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Circles under churches
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Re: Circles under churches
May 11, 2005, 12:21
FW- "There are no surviving examples of ye olde yew bow and the tax of imported yew staves does point to foreign yew being used in very large quantities."

There are surviving long bows - even one from the Neolithic ( Handbook of British Archaeology - L and R Adkins)

Confusion is probably arising from the term "English Yew" - there is no such thing.

Leaving aside the Irish Yew which is a female form of the common yew, but with a more erect growth described as "bland and fastigate".. Far too young to be used for any kind of longbow except modern repros.

There are 8 species of yew in the Taxus genus. They occur in Europe, Asia minor, east Asia and North America. On the basis of probability rather than proof, we can discount the American yew from Agincourt and also the far eastern ones from east Asia - China, Himalaya, Japan.

That leaves good old Taxus baccata - the common yew. This is native to Great Britain and Europe and also from North Africa to Iran. Granted, some yew staves were imported from Europe, but the source is still the same type of yew - knots, warps and all. The tax could have been introduced to discourage cheap foreign imports and there may well not have been enough suitable trees in Britain to provide sufficient wood. Remember that archery became compulsory at one time. A statute of Edward I in 1307 forbad the felling of trees in graveyards. "Ne rector arbores in cemeterio prosternat."

So with a big demand for yew bows, wholesale harvesting of suitable wild yew and a prohibition on cutting churchyard yews - what to do? Import from Europe - but its still the same sort of yew.
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