The draconian criminal code of 18th century Britain was basically caused by breakdown in civil authority following the Civil War & Reformation, and new money bringing landowners to buy up country manors without taking on the responsibilities that entailed, like caring for the poor. It is suggested this is why foxhunting was introduced, to bring rich and poor together, and stop vandalism, poaching etc. Worked well, didn’t it? I think the following refers to the tradition of Royal Oak or Oak Apple Day, celebrating KIng Charles II;s birthday after his restoration to the throne. I think they decorated their homes and/or churches with branches. The link with oaks is from when he fled for his life and hid in an oak tree. This is from the Birmingham Gazette of 22 May 1775 What a polite announcement! But the people it was aimed at probably couldn’t read.
“On Saturday next the Queen’s Regiment of Dragoons will be reviewed in Coventry Park. CAUTION: in order to prevent any thoughtless persons from involving themselves in Trouble and Difficulty with the approaching Festival of the 29th May by cutting, lopping or otherwise injuring Oak Trees, we think it very necessary to acquaint them that the punishment for every such offence is transportation according to the Act of Parliament fro the Preservation of Timber. ”