University completes deal to buy dying first Bramley Apple tree

Video: Notts TV visited the original Bramley apple tree in Southwell in 2016.

Nottingham Trent University has completed a deal to buy the original Bramley Apple tree to try to prolong its life and open it up to public visitors.

The tree is inside a rose garden in Southwell in Nottinghamshire and is effectively the creator of all Bramley Apples.

It was grown from a pip more than 200 years ago, but it is dying because of an incurable honey fungus infection which could kill it in around two years time if no new action is taken.

The university first revealed in October it was close to a deal to buy it from previous owner Coulson Howard so its experts can start working on a plan to keep it alive as long as possible.

The completion of the deal was announced on Tuesday (May 8), along with confirmation the university has bought the rose garden containing the tree along with two cottages on Church Street in Southwell from Mr Howard, which will be refurbished and used for postgraduate student accommodation.

“We are delighted with this news and now intend to set about trying to preserve this iconic tree for as long as possible,” said Professor Robert Mortimer, the Dean of the university’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences.

Horticulture staff and students will carry out an initial assessment of the tree and then set about carefully tending it with the aim of prolonging its life.

Grafts of the original tree will also be replanted at the Brackenhurst Campus.

The university added it hopes 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 Starkey farm was established over 100 years ago and is the only Bramley orchard originating from the original Bramley apple tree.

Southwell resident Mary Ann Brailsford planted the pip while still a young girl 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 Mr 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, and about 83,000 tonnes of the apples are grown annually in the UK. The apples are very large and typically used in desserts.

Professor Mortimer added: “We want to play our part in recognising the importance of the Bramley’s Seedling, the nation’s favourite cooking apple, and celebrate its huge cultural significance for Southwell, the UK and globally.

“The original tree is one of the most significant and well-known. Unfortunately it will inevitably perish due to disease, but we want to try to preserve this great tree for the people of Southwell for as long as possible.”

The annual Bramley Festival, which celebrates the origins of the Bramley Apple in Southwell, is now in its 25th year and will be held on Saturday October 20, with celebrations in Southwell Minster and throughout the town.

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