Gladstone Bags

Thursday, 24 December 2015

William Gladstone and a Fetish for Trees

Liberal Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone was one of the most photographed politicians of Victorian times as well as possibly one of the most eccentric. 

These photographs show Gladstone posing for a photograph with his grandson seated on his knee.  The other image is of a Christmas greetings card featuring a piece of real wood and referring to Gladstone’s fame for chopping wood at his estate in Hawarden.

The story goes that Gladstone chopped wood for exercise but many think the reason was because it helped him be at one with nature and gave him time to think away from the pressures of political life. 

Gladstone himself is believed to have said “I chop wood because I find that is the only occupation in the world that drives all thought from my mind.”

Gladstone and his axe would sometimes be accompanied by family members and history tells how he wielded the axe with the experience of a skilled woodman.


When a Liberal colleague asked why Gladstone chopped trees, Gladstone replied “We cut down that we may improve.  We remove rottenness that we may restore health by letting in air and light.  As a good Liberal, you ought to understand that.”

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