Memories of Meldreth Orchards

by Brian Pepper

Photo:Brian Pepper, pictured in 2010

Brian Pepper, pictured in 2010

Photograph by Tim Gane

I suppose that my first recollection of an orchard in Meldreth was in the early 1940's.

Photo:Allerton Terrace home to the Pepper family from 1940 onwards

Allerton Terrace home to the Pepper family from 1940 onwards

Bell's postcard supplied by Ann Handscombe

My parents, Leslie and Ruby Pepper, had in 1940, just moved into 4 Allerton Terrace, and this was probably my first excursion along Whitecroft Road.  The orchard was in the area of the Howard Road housing estate, and I believe, was the property of Hubert Ellis.  It was in a very overgrown condition.  All that I can recall of this experience was that of trees overhanging the path and a very dark interior; rather frightening for a small child in a pushchair.

Another orchard was opposite Allerton Terrace, and, if my memory serves me correctly, was owned by the Elbourn family.  As small boys, we would often gain access to it by penetrating a weak point in the hedge in order to sample some of its fruits.  There were apples, plums, and pears in abundance, which when ripe would taste delicious.  The orchard is now the Oakrits estate, just off Whitecroft Road.

There was an orchard along Whitecroft Road, on the western side, just past Hope Folly.  Again, another orchard owned by the Elbourn’s I believe.  This orchard was visited only once a year, at cherry picking time. I remember being sent by my mother to purchase a pound or so of cherries.  At the entrance to the orchard was a trestle table with a farmhand, usually wearing a cloth cap, poised ready to serve you with these dark succulent fruits.  Tall ladders rested on the trees’ thin branches, with farmhands busily picking the cherries before wasps and other creatures decided that they were well worth a visit.  By the time I had walked a few yards along the road, it could be guaranteed that I would have blood red juice down the front of my shirt. Another ticking off from my mother.  But you simply cannot get fruit much fresher than that.

Photo:The Grange c. 1956

The Grange c. 1956

Photograph courtesy of Ann Handscombe

In the High Street was an old Victorian  property, The Grange, owned by Hubert Ellis and later by his kinsman, Edgar.  In Hubert's days the estate was neglected and overgrown, but after his death, Edgar cleared  the jungle and one was able to see the numerous orchards which had been hidden for so many years. They were past their best as the trees had not been attended to for decades, but they did still produce a variety of fruit.  At the back of the house there were two orchards, their furthermost boundary being Whitecroft Road.  They provided a selection of fruits which would have been of saleable standard  for the Victorians.  Apples such as Coxes Orange Pippins, Blenheims, and Russets spring to mind.  The orchard near the house had in it a Medlar tree, its fruit only being fit to eat when it had started to decay.  The orchard nearest to Whitecroft Road became a popular attraction on only two occasions every year, and was visited by many local people and also people from outlying areas of the county.  The reason for their interest was that of a very colourful display of bluebells and primroses, which were spread like a carpet over a large area of the orchard.  A spectacular sight indeed.  It was well worth the visit.

Photo:The site of Flambards Mill

The site of Flambards Mill

Bell's postcard supplied by Ann Handscombe

I am not sure how many trees must be grouped together before they can be called an orchard, but there were small collections of fruit trees on both sides of the River Mel, adjacent to Flambards Mill.  I know that some of the trees on the mill side were greengage trees.

There was another orchard behind a small thatched cottage where Woolpack Way is now located.  This also belonged to the Ellis estate, and extended as far as the Mel.

Yet another Ellis orchard, was behind two semi-detached cottages which stood, in what is now, Woodlands Drive.  In the left hand cottage lived Mr and Mrs Marsh and in the other lived Lilley and Harry Warren.  I'm sure that these tenants would have benefited from the selection of fruit that this orchard would have provided.

Meldreth once had an abundance of orchards, but alas now only a handful remain.

Many of us now buy our fruit at the supermarket. How times have changed!

This page was added by Gloria Willers on 17/02/2011.
Comments about this page

I believe that the orchard opposite Allerton Terrace, which is now the Oakrits estate, was owned by George Palmer and not the Elbourn family.

By Terry Dash
On 21/03/2011

Does anyone know if Brian Pepper is related to Ernest and Mark Pepper who died in WW1?

By Ian Jackson
On 28/05/2012

My grandmother, Sarah Butler (nee Pepper) was Ernest and Mark's youngest sister. I believe that Brian Pepper's grandfather was Albert Pepper who was also a brother of Ernest and Mark. Details of how Mark and Ernest died in WW1 are on this website and there is a photo of 11 of the 12 children with their parents in Joan King's Memories of Meldreth which is also on the website. Mark is missing from this photo as he was born two years later. Back row l/r are Tom, Walter, Albert, Ada and Arthur. Middle row Fanny and Samuel with l/r Ernest, Edward Sarah, Andrew, Susan and Daisy.

By Gloria Willers
On 30/05/2012

Samuel Pepper would have been my great, great uncle, his brother Henry married Elizabeth Smith, they had 13 children. The youngest, John Pepper was my grandfather; he seems to have been a bit of a black sheep! Seems he stole money from Melbourn Conservative Club and was sent to reform school. After he married Elsie Langrosh from Hertford. He went to Australia in 1923 leaving Elsie behind. Does anyone know any more about Henry and Elizabeth and their errant son? Thanks.

By Ian Jackson
On 02/06/2012

For additional comments on the Pepper family, please see our genealogical enquiries page.

By Kathryn Betts
On 19/06/2012

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