Top ten trees of interest at Beningbrough

Tree trunk with a scar running up the bark

The Beningbrough estate dates back to medieval times, stretches over acres of parkland and is home to rare, unusual and characterful trees.

When one of the garden team found out about the tree register, which keeps the records of 'champion trees' - the tallest or widest of each species, they felt sure that there would be some Yorkshire champions at Beningbrough; this started the discussion around other favourite trees in the garden and parkland.

The Victorian pear arch

Pyrus communis. Arguably the most iconic feature of Beningbrough's gardens, the pear arch  is made up of 20 individual trees. The arch was planted in the 1890s and is an original feature of the Victorian walled garden, along with the greenhouse. Some of the trees are now at the end of their lifespan and are being replanted; most however, are the originals and still produce delicious fruit.
Visitors explore the gardens at Beningbrough Hall
Visitors explore the gardens at Beningbrough Hall
Visitors explore the gardens at Beningbrough Hall

Cockscomb beech

Fagus sylvatica ‘Cristata.'  County champion for girth. The common name of this tree comes from the unusual shape of its leaves, which, resemble the comb on a cockerel’s head. This leaf shape was probably a naturally occurring abnormality originally, which then went on to be purposely propagated. It was commercially available from the 1830s, and Beningbrough’s champion is around 80-100 years old. Find it in the corner of the American garden near the bird feeding area.

The lightning oak

Quercus robur. This huge common oak is known at Beningbrough as "the lightning oak" as it has a significant lightning scar right down its trunk. It’s interesting how the tree has managed to almost compartmentalise off the scar, and carry on growing, despite the damage. Interestingly, the oak and the elm are the two types of tree most frequently struck by lightning so worth avoiding standing underneath in a storm. Find it as you leave the American garden on the ha-ha path.

Ginkgo biloba

Often known as the maidenhair tree and the only surviving species of it's division. It has a distintive leaf shape, described as a bi-lobed fan, making it easily recognisable. It's quite hard to comprehend that some fossils date back 270 million years. Beningbrough's can be found in the lawn close to the East Formal garden and isn't quite as old at around 40.


Duke of Cambridge oak

Quercus robur ‘Variegata’. Nationally significant - the Yorkshire champion variegated English oak for girth and height. This tree was planted in 1898 by the then Duke of Cambridge, the 79-year old grandson of George III. The story goes that he was suffering from hay fever and did not wish to cross any grass to plant it, hence its position in the middle of the south path close to the hall. 
South side of Beningbrough Hall in snow
South Side of Beningbrough Hall in snow
South side of Beningbrough Hall in snow

Tibetan whitebeam

Sorbus thibetica ‘John Mitchell’. County champion for height. There are a pair of these in the corner of the wilderness play area, and it's hard to tell which is the champion - both are very tall. By the time the leaves have finished growing, they will be the size of saucers and in autumn the tree produces fat brown berries.


Fagus sylvatica. The common versions in the garden might not be Yorkshire champions but they stand tall and majestic on the carriageway and can be seen towering above other trees from all angles. In full leaf or as silhouetted branches against a winter sky, you can't help but look up. Arguably at their best in autumn; the colours slowly turn bronze and the leaves litter the floor with their golden tones. 

The Beech stands majestic whatever the season
Large Beech tree in autumn against a blue sky
The Beech stands majestic whatever the season


Cydonia ‘Champion.’ Quinces are native to western Asia, this is a variety selected for its large fruit that are ready to pick in Autumn that said they still need to be cooked to make them edible. This tree, planted in 1980, sits at the end of the carriageway dwarfed by the beech trees, however it's the county champion for girth. With wonderful blush-pink flowers in spring and rough furry foliage followed by large yellow pome fruit that start out furry, becoming smooth in the autumn. The garden team often get asked about this tree, the fruit looking familiar yet strange to many visitors.  

The giant redwoods

Sequoiadendron giganteum. There were 16 giant redwoods planted at Beningbrough in the 1890s for the Dawnay family; eight have survived. The redwood was discovered in America during the Victorian era and was very popular, its size having connotations of power and Empire. The British wanted to call it Wellingtonia after the Duke of Wellington, but the Americans favoured Washingtonia. In the end, it was called sequoia after a Native American tribe. One of the Beningbrough redwoods can be seen from the front of the house, and others from the drive in, as you approach from Newton-on-Ouse.

Lime tree avenue

Tilia europaea 'Pallida.’  Another of Beningbrough's well known features is the lime tree avenue leading to the house. The limes in the avenue today however, are not the first ones to be planted on the site. There were originally four rows, two on each side. These were taken out in the late 1980s, as they weren’t coping well with the high water table. The new trees were planted in the early 1990s, just two rows to not obscure the view of the house, and the avenue is now looking nicely established again.

The golden tones of lime tree avenue in autumn
A row of golden leaved trees with a red brick hall in the distance
The golden tones of lime tree avenue in autumn

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