The Bale Oak was over 500 years old when it was cut down. It measured 36feet in circumference and just one of its branches was over 75 feet long.
It is believed that
the oak might have been part of a Celtic or Saxon grove.
Unfortunately in 1795 the Oak was severely pollarded and the wood and bark bought by the Hardys of Letheringsett for tanning.
The Oak never recovered from this drastic treatment.
According to records by the Norfolk historian Blomfield (1705-1752) he published ‘a great oak at bathele near the church, its hollow so large that ten or twelve men may stand within it and a cobbler had his shop and lodge there of late and it is or was used for a swinestry’.
The tree was so bad that a poem was written about it around this time:
Here stand I all in disgrace. Once the wonder of this place, my head knocked off, my body dead and all the virtues of my limbs is fled. Tis all my fear that I should fright the travellers horse by night. So cut me down, its my desire commit me to the blazing fire and when you see me burn and smoke say that the end of old bale oak.
By 1860 it was decided that it had
become too dangerous so the Lord of the Manor Sir
Willoughby Jones had the tree taken down and carted off
to Cranmer Hall at Fakenham. All the people of
Bale and Fakenham turned out to watch its passing and
the transport wagons were decked with flags.
The Bale Oak used to stand on the left of the main path just outside the church gates, nowadays this area is graced with holm oak trees that were planted around 1860 to replace the Great Bale Oak. The spinney by the church known as the Bale Oaks became the property of the National Trust in 1919.