During the blackout in the Second World War, the edges of kerbs and some kerbside trees around Kew were painted white to help drivers find their way. Over sixty years later some trees on the Kew road still show traces of that time!
Even though I have worked at Kew for nearly fourteen years, I am always coming across new historical facts. Recently a colleague of mine in the Arboretum asked me if I knew anything about the blackout trees on the Kew road! I didn't but was so intrigued I decided to try and find out more.
I came across a few articles on the subject, many showing old photographs and one in particular from the late Fifties showing some of the trees along the Kew road. Many still showed signs of the white bands painted on them in 1945, during the blackout, and which were still very obvious as late as 1979, as you can see in photograph below.
Common lime (Tilia x vulgaris) painted in 1945, photographed in 1979 (Photo: Nigel Hepper)
The same tree photographed in February 2013
There are fewer old trees around due to the Great Storm of 1987 and losses to disease, but photographs taken in an article in 2006 clearly showed some trees with blackout paint still visible. So here we are in 2013 some 68 years after they were originally painted.
These two trees both show the white lines (somewhat faded) painted on during the blackout in the Second World War
White lines painted on a black walnut tree
On the black walnut tree, above, the lines probably show up the best of all the trees which were painted along the Kew road. In fact the lines are much easier to see 'in the flesh' than in photographs.
There are seventeen trees which still show some signs of the blackout painting between Lion gate and Victoria gate, though some with only the faintest markings. This just goes to show how long the outer bark on some trees can persist and that, conversely, damage done today may take the tree decades to repair!
It would be great to hear if you know of any other trees with their blackout paint still visible.
- Anthony -
- Kew overseas
- for family
- for friends
- gifts that help
- money saving
- give money
- in urgent need
- Kew at home
- give time
- english heritage
- needs help
Keep up to date with events and news from Kew