Four thousand years ago, near the confluence of two rivers in southwest England, in a town not yet named Tisbury, a yew tree began to grow — or so the story goes. Over the centuries it grew from sapling to stately tree, revered, perhaps, by local pagans. Later, in the 12th century, in a Norman and Christian England, a church was built beside it, dedicated to St. John.

Four hundred years ago, a baby was baptized in that church and christened Thomas Mayhew. He came to adulthood and traveled to Martha’s Vineyard, where he named a town on the Island after his home village: Tisbury.

Today, at Grace Episcopal Church in Tisbury, U.S.A., a descendant of that venerable yew tree has grown to maturity, a symbol of the enduring connection between the two Tisburys, separated by the Atlantic. That connection has recently been fortified through an effort to replace one of St. John’s Church’s stained-glass windows. The effort has drawn interest — and donations — from historically-inclined Vineyard residents, jumpstarting a new cross-Atlantic exchange

In a recent episode of TisTalk — a Tisbury, England-based community podcast — co-hosts Mary Myers and Julie Anne Murphy spoke to Tisbury, England resident Sean Moran about his recent trip to the Vineyard to drum up support for the St. John’s window.

Julie Ann Murphy and Mary Myers, cohosts of TisTalk. — Finn Murphy

“Martha’s Vineyard in America is known for these huge, big, multi-million mansions, but actually the community of Martha’s Vineyard is very like the community of Tisbury [England],” he said.

Tisbury, and the surrounding villages of Wiltshire, is renowned for its natural beauty, rolling green hills and grazing sheep reminiscent of Chilmark on the Vineyard. Indeed, just up the road from Tisbury, England is Chilmark, England — another name brought over by Mr. Mayhew.

There are other similarities. Rather than “washashore” transplants from the mainland, for instance, they have “blow-ins” coming to escape the hustle and bustle of London. Wiltshire even has its own Black Dog, a 15th-century tavern located in the English Chilmark.

Unlike the American Chilmark, its English counterpart is decidedly not dry, at one point sporting around a dozen pubs between Chilmark, Tisbury and surrounding villages.

The area, Ms. Myers said, is also known for its rich local history, from Bronze Age forts to romantic castle ruins to World War II armaments.

Yew tree at Grace Church in Vineyard Haven came over from Tisbury, England as a sapling. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“Our history goes back a long way,” she said. “Stonehenge isn’t far from us.”

TisTalk was first envisioned, Ms. Myers said, as a way to highlight the unique features of their town. Each 25-minute episode is anchored by a main interview with an interesting or exceptional Tisbury resident, along with a smattering of dairy-farming news, local arts, oral history, community initiatives and weekly events.

“Originally we thought, would there be enough news or anything happening in what is really only a large village?” Ms. Murphy said. “Of course, there’s been loads of stuff.”

Ms. Myers said she and Ms. Murphy are also planning to work on a drama about the ancient Tisbury yew, thought to be one of the oldest in the United Kingdom and the world.

A frequent topic of TisTalk discussion is the project to replace the east-facing window at St. John’s, which has been of particular interest to Tisburians of both the English and American variety. The late Donald Lyons, a previous rector at Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven, kept up a long correspondence with St. John’s Church, eventually receiving the Island’s own ancient yew cutting.

Original yew tree is located at St. John's Church in England. — Courtesy Mary Myers.

“We’ve always had a connection with [St. John’s],” said Rev. Stephen Harding, the current pastor at Grace Episcopal Church, noting that the baptismal font at Grace Church is a replica of the font at St. John’s, where Thomas Mayhew was baptized. But, Mr. Harding added, connections have often been intermittent. This year, though, Vineyard Haven resident and Grace Church neighbor Polly Simpkins told the pastor that Sean Moran would be coming to America on a fundraising mission.

“She said, ‘Stephen, you have to come meet this man,’” Mr. Harding said. “We had a fabulous time.”

Grace Church made a donation to the cause and, to Mr. Harding’s delight, the Vineyard Haven yew made an appearance at the dean of Canterbury Cathedral’s morning prayer program.

Back on the other side of the Atlantic, Ms. Myers and Ms. Murphy said the east window project is just a few thousand pounds short of its goal, already having raised 98,000 pounds.

“We are told that when that window goes in, King Charles [III] may be there,” Ms. Murphy said. “If it isn’t the king, there will be other bigwigs.... Someone lower down on the ladder, maybe Camilla.”

Along with the royal representation, they said that some “American cousins” from Vineyard Haven are expected to make an appearance as well.

“The east window launch is bound to be next year and there will definitely be someone coming over from your Island to us,” Ms. Myers said.

Episodes of TisTalk can be found at