In the Shadow of Joseph Banks

Former Spring Grove House Pupils Renew Famous Cedar Tree


We are a group of about 700 ex-pupils of the Spring Grove Secondary School and subsequently Grammar School that was housed at Spring Grove House, Isleworth, between 1920 and 1960. The original house on the site was occupied by Sir Joseph Banks from 1780 until his death in 1820.

Spring Grove House and the original cedar tree
Spring Grove House and the original cedar tree

For most of us the outstanding memory of the site is that the south-west corner of the house was dominated by a magnificent multi-trunked cedar tree, which had been pollarded by heavy chains. This tree collapsed under a heavy snowfall and one of our members has a piece of the tree on which she wrote "Tree collapsed 11am 2nd January 1951"; we returned to school after the Christmas break on 3rd Jan. We believed this to be a tree 'planted by Banks'.

In the Middlesex Chronicle of 16th March 1951 it was reported that "Miss Ashbrook, the Headmaster's secretary of Spring Grove Grammar School, has donated a sapling to replace the old cedar tree which collapsed under the weight of snow this winter." That tree was presumably removed when the new buildings were erected in the 1960s.

In 2001 a group of ex-pupils got together for a reunion; that group of OSGs rapidly expanded and there are now over 700 in the group. At the October 2007 reunion it was learnt that the whole site was to be refurbished and it was suggested that, since there was to be additional planting and landscaping for the new redevelopment scheme, we, the OSGs, should donate a cedar tree.

Enthusiastic Response

The idea was forwarded to Thalia Marriott, then Principal of West Thames College. She in turn liked the idea and passed it on to the Planning Committee, who were similarly enthusiastic. We thought that to have a tree that could reinforce the Banks connection would be appropriate. As Banks was instrumental in the construction of Kew Gardens, we have been in contact with their Head Arborialist, Tony Kirkham, who has offered advice and help to source a suitable tree for us. To date we have raised £3,000 for the project.

The Grammar School moved to Lampton Road in 1960 and all of our reunion group spent time at the Spring Grove site. Most of us had left school by 1960 and several before the war, so it is unlikely that many of us will be able to follow the progress of a young sapling for long; therefore we hope to purchase a five-metre tree and have it suitably planted.

Land Use Consultants, the company carrying out the landscaping at Spring Grove, have said that they would like to plant the tree this winter.