Bramley Apple and the BRAILSFORD connection [an error occurred while processing this directive]

Bramley Apple and the BRAILSFORD connection

- Origins of the famous UK cooking apple -

Bramley Seedling Apples

Image courtesy of BBC Good Food

The Bramley's Seedling, more commonly known as the Bramley Apple, is the most popular cooking apple in the UK today. It is an irregular, large, flat-round cooking apple, usually green in appearance with stripes of red. Commercially grown fruit is often plain green as it is picked before the colour develops. The flesh is white, juicy and acidic, with low sugar levels, resulting in a stronger, tangier tasting apple that retains its strong apple flavour when cooked. When boiled the Bramley turns into a frothy pulp, giving it a moist, "melt in your mouth" texture, making it the ideal cooking apple.

The Good Housekeeping Research Institute, an independent product evaluation laboratory of the magazine Good Housekeeping, tested the Bramley against Granny Smith, Braeburn and Golden Delicious, and found that the Bramley outperformed all competitors for flavour, texture and overall quality.

Availability

This outstanding apple is retailed all year in the UK, but is said to be at its best November to March. It is not commonly available through retail in other parts of the world.

Growing the Bramley Apple tree

The botanical name for the tree is Malus domestica 'Bramley's Seedling'. The Bramley is a hardy tree, prefering full sun but tolerating partial shade. It will tolerate heavier, wetter soils than dessert varieties, coping in a variety of soils from well-drained/light, clay/heavy, acidic, to chalky/alkaline. The tree will grow to a height of 6 meters and a spread of 6 meters. It has an attractive pale-pink flower in spring, which is susceptible to frost. This is followed by fruit in late autumn to early winter. The colder the climate, the greener the apple will be.

All apples fruit better with a pollinator. Bramley trees are vigorous growing triploids, meaning they produce little pollen and should not be used as a pollinator. It may possibly bear fruit parthenocarpically, meaning without pollination. To ensure pollination, Bramley trees should be grown with at least two other (non-triploid) varieties of apple which flower at the same time to ensure the pollinator trees also produce fruit. The Bramley is a partial "tip-bearer", meaning it fruits at the ends of one-year old branches, which must be taken into account when pruning. It also has a biennial tendency if over-cropped, meaning it may crop more heavily in alternate years.

Although the Bramley apple is not commonly retailed in Australia, young trees are sometimes available for purchase from Heritage Nurseries in Victoria and South Australia. The apples in Australian conditions are best picked as early as February while the fruit is still green.

History


Mary Ann Brailsford

The original Bramley tree is in a garden now known as Bramley Tree House at 75 Church Street, Southwell, Nottinghamshire, England. It originated from a planting by Mary Ann BRAILSFORD circa 1809-1813. Mary Ann (1791-1852) was the daughter of Charles BRAILSFORD and Elizabeth DICKINSON, who purchased the property at 73 Church Street (now known as Bramley Tree Cottage) in 1809. Sometime before Mary Ann's first marriage in 1813 to John BUCKLOW, she planted the pips, core or apple which later grew into the tree bearing the original Bramley Seedling. It is probably her mother Elizabeth who deserves the credit for watering and caring for the young tree (or not uprooting it) during its young fruitless years, after Mary Ann had left home. Since most fruit trees would bear fruit within 10 years after the seedling was sprouted, it is most likely that Elizabeth saw the tree bear fruit for a number of years and made the best apple pies in the district!

After the death of Elizabeth in 1837, the property was left to her two daughters, Mary Ann (who had married secondly in 1820 to Richard HINDLEY) and Diana (married 1816 to John ARAM). They sold the cottage in 1838, and in 1846 it passed into the possession of Matthew BRAMLEY, a butcher.

original Bramley Seedling tree, July 2005
It wasn't until 1856 that the 17 year old son of a local nurseryman, Henry MERRYWEATHER, recognised the potential of the apple. He grafted a stock of trees from the original, on the condition placed by Mr Bramley that if the tree was ever commercialised, it should bear his name. In 1876 the "Bramley Seedling" became a new registered variety. It received a First Class Certificate from the RHS in 1883. The first commercial planting of Bramley's was in 1890 by Mr Smith in Loddington, Kent. By 1900 a number of orchards were planted within England, and also in Ireland.

The original tree was blown over in a storm in the early 1900s, but a branch took root and the tree was brought back to health by it's current owner.

Modern Day

The blue plaque near the front door of 75 Church St tells the story in brief and is shown (right). The plaque reads as follows: THE BRAMLEY APPLE TREE was grown from a pip by a young lady, Mary Anne Brailsford between 1809 & 1815. It was thought it came from an apple grown on a tree at the bottom of her garden (now No. 75). One seedling produced very fine apples in 1837 when the new occupier was Mr. Matthew Bramley. A local gardener, Henry Merryweather, later obtained permission to take cuttings from the tree and it was duly registered as the Bramley Seedling. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund

In June 2002 in celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, The Tree Council designated fifty trees as heritage trees. In recognition of its place in the national heritage, the original Bramley Seedling tree was given the honour of being one of those fifty trees. This is commemorated by a plaque at the base of the tree (left).

















Scientists from Nottingham University cloned trees from the original Bramley Apple tree in about 1990. A specimen was planted near the brick residence previously belonging to Henry Merryweather in Southwell. Unfortunately the cloned Bramley Apple tree was removed in 1995 after council approval to demolish the nursery buildings to make way for 54 new residential buildings. A sapling from the tree was to be replanted in public open space in the north-east corner of the same site, near footpath number 47 linking through to Humberstone Road and Halam Road.

Another specimen of the cloned Bramley grows in the Old Botanic Garden section at University Park, University Boulevard, Nottingham (enter South Entrance).

The Malus domestica 'Bramley's Seeding' (C) [Rosaceae] was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit in 1993 (H4). This tree is available from 39 known suppliers in the UK. The Malus domestica 'Bramley's Seedling' clone 20 is available from 8 known suppliers in the UK.

Retail

The Bramley Apple dominates the UK market for cooking apples, accounting for 95% of cooking apples sold. It has been marketed by the Bramley Campaign since 1989.

The Bramley logo was designed for accurate identification of products containing Bramley apples. The Bramley Apple is celebrated in the UK in February each year during Bramley Apple Week.

For more information, visit the official Bramley Apple Website which has information on celebratory events and delicious recipes for the Bramley Apple.

I've Been There!

Have you been there? Email us your experience & photos.

From Brenda in Hampshire, England… "I have visited Bramley Tree Cottage and not only seen the tree but was kindly given 2 apples from the original tree. Nottingham University has "cloned" the tree so that an identical tree is now growing to ensure that it carries on. A good beer and sandwich can be obtained in the adjacent Bramley Apple public house!!”

From Kerrie in Brisbane, Australia… "I, too, have visited Bramley Tree House, and was bold enough to knock on the front door... The kind lady who lived there was running short of time, as she had to go out… but still made the effort to show me the tree in her back yard & allowed me to take pictures. Unfortunately the tree was badly in need of a prune, but it was awesome to see it for real!"

I own one!

Is there something special about your Bramley's Seedling? Email us about your tree, apples and story. We'd love to see photos & learn from your experience.

Flevopolder, Netherlands...

photo date: 2011
Cees & Suzanne, of Flevopolder, Netherlands, are the proud owners of a Bramley's Seedling, hidden amongst conifers in their house garden. They use a Cox Orange Pippin as their cross pollinator. Their Bramley's Seedling was planted in 1998 and was, after 13 years in 2011, described as having a trunk with 24cm circumference. An apple harvested in 2011, the biggest from the tree to that date, weighed 716g with a circumference of 42cm. [Note from webmaster: I need 5-6 apples from my fruitbowl to get to that weight!]

Furthermore...

Read an article from the Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society The Origin of Apple Bramley's Seedling.

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