Elm exhibition & events at Somerset House

16th October 2015

Visitors to London’s Somerset House between 27 October 2015 and March 2016 will be able to walk through a magical elm grove which celebrates one of the country’s best loved and most mourned trees.


Stables and Lucraft’s spectacular theatrical Ulmus londinium installation in the New Wing, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, tells the story of London’s elm heritage over the centuries. It has been created for The Conservation Foundation and will culminate in National Tree Week (28 November – 6 December) with a weekend of events on 28 and 29 November 2015, supported by the Mayor of London.  


An online elm heritage route map for smart phones guides cyclists and walkers beyond Somerset House on a tour of the capital’s central London elm heritage.


You can read more on London's Hidden Elm Heritage on The Londonist, and Reviving London's Elms on


Saturday 28th November, 2pm. Free, just turn up.

Thomas Pakenham, the indefatigable champion of trees, will tell the importance the elm and all our trees hold. His new book, The Company of Trees, recounts his forays with trees, often hazardous plant hunting expeditions, and his efforts to preserve magnificent old trees and historic woodlands.


As a quintessential icon of the British landscape, John Constable and many other artists have used the elm to depict and evoke emotions of our countryside. Artist and researcher Dr Anne Anderson, who is a member of the Arborealists and whose exhibition and publication “Under the Greenwood” is a celebration of the British Tree in the work of our major artists, will speak about how the elm has been used in art.

Sunday 29th November, 2pm. Free, just turn up.

Artist Keith Pettit will reveal the art of carving in elm wood. The wood’s unique qualities has lent it to many uses throughout the capital’s history, including for London’s first water pipes, and in contemporary crafts and art, including by Henry Moore. Demonstrating letter carving, Keith will explain the unique qualities of elm wood, and the work he does in East Sussex, the last bastion of the elm tree.


Linda Phillips MBE, founder of Kennington’s Roots and Shoot horticultural training charity, will be revealing tips and hints to care for young tree saplings. Schools and groups are also invited to collect and plant a special elm sapling grown on by trainees at Roots and Shoots which have been propagated from mature elms across the UK that seem to have resisted Dutch elm disease as part of The Great British Elm Experiment. Contact us to collect a free elm sapling.


Throughout: Uncover our elm heritage in central London with An elm adventure from Somerset House to "Albertopolis". Using your smart phone hop on your cycle or set off on foot to see some of the capital’s elm heritage in central London, starting at Somerset House and finishing at “Albertopolis” – Exhibition Road. You’ll be able to uncover London’s elm trees and elm heritage, finding out more at each location and how the elm links to the capital’s wider culture and history. Approximately 2 hours by foot.



Before Dutch elm disease swept through Britain, the elm was an everyday sight to Londoners. Its water resistant wood was used to underpin the arches of Old London Bridge, elm pipes carried water to the capital, Henry Vlll’s doomed queen Anne Boleyn was buried in an elm coffin, while thousands of lesser mortals met their end on the gibbet of the Tyburn elm. It was also a vital part of the capital’s biodiversity, with such rare wildlife as the White-letter hairstreak butterfly depending on it for survival.


The soaring, distinctive elm tree inspired great artists and poets including Johns Constable, Clare and Betjamin. Nowadays elm wood is greatly prized by wood carvers and turners for its interlocking grain, making it resistant to splitting and many sculptors, including Sir Henry Moore have utilised its grain.


The Ulmus londinium display will feature some of elm’s many uses from medieval London to the present day, including boats, chairs, coffins, waterpipes, wagon wheels and herbal remedies. It is the final part of The Conservation Foundation’s Ulmus londinium project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which has been reminding Londoners of their elm history and has included 700 new plantings to regenerate London’s elm population. There will be a giveaway of elm saplings on Sunday 29 November as part of National Tree Week.  Conservation Foundation director David Shreeve said,”It is wonderful to be able to celebrate London’s elm heritage in this historic building which is such a fine example of conservation.”



Saturday 28 November from 2pm – Start of National Tree Week

Talks by artists and writers whose work features elm.

Sunday 29 November from 2pm

Working with elm wood and how to care for your elm tree.

There will be a giveaway of elm saplings to invited groups on Sunday 29 November. Please contact



Dates: 27 October 2015 – March 2016

Opening Hours: Daily, 10.00 – 18.00 

Admission: Free

Address: Room G16, New Wing, Somerset House, London, WC2R 1LA

Transport: TUBE: Temple, Embankment  RAIL: Charing Cross, Waterloo

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Somerset House public enquiries: 020 7845 4600

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