Barton Court Avenue and Barton Court Road were created in about 1894 and were clearly visible on the map of the first sale of the Barton Court Estate in that year and in the 1898 Ordnance Survey Map. Travelling from Station Road to the cliff tops you cannot fail to notice that the long, straight road and avenue are bordered by some fine trees. The view, in spring and summer is especially lovely.
The planting of the trees is linked to the Reverend John Edward Kellsall who was the rector at Milton Parish from 1897 to 1924. He was a truly good man who did much to enhance the town and help the local inhabitants.
The Reverend Kelsall started planting the trees along both the road and avenue to enhance the views towards the cliff tops. He appears to have done this at his own expense. He encouraged other residents to fill in gaps and add to the existing specimens. This probably began just before the First World War. We now know that some of the trees were planted in Barton Court Road by wartime visitors to Milton Parish.
In a post-war edition of the Milton parish magazine, Reverend Kellsall wrote that “The ash tree near Bykanor House was planted by a Belgian refugee during the Great War […] and three sycamores near the top of the Avenue were planted by Indian soldiers during the same period”. Study of the Ordnance Survey maps of the period combined with a 1934 directory listing house names shows that Bykanor House is halfway along Barton Court Road. There is a pollarded ash tree outside the house today. Pollarding is method of pruning trees to deliberately keep them to a smaller size and reduce the size and weight of the crown of the tree. This also helps to prolong the life of the tree.
In the parish magazine of December 1915 Reverend Kelsall wrote that “some more memorial trees now stand alongside the Belgian tree in the “Avenue des Nations”, planted by the representatives of four Indian nations, namely Jamadar [Lieutenant] Sita Ram (Marhatta) Niak [Corporal] Gobar Singh (Garwali), Niak Makand Singh (Sikh) and Sepoy [Private] Fateh Noor (Muslman). Two European nations and the English army were represented at the planting ceremony, and a few words were said in three languages of India”. The soldiers were patients at the Indian Army Convalescent Depot at Barton on sea. The Depot was run for Indian soldiers from 1914 to 1916 and then British and commonwealth troops until 1918.
In a post war parish magazine note Reverend Kelsall once again appealed to local residents to fill in the gaps along the tree line. He wrote “If the Avenue (for it is really all one avenue) were bordered with fine, well grown and healthy trees, it would be an even more striking feature of the place than it is now”.
From the notes in the parish magazine, we can see that the Reverend Kelsall referred to both Barton Court Road and Avenue as ‘all one avenue’. He also called it the “Avenue des Nations”. Confusingly in one note he wrote that the trees the four named Indian soldiers had planted, ‘stood alongside’ the Belgian tree. This would put them somewhere near the centre of Barton Court Road. His post-war parish note states that three sycamores were planted ‘near the top end of the avenue’. Is that Barton Court Avenue? Does the top end mean near the Indian Convalescent Depot memorial? If we take note of the Reverend’s comment describing Barton Court Avenue and Road as ‘really all one avenue’ would the ‘top end’ be located in Barton Court Road near to the Station Road end? If the Reverend had named four Indian soldiers in the planting ceremony why were there only three trees mentioned post war?
The spring is a good time to identify trees by their buds. Sycamore trees have bright green buds. Paul Brockman BEM, the renowned woodland educator and conservationist has identified fifteen sycamore trees along the length of Barton Court Road. Four of them are near to each other at the Station Road end of Barton Court Road. There is a sycamore tree opposite the ash tree outside Bykanor House and four more sycamores near the cross roads and Pantiles end of Barton Court Road. There are no sycamores visible in an around the area of the Indian memorial. However, in both Barton Court Road and Barton Court Avenue there are tree stumps and evidence of where trees once were.
In conclusion the ash tree planted by the Belgian refugee outside Bykanor House has been identified. There are four sycamore trees located at either end of Barton Court Road. They have been pollarded and their life extended. They are within the right age range to have been planted in 1915. It is probable that at least three of them were planted by the Indian soldiers named in the Parish magazine. It is hoped that further research may identify which sycamore trees are linked to the Indian soldiers. These trees are living legacies to the Belgian and Indian guests who stayed in New Milton and Barton on Sea during the First World War and as such are an important part of our local heritage.
Milton Heritage Society.
This article was first published in the Milton Mail and Barton Bugle magazines in April 2021.