SHARPE’S ACADEMIC In the Oxfordshire village of Horton cum Studley is a monumental pear tree, formerly in the ownership of Mrs Pat Sharpe. Her son, James, brought it to our attention. The 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 fall in October but do not ripen until late in the year, usually end-November, before which they are hard and immune to cooking. After the skin has turned yellow they can be eaten raw and are sweet with a mild caramel flavour, but this is a good cooking pear. When fully ripe they cook quickly, and soften well, but retain all their shape. The sweet flavour is a little of caramel, vanilla and almond. Poll D



SHARPE’S INDEPENDENT Sharing the same provenance as Sharpe’s Academic. It is older than Sharp’s Academic perhaps by a couple of years, 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. The pears are ripe at the end of September to early October and are rather dumpy and small, with a long stalk and skin of green turning yellowish. The flesh is yielding, juicy, sweet and with a good flavour, but quite bitter. Though an untested rootstock, we think it would make a very fine perry. Poll C




SWAN’S EGG A very old pear, first mentioned by Batty Langley of Twickenham in 1729 who said it should be gathered on September the 20th and eaten soon after gathering, though the fruit is usually ripe a bit later. It is a rather unusual shape for a pear, rounded and redolent of a swan's egg. The Rev. Bartrum, writing in 1902, said "Swan's Egg was a popular pear 50 years ago for market, as the tree is hardy, bears well and the fruit is good, but rather small". The flesh is crisp, sweet, and with a fresh, piquant flavour. Poll C


THOMPSON'S Raised in Belgium around 1820, the un-named fruit came to England and was named after Robert Thompson, the London Horticultural Society Fruit Foreman, at Chiswick. A medium to large dessert fruit with golden skin, patched in russet. The sweet, juicy flesh has a rich perfume. Trees do quite well in exposed sites and have good autumn colour. Pick September, store to October or November. Poll B

TRIOMPHE DE VIENNE Raised in 1864. A medium to large sized dessert pear, oval in shape. The flesh is white, soft and slightly granular in texture, but juicy and with an excellent flavour The fruit is ready from late September to the end of October and is best collected as soon as ripe. Growth is vigorous and fertility is good. Poll C
UVEDALE’S ST GERMAIN A very large culinary pear, raised or acquired by Dr Uvedale in Kent around 1690 and worth growing for the look of the fruit alone. It is not often seen now, but was popular throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. A single pear can weigh up to 3 pounds. The yellowish green, smooth skin turns dull red near the sun and has some russet. Hogg believed it to be identical with the Belle Angevine of France, which appeared in France a century later. It is also called Pound in the USA. Flesh is white, juicy and slightly gritty. Trees are vigorous and fertile. Excellent for stewing. Pick October and store until January or February. Triploid. Poll B
VICAR OF WINKFIELD A French pear found growing wild in a wood in 1760. It was propagated by Msr Leroy, the local curate, and soon became known in France. It was brought to Britain by the Revd. W.L. Rham, the vicar of Winkfield, in Berkshire. A handsome, late season, cooking pear, renowned for storing and baking. The long, large fruit is picked as late as December, when green. It stores until February, by which time it has turned yellow. The trees are vigorous and upright. Triploid. Poll B
WARDEN Warden or Wardon was a name given to a class of pears that never quite ripen to softness, remain hard and are therefore ideal for storing and cooking. They were said to have been introduced by Cistercian monks at Warden in Bedfordshire in the 14th century, and slightly varying types have been widely grown throughout these Isles. Documents owned by Kent Archaological society, of 1546, record a payment for half a bushel of pears called ‘Wardens’. In 1629, Parkinson wrote “The Warden or Luke Wards peare of two sorts, both white and red, both great and small.” ‘Luke Wards’ might refer to a place, now obscure, because he also mentions Luke Wards cherries. It might seem as if his Wardens, white and red, great and small, amounted to four different Wardens. However, in his next entry he says “The Spanish Warden is greater than either of both the former, and better also.” Parkinson’s herbal has a plate of Pyrum Volemam- “the best Warden” and medium sized. It also has a plate of Pyrum Librale ‘The pound Peare’, which is large. Miller, in the 18th century and others later have given Warden as a synonym of Pound Pear, which is still known. Robert Furber’s nursery catalogue of 1727 listed them under the name ‘English Warden’. Wardens have found particular favour in cottage gardens as they are prolific and store well. Unless you want broken teeth only use them for pies, stewing and baking, for which they are excellent. They take 1-2 hours, simmered under gentle heat, to soften and need no sugar. They develop a quite rich, sweetly scented flavour, with a hint of cloves. If left to settle for a few hours the colour turns increasingly dusky pink and the flavour intensifies. The flesh is yielding but a little granular. Poll B
WARPSGROVE PEAR An interesting old pear of unknown variety, it is now a lone fruit tree in an old hedge line at Warpsgrove Farm, Chalgrove, Oxfordshire. It was introduced to us by Paul Hitchcox and we thank him for his help in keeping it going. It is small to medium sized, but flat, round, apple shaped rather than pear shaped, with a flattened open eye and short stubby stalk. The skin is covered with patches and flecks of russet, sometimes thick and cracked, over pale green. The flesh is granular, very juicy and sweet when ripe, with a pleasant acidity and good flavour. Ripe in September. Poll C
WILLIAMS’ BON CHRÊTIEN Bon Chrêtien pears were known by the Romans, and in the 16th century were considered the best pear of all. The name is derived from ‘good christian’ and the various Bon Chrêtien pears were often called that in England. Williams’ Bon Chrêtien was raised by Dr John Stair, a schoolmaster at Aldermaston, near Reading in 1770 and introduced by a nurseryman called Williams. In 1797 it was taken to America and planted on the estate of Thomas Brewer. In 1817 Brewer's estate was taken over by Enoch Bartlett, who named the tree after himself, having forgotten the true name. In America it is still known as the Bartlett Pear. It is sweet, juicy and very soft when ripe, with a musky flavour. It does not store. It will grow passably well on a north wall and crops regularly. It is said not to be pollinated by Louise Bonne and will not pollinate Louise Bonne or Fondante D'Automne though the 1885 National Pear Conference, held at RHS Chiswick, had declared that no varieties of pears were found to be intersterile – i.e. they would all pollinate others, if flowering at the same time. Ripe in September. Poll C
WINDSOR This is one of our oldest pears, already well known when John Parkinson included it in his Paradisi in Sole, Paradisus Terrestris, of 1629. He said “The Windsor peare is an excellent good peare, well known to most persons, and of a reasonable greatnesse: it will bear fruit some times twice in a yeare (and as it is said) three times in some places.” He included a plate, showing ‘Windsor’. It can be large, though sometimes of more medium size, and tending to be oval-roundish. It is ripe in October, when it turns from pale green to yellow, and has tender flesh, sweet and juicy, with a fine lemony and perfumed pear flavour, though a little granular. It is fairly early flowering. The foliage goes a very attractive dark red, before dropping. Poll A
WINNAL’S LONGDON Raised by Winnall of Woodfield, near Ross on Wye, Herefordshire, around 1790. A medium sized perry pear with yellow skin, tinted red, with soft, juicy and sweet flesh. The acid is medium to high, but with low tannin, and makes a strong perry. Large vigorous trees, and good bearers. Ripe in early October. Poll C
WINTER NELIS A French pear raised by Jean Nelis at Malines (Mechelen) and introduced to the London Horticultural Society in 1818. A good, late, dessert pear ripe in November. The fruits will keep until January and are perfect for Christmas, though they ripen in succession. Pears are smallish and green with reddish russet patches and the flesh is buttery, with one of the richest flavours, according to Hogg. If picked before it softens, it is crisp, juicy and sweet for those who like a crisp pear. It does best on a warm site. The tree growth is more arching than upright. It is hardy and an excellent bearer. Poll D