The Astor Cut, Lord Astor’s Country Mansion at Cliveden, The Profumo Affair, The Fieldbrook Stump

This blog started several years ago when I first found out and obtained access to the Digital Archives of the Bancroft Library at Berkeley University. I was wandering around the sections relating to logging in Mendocino County when I came across these two photos:

Slice of a very large slice of a very large tree

Same large slice on a specially built freight car

I put the picture into my “maybe, someday bank.” We, The Mendocino Model Railroad & Historical Society, were given some old plate glass images. After discussion among the members we concluded that a University Libtaty might be the best place for them. So, off I toddled to the Humboldt University Library in Arcata. The Librarian Lady was very pleased with our gift of the glass plate photos. After I told her what my “job” was she asked if I would like to peruse their stash of logging photos.  Would I?

In the middle of the files was this photo:

The Astor Cut being loaded

Surely it was the same slice of a huge tree? I asked the Librarian if she knew anything about it. “Yes,” was the answer. “It’s the Astor Cut.” Alas, that was all she knew. So armed with a copy of the above pic I wended my way back to Fort Bragg quite happy with my days work.

Intrigued as all get out I spent a LOT of time trying to get to the bottom this story. I finally found it in the March 6th 1895 edition the Chicago Tribune.

Chicago Tribune Header

In the text it says that Lord Astor bet the then Prince of Wales that a slice of California Redwood would be large enough to seat 45 persons around. Here’s the page with the whole story. The Lord Astor story is in the middle right hand corner:

Page from the Chicago Tribune with the Lord Astor Bet

The slice was sent from San Francisco to London where, somehow, it was taken to Lord Astor’s estate at Cliveden on the north bank of the Thames. When it was unloaded, surprise, surprise it wouldn’t fit through the front door! The round/slice was placed by the Thames. I have been unable to find out if the bet was settled.

Cliveden. When I lved in England Cliveden was the scene of a spy/sex scandal called the Profumo affair. The Profumo affair was a British political scandal that originated with a sexual relationship in 1961, between John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War in Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government, and Christine Keeler, a 19-year-old would-be model. In March 1963, Profumo’s denial of any impropriety, in a personal statement to the House of Commons, was refuted a few months later with his admission of the truth. He resigned from the government and from Parliament. The repercussions of the affair severely damaged Macmillan’s self-confidence, and he resigned as Prime Minister on health grounds in October 1963. The reputation of the Conservative Party was damaged by the scandal, which may have contributed to its defeat by the Labour Party in the 1964 general election.

When the Profumo–Keeler affair was first revealed, public interest was heightened by reports that Keeler may have been simultaneously involved with Captain Yevgeny Ivanov, a Soviet naval attaché, thereby creating a possible security risk. Keeler knew both Profumo and Ivanov through her friendship with Stephen Ward, an osteopath and socialite who had taken her under his wing. The exposure of the affair generated rumours of other scandals and drew official attention to the activities of Ward, who was charged with a series of immorality offences. Perceiving himself as a scapegoat for the misdeeds of others, Ward took a fatal overdose during the final stages of his trial, which found him guilty of living off the immoral earnings of Keeler and her friend Mandy Rice-Davies.

This picture of Christine Keeler, which was splashed across the front page of Britain’s largest selling tabloid, really hyped the interest of the proletariat. For the time the pic was considered very risque.

Christine Keeler

The scandal also “inspired” a movie called “Scandal.”

Poster for the Movie “Scandal”

The theme song “Nothing Has Been Proved” was written and produced by Pet Shop Boys and sung by Dusty Springfield

It took me over two years to persuade wife Sarah that the gardens at Cliveden were worth a visit. Today Cliveden is a hotel. Rates are around one thousand pounds a night. You do get breakfast and a ride to and from Heathrow in a Rolls Royce for your money!!!!


When we got to Cliveden Sarah found the gardens, the garden shop and the gift shop to be very interesting. I spent the time asking where we might find The Astor Cut. No-one had a clue!!! I bought a map – nada. Out of desperation I went to the garden’s entrance and asked the old guy on the gate. He knew. “You come from California to see that bloody lump of wood?” I assured him I had even if my wife had not. “Go down that path about a mile till you come to a statue, take a right and go down it till  you’re on the bank of the Thames and it’s on your right. ” As I turned to go he said, “Don’t fall into the bloody river – there’ll be no-one there to pull you out.”

Well a mile is a long way if you are an old geezer recovering from a bout of chemo. Despite Sarah’s protestations I wasn’t giving up. Finally we could see the statue. Just before the statue we stumbled on a gap that enabled one to look back to the house.

A view of Cliveden in the distance

In front of the gap was a copy of a painting of what we were looking at:

Painting of Cliveden

The painting was obviously made before the siderow grew and when Cliveden really was Lord Astor’s Stately Home. We soon came to the Statue:

One of Lord Astor’s ancestors

We ploughed oin down the path and almost immediately we found a path leading off to our right. It wasn’t a well trodden path so we were somewhat sceptical about whether we were going the right way. The good news was that we were going down. When we reached the bottom we could see the River Thames through the overgrown vegetation. The Astor Cut?

There were  no signs. Sarah saw a trail off to the side and after a short torturous walk ……… TA DAH!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Astor Cut under a rusting corrugated roof

If you look at top right of the above photo you can see a light blue patch – that’s the River Thames. Then, it being England, it started to rain. So we left.

When I got back here to Fort Bragg I decided not to write this blog up until I had one more question answered, “Where did the slice of Redwood come from?” I had no leads.

A year or so later I got a break. Brother Sean lives in England and takes a newspaper called “The Independent.” He sent me a link to an article that appeared in “his” newspaper. The article was entitled “Reborn – the giant tree felled as a result of a bar-room wager”. The top of the article had this picture:

The Fieldbrook Stump in California not long after it was felled in 1890

Here’s an extract from the text ……. “It would have been the biggest tree alive today had it not been so ignominiously felled in 1890 – reputedly to satisfy a drunken bet about making a table big enough to seat 40 guests from a single slice of tree-trunk. But after a century of being left for dead, a giant redwood that grew as tall as a 30-storey building over the course of nearly 4,000 years in northern California is about to be reborn as a clone planted on the coast of Cornwall. Scientists have managed to cultivate cuttings from the Fieldbrook Redwood Stump, which is 35ft in diameter, and 10 of its clones are now growing as knee-high saplings in the plant nursery at the Eden Project, near St Austell, as part of an ambitious plan to propagate and replant some of the oldest trees in America and Britain.

The Fieldbrook stump is a Californian coast redwood. It is said that the Fieldbrook tree was felled under the orders of William Waldorf Astor, a wealthy American living in Britain, who became embroiled in a bar-room bet about making a table seating 40 from a single cross-section of a tree. Lord Astor certainly had a giant tree slice imported to Cliveden, his stately home in Buckinghamshire, but when he was alive he vowed to sue anyone who repeated the story. “He probably realised that killing something that was nearly 4,000 years old for a bet didn’t really reflect very well on him. There’s not much dispute that the Fieldbrook stump and the redwood slice at Cliveden is the same tree, but it would be fun to carry out a DNA test to prove it.”

4,000 years. Where did that come from? I found another article which, I think gets nearer to the real age …… “Between 2011 – 2017, Pacific Horticulture Society published a caption that Fieldbrook was 3,500 yrs. old. But Humboldt State Univ. researchers around the same time, only ascertained 2,520 yrs. as the oldest coast redwood (Redwood National Park). A Times Standard article quoted the Fieldbrook as 1,175 yrs., possibly from the crosscut “cookie” held at Blue Ox Millworks in Eureka. An edenproject tv on Youtube had video with a man suggesting 4,000 yrs. … The numbers soon teeter like the AT-ST Scout Walker in Star Wars! An artist printing growth rings from it’s piece, wrote 1,275 years on a web page; probably a the real count from wood imprint

Hmmm – so now I knew the name of the stump. I have found out that you cannot visit it because it is on private land. Bummer!!!!!!

“King Giant”, Redwood, California

I don’t often probe into the Library of Congress archives. When I do I seem to end up with more mysteries than I started out with. This photo was in two pieces when I found it on the Library of Congress. I have tried to stitch it back together but have failed. There was nothing in writing to say when it was taken or when it was taken. If anyone has any info PLEASE let me know.

“King Giant” Redwood


Hendy State Park

As may be seen from the pages in this blog there is a lot I do not know about the locale in which I live. So, when a visitor to our club’s (G scale) – layout which tells the story of logging along the Mendocino Coast – asks me what I know about the history of Hendy Woods (State Park) and I say, “Not very much. ” I think it behoves me as the club’s historian to get my act together and go looking.

First things first – where is it? Here’s a topo map to give you a heads up [Click on the map to enlarge it]:

Topo map showing the location of Hendy Woods State Park

Topo map showing the location of Hendy Woods State Park

Hendy Woods State Park is a state park of California, located in the Anderson Valley of Mendocino County. It is named after Joshua Hendy, who owned the land and stipulated that it be protected; it passed through several owners after Hendy died without being logged, before becoming part of the California State Park system in 1958. It is the only large park within the Anderson Valley. It is about 20 miles from the coast, and because of the distance, it is noticeably warmer than California’s coast redwood forests. The park can be reached via the Philo–Greenwood Road, just off California State Route 128.

The park covers 816 acres of land and contains two groves of old-growth coast redwood: Big Hendy (80 acres) and Little Hendy (20 acres). Some of the trees are over 300 feet tall and may be nearly 1,000 years old. Other trees in the woods include madrone, Douglas fir, and California laurel. The park also contains 3.3 miles of property along the banks of the Navarro River and provides the only public access to the river within the Anderson Valley.

The Pomo people lived in what is now Hendy Woods for thousands of years, supporting themselves as hunter-gatherers. The first western settlers in the region were Russian fur traders who claimed the Pomo lands and forced the Pomo people into servitude; today, the remaining Pomo people are greatly reduced in number.

Joshua Hendy, after whom Hendy Woods was named, was an English-born blacksmith who moved from Texas to California in the California Gold Rush and built a large sawmill on the Navarro River. When Hendy died in 1891, he willed the property to his nephews with a stipulation that the coast redwood groves in it be protected. However, his nephew Samuel Hendy eventually ran out of money and sold the property to the Pacific Coast Lumber Company. It was sold again in turn to the Albion Lumber Company, in 1930 to the Southern Pacific Land Company, and in 1948 to the Masonite Corporation, together with the land stretching from what is now the park to the coast. 

Through these changes of ownership, Hendy Woods remained unlogged and was a popular location for family picnics. In 1938, Al Strowbridge visited the Anderson Valley Unity Club (a local women’s service organization) and spoke to them about the redwood forests of California; from that time forward the Unity Club worked to save the remaining groves of redwoods, and in 1958 the California State Park system bought approximately 600 acres of land with two miles of river frontage from Masonite for US$350,000. From 1979 to 1988, several additional purchases brought the park up to its present size of 816 acres. 

Redwood In Hendy Woods

Redwood In Hendy Woods

Have I been there? Yes, but before we moved here in 2000. I remember going because of the Redwoods. Alas, I cannot find the photos I know that I took.


The Chandelier Tree in Leggett, CA

The Chandelier Tree in Drive-Thru Tree Park is a 276-foot tall coast redwood tree in Leggett, California with a 6-foot  wide by 6-foot-9-inch  high hole cut through its base to allow a car to drive through. Its base measures 16 ft diameter at breast height (chest-high). The sign claims 315 ft. high and 21 ft. wide, but a Certified Arborist experienced with tallest redwoods, using a laser rangefinder, measured the tree as 276 ft. high and 16 ft. diameter. The name “Chandelier Tree” comes from its unique limbs that resemble a chandelier. The limbs, which measure from 4 to 7 ft  in diameter, begin 100 ft above the ground. The tree is believed to have been carved in the early 1930s.

These are old photos of the tree based on the vintage of the cars.

Old pictures of the Chandelier Tree in Leggett

Old pictures of the Chandelier Tree in Leggett

Man AND Horse INSIDE a (Redwood?) Tree

I’ve had this photo for quite some time. Heretofore I’ve never posted it ‘cos of its quality:

Horse and Rider INSIDE a fallen tree - poor quality

Horse and Rider INSIDE a fallen tree – poor quality

Sometimes you get lucky. Today was such a day. I received this e-mail from   Club Member Frank Smith:

Ryan Shane, one of the visitors at the layout today showed me this picture on his iPhone. I thought it would an interesting and valuable addition to our collection so I asked him to send it to me, which he did.”

I am reasonably certain that it is the same tree. Ryan’s pic, though, is quite magnificent – see for yourself:

Man on horse inside a fallen tree - excellent quality

Man on horse inside a fallen tree – excellent quality

Thanks Frank. Thanks Ryan.

Mendocino Land Trust

I knew the Land Trust existed and that was about it. Somehow I had this vague notion that they were doing a lot of good for me from the shadows.  I’ve passed their place on Franklin Street here in Fort Bragg a zillion times. The Trust came into much sharper focus when I found this advert in, of all places, The Mendocino Travellers Guide – a freebee mag for visitors to our piece of paradise. [Click on the scan to enlarge.]

Mendocino Land Trust Advertisement

Mendocino Land Trust Advertisement

Whilst the ad above helps in knowing who they are and what they do I was happy to glean this from their website to learn a bit more:

Mendocino Land Trust’s mission is to conserve important natural resources of Mendocino County including working farmlands and forests, wildlife habitat, open space, scenic vistas, watersheds and to facilitate public access. The Land Trust provides stewardship and service learning opportunities on lands that it has conserved to engender a more direct connection by people to the land and water of Mendocino County. They promote healthy recreation in natural settings and sustainable experiences for residents and visitors in Mendocino County.”

Thank you VERY much for what you are doing for me and all of us who live here.

The Coolidge Tree in Underwood Park, Mendocino County

I’ve lived in Fort Bragg since 2000 and I’ve been “doing” local logging history pretty much since I arrived.  I thought I knew the whereabouts of all the big trees in Mendocino County but not this one – it has me flummoxed. The sign says it’s the Coolidge Tree.


I looked through my files and could find no mention of it. There’s nothing in Wiki about it. Huh! Well I kept nosing around and found this photo:

Coolidge Tree, Mendocino Co. CA

The writing at the bottom says, “The Coolidge Tree” – “On Redwood Highway.  The Coolidge Tree was named after President Coolidge’s father. It was 305′ high and had a circumference of 58′ . The Coolidge Tree was tunneled between 1910 and 1915. The Coolidge tree was cut down in 1938 when it appeared ready to topple and was growing in  Underwood Park.” Underwood Park? Never heard of it. Back to the books. According to Wiki, “Underwood Park is an unincorporated community in Mendocino County. It is located near U.S. Route 101 0.25 miles south-southwest of Leggett.” Well the Chandelier Tree is in Leggett. Is this another name for the Chandelier Tree?”

Chandelier Tree in Leggett, Mendocino County

Can anyone help please?