Image by Rosalind Atkins. Please contact me if you are unhappy with its use.
(Soon to be replaced by my own linocut efforts…)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

12. The Bramley Tree

Unless we're talking Adam & Eve, you don't often think about fruits having an original, do you? They just seem to be there. Hanging off plants for us to pick and eat as we please. It's the way nature intended. Or something.

But we know everything there is to know about the Bramley apple (good for cooking, not so nice to eat off the tree Adam & Eve style). We know which exact tree it came from, even who planted the pip. How? Because the tree is still there, in a garden in Southwell, a nice little Midlands town on the River Greet, a few miles north of Nottingham. Lord Byron used to stay there, but then he's been everywhere. For once, though, Byron isn't the most famous resident of a town. That honour belongs to Mary Ann Brailsford who, as a young girl in 1809, planted some apple pips in her garden. (The date is sometimes contested but, given that they celebrated the bicentenary in 2009, we're sticking to it.)

A local Butcher, Matthew Bramley, bought the house in 1846 and when, a decade later, Henry Merryweather noticed the potential of the tree and asked to take cuttings, Bramley agreed on the proviso that any fruit sold should be called Bramley Apples (he even insisted, a little unfairly, that the original seedling planted by Brailsford be called Bramley's Seedling).
We even know when the first ever Bramley Apple was sold - Merryweather records "Mr Geo Cooper of Upton Hall" bought three on 31 October 1862. Today, 95% of all culinary apple orchards in England are made up of Bramley trees.
Despite being felled by a storm in 1900, the original Bramley Seedling took root where it touched the ground. It can still be viewed today by special appointment.