CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to EADT Suffolk today CLICK HERE

Tree sculptor transforming Ickworth’s dead trees into a record of the area’s heritage

PUBLISHED: 13:35 18 September 2018

John Williams tree carving at Ickworth

John Williams tree carving at Ickworth


Tree sculptor John Williams has embarked on an ambitious storytelling project in the Ickworth House gardens | Words & Photos: Suzy Stennett

The National Trust has stumbled upon a novel way to make use of a small selection of trees at Ickworth House which have been identified as dying – a pop-up history guide featuring the work of local wood artisan John Williams.

The guide, along The Erskine Walk and Lady Geraldine’s Walk in the north garden, is John’s most ambitious project to date as he chisels through a total of 450 sq ft of wood.

Carving four diseased oaks, he is encapsulating the complex history of Ickworth Park, the house and its occupants, the Hervey family. Each of the oaks is dedicated to a specific era and they all feature locals or workers from the estate, alongside members of the Hervey family.

John Williams tree atin IckworthJohn Williams tree atin Ickworth

The story begins when the Ickworth Estate consisted only of a church, a half-timbered house – the original Ickworth Hall – a small hamlet, a deer-hunting park, and a source of water.

Ickworth park was originally created by Thomas d’Ickworth, who was granted the right to create a deer-park on land belonging to the Abbey of Bury St Edmunds in 1253. The Herveys took over the estate in the mid 15th century, when Thomas Hervey married Jane Drury, whose family then owned it.

John picks up the story with over life-size portrayals of Thomas Hervey and Jane Drury carved almost the entire height of the opening 12ft trunk. His second trunk features the 1st Earl of Bristol John Baron Hervey (1665 - 1751), who inherited the estate from his uncle.

John Williams tree atin IckworthJohn Williams tree atin Ickworth

With a successful career in politics, serving as a Whig MP, Baron Hervey dramatically expanded the Hervey estates by marrying two wealthy heiresses. He had plans to build an impressive pile to replace the neglected and uninhabitable Ickworth Hall, but Lady Bristol was incurably extravagant, and his large family too financially burdensome.

Frederick Hervey 4th Earl of Bristol (1739 - 1803), commonly known as the Earl Bishop, and his youngest son, Frederick William 5th Earl and 1st Marquess of Bristol (1769 - 1859), are the subjects of John’s third trunk, two heirs who finally realised the ambitions of the Hervey family to build the grand house that we know today as Ickworth House.

The fourth trunk takes the story to the end of the Harvey era with Frederick William Hervey, 4th Marquess of Bristol (1863 – 1951) and the Marchioness Alice Frances Theodora Wythes (1875 – 1957).

John Williams tree atin IckworthJohn Williams tree atin Ickworth

The Marchioness will be carved larger than her husband in recognition of her money and influence that brought the estate back from the brink of insolvency.

In 1956 the house, gardens, park and contents were handed to the treasury in lieu of death duties, then passed on to the National Trust. The Hervey family continue living in the East Wing under a lease.

John Williams tree atin IckworthJohn Williams tree atin Ickworth

So, the last Hervey to be portrayed on John’s last trunk will be Frederick William John Augustus 7th Marquess of Bristol (1954 – 1999). Known as John, Lord Bristol, he was a troubled soul, who squandered the remainder of the Hervey fortune on cars, helicopters, misguided business ventures and partying, and was forced to sell the lease on the East Wing back to the trust.

John hopes to complete the project by October 2019, so if you happen to be there while he’s at work you may be able to see him carving his way through history!


Follow Suffolk Mag on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other EADT Suffolk Magazine visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by EADT Suffolk Magazine staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique EADT Suffolk Magazine account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

What makes the perfect Christmas? For most of us it’s good food, good drink and good company, wherever we call home. And in Suffolk we’re lucky to have some great people in the food and drink industry who ensure we always have a great time | Words: Jayne Lindill

Read more
Friday, November 23, 2018

From her great uncle’s First World War diary Vicky Gunnell pieced together the career of a pioneer in aerial photography at Orford Ness and Martlesham Heath

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Spirit Yachts is a Suffolk success story. After 25 years of designing and building luxury vessels sailed all over the world, it has plenty to celebrate | Words: Ross Bentley

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Private, intimate and unforgettable: here’s why you should consider a bespoke package wedding at a stately home

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

An exclusive charity sale at Bishop & Miller gives Ed Sheeran fans the chance to own some of the singer’s personal items

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

October . . . the month for the unusual and the unexplained. Pip Wright delves into Suffolk’s strange, bewildering history of witchcraft | Words: Pip Wright

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Tessa Allingham sits down to dinner prepared by some of the county’s most talented chefs and their most promising protegés

Read more
Friday, October 5, 2018

John White has lived and worked at the tiny hamlet of Felixstowe Ferry for almost all of his 79 years | Words & Photos: Mike Trippitt

Read more
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Thinking of boarding school for your child but have concerns? There might be a flexible boarding option to suit you at Royal Hospital School, Ipswich

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Barrister Sarah Langford hopes her fictionalised accounts of some of the challenging cases she’s defended will give people a deeper understanding of the justice system | Words: Catherine Larner - Photo: Sophia Schorr-Kon

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

EADT Suffolk Magazine weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search