The Crouch Oak tree is one of the oldest trees in the Borough. The tree is now hollow, after years of decay and in 2001 removed part of an upper branch for safety reasons. This section was given to the Addlestone Historical Society who, as part of a Heritage Lottery Fund Awards for All projects, undertook detailed research in to the history of the tree and how old it might be. Part of that section is displayed in the gallery, kindly donated by the Addlestone Historical Society.
The 1624 “Rentals of the Manor of Chertsey Beomond” mentions a property near to “Crockoke” in Addlestone, so perhaps the tree was alive nearly 400 years ago. Local records as early as 1719 show that a Richard Veale owned land of “half an acre near Crouch Oak”, so the tree has long been known by that name. Some records give the origins of the name as the Middle English word ‘crouche’ meaning cross, and in Victorian times it was indeed referred to as the Cross Oak at a time when a cross was drawn on a tree as a way to mark a boundary. However, another Victorian name for the tree was Crutch Oak, possible describing the staff supporting one of the branches.
The Victorian’s also called it Wycliffe’s Oak and legend has it that the famed theologian John Wycliffe preached under tree in 1370. There is no real evidence for this, and Wycliffe spent most of his life in Oxford and the Midlands.
Another name for the tree is Queen Elizabeth’s picnic tree, and it is possible that Queen Elizabeth I may be stopped off in Addlestone on her way to Windsor, or perhaps when she was visiting nearby Oatlands Palace, Weybridge. It is reputed that she stayed at Sayes, a large estate on site of modern-day Sayes Court, within walking distance of the Crouch Oak.
What is well documented is the open-air sermon given by renowned Baptist preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, underneath the bows of the Crouch Oak in July 1872 to a congregation of over 3,000 people.
Crouch Oak House was probably built in 1828 at which time the tree was included in part of its 13 acres of parkland. It remained on private property when the house was by Princess Mary Village Homes (PMVH) in 1915. It was not until 1981 when PMVH closed and the site sold for redevelopment that the tree once again stood on public land.