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The Plot Thickens

Hi, I’m Karen Meadows. Thank you for visiting The Plot Thickens.

I’m lucky enough to be the tenant of one of fifty large allotment gardens in the middle of the small and beautiful stone town of Stamford in England’s East Midlands. The gardens were first created by Brownlow Cecil, 4th Marquess of Exeter in the mid 1800s and their layout has remained virtually unchanged. Between the plots we have some 200 old apple trees, many of them rare varieties, and in 2017 Natural England awarded the gardens heritage orchard status.

Over the centuries at least 500 people have worked these plots. Follow our quest to discover who they were, what they grew, and what shenanigans they got up to. Be prepared for numerous diversions and musings along the way about gardening life here in our quiet (and occasionally not so quiet) little corner of Stamford.

If you haven’t discovered our website yet, do head over to Waterfurlong Orchard Gardens, where you will find a wealth of information about our gardens and gardeners, past and present.

And now for the small print...

The Plot Thickens is a non-commercial blog. All recommendations are based on personal preference and my own or our other gardeners’ own experience. Payments or free goods are not accepted in return for reviews of products and services. If an exception is made this will be clearly stated.

All words and images, unless otherwise credited, are my own. If you would like to copy text or images, I’d kindly ask that The Plot Thickens gets a positive mention and a link back to this blog.

Recent Posts

Our Apple For July: Lane's Prince Albert

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.


(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

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