Bramley Apple Week & The Story of the Bramley Apple
From a forbidden temptation of biblical times to the tale of William Tell, the apple has passed through folklore and history as a humble and wholesome fruit. One of the most popular varieties of apple, The Bramley Apple, in fact has its origins in Nottinghamshire.
The Story of the Bramley Apple
The 200 year history began by chance when a young girl from Southwell, Mary Anne Brailsford, planted some apple pips in her garden in the early 19th century. Blossoming into a strong and fertile tree, it caught the eye of a local farmer Henry Merryweather some years later, who saw the possibility of farming the succulent apples. The land on which the tree stood was then owned by a Matthew Bramley, who granted Merryweather some cuttings on the condition that the apple would carry his name. And so the Bramley Apple was born, rich in flavour, mighty in size and classically British.
By 1862 Bramley Apple Trees were sold nationwide, helping establish the British fruit trade and becoming a firm favourite in cooking due to retention of its strong flavour. But it hasn’t all been ‘appley’ ever after for the Bramley. In 1900 the original tree blew down during a storm, but was thankfully quickly replanted and continued to thrive.
Nobody would have expected the peculiar and somewhat dramatic twist in the Bramley’s story in 1973 when the sale of the apple briefly came under threat. Owing to their large size it was found that they did not comply with the new EU regulations for apple sizing and a campaign began by Merryweather’s great granddaughter Celia. Initially not taken seriously, she had a classic homemade Bramley Apple Pie sent to the home of the minister of agriculture to prove the excellence of the fruit. While the minister’s wife rejected the gift, the story made the press and after a debate in the House of Commons the Bramley Apple was eventually given a new classification, its future sale secured.
Some In-cider Information…
- In 2009 a stained glass window was commissioned at Southwell Minster, celebrating 200 years of the Bramley Apple. Designed by stained glass artist Helen Whittaker.
- Though somewhat wizened and wilted the original tree planted by Mary Anne Brailsford still stands in Southwell at No. 75 Church Street. In recent years however it has been diagnosed with a fungal infection which is likely to lead to its decay.
- Unexpectedly, this most British of fruits is greatly revered in areas of Japan, with many orchards and even a fanclub set up in the town of Obuse in 1991.
- In 2003 the Bramley tree was chosen as one of Britain’s 50 greatest trees by wardens of the Tree Council, to mark the Queen’s golden jubilee.
- The fruit has for many years held the nickname ‘The King Of Covent Garden’ due to its year round sale in the famous London marketplace.
- The Bramley was given a protected status in 2015 by the EU as an iconic British ingredient on the traditional specialities guaranteed (TSG) list, along with Cornish pasties and Jersey royal potatoes.
How To Celebrate…
With the days getting brighter and the weather slightly less wintery, it’s the perfect time to take a wholesome stroll through Southwell. Why not celebrate Bramley Apple Week by following one of Southwell’s Bramley Heritage Trails to discover more about this picturesque town and the history of the Bramley Apple, and grab yourself a crisp original Bramley Apple.