A primarily British-grown variety, the Bramley apple tree was first planted over two hundred years ago. It originates from Nottinghamshire, where a young girl grew it from pips. The name 'Bramley' comes from Matthew Bramley, a butcher who bought the house and garden in the mid-nineteenth century. When a local nurseryman, Henry Merryweather, asked to take some cuttings to sell, Bramley insisted that the fruit should bear his name. Perhaps fittingly for our tradition of 'bobbing for apples' at Hallowe'en, the first recorded sale of the variety was on 31st October 1862 (they cost two shillings).
It wasn't long before the apples began to be noticed and to win awards. Just fourteen years after they first went on sale, Bramley apples were exhibited before the Royal Horticultural Society's Fruit Committee and were highly commended. The apples went on to win the RHS first class certificate at the Apple Congress of 1883. The Committee of the Royal Jubilee Exhibition of Apples also awarded the Bramley first class in 1887. Further first class certificates came in 1893; one more from the RHS and one from the Nottingham Botanical Society.
In the early twentieth century, these apples began to be widely planted. During the First World War the apples were useful sources of food to the nation. By the time of the Second World War, a fruit census revealed the number of its trees in British commercial plantations; six and a quarter million by 1944. Come the occasion of the Queen's Golden Jubilee of 2003, the Bramley tree was chosen as one of fifty great British trees, just as it had been recognised the century before at the time of Queen Victoria's golden jubilee of 1887. The Bramley apple celebrated its own anniversary in 2009; the bicentennial of its first planting in a Nottinghamshire garden.
In terms of its commercial development, Bramley apples have moved far beyond their original two-shilling start. Today the industry is worth approximately £50 million, with one major UK supermarket alone selling 4,000 tonnes of the apples in 2011-2012, a 27% share of the variety's sales. The apple accounted for 95% of the country's total culinary apple orchards in 2007. About 25% of the crop is sold fresh for eating, around 30% for juice and cider, and another 45% for food processing in pies, crumble fillings and related food products. One of the best-known commercial uses of the apple is the apple pie, a family tea-time favourite.
The apple continues to win awards; it recently held the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit. To ensure it is celebrated in the way it deserves, the town in Nottinghamshire where it was first grown holds a Bramley Apple Festival every October. Bramley apples have come a long way in the past two hundred years, from young girl planting a seed, to Matthew Bramley giving them their name, to wartime national food supply, to golden jubilee success, and finally on to multi-million pound industry. Where will the Bramley go next?