Campden's Orchards

Judith Ellis

"Teapot" Williams bird-scaring in the cherry orchard by Campden House ruins

From the CCHS Archives we have been able to find out more about Campden’s orchards in past years – using maps, transcribed wills, advertisements for house sales in the 1700s and 1800s, photographs and people’s memories.

Fred Coldicott (born 1910), in his book ‘Memories of an Old Campdonian‘, says:

One of the loveliest features of the countryside is now practically extinct: that is the cherry orchards. When I was a lad, there were five large orchards and two smaller ones in Campden and Broad Campden. At Broad Campden they were at Briar Hill Farm and W.N. Izod’s, at the rear of his farmhouse. At Campden there was Hands’ Orchard, opposite side of the road to the Coneygree; George Haines in Westington, and Attlepin Farm; then there was the smaller one in Gainsborough’s, behind the old ruins, and Uncle Bob’s at Catbrook.

(See more memories in the article below)

Every orchard had to have a “bird-minder” for five or six weeks.  This was usually someone who was not able-bodied enough to do regular work.  “Teapot” Williams, who was disabled, was always on duty in Hands’ orchard in Station Road. It meant being there from dawn to dark.  They were provided with a gun and a rattle.  The cherry picking season was always a boon to casual workers  –  for a few weeks they could earn good money, the more they picked the more they earned.

When unions and government laid down a wages policy it was just impossible to employ cherry minders. It would have meant paying them  £200 a week, because the law said that anything over the forty-hour week would be classed as overtime, and, of course, it was necessary to be there all the hours of daylight.

Bob Coldicott, Snr. (The Kettle) owned the cherry orchard at Catbrook – (now Catbrook Close) which stretched to the boundaries of Gainsborough Terrace.  He also had part of the Big Ground planted with apple trees – this land was owned by the Oddfellows Benefit Club and lay behind Hands’ (or Haydon’s) orchard opposite to the Coneygree, (now Coneygree Close) and was later run by Les Brodie who probably changed the crop from apples to sprouts as being more profitable.  During the slump after WW1 fruit was difficult to sell and did not pay for picking.  It would be sent to Evesham or Stratford markets as local demand was filled, and you were likely to end up in debt after paying carriage and market fees.  Excess, at a low return, would go to an Evesham jam factory.  And so more disposal of the larger areas of fruit trees!

In earlier years the fruit was most likely to be apples and pears, grown in the orchards of the well-to-do families who did not need all the land around their house for growing vegetables or grazing animals. The earliest map in the Archives, 1722, shows an orchard in the grounds of old Campden House and it may be that at this time the ‘cyder-house’ was built, with its mill, in what is now Cidermill Lane. This orchard was rented from the Gainsborough estate, but others were attached to houses occupying the burgage plots going from the High Street to Back Ends.  (See the story of Cidermill Lane below)

During the nineteenth century the orchards were extended, particularly around the farms in Westington and along what is now called Catbrook, and also Station Road. They were becoming more commercial and this may have been when cherry trees were introduced.  The Cherry Orchard in Catbrook was shown on the 1885 map, becoming Cherry Orchard Close housing in the 1960s.

Allotments were very popular in Campden, reaching a peak of 360 in 1887, but after WWI there was a falling off in demand and some, such as Hands’ Orchard in Station Road, were converted into orchards. The time between the wars was probably the most productive, but in the late 40s demand for housing took over – the only blossom we see now, apart from Wolds End Orchard, is on the ornamental cherry trees lining Sheep Street.
(see the full story below)

See also the article on Basket-making in Campden

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