We recently celebrated the planting of an 18th century nectarine variety ‘Royal George’ as part of our plans to restore Gilbert’s fruit wall to its former glory. Only a part of the Gilbert’s original fruit wall now exists, in the future we would like to rebuild the rest of the wall and replant it with fruit trees that Gilbert White would have been familiar with.
Fruit walls were used to maximise the effects of the sun to ripen fruit. How fruit walls should be constructed, their best aspect and finish were a matter of debate at the time. We know that Gilbert White owned a succession of copies of Philip Miller’s The Gardeners Dictionary. Miller talks at length about the various ways a fruit wall could be constructed. He writes:
I would advise every one to make fair trials of these things, before they put them in practice and not take upon trust what they may be told by persons who are too sanguine in recommending to others schemes which they have adopted upon very slight principles, or perhaps a single trial;
Philip Miller’s The Gardeners Dictionary 1731
The construction of Gilbert White’s fruit wall was part of his major new garden developments in 1761 which also included the stone Haha, terraces, & walks. On the 25th July 1761 Gilbert celebrated his fruit wall’s completion with the following entry in his Garden Kalendar:
Finish’d my fruit-wall, coping the two returns at the ends with stones of a sandy nature out of the old priory. The coping-bricks were full of flaws, & cracks, being made of earth not well-prepared, & instead of over hanging the wall, came but just flush with it : however, by using six that were broken-ended, we had just enough, & they may lie on the wall many Years.
Gilbert White’s Garden Kalendar, 25th July 1761