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The Beaumont Tree Flitton

It is nice to include articles donated by members of the public. This one is by Margaret Butt and first appeared in the Flitton Parish Newsletter

The parish register states that a highwayman, name unknown, was shot in Silsoe Lane (also called Beaumont Tree Lane) in 1751 which led to the main Bedford to Luton road now the A6.

The highway man was reputedly buried at the crossroads between Flitton and Silsoe near Beaumont Farm, with an elm stake cut from a hedge through his heart. If this is true, it is surprising that it is mentioned in the church registers. From this stake, an elm tree, known as Beaumont’s or Bowman’s Tree, grew which had magic powers. Ague, a type of malaria, was common here because of all the standing water on the Moors which attracted mosquitoes. The prevention or cure for this was to hammer an iron nail with a strand of your hair or with a toenail into the tree as the church clock struck midnight. How effective this cure was is not known but in the Fens, opium was used and quinine in tonic water, liberally accompanied by gin, was also considered to be a useful remedy.

The original tree was only a stump in old photos from the 1930s and another elm stood there which succumbed to Dutch Elm disease. Pieces of the originals tree are in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Downing Street in Cambridge including iron nails and black hair wound round one of them. They are not on display but are kept in storage so if you want to see them, you would have to phone to make an appointment.

In 2004, the Flitwick and District Heritage Group put up a carved post with a plaque at the site of the Beaumont Tree.