Friday, 15 April 2016

The lost orchards of Chorlton

Today I went looking for the Newbridge pear and the Rose of Sharon apple.

They had been grown here in the 1840’s and had caught the eye of the journalist Alexander Somerville who reported that both pear and apple were “fresh, beautiful and healthy.”

I wrote about them recently and it occurred to me that I should go on an adventure with my old botanist chum and see if we could locate any last vestiges of them.  David reckoned that there were still orchards on the other side of the Mersey not far from Jackson’s Boat, but the weather was against us and never being one for getting wet the quest has been postponed.

But in the meantime I set out for find the ones that Alexander Somerville described.  Now these belonged to the farmer James Higginbotham and they took in the land either side of what is now Crossland Road up as far as Higson Avenue.

But there were others dotted across the township.  Now the productive life of an apple tree is about 30-40 years although some can go for 80 to a 100 years,* so with this in mind I doubt that any we find today will date from 1847, but you never know.

So I travel in hope, but even if we don’t find any Newbridge pears or Rose of Sharon apples what fascinates me is that they confirm the possibility that were making cider and perry here in the township.  Of course most of our apples were sent to the Manchester markets but some will have been retained for home use.  And because the Newbridge pear is a perry pear it follows that either we were making perry or we were sending it on to be turned into perry.

All of which also means there is now the hunt for an old press, and if that could be found I would really be very pleased.

*And there are examples which were planted at the beginning of the 19th century

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Picture; Higson’s orchard from a detail of the OS map of Lancashire, 1841, courtesy of Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/

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