After the abdication of Edward the eighth, Albert Frederick Arthur George became King George VI on 11th December 1936.
His wife, the then Duchess of York, proposed a nationwide tree planting as a permanent memorial of the coronation.
King George VI Avenue, on Cranmer Green, was created with the planting of 36 tulip trees and 36 purple-leaved plum trees. The number 36 was chosen to represent the year, 1936, of his becoming king, although his coronation was not until the following year, on 12th May, 1937.
On 29th December, 1936, the Town Clerk reported that he had attended a meeting of the Coronation Planting Committee with the mayor and the then Duchess of York about adopting some scheme of tree planting as a permanent memorial of the coronation, and that since then the Borough Council had been approached by resident Mr Athel R. Harwood, who had offered to contribute to any scheme of planting that the Council might think to adopt.
The Council then resolved that an avenue of trees be planted from the Blue House Bridge to the gates of the Wilson Hospital, and for other plantations of suitable trees to be arranged in the land between the avenue and the line of the Southern Railway.
On 7th April 1937 the Town Clerk report that Messrs. John Waterers, Son and Crisp, Ltd. of Bagshot, were carrying out the scheme in accordance with the arrangements approved by Mr A. R. Harwood, who contributed £50 (£3,100 in 2015) towards the cost.
The line taken by the road was that of the drive that approached the entrance of Cranmer House, shown as ‘Cranmer’ in this 1910 map. According to Eric Montague in his “Mitcham Histories : 11 The Cranmers, The Canons and Park Place“, page 4, this drive was originally lined with tall elm trees.
From the Royal Record of the tree planting:
An avenue of 36 purple-leaved plum (Prunus Pissardii) and 36 tulip trees (Liriodendron Tulipifera), with individual trees and clumps consisting of 11 purple Norway maple (Acer platanoides Schwedleri), 11 silver birch (Betula verrucosa), 1 copper beech (Fagus sylvatica cuprea), 1 weeping ash (Fraxinus excelsior pendula), 3 purple sycamore (Acer purpureum), 4 red-twigged lime (Tilia platyphyllos corallina), 7 red horsechestnut (Aesculus carnea), 3 beech (Fagus sylvatica), 6 lime (Tilia euchlora), 3 Norway maple (Acer platanoides), 1 Turkey oak (Quercus Cerris), 3 golden sycamore (Acer Pseudoplatanus Worlei), 1 scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea), 3 maple (Acer platanoides Drummondi), 12 white elm (Ulmis americana), 11 willow (Salix vitellina britzensis), 3 willow (Salix vitellina), 2 cherry (Prunus Sargentii), 7 cherry in variety, 7 willow (Salix babylonica ramulis aureis); planted by the Borough Council.
Maps are reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.