the oak tree as Boscobel. At first, almost every village had its arbor tree.
Aston-on-Clun, referred to as Eston in the Domesday Book and so-called, because it lies east of the Clun, is today thought to be the last place in England to still have an arbor tree.
When the Marston Estate was sold in 1951, the tree, a large black poplar reputed to be over 270 years old, was given to the village. The old poplar was felled by a storm in 1995. The current tree, already a good sized one, is from a cutting taken of the old poplar in 1975.
My belated contribution to That's My World