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The Herefordshire Pomona

Posted on April 9th, 2009 by Stuart Clode

In recent times there has been a revival of interest in old varieties of fruit trees (note the popularity and success of the GHS Fruit Study Day last November). During the late nineteenth century too, for instance in and around the county of Herefordshire, where there was growing concern about the poor state of many of the orchards.

Over a period of about ten years The Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club of Hereford (founded in 1851) kept a detailed record of varieties of apples and pears then being grown in Herefordshire, and had an annual exhibition to which were invited experienced pomologists to judge the fruits and try to identify them. One such was Dr Robert Hogg, Vice President of the Royal Horticultural Society, editor of the RHS Journal, writer of The Fruit Manual, who, together with Dr Henry Graves Bull, Physician to Hereford Infirmary, a past president and enthusiastic member of the Woolhope Club, produced The Herefordshire Pomona.

Two fine artists, Alice Blanche Ellis and Bull’s daughter, Edith Elizabeth, painted ‘from Nature’ the apples and pears shown at the autumn exhibitions. The details are exquisite, mouth-watering and honest, nothing excluded, not even blemishes afflicting some varieties. Hogg meticulously describes them, including the possible origin, history and, in the case of cider apples, a chemical analysis of the juice. Bull, who also acted as the coordinator and editor, drew cross-sections of each fruit.

Nobility and local gentry paid for the book by subscription. It was published in seven parts starting in 1878, fifteen shillings for the first part, twentyone shillings for each of the rest. On completion, in 1885, it was bound together to form The Herefordshire Pomona, six hundred copies in all.

Still today it is a valuable resource, often referred to by members of The Marcher Apple Network (MAN), who are concerned with promoting awareness of biodiversity and identifying and propagating locally grown old varieties of apples and pears.

To purchase an original copy would cost many thousands of pounds, but it is now possible for anyone to see the whole book, beautifully reproduced on CD Rom, all 77 coloured plates, as well as the cross sections and text descriptions of 432 varieties of fruit. This is available from The MAN, price £16, by sending a cheque (payable to The Marcher Apple Network) to Mr D Kempton, Brook House, Hopesay, Craven Arms, Shropshire, SY7 8HD. Further information is on the MAN website: www.marcherapple.net.

Ruth Brownlow


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