History Of Bramley Apple Tree

The Bramley Apple Tree has a long history, spanning 200 years in the UK, starting from pips planted by a young girl, to making science with cloning and being the centre of a number of walking trails in the UK for fans and lovers of the Bramley Apple. As one of the UK’s most popular apple varieties, it holds a special place in the hearts of British people, and holds a special place in the history of Southwell, Nottinghamshire particularly.

Although the Bramley Apple is undoubtedly the most popular culinary cooking apple in the UK, it is just one cultivar of apple of over 2,500 apples grown in the UK. There are estimated to be over 7,000 varieties of apples worldwide. Some of the more popular eating or dessert apples in the UK include the Red Delicious, Cox, Braeburn and Gala apples. Bramleyapples.co.uk are selling fresh bramley apples if you want to buy bramley apples visit our store.

The Bramley Apple is a culinary, or more commonly known as, cooking apple, as opposed to an eating or dessert apple. It is generally only eaten cooked, due to its sour taste when eaten raw, that turns sweet, light and fluffy in the cooking process. Bramley Apples are commonly used in fruit pies, tarts and crumbles, or as an apple sauce. Bramley’s can also be used in fruit wines, chutneys and ciders, usually with another apple cultivar.

From pips in a cottage garden, to being struck by lightning and battling a honey fungus, the Bramley Apple Tree has a varied history which is surprisingly well documented in Britain, which still survives today, with the original tree still producing fruit yearly and bringing fans from all over the country and the world to its cottage home.

Original Bramley Apple Tree

The original Bramley Apple Tree resides at 75 Church Street, Southwell, Nottinghamshire, which is currently owned by Nottingham Trent University as part of a scheme to keep the “Mother” tree alive for as long as possible since it has been struck by the infection Honey Fungus.The fruit from the original Bramley Apple Tree was first sold in 1859 by a gardener with the blessing of the then owner of the cottage at Church Street, Matthew Bramley.

Despite its current condition, the original Bramley Apple Tree still bears fruit to this day, and has been cloned to produce further fruits.  

75 Church Street in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, is the cottage home of the original Bramley Apple Tree. It has had a number of owners including Coulson Howard who was the most recent private owner prior to it’s purchase by Nottingham Trent University in 2018.The cottage is also known as “The Bramley Apple Tree House” and hosts a blue display plaque with a brief description of the history of the Bramley Apple Tree that resides on the site.

It reads:


was grown from a pip by a young lady,

Mary Anne Brailsford between 1809 & 1815.

It was thought it came from an apple grown on

a tree at the bottom of her garden (now No. 75).

One seedling produced very fine apples in 1837

when the new occupier was Mr. Matthew Bramley.

A local gardener, Henry Merryweather, later

obtained permission to take cuttings from

the tree and it was duly registered

as the Bramley Seedling.

Mary Ann Brailsford

Mary Ann Brailsford is credited as the originator of the Bramley Apple, having sown the seeds for the first Bramley Apple Tree in 1809 in Southwell, Nottinghamshire. Mary Ann was just a child when she decided to plant the pips from the apples from her mother’s cooking into soil and start the growing process of the first British Bramley Apple Tree. Although Mary Ann planted the pips, some credit is given to her mother, who very likely nurtured the tree from pip maturing to established tree over a number of years.

Nancy Harrison

Miss Nancy Harrison is credited as the primary carer of the original Bramley Apple Tree, housed at the now named “Bramley Tree House” cottage where she cared for the tree from the end of the Second World War, until her death in 2014. Nancy spent her whole life around the Bramley Apple Tree, either living in, or next door to, Brailsford Cottage, ensuring the tree’s safety and presenting it to fans from around the world.

Matthew Bramley

Matthew Bramley, gave his name to the Bramley Apple fruit in its initial sales by Henry Merryweather, as he owned the cottage where the original Bramley Apple Tree had been planted. Of course, the Bramley name lives on today, so it would appear to have been a very good investment from Matthew. 

First sale of Bramley Apples 

The first recorded sale of the Bramley Apple fruit by Henry Merryweather was 31 October 1876. Henry Merryweather was just 17 when he originally saw the fruit, before asking Matthew Bramley if he could take cuttings for propagation and cultivation of his own crops. Matthew Bramley agreed, on the proviso that the fruit be called the Bramley Seedling. Henry Merryweather sold his first Bramley Apple fruit to Mr Geo Cooper of Upton Hall, a total of 3 apples for 2/-.  

Fruit Census 

The Fruit Census in 1944, comprised more than one third of the six and a quarter million commercially available Bramley Seedlings from plantations across England and Wales. 

Lighting Strike / Storm 

In the early 1900s, it was feared that the original Bramley Apple Tree had been lost for good when it was struck by lightning during a violent storm. Fortunately however, the tree survived the storms and has continued to live on until this day. 

Bramley Apple Tree Plantation Across Kent 

Kent is renowned within the fruit growing industry as being an excellent location for the growing of almost any apple tree and fruit, unlike many other areas of the country which lend themselves to more specific apple varieties depending on location. 

Due to the Triploid nature of the Bramley Seedling, Kent makes a good location for pollinating the Bramley Apple Tree due to the wide variety of other apple trees available to cross pollinate the tree. The Bramley Ramble is a 3 mile/ 5km walk in the Kent Downs that takes walkers through a Bramley Apple Orchard in Chilham and a modern fruit farm, perfect for Bramley fans and natural lovers alike. 

There are an estimated 300 Bramley Tree growers across the UK, with around 83,000 tonnes of Bramley Apple fruit produced and sold each year. 

1989 to Now 

Bramley Apples continued to grow in popularity with the Bramley growers establishing the Bramley Campaign in 1989, which looks for marketing opportunities and runs successful consumer campaigns funded by a voluntary subscription from growers and fans. 

In 2003 the Bramley Apple Tree was chosen by the Tree Council, the country’s network of wardens, as one of fifty great trees of the UK. The occasion was marked as a way to commemorate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, with one tree nominated for each year of her reign. 

The nickname for the tree “the King of Covent Garden” remains in use, with specialist fruit sellers offering Bramleys at the New Covent Garden Market all year round. Now, the original Bramley Apple Tree continues to bear fruit, some 200 years after its seeds were first put in the ground, although it is not known for how long this will continue. 

Tree Dying 

The original Bramley Apple Tree, or the so called “Mother” of all modern Bramley Apples is dying from a fungal infection, which was discovered in 2016. The over 200 year old tree in Southwell, Nottinghamshire is understood to be untreatable with a honey fungus infection which attacks the water delivery system within the tree, slowly killing it by ultimately destroying the tree’s root system. Micropropagation of the tree has already happened to create clones of the “Mother” tree which are commercially available with cultures now living under the care of Nottingham Trent University.  

Nottingham Trent University 

Nottingham Trent University bought the cottages at Church Street, Southwell, Nottinghamshire, back in 2018, from the then landowner Coulson Howard (the nephew of Nancy Harrison) in a bid to save the original Bramley Apple Tree, planted by Mary Ann Brailsford in 1809 after it was discovered the “Mother” tree was infected with an incurable fungus infection. 

The Rose Garden that plays home to the 200 year Bramley Apple Tree is currently tended to by horticultural students and staff from the University. Grafts and cuttings from the tree have been planted back at the University, at its Brackenhurst Campus for further study and to keep the original tree’s legacy alive.  

The new ownership of the Bramley Apple Tree by the Nottingham Trent University hoped to achieve additional longevity to the tree’s life span, though it will inevitably die from disease. It was originally estimated to last another two to three years from 2016 when the disease was discovered in the tree. The tree is still producing fruit to this day so the purchase is proving successful for the old Mother tree. 

Bramley Celebrations 

In 2009, to mark 200 years of the Bramley Apple, a number of celebrations were undertaken, including a dedicated Bramley Apple stained glass window that was unveiled at the Southwell Minister in March 2009. 

July 2009 saw the Brammy Awards celebrate everything Bramley Apple with awards given to the best Bramley Apple products from across the country. In September was the bicentennial crop, marking 200 years of fruit crops (albeit unlikely that Bramley Apples would have been available on the original Bramley Apple Tree after in its first year of life) and October see’s the Bramley Apple Pie Week celebrated.  

Bramley Apple Week is celebrated in the first week of February.

The first Bramley tree grew from pips planted by a young girl, Mary Ann Brailsford, in her garden in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, England.

A local butcher, Matthew Bramley, bought the cottage and garden.

It was while Matthew Bramley lived in the cottage that a local nurseryman, Henry Merryweather, asked if he could take cuttings from the tree and start to sell the apple. Bramley agreed, but insisted the apple should bear his name – hence ‘Bramley’s Seedling’.

The first recorded sale of the variety is in Henry Merryweather’s book of accounts on 31 October 1862. He sold “three Bramley apples for 2/- to Mr Geo Cooper of Upton Hall”.

Fruits of the grafted apple were first exhibited before the Royal Horticultural Society’s Fruit Committee on 6 December 1876. They were highly commended.

Bramley Seedlings received a First Class Certificate by the Committee of the Royal Jubilee Exhibition of Apples held in Manchester in October.

1889 and 1893
Bramley Seedling was awarded a First Class Certificate by the Committee of the Nottingham Botanical Society and at the Gardening and Forestry Exhibition in September 1893. The Royal Horticultural Society’s Apple Show awarded further First Class Certificates to the Bramley in August 1893.

Disaster struck when the original Bramley tree blew down during violent storms at the turn of the century. However, the tree somehow survived and is still bearing fruit more than 100 years later.

During the early 1900s the Bramley trees were extensively planted, with the fruit a useful source of food during the First World War.

The 1944 fruit census comprised more than one third of six and a quarter million Bramley’s Seedling trees in commercial plantations in England and Wales.

Bramley growers themselves are working closely together to expand their market opportunities and, through the Bramley Campaign, which was set up in 1989, are running successful consumer campaigns funded by voluntary subscription.

The Bramley tree was one of fifty great British trees chosen by the Tree Council’s country-wide network of tree wardens, as a special way to mark the Golden Jubilee and to celebrate fifty great years – one for every year of the Queen’s reign.

The old nickname for the Bramley was “The King of Covent Garden” and still exists today in the New Covent Garden Market, where all specialist fruit wholesales can offer Bramleys to their customers for 12 months of the year.

The original Bramley apple tree continues to bear fruit to this day. Those few pips planted by a little girl in her garden in Nottinghamshire 200 years ago are responsible for what is today a £37 million industry, with commercial growers across Kent, East Anglia and the West Midlands.


The Bramley: A World Famous Cooking Apple by Roger Merryweather 1982 Newark and Sherwood D.C.