PITMASTON DUCHESS An enormous dessert and culinary fruit, raised at Pitmaston in 1841. The fruit is pale yellow when ripe and with russet patches. The flesh is juicy, sweet and full of flavour. Ripe in mid-September to mid-October. It can also be used for cooking. The hardy trees have a tall upright growth, with good autumn colour. A good cropper, but triploid and not to be relied upon for good pollination of diploids. Best in a warm spot. Pollination Group D.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

PRINCESS Given to us by Deborah Van Der Beek of Lacock, Chippenham. She has a labelled old tree in her acclaimed garden. Princess was formerly very popular, but is now very rare. Raised from a seed of Louise Bonne around 1875 by Thomas Rivers’ nursery at Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire, it is a late ripening dessert pear, picked in late September, but reaching its peak from October to November. Medium sized, longish and regular with pale yellow skin, blushed reddish brown. The flesh is fine, melting, very juicy and sweet. ‘A good and free cropping pear’- Bunyard. Pollination Group B.

 

 

 

PUDDLEDOCK PEAR An old unknown pear variety sent to us by Mrs Susan Samter of Frome, Somerset. The Samters own one of the farm cottages, built for the poor, the records going back to the 1770s. Derelict since the 1960s, they named their cottage, Puddledock after the hamlet on the farm estate at Chartwell, Kent, owned by Winston Churchill, where they had lived before. The pear tree in their garden at Puddledock Cottage is very old. Local memory records that it has looked old for a generation. It bears very small, round or dumpy fruit, the golden skin covered with warm russet patches and specks. Very sweet even when under-ripe. It is very pleasant mouthful, even if a small one. The pears are also highly valued by Mr and Mrs Samter’s parrot, ‘Jenny’. Pollination Group C. *

 

 

ROBIN Said to be an old Norfolk pear, but it has also been long known in Lincolnshire, Rutland and Nottinghamshire, as revealed by the account of Thomas Hitt in 1755. He says it is also known as August, Muscat, Averat, Hanvelle, Royal and ‘The French King’s Favourite Pear’. It ripens in the middle of September, and is roundish but narrow towards the stalk and full at the eye. He adds “Tis less than the common Orange Bergamy, but its flesh is breaking, like them, and its juice is very highly perfumed, it bears in large clusters, and in great plenty, either against a wall or on dwarfs”. Small in size and bright red cheeked, hence the name. Though ripe in the middle of September, it can be stored. Sweet, juicy and tasty. Pollination Group B.

 

 

 

ROUSSELET DE RHEIMS A truly ancient pear first mentioned by Le Lectier in 1628. It has also been known in Britain since the 17th century. It was recorded by Worlidge, Langley, Miller, Lindley, Scott, Hogg and Bunyard, from 1691 to 1920, but has not been noted in Britain since. Scott (1872) said “no pear has been more sought after or esteemed in times gone by” and other accounts also rate it very highly. We found it in the collection of Nick Botner, in Oregon and he kindly sent us scions in 2010. It was acknowledged to be a good dessert pear and an excellent culinary pear, if a little on the small side. Ripe in August to September, oval/conical, with skin of green/yellow flushed brown red and covered with darker dots. Half-melting, sweet flesh with a rich flavour and perfume. An abundant cropper. Pollination Group B. **

 
             

 

ROUSSELET DE STUTTGARDT Scott (as Chevriers de Stuttgardt) suggests this is of German origin, from about 1780. By 1826 it was in the collection of the London Horticultural Society at Chiswick and was still known in Britain towards the end of the 19th century. It has since passed from knowledge here. As with Rousselet de Rheims, above, we re-discovered it in the Nick Botner collection and returned it here in 2010. A medium sized, pear shaped fruit with greenish yellow skin, dotted with greyish white, and with a blood red flush. The flesh is white, fine, juicy, perfumed, sweet and refreshing. A dessert pear, ripe in August. Abundant cropper. Pollination Group B. **

 

 

 

 

 

SAINT NICHOLAS Found as St. Nicholas in the collection of Nick Botner in Oregon, he kindly sent scions in 2010. This pear has variously been known as Duchesse D’Orléans, Beurré St. Nicholas and other names, and there is some confusion as to whether they are all the same. Saint Nicholas was first noted in Britain in 1826, in the LHS collection at Chiswick. All these pears are now missing. Scott says Beurré St. Nicolas was a wilding discovered at St. Nicolas, Angers, France, first fruiting in 1839. Hogg gives no origin, calling it Duchesse D’Orléans, while giving the other names as synonyms. Scott’s and Hogg’s descriptions vary in the season of ripening Scott says ‘one of the best of early pears’, ripening in September, while Hogg says it ripens in October. They agree that it is a large, dessert pear, with sweet, juicy, melting flesh. Ours, as with Scott, ripens in September and is very melting and fine fleshed, juicy and sweet with a caramel flavour. We welcome its return to Britain.**

 

SANGUINOLE A very ancient, small dessert pear, perhaps once used for perry, and recommended for cooking by Bunyard, though the size is a setback. With a very long history in Europe, it was first mentioned in Britain by John Rea in 1676, though it is likely to be the Blood Red pear of Parkinson in 1629. The name comes from the red stained flesh. Though ageing trees are still, possibly, to be found in old orchards here, it seems not to have been mentioned for nearly 100 years. It still exists in Europe and America and we were sent scions by Nick Botner, from his collection in Oregon, in 2010. The fruit is small, russeted and red blushed and spotted. The flesh is red stained, juicy and with a sweet musky flavour. Ripe from August to September. Scott says it should be picked before ripe and adds that it makes a nice ornament for the dessert. A fascinating historical relic and, though not a first class dessert pear, it is perfectly palateable and decorative. Pollination Group B. **

 
             

 

SECKLE An old American pear, dating from before 1817, when described by Coxe. It was found wild in a wood by a trapper called ‘Dutch Jacob’, on land owned by Mr Seckle, near Philadelphia, who was the first to multiply it. Seckle has sometimes, and erroneously, been written as Seckel. It came to England before 1819 and was in the LHS collection in 1826. A small dessert pear that was once very popular though it was barely planted in the 20th century, losing out to lesser varieties. Ripe in September to October, rounded, oval and regular, Scott said “no pear is of more honeyed sweetness”. It is very juicy and vinous. It has modest vigour and is recommended for small gardens. Pollination Group C.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SHARPE’S ACADEMIC In the Oxfordshire village of Horton cum Studley is a monumental pear tree, in the ownership of Mrs Pat Sharp. Her son, James, brought it to our attention. Her large garden is about 100 yards down the hill from the site of Studley Priory, built for Benedictine nuns in the 1100s. It was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539 but a large house was rebuilt on the site in 1597. The whole village was owned by one family up to the Second World War and this pear tree would undoubtedly have owed its origin to the Big House, also called Studley Priory. Most likely it is a single survivor from a former large orchard adjacent to the Priory. There are other old orchards across the road, but probably not as old as this tree. It is a proven fact that pear trees can live for 400 years and believed anecdotally that lives of 600 years are not only possible but often encountered. This one is certainly a grand old tree. The pears are medium sized and a little wider than deep, with the usual green skin, rendered brown by light russet patches and netting over much of it. They do not ripen until late in the year, usually November, before which they are hard and immune to cooking. If kept a little longer we think they would suddenly soften to a very good dessert pear, but in recent years of erratic fruiting, we have not had fruit at the right time to test this. Eaten raw the flesh was a bit chewy, but with a sweet, mild, caramel flavour and a hint of tannin. However, in late November it proved itself the most excellent of culinary pears, cooking fairly quickly and keeping its shape completely, the sweet flavour being of caramel, vanilla and almond. The tannin had gone.

 

 

SHARPE’S INDEPENDENT Sharing the same provenance as Sharp’s Academic. We can only speculate about this pear, until we have some fruit on the newly grafted trees with us. It refuses to fruit with Pat Sharp, almost certainly because it is an early or late flowerer and it does not have a pollinator close enough, flowering at the same time. It is older than Sharp’s Academic perhaps by a year, for the following reason. Sharp’s Academic was grafted onto Sharp’s Independent. In centuries past it was normal to graft favoured varieties onto pear seedlings, grown from any old pear available. Quite often these seedlings were collected from piles of discarded perry ‘must’, where the waste often sent up fortuitous seedlings. Sometimes these seedlings turned out to be very good pears. Though wild pear seedlings and layers were sometimes used, this tree shows none of the obvious characteristics of the wild pear, and will therefore not produce small, hard and bitter bullets. At some point, a good many years ago, the roots from Sharp’s Academic decided to send up a sucker several yards from the tree. It grew undisturbed into a new tree, already of substantial size. Other suckers now regularly turn up and are dispatched. The new name reflects the determination of this rootstock to grow independently. Time will tell whether this will prove itself to be a worthy pear or a worthless one, but we include it here because it belongs with Sharp’s Academic and it might appeal to the adventurous, with enough space to take a chance on a really old survivor.