top of page

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 September: Ellison's Orange

Photograph © Copyright Alan Buckingham

Ellison’s Orange is a connoisseur's mid-season eating apple, described as 'once tasted, never forgotten' on account of its rich flavour and unique aniseed undertones. It's an Edwardian variety, dating back to 1904 when it was raised by Rev Charles Ellison of Bracebridge Manse, Lincoln and Mr Albert Wipf, head gardener to Rev Ellison’s brother-in-law, Joseph Shuttleworth, at Hartsholme Hall in nearby Skellingthorpe. Charles Ellison was a renowned pomologist

with more than 1,500 fruit trees in his gardens.

Ellison’s Orange is a cross between Cox’s Orange Pippin and the old French variety, Calville Blanche d’Hiver. The grafts were bought in 1911 by Pennells of Lincoln (who are still trading), with the proceeds being used to fund AlbertWipf’s retirement. Ellison’s Orange achieved an RHS Award of Merit in 1911 and RHS First Class Certificate in 1917.

Rev Charles Ellison's other great passion was decorative metal-turning. In this rare 1898 photograph he is working at his lathe. (1)

The fruit is best harvested in batches in September as it does not keep well. Eaten fresh from the tree Ellison's Orange is sublime but after storage it can taste rather medicinal. A good Ellison's Orange is delectable in a saladand the variety was traditionally prized in Lincolnshire for making apple dumplings.

The apple is medium-sized, green turning gold, flushed with distinct, broken orange and red stripes on the sunny side. It has a small amount of russeting and the skin feels very greasy. The flesh is creamy white, juicy and melting -rather like a good pear. A crimson form, Red Ellison, was found in 1948 in a Mr H C Selby's orchard in Walpole St Peter, Wisbech.

The Ellison's Orange tree is vigorous and upward-spreading, prone to canker but resistant to scab and bitter-pit and generally easier to grow than its tricky Cox parent. It is good for frost-pockets as it flowers late, but it does need reasonable drainage. The trees crop when quite young but tend to bear heavily only every other year when older. Ellison's Orange needs a pollinator to fruit: ideal varieties include Charles Ross, Tydeman’s Early Worcester and Lord Lambourne.


Charles Christopher Ellison was born at Boultham Hall in Lincoln in 1834 and educated at Rugby School and Trinity College, Cambridge.

He was ordained into the Church of England in 1858, working in Newark before becoming Curate of Boultham in 1863. That September he married Elizabeth Beevor at Blyth in Nottinghamshire and in 1874 the family moved to The Manse at Boultham when Charles was promoted to the role of Vicar of Bracebridge and Rector of Boultham.

Charles was as interested in roses as he was in apples and had thousands in his four acre grounds. The Ellisons'

annual open garden was a highlight of the Lincolnshire social calendar.

Charles Ellison died on 11 March 1912 leaving nine children.

Rev Charles Ellison seated next to page-boy at his youngest son, Major Guy Ellison's, 1910 wedding to Evelyn Garfit. (1)

We know less about head gardener Albert Wipf. He was born in Basle, Switzerland in 1850 and seems to have come to the UK with his younger brother, Emil, another gardener, when still in his teens. At the age of 19 Albert married 33 year old Elizabeth Thorpe in Worksop and by 1871 they had settled into the gardeners' quarters at Hartsholme. That year's census shows Albert as a 'naturalised English subject'. In 1876 the Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener printed a glowing article, praising Hartsholme's landscaped areas, notably the abundant growth of trees, '…considering the time they have been planted, nothing short of marvelous proportions'.(2)

The lake and grounds at Hartsholme Hall in Albert Wipf's day.

After Elizabeth's death Albert married second wife Sarah in 1909. He died seven years later on 4 December 1916 at Hartsholme, where he had lived and worked for nearly fifty years. The sale of Ellison's Orange to Pennell's seems to have reaped good rewards for Albert, as he left the comfortable sum of £1,615. He does not seem to have had any children.

Hartsholme is now part of the Witham Valley Country Park, with open access to the public.


(1) Kind courtesy of the Pennell Archive.

(2) Kind courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library

Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018

bottom of page