Rural History

Pollarding Trees: Changing Attitudes to a Traditional Land Management Practice in Britain 1600–1900

a1 School of Geography, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2RD


The pollarding and shredding of trees were widespread and common practices in Britain until the eighteenth century. Trees were an important source of fodder and their branches were regularly lopped so that sheep and cattle could eat their twigs and leaves. The branches could be used for firewood and other purposes. By the mid-nineteenth century, however, the practice of pollarding was becoming increasingly rare, and it had virtually died out by the mid-twentieth century. In Europe, by contrast, pollarding remains common in several Mediterranean, Balkan and Scandinavian countries. Pollarding is still practised in many tropical areas for the production of fuel and fodder. In this paper we trace the development of ideas about pollarding in British agricultural, estate management and forestry literature c1600–1900. We examine how pollarding, which was a traditional management practice of long standing at the start of our period, was increasingly vilified so that by the end of the eighteenth century, many foresters and agriculturists saw it as a symbol of the profligate use of resources.