The Elfin Oak of Kensington Gardens has been added to the list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest following a recommendation from English Heritage. It has been listed in Grade II.
Announcing the listing of the Oak, Heritage Minister Tony Banks said:
“The Elfin Oak is a wonderful curiosity, loved by Londoners and visitors alike. It also has considerable historic interest. Sculpted by children’s book illustrator Ivor Innes between 1928 and 1930, the Oak belongs firmly to the late Victorian interest in Little People which culminated in J M Barrie’s Peter Pan. The Oak complements the statue of Peter Pan by Sir George Frampton which Barrie erected in 1912. Together, the two sculptures make Kensington Gardens very much the world capital of fairies, gnomes and elves.”
The oak stump came originally from Richmond Park and was thought to be some 800 years old when it was moved to Kensington Gardens in 1928. Over the next two years it was worked on by artist-illustrator Ivor Innes, who covered it with brightly-painted animals, elves and fairies, mostly carved from the oak, others probably fashioned from plaster.
The tree depicts the world of the Little People, of Wookey the witch, with her three jars of health, wealth and happiness; of Huckleberry the gnome, carrying a bag of berries up the Gnomes’ Stairway to the banquet within Bark Hall, of Grumples and Groodles the Elves being woken up by Brownie, Dinkie, Rumplelocks and Hereandthere stealing eggs from the crows’ nest.
Situated next to the children’s playground by Black Lion Gate, the Elfin Oak was installed in 1930 as part of George Lansbury’s inter-war scheme of improvements to public amenities in London.