If you walk around Draycott, you’ll see that there are few connections to Draycott’s past that date back more than one thousand years. Even the stones of St Margaret’s Church, old as they are, only go back to the thirteenth century.
Yet, there is something that goes back a whole millennium in time – Draycott’s yew-trees.
Back around the Norman Conquest of 1066, there was a grove of yew-trees on Draycott’s highest point – the mound on which St Margaret’s Church now stands.
The yews that stand nowadays in the churchyard, one to the east and one to the south-west of the church itself, are all that is left of that ancient grove; and have been proven to be much older than even other yews in the district.
Matthew Pointon, in his book on the history of Draycott-in-the-Moors, thinks that they could be among the oldest yew trees in the whole country. They are classified as such on the UK Ancient Yew Listings.
But, unfortunately, even yew-trees as old as ours do not have protected status, so it is up to the church to look after them as best it can.
The trees are carefully preserved nowadays, and recently had an overdue pruning. If you go by the churchyard, you’ll see the raw ends of the sawn-off trunks.
One other benefit of the pruning is that certain headstones, which had become covered over the tree’s growth and foliage, have now been restored to the light again!
The question is: why did the Christians who built the church all those years ago allow the yew-trees to remain?
There are two reasons, one symbolic, one practical… First, the yew’s evergreen quality is a symbol of immortality in a graveyard; and secondly, they also provided some protection for the church from the wind and rain!
In later years, the yews’ wood provided arrows for medieval archers.
The Roman mystery
Of course, some people reading this might, even now, be muttering that there are even older signs of the past in Draycott – older than the yews.
For example: “what about the Roman carvings on the rock face diagonally opposite the Draycott Arms?” they might say.
And the Roman tiles that were found in the nearby stream?
Well, trouble is, it seems that the holes one can see clearly in the rock-face behind the Old Post Office are actually probably only 500 years old. It’s a myth that they are of Roman times.
And as for the Roman tiles, no one seems to know where they are now…
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