Although the history of orchards and fruit varieties is of great popular interest, there have been few academic treatments of the subject. This book presents results from a three-year project, ‘Orchards East’, investigating the history and ecology of orchards in the east of England.
Together, the eastern counties of Hertfordshire, Essex, Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, Bedfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk have a tradition of fruit cultivation comparable in scale to that of the better-known west of England.
Drawing on far-reaching archival research, an extensive survey of surviving orchards and biodiversity surveys, the authors tell the fascinating story of orchards in the east since the late Middle Ages.
Orchards were ubiquitous features of the medieval and early modern landscape. Planted for the most part for practical reasons, they were also appreciated for their aesthetic qualities.
By the seventeenth century some districts had begun to specialise in fruit production - most notably west Hertfordshire and the Fens around Wisbech. But it was only in the ‘orchard century’, beginning in the 1850s, that commercial production really took off, fuelled by the growth of large urban markets and new transport systems that could take the fruit to them with relative ease.
By the 1960s orchards were extensive in many districts but, since then, they have largely disappeared, with significant impacts on landscape character and biodiversity.
For well over a century now, orchards have been romanticised as nostalgic elements of a timeless yet disappearing rural world. Even before that, they were embedded in myths of lost Edens, or golden ages of effortless plenty.
A key aim of this book is to challenge some of these myths by grounding orchards within a wider range of historical and environmental contexts.
Orchards are not timeless, and in some ways our relationship with orchards is a classic example of the ‘invention of tradition’. What do our attitudes to this aspect of our heritage tell us about our wider engagement with the past, with nature, and with place?
Tom Williamson is Professor of landscape history at the University of East Anglia (UEA). He is the lead on ‘Orchards East’, a major project supported by the Heritage Fund, of which this book forms part and the author of several books published by University of Hertfordshire Press, including Trees in England and Rethinking Ancient Woodland (both co-authored with Gerry Barnes).
Gerry Barnes was formerly Head of Environment at Norfolk County Council and is now an Honorary Fellow of the School of History at UEA. A former Chair of the Forestry Commission Regional Advisory Committee for East England, he has an MBE for services to Forestry and Communities.
ISBN 978-1-912260-42-3, July 2021, 270pp, Paperback
“Growing out of a publicly funded project, relying on data-gathering and knowledge production by community members, and in conversation with sectors involved in the creation and application of public policy and preservation, this book is remarkably democratic in its construction of a knowledge community. While not every chapter will interest every reader in focus or detail, it is written in an accessible style that invites this diverse knowledge community into a rich and detailed conversation about the subject matter while elevating the intellectual pitch of that conversation to productive new levels. This book dives into the specific density of its topic with such rigor that, rather than closing the subject to future investigation, its intellectual framework opens up the possibility of new works on orchards everywhere and suggests new questions to investigate in light of the wealth of data presented about eastern England.” Maria Elizabeth Kennedy, Agricultural History
“This book is a significant and important contribution to the landscape history of Eastern England.” Charles Watkins, Landscape History
“… supremely well-written and intriguing…” Terry Mabbett, Forestry Journal
“As David Lowenthal wrote, ‘the past is a foreign country’ and, as such, it is implicitly hard to decipher. To journey back into this foreign place and thus to understand its history, evolution and even decline requires a multi-disciplinary approach, as demonstrated in this book so effectively by Barnes and Williamson. Finally, the book is lavishly illustrated with numerous full-colour plates and at £16.99 is excellent value.” Ian D. Rotherham, Landscapes Journal
“Throughout the authors demonstrate their practical knowledge and enthusiasm for orchards, and have clearly delighted in their exploration of a rich but under-researched field.” Michael Leach, The Local Historian
“This is an impressive book which, in general, wears its wide-ranging and deep scholarship relatively lightly, to the great benefit of the reader.” Andrew Walker, International Journal of Regional and Local History
“There is so much information here for local and landscape historians, social and economic historians, horticulturists, ecologists and anyone with any degree of interest in orchards. The curious can plunder the bibliography in search of further reading, for whether read straight through from start to finish or dipped into to peruse selected chapters, this book is a wellspring of information to bolster the current resurgence of interest in orchards and fruit varieties. It sets the bar dauntingly high for future regional orchard studies.” Susan Wilkin, Agricultural History Review
“[W]ell written, well illustrated… a very nicely produced publication.” Neil Wiffen, The Essex Journal
This screen shows you the details for the selected product.
Click the "Add to Cart" button to add this product to your shopping cart. You can enter a quantity larger then 1 to add multiples of this product to your shopping cart.
If the product is full you will see a "Wait List" button. Click this button if you would like to be notified if/when capacity is added. If capacity is increased we will email you. Upon receipt of the increased capacity notification, registration will be on a first-come, first-served basis.
If the product is not ready for purchase you will see a "Notify Me" button. You can click this button if you would like to be notified when this product is ready for purchase.
Some products can only be purchased through our partner. In this case you will see an "External Register" button. Click this button to purchase through our partner's website.