‘Soldiers’ stand guard over Sheffield’s threatened trees to mark anniversary

Sheffield's tree protest takes a new slant as volunteers dressed as WWI soldiers march to where the trees were planted in memory of local troops. Photos by Glenn Ashley.

Sheffield's tree protest takes a new slant as volunteers dressed as WWI soldiers march to where the trees were planted in memory of local troops. Photos by Glenn Ashley.

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CAMPAIGNERS opposed to roadside tree felling in Sheffield have staged a march with volunteers dressed as First World War soldiers to mark the 100th anniversary of the planting of memorials to 77 former pupils of a school.

The nine soldiers “stood guard” in front of nine threatened trees in Oxford Street, in the city, as protesters gathered for a two-minute silence and service.

Protesters dressed as WWI soldiers prepare to march through Sheffield.

Protesters dressed as WWI soldiers prepare to march through Sheffield.

Organisers said today’s event marked the 100th anniversary of the planting of the trees in the road, and the adjoining Tay Street, in 1917.

The streets are next to now-closed Crookesmoor School which Graham Turnbull, who organised the event, said saw 560 of its former pupils fight in the First World War.

Mr Turnbull said: “Of these, 77 did not come back. Those are the people we are remembering today.

“Nine of the trees are at risk and we had nine soldiers standing guard over them.”

We think it may have been the first time trees were used in this way. It is certainly one of the first tree memorials.

Graham Turnbull, event organiser

He said: “The reason we did this is that it is the 100th anniversary of the planting of these trees.

“A couple of people in the group have become local historians and found out quite a lot about those who died.

“These trees were planted before the end of the war and we think it may have been the first time trees were used in this way. It is certainly one of the first tree memorials.”

Mr Turnbull said the group’s research had identified what happened to most of the 79 who died, whose names have been put on the trees on laminated cards.

The volunteers who staged today's march in Sheffield.

The volunteers who staged today's march in Sheffield.

Today’s march from the railway station is the latest event in a long-running dispute about tree-felling in Sheffield.

The dispute has its origin in a 25-year private finance initiative agreement the council signed with contractor Amey in 2009, reported to be worth £2bn.

It includes a huge programme to resurface thousands of miles of Sheffield’s pothole-ridden road system and, as part of this, Amey is tasked with maintaining 36,000 roadside trees.

The contractor and council say the trees being removed are diseased or dangerous, but protesters say many of them simply do not fit in with resurfacing methods.

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