Perry pears are large trees living up to 300 years, grown from at least Saxon times in the West Midlands and more recently in Somerset. They are a beautiful piece of our history, which deserve a place in everyone's orchard today. Like cider apples, their fruit can't be eaten. There were over 100 varieties of perry pear identified in Gloucestershire, many of which were popular from before the written record of them, over 300 years ago. Their names speak of a lost rural world.
Perry pears have strong resistance to diseases like canker and scab, and have prolific early blossom. Perry as a drink was never as popular as cider, however, as its quality was variable and too weather dependent. As a consequence many trees have been grubbed up over the past century, and this fascinating and valuable part of our national heritage is under threat. That it has lasted at all is down to the longevity of the trees.
Perry is enjoying a mini-renaissance today; you can find some exceptional small producers in its historical stronghold. There's even a National Collection, in Hartpury. Beware "pear cider" by the way; a contradiction in terms in our view, and made from (usually imported concentrated) ordinary pear juice. Yuk. Certainly not perry.
Perry was traditionally made in the West Midlands - it's no surprise that Elizabeth I added three pears to Worcester's coat of arms in 1575. The Normans had brought perry pear trees with them to plant in their new estates, and they flourished in the sunny and wet climate of the west of England. It became a booming little industry; at its peak in the late 17th century there were an estimated 15,000 tonnes of perry pears produced. It benefited hugely from the French wars; Teinton (or Taynton, or Teignton) Squash in particular was used as a substitute for champagne for the gentry in London. A landlady in Henry Fielding's Tom Jones declares her perry "as well tasted, and as wholesome as the best Champagne in the Kingdom". Like cider in Somerset, every local farm and estate produced their own perry, often from a very local variety of tree, and they often partly paid their workers with it. Varieties' names advertised their effect (e.g. 'Merrylegs' or, later in the evening, 'Dead Boy'), location or feature of their perry (Hellens Early). Latterly we used to have many perry orchards around us here in Somerset, supplying Showering's Babycham factory in Shepton Mallet.
Our Perry Pear Trees For Sale
Best Quality Perry: Barland, Butt, Gin, Green Horse, Hendre Huffcap, Winnal's Longdon, Yellow Huffcap.
Sweet Perry: Low acidity and low tannin: Barnet, Hendre Huffcap, Red Pear.
Medium Sharp Perry: Medium acidity, low tannin: Blakeney Red, Brandy, Gin, Green Horse, Hartpury Green, Hellens Early, Judge Amphlett, Merrylegs, Thorn, Turner's Barn, Winnal's Longdon, Yellow Huffcap.
Bittersharp Perry: High acidity and tanin - astringent but make good perry: Barland, Butt, Oldfield.
Smaller sized trees: Brandy, Merrylegs, Oldfield, Thorn.
Our Perry Pears are grown on Quince 'A', which will give you a tree up to 4.5m. These trees will produce fruit much more quickly than those grown on Pyrus communis. The plants we sell are "bush size" - sturdy 125-150cm.
We also sell 5 selected trees as a collection.
Supplier : R.V. Roger Ltd. We donate half of our profit on sales of Perry Pears to Common Ground
All our perry pear trees are bare root. At the height of the lifting season - between November and March - there may be up to a month’s delay between placing the order and dispatching due to pressure of orders, which are dealt with in date sequence, and the weather. Orders for perry pear trees from March to September are confirmed in late October/ early November ready for dispatch from November. Please consult our planting and care guide on receipt of your order.
The picture shows 'Parsonage' in blossom in the orchard at our old house, with a perry pear's strong healthy foliage. A shame you can't hear the bees!