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Kew Gardens to unveil the Verdun Bench to mark 100th anniversary of Battle of Verdun

On Monday the 19th of December, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew will unveil a special Verdun Bench, crafted by Gaze Burvill with timber from a specimen of Quercus petraea which was struck and felled during “St Jude’s storm” in 2013.  This tree was planted at Kew in 1919, from an acorn picked up after the” Battle of Verdun”,  in remembrance of Kew staff who died during the Great War,  and all soldiers from the different nationalities who fought in this dreadful battle and “the Great War”.

When the tree fell, Tony Kirkham, Head of the Arboretum at Kew, conceived the idea of creating a commemorative seat from the felled oak to ensure that the prosperity of the great tree lived on.   With the help of Gaze Burvill, who have over 24 years’ experience in designing and making oak outdoor seating for private and public gardens, Kew set about creating a beautiful memory to this exquisite tree knowing how oak is a good choice for an outdoor seat, being naturally impermeable and durable.  But all did not go according to plan.

Trees hold secrets and six were found hiding in the Verdun tree trunk - six nails, probably used decades ago to pin a poster to the trunk, and over time, enveloped into the growing tree, eventually becoming completely hidden from sight. The discovery called for a sudden halt to the sawing process and led to the creation of the Verdun Bench.  The sculptural wedge shape of part of the wood, with dark streaking marks from the metal nails, was found to have its own beauty creating a unique seat, which shows its scars proudly.

The solid oak bench has an inverted triangle shape. A brass plaque is fitted on the top flat surface to mark the dates of the battle. Of the other two sides of the triangle, one is specially scorched black, in reference to the horror of battle and loss, while the third side has been left to weather naturally. The legs of the Bench are made from Corten steel - a raw, yet warm, dark orange ‘rusted’ metal, which provides a beautiful, textured support for the Verdun Bench.

More Verdun seats to be created

Kew has decided that the remaining unblemished boards successfully cut from the Verdun Oak trunk will be made into seats, to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War in 2018. These seats are available for sponsorship through the Kew Foundation, please contact Charlotte on 020 8332 3238.

To confirm you attendance at the unveiling ceremony or for any general enquiries please contact the Kew Press Office:  020 8332 5607 / 


Notes to editors:

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding collections as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world.

Kew Gardens is a major international and a top London visitor attraction. Kew’s 132 hectares of landscaped gardens, and Kew’s country estate, Wakehurst, attract over 1.5 million visits every year.

Kew was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009.  Wakehurst is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world.

Kew receives approximately just under half of its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Further funding needed to support Kew’s vital work comes from donors, membership and commercial activity including ticket sales.

For more information about supporting Kew visit the Kew Foundation

For more information about Gaze Burvil please visit