THE JAMES BROWNING TREE James Browning was a well-known character in the area before and during the First World War. He was a Publican who kept the St. George's Vaults in St. George's Place, Cheltenham and, like many a good Publican, had apparently acquired a robust appreciation of own wares. A friend of his, Jim 'Twister' Surman‡ (an odd choice of nickname for a Bookie?) owned a pony and trap and on most weekends, they would head for Bishops Cleeve and do the rounds of as many Pubs in the area as they could. By the end of the evening, they would invariably have to be helped back into the trap where they would promptly fall asleep and let the horse take them home. Jim Browning decided that he would like to present a tree to the village. Whether this was to celebrate a particular Birthday or Anniversary or merely an expression of gratitude to, or fondness for, the village is not clear. Whatever the reason, he duly arrived one weekend with a Horse-Chestnut sapling. Almost the entire population of the village turned out to watch the presentation which was made with a great deal of ceremony on the then Village Green, outside the Kings Head. The actual planting took place towards the height of the celebrations, a suitably large and impressive hole had been dug and the tree was enthusiastically, if somewhat indelicately, 'Watered-In' with copious amounts of water, ale and cider; some of which was fresh, and some, it has to be said, second hand! Shortly after the end of the First World War it was decided to erect a War Memorial and as the Village Green was such an obvious place for it; the removal of the `James Browning Tree' as it had by then become known, was accepted as a necessary, if unwelcome, task. After a great deal of discussion, it was finally agreed to re-site the tree near the village pound in School Road and it was transplanted to its present position at the junction of School Road and Station Road. By this time the sapling had become a well-established young tree and the transplantation required a great deal of spade work, both in lifting it from its existing position and in preparing the huge hole for its new site. It had obviously outgrown `Twister' Surman's pony and trap that had brought it to Bishops Cleeve and a local farmer supplied a flatbed cart with a horse that, powerful though it was, still found the short journey extremely hard going. This time the planting took place with marginally less ceremony and considerably less alcohol. All the available village lads were prevailed upon to carry buckets of water from some of the nearby houses and literally hundreds of gallons were used to `wet it in'. Finally, it was surrounded by some impressive white iron railings and its old name plate replaced on its trunk. Unfortunately, the name plate and railings have long since disappeared, the James Browning Tree did supply lavish quantities of conkers (or 'Obbly Onkers') for the youngsters of the village. Today alias, the tree was recently cut down due to disease, so it no longer stands guard at the junction of Station Road and School Road and the photograph on the front page of this website is the only trace left, at the moment.