of the private residences in England during the eighteenth
century had extensive fruit gardens, particularly the
large estates, although most people with a bit of land
to spare endeavored to grow at least some apples, pears
or plums - and, if they had hot houses, citrus fruits
and peaches as well.
gardeners grew fruit commercially to supply the capital,
London, and it is estimated that by the late eighteenth
century over three thousand acres surrounding the city
were given over to fruit trees, principally in the parishes
of Hammersmith, Brentford, Isleworth and Twickenham
(then primarily rural, of course). These gardens grew
enough fruit to produce an income of almost half a million
pounds per year for all the gardens combined - a massive
amount of money then.
of the intensive nature of fruit growing in a pre-mechanised
world, each acre provided work, on average, for ten
boys and men. During the fruit season this number increased
to thirty-five or even forty per acre.
gardeners grew an 'upper' and a 'lower' crop. The garden
was first planted out with apples, pears, cherries,
plums , walnut etc, which was known as the upper crop.
Beneath the trees and between rows (if the trees were
not espaliered against brick walls) gardeners planted
the lower crop: raspberries, gooseberries, currants,
strawberries, and all such fruit, shrubs and herbs that
could stand the shade and drip moisture provided by
the trees. Gardeners could also plant passionfruit or
other vines between the trees, although they tended
to come out when the trees had grown to their full extent.
gardens with walls had 'wall fruits' espaliered against
the sheltering and warming brick: nectarines, peaches
(which generally did better in hot houses), apricots,
plums and various others including apples and pears.
Walls could be set four-square, or they could be long
serpentine walls - the serpentines angled appropriately
to make the most of the sun - or they could even be
zigzagged. Walls could also sometimes have shelters
of glass or other material attached to their tops during
the coldest months to give added protection to the developing
most fruit walls depended only on the sun for heating,
they could also be heated artificially. A massive bank
of manure, perhaps six feet or more high, could be thrown
up against the shadowed side of the brick wall, which
heated the bricks as the manure fermented (as an added
bonus the gardeners could grow an early crop of cucumbers
in the cooling manure). Alternatively, in the larger
estates, walls could be built with internal flues and
hearths so that fires could be set and the flues heated.
Many of these walls are still in existence today, marked
with periodic hearths along their base and chimneys
dotted about their tops.
walls had wooden pegs or iron hooks set into their heights
at periodic intervals, sometimes at construction, but
generally hammered in during generations of fruit growing,
to which growing shoots of trees were tied with soft
cloth. Trees could be espaliered in certain shapes -
fan, candelabra or semi-circular shapes were very popular,
and fan-espaliering enabled enough wall space for a
lower cop to be grown against the wall. Boys were constantly
set to espaliering the new shoots of the trees, watched
over carefully by head gardeners.
order to increase the quantity of shelter and warmth,
in autumn gardeners occasionally raised earthen banks
of about three feet high, laid to a slop of about forty-five
degrees to the sun. In this bank they planted endives
in September, and, from October to Christmas, rows of
peas in the bottom.