ONE of the two oldest English elm trees in the world has been cut down after contracting Dutch elm disease.

The Preston Park Twins have stood in Brighton since the reign of King James I more than 400 years ago.

But tree surgeons have felled one of the twins, a year after it contracted the disease.

Because the condition can spread quickly, the tree was cut down to protect its centuries-old neighbour.

Brighton-based elm expert Peter Bourne said it was sad for such a historic tree to catch the disease.

“They were originally part of a field hedgerow and later became screening for Preston Manor,” the National Elm Collection curator said.

“An offspring of the tree that has been removed survives in Amsterdam when Ronnie Nijboer took a cutting from it some 10 years ago.

“It is very late in its felling owing to problems with finding the right weather and the hiring of the proper equipment to remove the huge hulk which remains.”

When the tree was diagnosed with the disease in July, trenches were dug around its trunk to prevent it from infecting its twin.

As Dutch elm had reached its roots, the Preston Park Twin could not be saved.

Its branches had already been lopped off, leaving the formerly formidable tree a shadow of its former self.

It is believed the tree was first infected last summer but had not shown any symptoms for months.

(Originally reported in The Brighton Argus)