ONE of the two oldest English elm trees in the world was cut down yesterday after contracting a deadly disease.

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

But tree surgeons felled one of the twins yesterday a year after it contracted fatal Dutch elm 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.

The deadly disease is spread by bark beetles which come to Brighton when the weather is warm.

But residents are also being told to watch out for elm logs which could carry Dutch elm.

Brighton and Hove City Council said residents should not buy elm logs for firewood or use elm for any garden decorations.

It is also encouraging people to report dead or diseased trees as soon as they spot them in order to fight the deadly disease.

There are more than 17,000 elm trees in Brighton and Hove.

If you notice any dead or diseased trees email or call 01273 292929.

If you have an elm tree in your garden that may be infected, the council will inspect and treat it for free.