Fruit Forum

The Other Diamond Jubilee: the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale

Photo - see caption

The story of the formation of the National Fruit Collection, the largest collection of temperate fruit on one site in the world, is told in ' Orchard Archives: the National Fruit Collection' by Joan Morgan published in Occasional Papers from The RHS Lindley Library, volume 7, March 2012 and reviewed below by Brian Self.




Did you know that 2012 celebrates 60 years of the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale?

Readers of Fruit Forum will be interested to read of the history of fruit collections by Dr Joan Morgan in a recent publication by the Royal Horticultural Society. Joan brings together, in a very readable account, what is a fairly complicated saga and gives due acknowledgement to three great fruit enthusiasts of the past, Hogg, Bunyard and Potter.

She reports on the considerable contribution of the RHS; the fruit plantings at Chiswick, London in 1823, the pioneer work of the pomologist Dr Robert Hogg of the Society`s Fruit Committee later in that century and the fruit activist Edward Bunyard, Chairman of the Society`s Fruit and Vegetable Committee, who successfully co-ordinated efforts with the Ministry of Agriculture to establish the fruit collections at Wisley in the 1920s. Joan describes the expansion of the collection by Jock Potter at Wisley and, subsequently, its re-establishment on a new site at Brogdale Farm, Faversham in 1952 as the Ministry of Agriculture Experimental Horticulture Station with Potter as Director.

The recent history of the NFC, which has had its complications, is probably familiar to many.

Those interested in fruit illustrations will be fascinated by another article in the same publication by the learned RHS Archivist and former Librarian, Dr Brent Elliot. He reports on the Society`s policy in the early 1800s to obtain coloured drawings of the major fruits and describes the illustrations as ‘one of the glories of the Society in its early years’. Dr Elliott describes, in particular, the work of William Hooker who became the most eminent painter of fruit in the nineteenth century. Dr Elliott includes several superb Hooker illustrations of apple and pear together with some remarkable gooseberry paintings by Augusta Withers. Hooker's painting of William's Bon Chrétien pear forms the cover plate to the volume.

Brian Self

Occasional Papers from The RHS Lindley Library, volume 7, March 2012 (published May 2012); many colour, black & white illustrations; pp.72.

Copies of this volume of Occasion Papers from The RHS Lindley Library can be bought by visiting Lindley Library Wisley or Lindley Library London ( re-opens on 2 July), or by post from Lindley Library Wisley, RHS Garden Wisley, Woking, Surrey GU23 6QB. Other volumes also obtainable from RHS. Copies cost £7.50 each, (plus £1.50 p&p). 

The Occasional Papers are edited by Brent Elliott, the Society’s Archivist and former Librarian, and most of the articles are written by him. They aim to bring to a wider audience the treasures of the Lindley Library, the world’s leading horticultural library, and to show also the contribution that this vast collection of material has made to the development of horticulture. The first volume of Occasional Papers was published in December 2009; three more in 2010, which included volume 4 devoted to fruit and Robert Hogg’s Fruit Manual; and a further two in 2011. Volume 7 is the first in 2012 and forms the second part of ‘Studies in the history of British fruit; the first being volume 4. The volumes are published as colour illustrated booklets using water colours from the library’s wonderful resources. They can be bought from the Library (details above) and in time are also published on-line on the Society’s website: