This is a Heritage Lottery funded project which aims to highlight Bishopthorpe’s orchard heritage and create a new community orchard for the village. The project runs from 1 November 2018 to 31 October 2019 and the grant award is £8,900. The project is being run by volunteers on behalf of the Parish Council.
We are now two-thirds of the way through the live phase of the project and are making great progress. Whilst we wait until autumn to plant the trees in the new orchard, we have been exploring the history of orchards in the village. The old maps reveal that a staggering proportion of ‘old’ Bishopthorpe was cultivated as orchards and market gardens. Comparing the maps from the mid-19th century to the present day shows just how many of these were built on during the 20th century. You may assume that the fruit trees were bull-dozed, but the reality might be far less severe. In several places we think that the builders left many of the original fruit trees untouched and many are still growing in gardens! Pear trees in particular, can live well over 100 years! If you live on Sim Balk Lane, Church Lane, Main Street, Copmanthorpe Lane, The Coppice or any of the adjoining streets, and have an old-looking fruit tree in your garden, then please get in touch with the project – your tree might be a remnant of an old orchard thought to be lost!
One area which we would love to know more about is the area previously known as ‘Moor Close’ on Copmanthorpe Lane, where The Coppice is today. A house called ‘Prospect House’ on the old maps was built there in the 1800s and the land was cultivated for many years as a market garden with fruit trees. Does anyone remember this part of the village before The Coppice housing estate was built on it in the 1960s?? It would be really interesting to know whether any fruit trees still existed at that time, or even remain in peoples’ gardens.
We would also love more information about the Archbishop’s walled garden on Bishopthorpe Road on the edge of the village. This spring we were fortunate to be allowed to visit, accompanied by gardeners from Brunswick Organic Nursery who keep it well tended. In its heyday the walled garden was the pride and joy of several Archbishops, supplying their households with abundant produce. It dates from about 1767 and has a long history of fruit growing; the old walls are pockmarked with nails from training espaliers. Several very old pear and plum trees are still present (from the outside you can see their blossom sticking up over the walls) and the tradition of fruit growing is in good hands, with over 50 fruit trees still present. Our research has revealed an account of a visit in 1827 by a German Prince. Archbishop Vernon Harcourt personally escorted him around the walled garden and the prince wrote a vivid account describing its magnificence, including mention of pineapples and grenadillas growing in the hot houses! There used to be some very grand glass houses on the south facing wall and an avenue of plum trees in what is now the farmer’s field. These should have been clearly visible from Church Lane. Although we know that they were in decline by the 1940’s, we have no idea when the glass houses were demolished. Does anyone have any information? Or even better a photo (no harm in asking!!).
Finally, of all the memories and stories that residents have shared with us, we are surprised that no one has owned up to scrumping from any of the local orchards!! We would love to hear these kinds of stories from your childhood. Please get in touch with any little detail for any of the above. Local history is the compilation of little details!
If any of the information above has piqued your interest, we are writing a booklet to describe the orchard heritage of Bishopthorpe. Keep an eye open for it in October!
To contact the project please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 07563 798408.
A Mountfield petrol mower was left near the orchard site in April. If this was donated to the project, then thank you to whoever left it. If not, then please get in touch as we are keeping it safe!