A 19th-century tree thought to have inspired a well-known English nursery rhyme has been saved from extinction by horticultural experts and gifted to Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP).

The famous mulberry bush was originally planted over two hundred years ago within the walls of HMP Wakefield. However, back in 2017, the much-loved tree, considered by many to be the origin of the nursery rhyme ‘Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush’, was found to be riddled with a beetle infestation and canker – signalling the death knell of this living landmark. But before the tree was felled, a cutting was taken at HMP Wakefield and given to the Estates Team at YSP to nurture and ensure the link to its past was not severed.

The cutting has since been carefully propagated over the years and is now deemed hardy and established enough to be planted at YSP, near Wakefield. Here, hundreds of thousands of visitors who flock to the
500-acre visitor attraction will be able to enjoy and learn about its ‘notorious’ roots, as well as its fabled contribution to children’s literature.

Even today, HMP Wakefield’s staff diner is still called The Mulberry, its crest includes an image of the bush, and an adjacent road in Wakefield is named Mulberry Way.

Mark Chesman, head of estates at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, said: “After it was originally planted within the prison walls, female prisoners were said to have danced around the tree to keep warm and they invented the rhyme to help keep their children amused. We feel extremely privileged to have been given the opportunity to save such an important part of our heritage that may have been lost forever without the hard work and dedication of our Estates Team. It is very fitting that YSP be the home for this precious plant.”

“The Bretton Estate is a 500-acre historic estate, designed primarily in the 18th century. One of the estate’s ancestors, Diana Beaumont, became a highly respected horticulturist – she had trees and seeds imported from all over the world, including from Calcutta Botanical Garden. Nobody knows why of all of her father’s illegitimate children she was chosen to inherit the estate, but one theory is that it is due to her passion for the estate and its flora.”

A special planting ceremony took place on Thursday, March 30 and the fledgling mulberry bush takes pride of place a short walk from the Learning Centre at YSP. A special plaque (pictured) nearby will inform visitors of its important heritage so the story can live on with a new generation of fans.

A verse from the famous nursery rhyme:
“Here we go round the mulberry bush,
“The mulberry bush,
“The mulberry bush,
“Here we go round the mulberry bush,
“On a cold and frosty morning.”