Thousands of people pass this tree every day with hardly a second glance. But those who do pause to read its accompanying plaques will realize this is no ordinary tree. It’s a living memorial to the hundreds of thousands of trees lost during a terrible storm.
On October 16, 1987, the “Great Storm” battered England, France, and the Channel Islands. Twenty-two people perished, and England lost 15 million trees within the few hours the storm tore across the country.
In London, winds of nearly 100 miles per hour lashed at the cityscape, toppling 250,000 of the city’s trees. Snapped from the skyline, their felled trunks and branches littered the streets.
After the storm, the Evening Standard newspaper raised £60,000 to plant new trees in each of London’s 32 boroughs, plus the City of London. Angus McGill, a columnist at the paper, led the effort.
The English Oak that stands outside the Charing Cross station was planted a year after the cataclysmic storm. A plaque on the nearby pillar explains the tree’s significance. In 2017, a second plaque was installed to honor McGill, who died in 2015.
Know Before You Go
The tree is on the left hand side of the station forecourt, when looking at the main entrance from the street. There are similar trees outside Embankment tube. If you're down by the tube station, turn round and walk up Villiers Street and look left.
You can walk by the tree at any time. If you do stop to get a good look at the tree, make sure you aren't blocking the sidewalk, as this is a busy area.