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Luke Kenyon (a.k.a Luke Kenny) was christened on the 7th Feb 1730 in Rolleston, Notts. He was a charcoal burner who operated both in Alderwasley Woods and in Crich Chase in Derbyshire. During the 18th and early19th century, Luke Kenyon - locally pronounced as Kenny lived in a cabin roofed with turf (which was used as a bedroom) near a huge hollow yew tree, reputed to be over 2,000 years old, which served as living space.
Luke married Elizabeth Brooks on the 13th April, 1755 at Rolleston. Elizabeth Kenyon (nee Brooks, a.k.a Betty Kenny) and Luke had eight children which they raised in an ancient yew tree now known as 'Betty Kenny's tree', located in Alderwasley Park in Crich, Derbyshire.
It is said that a hollowed-out section of one of the branches of the yew tree was used as a crib by each of the babies in turn (one of whom died in infancy and was buried nearby in Alderwasley Woods). Both family and local legend has it that this was the origin of the nursery rhyme 'rock-a-bye-baby'. Their children included John (baptised 28 March 1756), Elizabeth (baptised 29July 1758), Luke (baptised 18 Oct 1761, married Elizabeth Walker 18 Aug 1790 at Bonsall), Ann (baptised 11 Jan 1765), William (baptised 6 June 1768) Mary (baptised 7 April 1771), Samuel (baptised 27 June 1773, buried 27 July 1851 at Crich Carr) and Delia (buried 11 Feb 1777 at Alderwasley).
Betty is often referred to as Kate, but her true name was Elizabeth, the name 'Kate' was thought to be a nickname.
Luke and Betty were favourites of the Hurt family who owned nearby Alderwasley Hall. In 1811 the Hurt's arranged for renowned artist James Ward of the Royal Academy (1769-1859) to paint portraits of both Luke and Betty. The painting was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1814. Luke, who was said to be 96 at the time of the painting, complained that he found the room in the Hall where he was sitting for his portrait to be 'draughty'. Luke died after he and his wife had been assaulted whilst still living in the tree and robbed of their life savings of £10. Luke was buried at Wirksworth on the 5th Jan 1814 age 96. In the margin of the parish record the vicar has written ô NB. Luke Kenyon No.107 has lived the most part of his time in Huts in the woods and burnt charcoal and is wife is 94 years old and walked from Alderwasley to his funeral.ö Betty is supposed to have taken part in a dance at Alderwasley Hall after her hundredth birthday.
See http://www.crichparish.co.uk/webpages/kenyonhistory.html for further information on Luke and Betty Kenyon.