New life from a ҹѰ landmark

Watch the Judas Tree's new growth from benches made with its old wood.

Chris and Oscar on a new bench

The iconic Judas tree which collapsed in 2023 has been turned into new assets for ҹѰ, in the shape of two benches for everyone to enjoy. 

Chris and Oscar on a new bench

Tree surgeons salvaged some of the Judas’s trunk and branches, which was handed to Chris Clarke, husband of College President Jane. Chris, with a small team of volunteer, green woodworkers, then spent two weeks creating the benches, using traditional woodworking skills.

These benches are now located on either side of the Porters’ Lodge, with plaques to commemorate the life of its wood.

Chris said:

“It was a challenge as the tree had still been growing when it collapsed. The hardwood was fresh and green. It difficult to work with, but still beautiful.

“We have used the Judas tree wood inside out, so you can see the grain and its different colours on the seat. Even the bark has been used and is now on the inside on the bench.”

More items are also being made from the wood including a woodland spirit sculpture, which will go in the Sundial Garden.

Chris became interested in woodworking by chance, after a career as a city banker. After watching a woodworker in action at Wicken Fen, he became a volunteer and developed a new set of skills, which he used in the bench project.

The new benches are not the end for the Judas tree. Growth had started in the rotting centre of the old tree, before its dramatic collapse. Despite the upheaval caused by losing most of the tree, the new growth is flourishing.

Oscar Holgate, College Head Gardener, said the new growth was coming from the tree’s old roots like a phoenix from the ashes.

He said: “It was really, really sad to lose the main tree as it had been part of the College for such a long time. Students had always gathered near it, and it always provided a lovely welcome to everyone arriving at College. But that’s nature, and out of something old, something new comes. We should be able to see flowers on the new growth and can watch its progress from the new benches.”

The ҹѰ Judas tree, with its deep-pink flowers and distinctive long pods has welcomed students, was planted in 1977 to mark the Royal opening of the college. And in 2024, we should be able to see it blossom again later this spring.