History and its legends have always left behind reverberations advancing through time. These phenomena either become fables or they resurrect, but they never die. The legend in question is a Lime Tree. The august Lime Tree of Kent County Cricket Club’s Canterbury ground.
The St Lawrence ground, formerly known as the Spitfire Ground, at Canterbury was established in the year 1847 around its glorious Lime Tree. It was there since 40 years before the ground hosted its 1st first-class match. And it stood tall for another 160 years, before being stumped by a huge storm in 2005.
Tradition against future
″Not just a tree,
Not just a lime,
But Kent’s own icon
Set in time.”
-written by cricket broadcaster and writer Irving Rosenwater.
The Lime tree survived across three centuries and is still the most famous and celebrated tree in Cricket. It stood guard on the Old Dover Road boundary – at wide mid-wicket or deep backward point.
As it was the only tree within the boundary ropes at a first-class ground, Kent Cricket had to conform to the customized rules. Any hit that touched a part the tree was counted as four runs, no matter how high they hit. The rules also stated that no batsman could be caught off the rebound. Only four players were officially recognized to have hit a six over the 90ft tall tree-West Indies’s Learie Constantine, Middlesex’s Jim Smith and former West Indies captain Carl Hooper. The latter remains the only Kent batsman to hit a six over the tree when he made his debut for the club in 1992 against Durham.
“The regal lime, it saw them all
At third man or at deep long on:
Nature now has made her claim,
Some Kentish grandeur gone.”
-written by Rosenwater and read out by Colin Cowdery at the ceremony wherein the replacement tree was planted
In 1998 the tree was diagnosed with heart-wood fungus as per a report that was received by the Club. It was suggested that it would only live on for a maximum of ten years. Seven years hence, widespread storms across Britain took down Kent’s most enduring and loyal spectator. The legend had survived bigger storms before but old age just gave way. In an interview with BBC Kent, the Chief Executive of the club had said, “It’s been in intensive care for several years and we planted a substitute about four years ago in anticipation of this sad day.” In anticipation of such a day, a replacement sapling was planted at the St Lawrence Ground by cricket writer EW Swanton. However, it found its place only outside of the confines of the boundary line.
Speaking of reverberations and legacy, I came across a restaurant in New Delhi with a bar catalog that had arrested my attention immediately.
Every concoction is a raise as a tribute to the famous gardens of England. The first glass is raised to the Kent Cricket’s heritage Lime tree. The rest of the menu has derived inspiration from the royal parks of England, a song by The Beatles about how octopuses build gardens, the Queen herself, and the 1000 years old Major Oak of Sherwood forest which became a shelter for Robin Hood. Such is the legacy, the pride that the St Lawrence Lime Tree still withholds.