Dying Bramley apple tree could be protected by university

Video: Notts TV visited the original Bramley apple tree in Southwell last year

The dying Nottinghamshire tree which first brought Bramley apples to the world could have its life prolonged by university experts who are in talks to take ownership of it.

Nottingham Trent University announced it is negotiating with the tree’s current owner to take custody of it.

The tree, which is effectively the parent of all Bramley Apples, was grown from a pip in Southwell more than 200 years ago.

But last year it emerged the tree has an incurable fungus which is expected to kill it in two to three years’ time.

Now the university is talking to the owner, Coulson Howard, about buying two cottages on Church Street, Southwell, which would be refurbished and used for postgraduate student accommodation, as well as the rose garden containing the tree.

Horticulture staff and students from the university’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences would carry out an initial assessment of the tree to see if their expertise could prolong its life.

Grafts of the original tree would also be replanted at the university’s Brackenhurst Campus, close to Southwell.

The aim would also be to open up the rose garden to members of the public, as well as develop plans to formally celebrate the history and heritage of the Bramley, which is the UK’s most popular cooking apple.

“The Bramley’s Seedling is the nation’s favourite cooking apple and the original tree is one of the most significant and well-known,” said Professor Robert Mortimer, Dean of the university’s school of animal, rural and environmental sciences.

“Unfortunately it will inevitably perish due to disease, but we would like to try to preserve this great tree for the people of Southwell for as long as possible. It has such huge cultural significance for the town and for Nottinghamshire, but also nationally and globally.

“We want to play our part in recognising its importance.”

Owner Coulson Howard said last year: “Of course we are sad but it is a very very old tree.

“We moved here when I was around six years old; we were renting locally and my Aunt owned number 73 which this was in the garden of at the time when we moved in.

“Ever since then this has been a part of my life.”

Mary Ann Brailsford planted the pip between 1809-1815. More than 40 years later new occupier Matthew Bramley allowed local gardener Henry Merryweather to take cuttings from the tree to grow in his family’s nursery – provided they had the name ‘Bramley’s Seedling’.

The first recorded sale of a Bramley was on October 31, 1862, when Merryweather sold three Bramley apples for two shillings.

In 1900 the tree blew down in a storm but managed to survive.

Today there are more than 300 Bramley growers in England, with about 83,000 tonnes of the apples grown annually in the UK alone. The apples are very large and typically used in desserts.