Photograph © Alan Buckingham
If you fancy a trip out this Saturday, why not head to the picturesque market town of Southwell near Nottingham for its annual Bramley Apple Festival?
Bramley’s Seedling has a remarkable history which began in 1809 when young Mary Anne Brailsford popped a few apple pips from her mother's kitchen table into a pot. One of these grew into a vigorous sapling which was planted in the family garden in Southwell's Church Street. The tree had been cropping for some years when in 1857 it caught the eye of seventeen-year-old Henry Merryweather, who recognised its potential for his fledgling nursery business.
By this time the Brailsfords' cottage was owned by Mary Anne's son-in-law, butcher Matthew Bramley, who supplied
graftwood on condition that the new apple bore his name. Henry Merryweather began selling Bramley trees in 1862 and enjoyed immediate success, not least because the newly-built railway network enabled him to get his produce to market quickly. By the turn of the century Bramleys were widely planted in Midlands orchards and in 1914 horticultural journal The Garden noted 'There is scarcely an organisation in and around Southwell that has not benefitted from Mr Merryweather's presence.'
Southwell Minster Window © J Hannan-Briggs
Henry remained immensely proud of his introduction, describing his apple stock as 'very fine' and 'beautiful' in his notes. Today, Henry's great grandson Roger organises Southwell's apple festival and has generously gifted a stained glass window depicting Bramley's Seedling to the town's famous Minster. Guided apple walks also take in the original apple tree (sadly now dying of honey fungus), the Heritage Centre's photographic collection, some of the town's other ancient Bramleys, and the Southwell community orchard, whose trees were donated by Merryweather & Sons nursery.
THE JAPANESE BRAMLEY APPLE FAN CLUB
In 2015 the Bramley apple was given protected status by the European Commission as a pie filling and its global renown has led to the intriguing creation of the Japanese Bramley Apple Fan Club!
Minoru Arai, the first chairman of the Royal Horticultural Society of Japan, discovered the apple baked into a pie in a London restaurant and become an immediate convert. The Japanese are used to naturally sweet red dessert apples such as the Fuji and were fascinated by the Bramley's tart flavour. The British RHS sent cuttings of Bramley stock to Mr Arai and within a few years the apple was thriving within Japan and the fan club established. Founder and spokesperson Kimi Mizuno says 'British apple pie was a big culture shock! It’s so different to what we have here.' The fan club has twice visited Southwell and with the help of the British Embassy has kick-started Japan’s cider boom and encouraged experimental Japanese chefs to incorporate
the Bramley into sushi!
Find information on the Bramley Festival here.
To learn more about the Bramley's history and culinary uses see our Waterfurlong Orchard Gardens page.
Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018