Lane's Prince Albert is one of the definitive English cooking apples and it grows in three of our gardens. The famous Victorian pomologist Dr Hogg rated it 'a marvellous bearer, [which] rarely fails to produce a crop'(1).
The original tree grew in the front garden of a wealthy Quaker gentleman by the name of Thomas Squire, who lived on Berkhamsted High Street. He planted the sapling around the time of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s visit to the Hertfordshire town on 26 July 1841, naming it Victoria and Albert after the royal couple.
The tree was spotted by successful local nurseryman, John
Lane. Lane was impressed by its compact shape,
handsome apples and heavy crops and began selling it around 1850 under the new name of Lane’s Prince Albert.
He exhibited it in 1857 at the newly-formed British Pomological Society and it was awarded a First Class Certificate by the Royal
Society in 1872.
Lane’s Prince Albert rapidly became popular, both at home and as far away as Eastern Europe. It remained a kitchen garden favourite for decades but fell out of favour commercially because its fruit bruised so easily.
Its parentage is suspected to include Queen Victoria's favourite apple, Dumelow’s Seedling. The fruits are conical in shape, with broad ribs around the crown, and are even and regular in outline. The skin is smooth and shiny, changing from grass-green to pale yellow as the fruit ripens. Where exposed to the sun it takes on a light red tinge and develops broken streaks of bright crimson.
Lane’s Prince Albert has a juicy, lemony, acidic flavour and keeps well from October (when it is best picked) through to March. The apples are not as large as some English culinary varieties but still a decent size.
It is an easy tree to grow, although like many old apples it tends to crop well only ever other year. It can be susceptible to mildew but otherwise has good disease-resistance. It tolerates most soils and flowers late, giving it protection from frost. The blossom is colourful and the leaves pale green.
Lane's Prince Albert needs a pollinator of another variety; Annie Elizabeth, Barnack Beauty and Ellison's Orange are among many possible choices.
SOURCES AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
(1) The Fruit Manual by Dr Robert Hogg, 1884
Grateful acknowledgements to:
Alan Buckingham for his photograph: Lane's Prince Albert © Copyright Alan Buckingham. All Rights Reserved
Christopher Stocks for information in his book Forgotten Fruits, Windmill Books, 2009
Friends of St Peter's, Great Berkhamsted: The Lane Family