The Elfin Oak | A whimsical visit to fairyland in Kensington Gardens

The story of how an ancient oak was given an artistic makeover to delight imaginative children.

Elfin Oak © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2020

The Elfin Oak, now protected by a cage, stands in Kensington Gardens

Like most of the Royal Parks, Kensington Gardens is home to several unique attractions and artworks. One of these is the Elfin Oak, in the north-west corner of the Gardens. Located near the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground is an ancient oak tree with dozens of whimsical decorations.

Elfin Oak © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2020

Get up close to check out the various characters

Now protected by a cage, the Elfin Oak was made from the trunk of an ancient oak tree which originally grew in Richmond Park. Politician George Lansbury (1859-1940) conceived the idea, with Lady Winifred Fortescue (1888-1951) funding the project in a bid of improve facilities in Royal Parks.

Scottish-born artist Ivor Innes carved and painted 74 miniatures of fairies, elves, goblins, witches and animals into the oak, said to be around 800 years old. Among the characters are Wookey the Witch, Hucklebery the Gnome, Mother Cinders, Harebell the fairy, and elves named Grumples and Groodle.

The Elfin Oak was unveiled in August 1930 by the Mayoress of Kensington, Mrs Robinson – wife of then-Mayor Henry Robinson (1877-1960). Located near the children’s playground, it was the perfect place to inspire young minds’ about far off fairylands. The same year, Ivor’s wife Elise published a short story called ‘The Elfin Oak of Kensington Gardens’.

Over the years, the Elfin Oak was exposed to the elements, with a lot of the figurines losing their colour, being damaged and some pieces even going missing. Late comedian and local, Spike Milligan (1918-2002) helped restore the oak in both 1964-1966 and 1996. The nineties restoration was unveiled by Prince Charles in June 1997 with Historic England declaring it Grade II listed the same year. It is now surrounded by a cage in a bid to preserve the oak for future generations.

  • The Elfin Oak can be found near the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground in the north-west corner of Kensington Gardens, W2 4RU. Nearest stations: Queensway or Bayswater. For more information, visit the Royal Parks website.

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About Metro Girl

Media professional who was born, brought up and works in London. My blog is a guide to London - what's on, festivals, history, reviews and attractions, as well as the odd travel piece. All images on my blog are © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl, unless otherwise specified. Do not use without seeking permission first.

Posted on 24 May 2020, in art, Families, London, Tourist Attractions and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Spike Milligan was involved in the renovation, campaigning for it and actually helping out. He had an office nearby which he shared with Eric Sykes.
    That cage really is horrible. I would like to see it replaced with a glass enclosure or something slightly less ugly.

  2. Oh, you mentioned Spike Milligan. Maybe I should read posts before rather than after commenting!

  3. Like!! Really appreciate you sharing this blog post.Really thank you! Keep writing.

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