A Mulberry bush said to have inspired a famous children's rhyme is replanted in Wakefield prison

Wakefield prison has got its famous mulberry bush back - four years after the original 19th century tree was removed.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 12:39 pm
Invited guests with governor Tom Wheatley at the mulberry tree planting ceremony.

The tree, considered by some to be the origin of the children’s rhyme Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush, died in 2017 of a beetle infestation and canker, a year after it was shortlisted as a contender for Tree of the Year.

The mulberry bush grew in the grounds of the prison and it was said that female prisoners used to dance around it with their children to keep them amused - at that time, women with a child under the ages of five had to have them in prison with them.

True or not, the prison, which was built as a house of correction in 1594, has adopted the tree as its emblem and named the staff diner after it as well as its specialist autism unit.

Andrea Parker with the mulberry bush she nurtured for two years.

A a nearby road is named Mulberry Way.

Prison officer Simon Richardson, who helped to cut down the dead tree in 2017 was a member of a team tasked with finding a replacement.

He said at the time: “It became a project because the mulberry is so important to Wakefield prison, it’s instrumental in the place and everything revolves around it.”

An appeal tracked down a cutting taken by a member of staff from the original 30 years ago.

The plaque with details of the prison's association with the mulberry bush and the rhyme.

He has since died but his widow heard of the appeal and was ‘more than happy to help’, the prison said.

Several cuttings were taken from the 30-year-old tree and propagated by, among others, Andrea Parker, the wife of a member of staff and a keen gardener who cared for them until they were ready to be replanted.

A ceremony was held last week to replant two of the cuttings in their original place which is on the main route that prisoners take each day to go to the workshops.

But, instead of a patch of bare concrete surrounding it as before, a commemorative garden has been constructed around the trees with a barrier to keep them safe.

Mrs Parker said: “I didn’t want to part with it - I looked after it and spoke to it every day.

“I hope it survives, but if it can thrive in a north-facing garden in Ossett it should be OK here.”

She said that the two-year-old bush had already fruited - albeit with just six or seven mulberries.

At the ceremony, attended by the deputy mayor and mayoress of Wakefield David and Annette Jones, and the High Sheriff of West Yorkshire Clive Lloyd, prison governor Tom Wheatley said: “The long and important association between Wakefield Prison and our mulberry tree is entwined in our history and culture.

“I am delighted to be able to plant cuttings from the original tree in the place that it once stood and to renew the association between the prison and the mulberry tree for the future.”

The first verse of therhyme

Here we go 'round the mulberry bush

The mulberry bush

The mulberry bush

Here we go 'round the mulberry bush

On a cold and frosty morning