Leighton Buzzard Railway marks 17th century 'Oak Apple Day' custom abolished by the Victorians

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It is thought to be the only railway in the country to celebrate the tradition

Staff at Leighton Buzzard Railway marked a little known 17th century tradition abolished by the Victorians.

On Monday (May 29) the team commemorated Royal Oak Day which celebrates the restoration of King Charles II, after he was exiled by Oliver Cromwell, following the latter’s death in 1660.

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The future king hid from his pursuers in an English oak tree, in Boscobel Wood, after the Battle of Worcester in 1651. Nine years later, the restored king rode triumphantly into London on his birthday, May 29, to take the throne. From 1660, the Restoration was celebrated as a national holiday until the Victorians abolished it in 1859.

Baldwin 778 wore a special plaque.Baldwin 778 wore a special plaque.
Baldwin 778 wore a special plaque.

The station is thought to be the only one in the country to commemorate Oak Apple Day, or Royal Oak Day, with its steam locomotive, Baldwin 778, carrying a special headboard.

Oak apples are not fruit but growths, also known as galls, which are mainly produced by insects to protect their eggs. They are seen alongside the railway at Leighton Buzzard. The oak which, similarly to insect eggs, protected the king, became symbol of Royalist sympathisers, and it became customary for subjects to show support for their king by wearing a sprig of oak leaves or an oak apple.

The ones seen next to the railway are a type of gall known as oak marbles caused by a particular breed of wasp, Andricus kollari. The wasp was intentionally introduced from the Mediterranean in the 1800s because its galls have a high tannin content - useful for tanning leather and dyeing cloth.


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