Apple varieties often thrive best in the area where they were bred, and are therefore powerful symbols of local distinctiveness. Over the centuries Lincolnshire’s nurserymen developed numerous new orchard fruits for use in our region and further afield. The Stamford area boasts at least 44 local varieties of apple, most of which were introduced in the second half of the 19th century by three people: Richard Gilbert, head gardener at Burghley; and two nurserymen, Robert Brown and Thomas Laxton. Of these, only ‘Allington Pippin’, ‘Lord Burghley’, ‘Barnack Beauty’ and ‘Peasgood’s Nonsuch’ are presently available from specialist nurseries in this country. The rest are either only found in old gardens, or are lost completely.
It is wonderful to think of three Victorian gents competing with each other to breed, or introduce, so many varieties. Gilbert, in particular, named his apples after places in Stamford, such as ‘St Mary’s Street’ and ‘The Post Office’. Laxton moved to Bedford, where he continued to breed new varieties; many of them, such as ‘Laxton’s Superb’ and ‘Laxton’s Fortune’, are still widely grown. Robert Brown opened a shop for horticultural sundries in Stamford.
Sally Uttley, Stamford Community Orchard Group.