These articles first appeared in The Vale of Evesham Historical Society Research Papers. Permission to reproduce the articles has been granted by The Vale of Evesham Historical Society.
Maureen Spinks, November 2003
Vale of Evesham Historical Society Research Papers, 1969, 2, pages 43 - 51.
A SHORT HISTORY OF COMMERCIAL HORTICULTURE IN THE VALE OF EVESHAM
By R. W. SIDWELL, N.D.H.
FROM time to time the view is expressed that market gardening at Evesham goes back to the time of the abbey. There is no evidence to support such a theory but the question obviously calls for a brief examination.
May1 sought to justify monastic origins by the fact that at the dissolution, vineyards orchards, and gardens were conveyed to Sir Philip Hoby. Of course fruit Including grapes, were widely grown in such establishments and were mainly used for the production of alcoholic beverages. Herbs were grown for culinary and medicinal purposes, as well as for their pleasant aromas. They would be sold by street traders. But this type of gardening was of a very different character from the market gardening of the past two centuries.
The habit of vegetable-eating was still something of a novelty at the end of the 16th century, and it was not until the following century that the growing of vegetables for sale became established around London. The Vale of Evesham had long been famous for its high fertility. Cox,2 writing in 1720 states: "In corn, which it breeds in all parts well but chiefly almost to a miracle in the Vale Of Evesham, which for its fruitfulness is justly stiled the Granary of these Parts, so bountiful is the ground in producing the best Corn and that in great abundance." The land was, in fact, used for the production of the crops customary at the time which were mainly cereals and peas and beans for their dried seeds. Such a view is supported by Professor R. H. Hilton3 who states that onions, leeks and garlic seemed to be the only vegetables other than herbs likely to be widely grown in the Vale in medieval times. However, we have plenty of evidence that market gardening of the modern style was established on the best soils in the town at the time of Cox.
Continental countries, especially Holland and France, were well ahead of Britain in their production and consumption of garden produce. Continental influence seems to have played a big part in the establishment of market gardening in the Vale. Nash4 credits Francs Bernardi with bringing this type of gardening to Evesham. Francis had succeeded his father, Philip, as resident in Britain for the Republic of Genoa, but "being disgusted with the ruling persons in the State of Genoa retired to Evesham where he amused himself with gardening, a business which has since that time been practised with great success in the neighbourhood of this town." Nash also tells us that Philip lived in England for twenty-eight years as his government's representative and married an Englishwoman.
It is not known from what source Nash obtained his information. Some of it certainly came from the autobiography of Major John Bernardi5, son of Francis. This book, which was published in 1729, is the most important document we have on this subject. John Bernardi records a report of the House of Commons dated Tuesday 16 September, 1651, when the House received letters of credence from the Duke and Governors of the Commonwealth of Genoa in respect of his father's appointment as resident. John Bernardi continues: "about two years after King Charles was restored the said Republic sent over another person to succeed Francis Bernardi in his Ministry and the said Francis Bernardi being born in England at the time his father Count Philip de Bernardi was here also in Embassy and loving the country which was the place of his nativity he lived and died in this kingdom, having spent thirty thousand pounds in indulging a particular taste he had in gardening, being the most famous gentleman in the kingdom of his time for fine gardens. He lived some time near Windsor when first out of his Ministry, but moved afterwards into Worcestershire to be more remote and unknown, and his son John, arriving to the thirteenth year of his age, began to entertain thoughts of getting away from his father's discipline, whose severe corrections in the said young rover's eyes had the appearance of too great severity. . . Accordingly John Bernardi escaped from his father in the year 1670 . . ."
John Bernardi did not return to Worcestershire. After an adventurous twenty-six years he was committed to Newgate as a state prisoner for conspiracy against William III. His death is recorded in the Gentleman's Magazine as occurring on 20 September 1736 at Newgate, after forty years in gaol6.
The Dictionary of National Biography states that John Bernardi (1657 -1736) was born in Evesham.
The above statements contain some anomalies which the writer has not yet been able to resolve. It is interesting that John mentions Worcestershire, but not specifically Evesham, as the place where his father settled. Nor is it clear how long Francis stayed at Windsor before moving to Worcestershire. But the biggest problem of all concerns the place of John Bernardi's birth. If, as John himself says, Francis came to Worcestershire some time after 1662, how does it come about that John was born in Evesham in 1657? Had Francis already got estates at Evesham? And whom did Francis marry? Was she an Evesham girl who "went home to mother" to have her first child? One can speculate on all sorts of possibilities.
John's statement that his father was the most famous person in the kingdom for fine gardens calls for some examination. Whether this refers to the pre-Evesham period is not clear but, so far as the writer can trace, Bernardi's gardens do not seem to have attracted the attention of the writers of the day. If they had been at Windsor or near London it is unlikely that they would have escaped notice. Nor is fame for fine gardens consistent with Francis Bernardi's desire to be "more remote and unknown".
If, however, we assume that Bernardi's garden was at Evesham and was used to produce vegetables for sale, then the position changes. Those who plant trees or construct the more permanent gardens, using stone, metalwork or water, inevitably leave something to posterity. But vegetables are such ephemeral things and the growers of them are soon forgotten.
John Bernardi was undoubtedly given to exaggeration and it would be wrong to take what he says without some reservations. Nevertheless it is probably correct to assume that Francis Bernardi did settle in Evesham some time after 1662, that he did carry on gardening there, certainly until after 1670. Where and when Francis died is not known. Indeed, if his object in coming to Evesham was to escape from the public eye he seems to have succeeded.
Perhaps a final observation may be quoted from Biographia Britannica"'. Here Francis Bernardi is described as "being disgusted at some ill usage he received from the government of Genoa . . . retired to Worcestershire . . . and being a great lover of gardening spent a considerable fortune in improvements of that kind, which, however, did not so far amuse or divert him as to extinguish the sense of injuries he had received, which soured his temper . . ." So we may conjure up a picture of the embittered Francis bestowing loving care on his lettuce, yet beating his son to a point when he was compelled to leave home, and finally ending his own days in oblivion.
This, then, is the little we know about the man who brought Evesham its staple industry. State Papers provide more information on the pre-1662 period, but much careful searching has revealed nothing more of the later years. This subject would provide an interesting piece of research for a scholar wishing to specialise in a limited field of local history.
By the early eighteenth century Evesham contained a number of gardeners. Some of these would be responsible for running gentlemen's gardens but others were certainly market gardeners in the present sense of the word. It may be noted that the term "market gardener" did not come into use until the middle of the 19th century.
The inventory to the will of Susannah Hughes, dated 19 October 17428 , is probably typical of the struggling gardeners of mid-eighteenth century Evesham. Items include "a little bag of turnip seed 2s.; a little lettuce seed, a little cabbage seed Is.; a little cucumber seed, a little onion seed 10s.: a strike of beans, a few kidney beans Is.; odd seed in little bags Is. Crops on the ground were valued at £2 10s. These included some hops which, with the poles on which they were growing, were left to one of her sons. There were also a horse, some saddles and four pairs of potts. The whole estate amounted to £57 3s. 6d., of which £45 was represented by an old house in the High Street. As this house was mortgaged for £60, poor Susannah Hughes could hardly be described as solvent.
The mention of potts in the inventory merits explanation. These potts were those carried in pairs by packhorses, pannier-fashion. The Evesham "pot", as a unit of crop measure, exists even today. Piece-work rates for plum-picking are still based on the pot of 72lb. Until the second world war a few wicker pot hampers were still in use. It is not often realised that the original pot was half a load for a packhorse.
As the eighteenth century progressed, so gardening steadily developed but it appears to have been confined to the original parishes of the old Borough of Evesham, All Saints and St. Lawrence. A slight spread into Bengeworth was apparent by the end of the century.
Arthur Young9 records; "The employment of the poor women and children is chiefly with the gardeners of whom, as at Sandy in Bedfordshire, there are great numbers. Between 300 and 400 acres of land in this neighbourhood are so employed, let at 50s. to £3 per acre. They carry their products around the country to Birmingham, Worcester, Warwick, Coventry, Tewkesbury, Gloucester, Stow, etc., and seeds to Stafford, Lichfield, Nottingham, Leicester, etc., and Asparagus to Bath and Bristol."
Young was an original observer and usually a reliable one, so we can probably accept the above information as authentic. The acreage mentioned would account for all the first-class land in the two parishes.
According to Tindal10 the population of Evesham in 1777 consisted of 253 families in All Saints and 190 in St. Lawrence. The total population was 1,848. The same author also says "gardening is the sole manufacture of this place". The gardens were said to occupy "the whole of the abbey site and to form a circle of considerable dimensions almost around the whole town but chiefly on the inclining banks to the south and west of it". This agrees closely with the acreage given by Young.
As a small proportion of the population were, in all probability, master men the acreage per gardener was fairly high -possibly ten acres or so. There art many manuscript records of land tenure during the 18th century. The following for the year 1775 are worthy of mention. Elizabeth Baldwin leased to Valentine Grove, gardener, a four-acre orchard near the turnpike in the parish of All Saints (presumably on the top right-hand side of Greenhill) and a further nine acres in the parish of St. Lawrence for twelve years for a combined rental of £24 16s. 0d. per annum. The same owner also let to John Knight the younger, gardener, a six-acre close for £12 12s. 0d. per annum11.
Some landowners were apparently concerned at the continuous arable cropping. Anthony Roper of Bengeworth, leased for seven years to Thomas Grove, gardener, at a yearly rental of £30, a house and land. A further annual payment of £10 was to be made for every acre of meadow or ancient pasture broken up for garden ground12. This was clearly a prohibitive price to pay.
The high proportion of employed to employers is evident by the attempt to establish, in 1806, a workhouse for the seasonally unemployed garden workers. The following is worth quoting from the proceedings of the meeting.
" The alarming and increasing burden of the Parish, as well as the calamitous condition of the poor . . . deficiency of Labour for the Poor in Winter, and a natural dislike of labour and exertion ; especially when there is any other mode of obtaining relief . . . Evesham in particular, is peculiarly unfortunate with regard to employment for the Poor in Winter. The staple produce of the Town, viz. Vegetables, which employ so many hands during the Spring, Summer and Autumn require little or no attention during the winter : and but few of the Poor being sufficiently provident to lay by for that season, they fall a heavy burden on the Parish ; and every year as the Garden culture increases, so in proportion do the objects of parochial relief; for few, if any, of the Children of the Poor of these Parishes ever gain settlements by service, which is the case in other places: as soon as they are able to handle the implements used in gardening, they flock together into the Gardens and never think of other employment ; and by the constant and promiscuous intercourse of the young of both sexes, their morals become depraved and fresh and heavy burdens accrue to the Parish."13
So far as the writer is aware no such workhouse was built. The problem of shortage of winter work certainly persisted for another hundred years, for the twentieth century was well advanced before the brussels sprout finally provided adequate employment during the winter. Whether it reduced the unwanted pregnancies, however, is doubtful.
Gardening continued to spread. Pitt, writing on a survey made in 1805, states that the Vale of Evesham has always been famous for its fertility. He refers to asparagus, cucumbers and onions being grown on a considerable scale and mostly sent to Birmingham. He notes that whole acres of onions are being grown for seed. He goes on to say that, in the past, sixty to eighty packhorses have been laden in one day to convey the produce, but that it is now being sent by wheeled carriages14 indicating some improvement in road conditions.
Writing a few years later Rudge says that gardening has flourished at Evesham for upwards of a century and continues to be the chief business of the place.15
In 1845 May calculates that the area in the borough cultivated as garden ground is 594 ac. 3 r. 29 p., rented at prices varying according to quality from £4 to £10 per acre and even higher where it immediately adjoins the town. The above acreage is made up of 459 ac. in the parishes of All Saints and St. Lawrence and 135 ac. in Bengeworth.
The status of the garden workers, however, continued to be very low. May tells us that "the early period of life at which their labour usually begins appears to repress their growth to the middle height and under it, and although the frame is, in general, strongly compacted at manhood yet they soon begin to fall away and are often lame and decrepit when if rationally worked they would have still continued in their prime. Their average wage is 10s. weekly".
We must not make the mistake of assuming that the importance of an industry can be judged by the social status of those engaged in it. We might remind ourselves that when the great industrial wealth of Britain was being built up through the use of coal the miners were at the absolute bottom of the social scale.
During the second quarter of the nineteenth century the spread of gardening to the villages on the east side of Evesham became apparent. We have seen that the acreage of gardening at Bengeworth was increasing during the early part of the century. Badsey now became a new centre of development. A handbill of the Evesham auctioneer, Thomas |arret, shows that on II August 1828 he sold four lots at Badsey. One particular lot was "an excellent close of arable land in a high state of cultivation of 3ac. 3r. Op. well adapted for garden ground".
A few years later (1834) Prospect House at Bengeworth was sold with almost 200 acres of land which the vendors stated "might be turned to great advantage as a greater portion is adapted to gardeners' ground". This was the house which more recently became known as The Elm. The land formerly attached to it reached right up to the Badsey boundary and its conversion to gardening carried the industry much farther east. Until then the Bengeworth gardening was mainly concentrated at Owlets End and Durcott Lane.
During the period 1838 to 1844 the church affairs at Badsey were in the hands of the curate, the Rev. T. G. Griffiths, who was a son-in-law of the absentee vicar, the Rev. Charles Phillott. It appears that about 1841 some of the glebe land was let out in small lots of about one or two acres each at increased rental.16 There may have been about ten original tenants. The area of glebe land at Badsey in the middle of the nineteenth century was about 100 acres. About 1832-35 there were three tenants only. Over the mid-century period the land passed wholly into market garden smallholdings.
It was at this time that the railway came to Evesham. The Worcester to Oxford line was opened in 1852 and it can be said that this was the most important development since Bernardi. Distant markets were now opened up and the "modern" period of Evesham horticulture began.
One of the surveyors engaged on the laying of the line was Richard Varden. On completion of the railway he decided, possibly through failing sight, to give up surveying and take up fruit growing. He duly bought Seaford Grange, Peopleton, and commenced planting fruit on a scale hitherto unknown in Worcestershire17" and, indeed, possibly in the whole of Britain.
Varden takes our studies into the Pershore district and this area demands some attention if we are to get a true overall picture of the Vale at this time. Pershore already had a fruit and vegetable enterprise of some importance. The tithe map of 1842 gives an indication of the extent of gardening there. The central part bounded by the abbey, Defford Road and Three Springs Road, was almost wholly under gardening. There was also an area between Tyddesley Wood and Holloway on the top side of Three Springs Road. These two areas were approximately 150 ac. in extent.18"
The Pershore Yellow Egg plum had been discovered in Tyddesley Wood by Crook about 183319 and the first trees planted at Gigbridge on the north side of the main Worcester Road. Plum growing was, therefore, established at Pershore before Varden came.
Slightly differing accounts of the scale of Varden's fruit-growing exist. One source is worth quoting: " Mr. Varden has worked out the idea of a fruit garden on a vast scale at Pershore. His estate is 250 acres. Of this about 140 acres are planted with fruit trees. These include 60,000 gooseberry bushes, 100,000 currant bushes and about 6,000 plum trees, to say nothing of apple, pear and other trees. The extent of the farm may be imagined when we mention that for weeks during the fruit season Mr. Varden has sent off four to five tons of fruit a day. One lot of currants weighed seven tons."20"
About this time there was some concern at the employment of child labour in agriculture and an examination of the working conditions was made by the Central Chamber of Agriculture in 1872. Gaut records that Varden, speaking at this gathering, stated that there were between 1.500 and 2,000 acres of fruit around Evesham and 400 to 500 near Pershore. He gave his own acreage at 120 and 100 acres of it underplanted with soft fruit.
Varden was the first Vale of Evesham horticulturist we hear of as serving on committees. Gaut tells us that he was a frequent county delegate to the Central Chamber of Agriculture in London and he was also a member of the Worcestershire County Ccr.imittee of the British Pomological Society in 1855.
Contemporary with Richard Varden was James Myatt. In 1852 Myatt leased from Jonathan Thorpe about 70 ac. of land at Offenham, where he immediately commenced large-scale growing of fruit and vegetables. Strawberries, rhubarb and asparagus seem to have been especially important. Brown and Burton state that James Myatt was born at Loughborough.21 These authors have been widely quoted and it is generally assumed that the Loughborough in question was that in Leicestershire. This, however, is most certainly false. His father. Joseph Myatt, had farmed for many years at Deptford and Camberwell, where he achieved great fame as a raiser of strawberry varieties and as the first man to grow rhubarb on a commercial scale.22 Before this time, rhubarb was mainly an ornamental plant or a food curiosity.
Part of the Myatt land at Camberwell has been preserved as a small public park, known as Myatt's Fields, and within a stone's throw of this is another Loughborough. It is, in fact, a small area, probably originally of hamlet size, lying between Camberwell and Brixton. This is almost certainly the Loughborough of Myatt's birth.
Myatt was 48 years of age when he came to Offenham and was already a very successful gardener used to large-scale operations. Jonathan Thorpe was a director of the railway company operating the newly-opened line. He probably saw the potentialities of the railway system in conveying fruit and vegetables to London from distant production areas. Camberwell was being swallowed up by expanding London and Myatt was obviously looking for an alternative site. The needs of the two men were complementary.
Myatt's impact on Vale horticulture was considerable. He brought new ideas and improved strains but above all he helped to bring a new status to the gardener.
Two other status-raisers of the last half of the nineteenth century were Charles Randell and Joseph Masters. Randell was really a farmer and was land agent for the Due d'Aumale and later for the Due d'Orleans at Wood Norton, but he is noteworthy for having contributed much to large-scale vegetable growing. According to the late John Haines he was the first man to grow spring cabbage as a "drilled to stand" crop. He was prominent in local affairs and a portrait of him hung in Evesham Town Hall for many years.
Joseph Masters had the distinction of being the first market gardener to be mayor of Evesham which he was three times in the years 1888-90. In 1872 he fought for the tenants of the Rudge Estate to establish recognition of the Evesham Custom, a system of land tenure which allowed the outgoing tenant to sell tenantright to the highest bidder. In 1880 he pressed for the establishment at Evesham of an auction market for garden produce, and a report of a meeting of interested parties is to be found in Che Evesham Journal.23 On 12 April 1880. Urwick and Hunt held their first auction sale in the Market Square. To begin with these were held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays but, after a few weeks, sales took place on Thursdays also. Sales commenced at 3 p.m., and Birmingham buyers were advised that they could arrive at 2.52 p.m. by Midland Railway.
Joseph Masters was also prominent, together with James Myatt, in early attempts at pest control. In 1890 he was secretary of the Evesham Fruit Pests Committee and worked in conjunction with Miss Ormerod, entomologist to the Royal Agricultural Society of England and the foremost pioneer in the study of insect pests of agriculture. Masters and Myatt seem to have tried out grease-banding for Che control of winter moth on fruit trees as early as 1864.
The late nineteenth century saw the rise of the big grower merchants. The Evesham Custom, perhaps the greatest single factor in the later development of market gardening in the Vale, played into the hands of the best growers. The man who could get the best out of the land was also the man who would be prepared to pay the highest ingoing to obtain a tenancy. Georue Byrd was one such man. Starting with literally nothing and taking poor land in the first instance he gradually took more and more of the best land until he and his descendants eventually occupied almost the whole of the Abbey site and indeed nearly all the best land in Evesham Borough as well as many farms in the parishes outside. They often paid over £100 per acre for the tenantright. As C. H. Gardiner has pointed out, there were times when the tenantnght exceeded the freehold value of the land.24 The best growers of this period were superb cultivators of land, perhaps the best that Evesham has ever seen.
As mentioned above, market gardening at Badsey was well established by the middle of the nineteenth century. From about 1860 onwards the speed of change-over from farming increased. The agricultural depression of the 1880s gave impetus to the conversion. Much enmity was aroused among the farmers, as a report of a conference on allotments and smallholdings, held on 5 February 1890 at Evesham, reveals.25
Census returns show that the populaton of Badsey doubled between 1891 and 1911, whereas populations of the purely farming parishes declined sharply during the same period. Badsey established itself as the centre of a specialised type of smallholding activity. As the area of good land at Badsey was relatively small a substantial expansion on to heavy lias clay land became necessary and it was on these heavier soils that the Vale of Evesham asparagus eventually became concentrated. This was in itself unique. Elsewhere, throughout the world, commercial asparagus is grown on the lightest soils, often on pure seaside sand.
The heavy lias clays, with their light lime content, had long been noted for their powers of flocculation, giving a free working crumb structure if properly handled. Arthur Young had commented on this back in the eighteenth century and it was these soils which had made the Vale famous for its heavy wheat crops. We now saw a semi-intensive type of market gardening on these soils. From Badsey the idea spread to neighbouring parishes. Wickhamford, Bretforton and the Littletons were soon largely taken over by the gardeners. Meanwhile further expansion was taking place on the light bunter soils of Offentham where Myatt had done his pioneer work. The peak acreage of smallholding development in the villages on the east of Evesham was reached during the second world war.
When we talk of "smallholdings" we must distinguish clearly between the specialised horticultural smallholding of the Vale and the mixed smallholding familiar in most places and elsewhere in Worcestershire. Specialisation was related to soils and to elevation of site. Plums were now found chiefly on the higher frost-free sites. A few ancient damascenes remained in the older parts of Evesham, and still formed boundaries even on part of the Abbey land, but by the 1930s Evesham plum growers had learnt their lesson and they understood the practical significance of spring radiation frosts. Vegetables, too, were localised on the most suitable soils and the cropping pattern of Badsey was very different from that of Offenham.
The small grower received much help and encouragement especially after the first world war, through the Worcestershire County Council smallholdings scheme. Land was purchased by the Council at Offenham, the Littletons and also at Norton to the north of Evesham. On the latter site, plums were planted on a large scale and, with the adjoining areas (in the hands of large growers) also planted with plums, the Norton and Lenchwick area had, by the second world war, probably the largest continuous block of plums in Britain.
Before leaving the nineteenth century, mention must be made of a large-scale venture on the edge of the Vale at Toddington, in Gloucestershire. The fourth Baron Sudeley succeeded to the title in 1876 and by 1879 had commenced a horticultural enterprise of a size hitherto unknown in Britain. Within ten years he had planted 700 ac. of fruit, mostly apples and soft fruit. Two acres of heated glass were built at Toddington Park about 1885, and a further range at Shetcombe Bank between Toddington and Winchcombe. The glasshouses were of steel frame construction and the materials were shipped from Belgium and erected by Belgian labour brought over for the purpose.
The whole enterprise was doomed to failure, but that was rather because the estate was virtually bankrupt when the fourth Baron inherited it than from any inherent weakness in the scheme. The estate was eventually sold and run with considerable success.
Although fruit was the most important feature of the Toddington enterprise, the glass probably had a greater effect on the development of Vale horticulture. The Mickleton glass, which was built early in the present century, was Toddineton inspired
The late Joseph Webb built his first glasshouse at Mickleton in 1909 This differed from the other glass of the time in that the emphasis was on unheated houses. Between the wars, expansion continued and this became the largest glasshouse holding in the Vale and surrounding districts. The cropping pattern was based on overwintered cauliflowers, mostly potigrown. Thus was established the " Mickleton tradition", which later spread to Offenham and was adopted by several large growers elsewhere, notably by the late J. M. Stokes at Chadbury.
By the late 1930s it must have been apparent to any forward-looking horticulturist in the Vale that Offenham was the area for future glasshouse expansion, with water readily available either from shallow wells or from the river itself. Water had, in fact, limited glass at Mickleton. In 1937 came one of the most important developments since Myatt, when J. C. Eeuwens built Avonholm Glasshouses and started the era of Dutch influence at Offeneham. This has had important effects on production methods and outlook over the last thirty years.
Many other developments of the twentieth century deserve detailed study, but cannot be so treated here. The two growers' co-operatives, Littleton and Badsey Growers Ltd., and Pershore Co-operative Fruit Market Ltd. (now Pershore Growers Co-operative Ltd.), founded respectively in 1908 and 1909 have played important parts both in the supply of requisites and the marketing of produce, especially in helping the small grower. Their histories have been recorded elsewhere.26
At the other end of the scale have been the highly successful activities of Capt. J. F. Bomford and the late J. M. Stokes. The merging of these two businesses has given us the largest horticultural enterprise in the history of the Vale.
Long Ashton Research Station, founded in 1903, maintained close contact with the more progressive growers until the advisory work was taken over by the National Agricultural Advisory Service in 1946. The first Long Ashton field laboratory was set up at Abbey Road, Evesham, in 1941. It later moved to Henry Street and ultimately the present permanent buildings in Kings Road (formerly an isolation hospital) were occupied.
In 1949 the National Vegetable Research Station was established at Wellesbourne and close co-operation with Vale growers has been sought from the outset. This has had important results in the dissemination of the latest ideas in manuring, weed control, pest and disease control and crop varieties.
Since 1954 growers have benefited from the Pershore College of Horticulture which has helped in the training of young people for the industry as well as providing a venue for meetings.
Over the past twenty years the most notable features have been the increase in mechanisation and chemical weed-control. The small growers on the clay land have declined sharply in numbers. This is reflected by the decline in asparagus acreage which was about 1,300 ac. in the late 1930s but is now around 400 ac.
A final observation is perhaps appropriate. Although local growers like to think of Evesham horticulture as something which has evolved from the activities of Evesham men, and outsiders have often been viewed with some suspicion, the fact remains that almost all of the big advances have come from men from outside. Francis Bernardi, Richard Varden, James Myatt, Lord Sudeley, C. A. Binyon, and the recent Dutch settlers, have all made major contributions to the industry. All of them have come to Evesham as mature men with original ideas.
1.—George May, Descriptive History of the Town of Evesham, 1845 p. 315.
2.—Rev. Tnomas Cox, Magna Britannia of Topographical, Historical, Ecclesiastical and Natural History of Worcestershire, 1720.
3.—R. H. Hilton article in Evesham Journal, 11 November 1960.
4.—T. R. Nash, Collections for the History of Worcestershire, 1799, p. 414, n.G.
5.—John Bernardi, A Short History of the Life ol Major John Bernardi written by himself, 1729.
6. —Gentlemen's Magazine (1736), VI p. 553.
7.—Biographica Britanica, 1748.
8.—Worcestershire Record Office. Wills.
9.—Arthur Young, A six months tour through the North of England. Vol III, 1771.
10.—Wm. Tindal, The History and Antiquities of the Abbey and Borough of Evesham, 1794, p. 213.
11.—Birmingham Reference Library MSS. 361832. 361833.
12.—Loc. cit., MS. 361834.
13.—An account of Proceedings in the Parish of All Saints in the Borough of Evesham towards obtaining an Act of Parliament ... to erect a House of Industry . . *. 24 October 1806. Evesham Public Library.
14.—W. Pitt, General View of the Agriculture of the County of Worcester, 1813.
15.—E. J. Rudge, A short account of the History and Antiquities of Evesham, 1820, p. 113.
16.—Rev. Peter Braby, Private communication.
17.—R. C. Gaut, History of Worcestershire Agriculture, 1939, p. 424.
18.—Pershore Tithe Map, Worcester Record Office.
20.—The Garden. December 1871.
21.—Browne and Burton, Worthies of Worcestershire, 1916, p. 107.
22.—Turner, "The Economic Rhubarbs," in Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society, Augus
23.—Evesham Journal, 21 February 1880.
24.—C. H. Gardiner, "The Future of Evesham and District," Evesham Public Library J. 942.47.
25.—Evesham Journal 8 Februaiy 1890
26.—C. A. Binyon, The L.B.G. Story. Littleton & Badsey Growers Ltd., 1958; Our Past 50 Years, Pershore Co-operative Fruit Market Ltd., 1959; R. W. Sidwell. "The Diaries of James Hall." in Evesham Journal January/February 1968.
Articles from the Vale of Evesham Historical Society Research Papers -
- CHURCHWARDENS' PRESENTMENTS FROM THE VALE OF EVESHAM, 1660-1717: PART I by P Braby
- CHURCHWARDENS' PRESENTMENTS FROM THE VALE OF EVESHAM, 1660-1717: PART II by P Braby
- LETTERS OF A BADSEY FAMILY 1735-36 by P Braby
- A SHORT HISTORY OF COMMERCIAL HORTICULTURE IN THE VALE OF EVESHAM by R W Sidwell
See also Digging for a Living: Market Gardening in Badsey and Aldington.