Wiltshire Publications

Westbury apple tree gets Royal home

A special Wiltshire apple tree has travelled from Westbury to a new home at Windsor Castle, by Royal appointment of the Queen.

The tree formed part of the Westbury marquee of exhibits which was visited by the Queen at the royal show in Salisbury Cathedral Close on 1st May. The apple tree, called ‘Julia’s Late Golden’, formed part of the exhibition of the Bratton-based Reeves Community Orchard, which boasts a unique collection of Wiltshire species in its 80-year-old village orchard. The specimen was purchased by the Westbury Area Board in the hope of donating it to the Queen as a Diamond Jubilee gift, but orchard volunteers Mike Pearce and Warren Harding had been waiting to hear whether she would accept the gift.

Mike said, “We are absolutely delighted that Windsor Castle gardens will include a little bit of Wiltshire. We heard that Her Majesty had confirmed that she would be most happy to receive the Wiltshire apple tree and that Windsor Castle would be the most appropriate location for it to be planted.”

The tree which is unusual in being a Wiltshire species has a poignant story all of its own. It was named after Julia Hember of Codford who died from a rare form of leukaemia on 1st June 2003, so the anniversary of her death was an apt time for the gift to the Queen.

While convalescing, Julia had spotted an apple tree growing in a rough area of their garden and asked her mother why she had planted it there. It turned out to be a tree that had grown from a discarded core and over time, it grew into a beautiful tree producing lovely golden apples that not only hold on the tree until November but are also excellent for cooking, eating and juicing.

Sadly by then, Julia had died.  But not before the tree had been named as a new variety by apple expert Dr Joan Morgan at the Brogdale National Apple Association.

Stuart Parkman of Triscombe Nurseries, West Bagborough near Taunton, took up the offer of growing this tree as a commercial variety, naming it ‘Julia’s Late Golden’, and for every tree sold, a donation is made to Bart’s Hospital in London, who treated Julia.

Two Julia’s Late Golden trees can now be seen growing in the community orchard at Bratton under the Wiltshire varieties section, while the original tree is still in the garden of the Hember family home at the Wool House in Codford. Julie Swabey, chairman of Westbury Area Board, represents Bratton as part of her role as a unitary councillor. She said, “For the Queen to visit our tent and see all our exhibits was enough, but this puts a most happy ending on what was a wonderful occasion. We are all very proud.”