Today’s Objects of the Week, the pride of a Darlington park, are among the largest we’ve ever featured.

THERE are many fine trees in Darlington’s South Park, but there are two which stand head and shoulders above the rest.

The giant redwoods, or Wellingtonias, planted in 1863 to commemorate the wedding of the future King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, are two examples of the largest living organism on Earth – sequoiadendron giganteum.

There are hundreds of other specimens at stately homes, botanic gardens and arboretums across the county and almost all of them, were planted in the same decade – the result of a craze for growing them in the early Victorian period.

The species was first discovered – at least by European eyes – in California in 1833.

But the explorers managed to lose sight of it until, in 1852, it was rediscovered in Sierra Nevada. A sample was dashed back to England where, on December 15, 1853, it was named after the Duke of Wellington. Recently dead – his state funeral was in 1852 – the English decided to rename the tree: sequoia wellingtonia giganteum.

US botanists were outraged at colonialists naming a prize American tree after an English war hero who had never even seen one. It still rankles, so most use the tree’s common name: the giant redwood, or just sequoia.

The sequoia made its mark on Darlington less than a decade later, arriving on March 11, 1863.

Their planting was a celebration of the marriage of His Royal Highness Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, to Princess Alexandra of Denmark – a union also marked by the naming of Denmark Street and Wales Street, off the town’s North Road.

At 9am, 3,000 Darlington school pupils gathered in the Market Square covered in flags, ribbons and medals.

At 9.30am they moved off, led by a drum and fife band into Northgate, along Kendrew Street into Bondgate, back down High Row and into Blackwellgate, before parading along Grange Road and into the grounds of Joseph Pease’s Southend mansion, where they sang the National Anthem.

“A stupendously large bun was then served to each of them – it was as much as many of them were able to carry, “ reported the Darlington and Stockton Times.

“Every person couldn’t fail to appreciate Mr Pease’s kindness. . . but considering how sparsely some of the children were clothed, it is not improbable that some of them may suffer from the effects of the severe temperature and cold which they endured.”

At noon in the Market Square, the 15th Durham Volunteers assembled with Colonel George Scurfield at their head on his white charge, then processed to South Park.

The park had been open for about ten years, and this was probably its first official function.

On the terrace, near Park House, Col Scurfield and Francis Mewburn, the Chief Bailiff, each planted a sequoia that had been given to the town by Alfred Backhouse.

“Both gentlemen expressed their heartiest wishes for the welfare and happiness of the royal couple,” said the D&ST.

“The volunteers then sang the Reverend Newman Hall’s National Anthem, but although they strained hard to make it effective, it was impossible, owing to the dense state of the atmosphere and the indifference of those around.

“Several volleys were fired by the corps, who then retired to the Market Place.”

Of course, from small acorns large oak trees do grow. Today, more than 158 years later, the sequoia have grown into huge trees with grand, sweeping boughs – the pride of the park.

Thought to be two of only three multi-stemmed examples in the country – the other is in Hampshire– a plaque in the park reckons them among “the top ten trees in Britain”. And who are we to argue against that!