On The Trail of the ‘Hereford Beefing’

Apple ‘Norfolk Beefing’ (much more on this one to follow…)

TL;DR Version

A conversation on Twitter leads to a happy hour (or twelve) spent perusing pdf files of historical pomological literature, resulting in this (very) long-read piece on the ‘Hereford Beefing’. The extended ‘Beefing’ clan is investigated, some conclusions are drawn and a few puzzles remain for another day.


This article contains rather a lot of historical detail and general speculation. If that’s not your sort of thing, I’d suggest reading sections 1, 2, 5 and 6 and maybe missing out part II. Although if you are in the mood for a really long read, then please, of course, feel free to tackle it all.

Part I:
1. So, What Are We Looking For?
2. The Historical ‘Hereford(shire) Beefing’

Part II:
3. When Might a ‘Beefing’ Not Be a ‘Beefing’?
4. What Does All This Tell Us?

Part III:
5. The Genetic ‘Beefing’
6. Conclusions, or Otherwise…

Footnotes and Addendum follow.

Part I – So, What Are We Looking For?

Recently on Twitter I spotted a post from Welsh Mountain Cider (@welsh_cider) that really piqued my interest. I replied, and it sparked one of those rather lovely, rambling conversations that crop up from time on the platform[1].

Here’s how it all began:

“Hey,” I thought, “I wonder if that’s any relation to the ‘Norfolk Beefing’?”, a rather excellent cooking apple that I first wrote about in February 2020. I asked the question, @welsh_cider wasn’t sure, so I decided to hit the books and see what I could find out.

The ensuing Twitter-chat brought in contributions from the curator of The Museum of Cider (@homeofcider), Bushel + Peck Cider (@BushelPeckCider), and Adam of Adam’s Apples (@adapples) over in the U.S., and got me thinking (and talking) about how the names of apple varieties and cultivars[2] (see footnote, but I’ll stick with ‘variety’ here for simplicity) have morphed, melded, merged and diverged over the centuries.

In the case of the ‘Hereford Beefing’ my first thought was to wonder whether this was either a relation to, or even the same apple as, the ‘Norfolk Beefing’ that I’d already encountered. I decided that the most interesting way to find out would be to search through the historical literature of pomology for clues.

Here’s what the old books revealed.

The Historical ‘Hereford(shire) Beefing’

There are a number of key historical texts[3] that can help with tracking down the history and etymology of old apple varieties. Many of them are out-of-copyright and freely available to read online or download in various file formats from the likes of Google Books or Archive.org, so there’s plenty of source material available.

I started with one of the most detailed 19th century pomological reference works: Dr Robert Hogg‘s British Pomology (1851).

Meet The Esteemed Dr Hogg

Hogg was one of the nineteenth century’s most prominent pomologists, with a strong interest in finding, naming and preserving varieties of apples and pears that were already considered to be venerable, “heritage” types. In British Pomology Hogg describes both the ‘Norfolk Beefing’ and the ‘Striped Beefing’ – another Norfolk-born variety, which Hogg praises particularly highly – but there’s no mention of a ‘Hereford Beefing’ here.

The next volume on my list was Hogg’s later collaboration with Henry Graves Bull on the Herefordshire Pomona (1876-1885), which is gorgeously illustrated throughout with colour plates by Alice Blanche Ellis and Edith Elizabeth Bull (Henry’s daughter), as well as detailed line drawings. Alongside descriptions of the ‘Norfolk-‘ and ‘Striped-‘ Beefings, volume two of the Pomona does list the ‘Herefordshire Beefing’ – which I’m assuming is the same apple as the Welsh Mountain orchard’s ‘Hereford Beefing[4]‘ – and provides the full story of its discovery:

Nothing is known of the origin of this Apple. Dr. Hogg first saw it at the Apple Show of the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club, held at Hereford in 1876. It was then named simply ‘Beefing,’ to distinguish it from the Norfolk Beefing. Dr. Hogg called it the Herefordshire Beefing, a name which was adopted by the pomological committee of the Club. Some months afterwards, when referring to some pomological MSS. which belonged to [William] Forsyth, the author of A Treatise on Fruit Trees, Dr. Hogg found amongst them a record of a collection of fruits that had been sent to him in the year 1801 by a Mr. Stroud from Dorsetshire, and of these one was “The Hereford Beefin, a flat apple of a brownish red with some yellow on the side from the sun. This is very different from the Norfolk Beefing — keeps till the end of April.” Dr. Hogg’s nomenclature was thus long anticipated, and this opportunity of mentioning the circumstance is taken, because there is no record of the Hereford Beefin to be found in the Treatise on Fruit Trees; nor indeed is any mention to be found of it elsewhere. It is now therefore described and figured for the first time.

Cross-section of the Herefordshire Beefing from The Herefordshire Pomona vol 2, Bull & Hogg (1876-1885)

Via the notes referring to the colour illustration of the apple (below), we also learn that:

The spray of fruit represented (grown in 1880) represents the apples small, owing to the large crop on the tree, and it also shows a peculiarity its apples frequently have, of growing back to back.

Colour plate from The Herefordshire Pomona vol 2, Bull & Hogg (1876-1885) showing the ‘Norfolk-‘ (centre left), ‘Striped-‘ (centre right) and ‘Herefordshire-‘ (bottom) members of the ‘-Beefing’ clan.

The same ‘Herefordshire Beefing’ origin story is repeated by Hogg, in truncated form, in the 5th edition of The Fruit Manual (1884):

I first met with this [apple] at Hereford, at one of the pomological meetings of the Woolhope Club, where it was exhibited without a name. Struck with its remarkable resemblance to the Norfolk Beefing and having tested its excellence for cooking, I recommended the club to designate it Herefordshire Beefing.

Here Hogg seems to contradict the suggestion in the Herefordshire Pomona that the apple was already called ‘Beefing’ when it was presented to the club. Unless I’ve misinterpreted the Pomona account and ‘Beefing’ was just a very temporary name, superseded when Hogg suggested adding ‘Herefordshire’? Let’s see if we can find out.

Introducing the Woolhope Naturalists

The Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists Field Club for 1874 to 1876 are available to download from the still-extant club’s website, so I was able to search for details of the “apple show” in question. It was actually an annual exhibition of orchard fruit, established with the aim of gathering together the best examples of apples grown in the county in order to identify them and select them for inclusion in the Herefordshire Pomona.

Hereford Free Library – meeting place of the Woolhope Naturalists Field Club in the 1870s, from the Transactions for 1874-76

The Transactions for 1875 contains a list of the apples presented at the first exhibition by the gentlemen of the club and their guests. These included, among many shown by F. W. Herbert, Esq., the “Norfolk Biffin, or Beefing”. Frustratingly, it isn’t clear whether this means “Norfolk Biffin also known as (plain) Beefing”, or “Norfolk Biffin also known as (Norfolk) Beefing”. It’s tempting to think they were two separate apples though, as throughout the list, complete variety names are given for other synonym pairs, even when the names are similar (i.e. “Syke House Russet, or Syke House Pippin”, rather than “Syke House Russet or Pippin”.) So that does suggest that ‘Beefing’ was a known synonym for ‘Norfolk Biffin’ at the time.

In the Transactions for 1876, an address by the outgoing president of the club refers to coverage of that year’s apple exhibition in the Journal of Horticulture. The piece was written by Hogg, who was also the editor of the Journal. The relevant edition praises the 1876 exhibition and its exhibitors, but frustratingly Hogg only lists the cider varieties shown, among them the ‘Underleaf’, with no mention of any ‘-Beefing’ apples. Hogg does however lament the reticence of numerous exhibitors who showed apples and pears without labels:

[Herefordshire] orchards are teeming with varieties of great excellence of which the world knows nothing, and it is to be regretted that at the meeting held last week there were so many exhibited to which no names were attached. This omission we are informed was a reluctance on the part of the exhibitors to give the local names, from a supposition that they were all possessed of “book names,” and that someone learned in the subject would be able to identify them. The fact is they had no “book names,” and were never known out of their own districts, hence the importance at any subsequent meeting of having all such exhibited with the names by which they are known in the orchards where they are found.

Can we infer that amongst the many unidentified varieties at the 1876 exhibition was an apple called ‘Beefing’ that was quickly re-named ‘Herefordshire Beefing’ by Hogg? If so, it must be different enough, albeit similar to, the ‘Beefing’ apple that was exhibited in 1875 and identified (presumably by Hogg, who was at the meeting) as a synonym of the ‘Norfolk Biffin’. Or perhaps ‘Beefing’ was used in 1876 as a general term, like ‘Pippin’, ‘Nonpareil’ or ‘Codling’, until Hogg decided it was different from the standard ‘Beefing’ (‘Norfolk Biffin’) and re-labelled it, and that’s the version of the story he remembered and recorded in the Herefordshire Pomona? It’s also interesting to note that whoever recorded the Transactions wrote ‘Norfolk Biffin’, whereas Hogg had already used ‘Norfolk Beefing’ in his own books, and this wasn’t corrected.

Back at the 1876 club meeting, Rev C. H. Bulmer gave a talk on ‘Pomology Historically Considered’ in which he listed the “oldest, best known and valued” apples of Herefordshire, which also included the ‘Beefing’. This suggests that there was an older ‘Beefing’ variety that was well-known in Herefordshire for some time; presumably this was the ‘Norfolk Beefing / Biffin’ rather than Hogg’s new ‘Beefing’? Bulmer also lists the ‘Underleaf’ as one of the “most interesting of our cider historic apples, which may be considered as existing now”.

There was a third exhibition of apples in 1877, but whilst the Transactions faithfully record the names of the gentlemen exhibitors and how many plates of various fruits they showed, they excuse themselves from listing variety names by saying: “Among so many it would, of course, be invidious to particularise any of the collections of apples, especially so as many of them were worthy of notice”.

Returning to The Fruit Manual (1884) it’s important to note that Hogg includes separate entries for both the ‘Striped Beefing’ and the ‘Norfolk Beefing’, along with a growing list of known (or suspected) synonyms for the latter: ‘Norfolk Beaufing’, ‘Norfolk Beau-fin’, ‘Norfolk Beefin’, ‘Reed’s Baker’, ‘Catshead Beaufin’ and ‘Taliesin’ (but not ‘Norfolk Biffin’). There was clearly no doubt in Hogg’s mind that the ‘Herefordshire-‘, ‘Striped-‘ and ‘Norfolk-‘ Beefings were three quite distinct apple varieties, as he makes no attempt to suggest any of them as synonyms of the others. And it seems that Rev. Bulmer knew of at least two distinct ‘-Beefing’ apples as well.

Part II – When Might a ‘Beefing’ Not Be a ‘Beefing’?

At this stage we have two or three historical candidate names for the ‘Hereford Beefing’ apple now grown today by @welsh_cider: ‘Herefordshire Beefin’ in 1801, (perhaps very temporarily) plain ‘Beefing’ in 1876, and a very definite ‘Herefordshire Beefing’ in both 1876 and 1884. There’s also a strong insistence that this is a separate variety to both the ‘Striped Beefing’ and the ‘Norfolk Beefing’ (“very different from the Norfolk Beefing”).

The earliest potential source for the ‘Herefordshire Beefing’ name that we have so far is via horticulturist William Forsyth – gardener to King George II at Kensington and St. James and one of the founder members of the Horticultural Society of London (although he died a few months after its inauguration in 1804) – via his correspondence[5] dated c. 1801 with the elusive Mr Stroud of Dorsetshire.

We’ve also seen how many synonyms the ‘Norfolk Beefing’ had already accumulated by 1884. How likely is it that the apple that was known as ‘Herefordshire Beefing’ might be one with a number of synonyms as well? Let’s investigate further.

Working backwards from Hogg’s Fruit Manual (1884) towards Forsyth’s major work A Treatise on the Culture and Management of Fruit Trees (1802) and beyond, it’s worth checking a few more sources along the way for additional clues.

TL;DR part II – there now follows an extensive and detailed trawl through the historical literature of pomology, or at least, as much of it as I currently have access to. If that doesn’t sound like your sort of thing, please feel free to skip ahead to the summary.

In The Fruit Manual (1884) Hogg also mentions a ‘Herefordshire Costard’. This is another esteemed baking variety, which was sent to him by a gardener from Radnor in Wales, from a tree said to be around 50 years old. The description of the ‘-Costard’ sounds remarkably similar to that of the ‘Herefordshire Beefin’ from Forsyth’s papers, only larger. But if the ‘Herefordshire Beefing’ apples illustrated in the Herefordshire Pomona were atypically small that season, could the ‘Herefordshire Costard’ from Radnor and the ‘Herefordshire Beefin’ from Dorsetshire be the same apple? The Fruit Manual seems to be the only work in which the ‘Herefordshire Costard’ is mentioned, so perhaps it became clear that it was a duplicate, and the name was subsequently dropped?

Alphonese du Breuil’s The Scientific and Profitable Culture of Fruit Trees (1872) lists the ‘Norfolk Biffin’ and ‘Striped Biffin’ amongst recommended Winter varieties. Also in 1872, Albert Smee makes passing mention of the ‘Norfolk Biffin’ in My Garden, Its Plan and Culture, but amongst his extensive collection of apples, only ‘Herefordshire Pearmain’ has a name we might be interested in; Smee dismisses it as an apple without “any very remarkable features”.

In The Kitchen Garden (1855) by Eugene Sebastian Delamer, the ‘Norfolk Biffin’ and ‘Striped Biffin’ are recommended as “Good Standard Apples” (and the author also says that “as the season advances, many hard kitchen apples, such as the London Pippin and even the Norfolk Biffin, become sweet, mellow, and presentable at dessert.” Good to know.)

In The Book of the Garden (1855) Charles McIntosh tells us: “The Norfolk biffin is of all the best for baking whole in a coolish oven, and then flattening by pressure into the form they appear in the shops.” The same volume then lists ‘Norfolk Beaufin’ (which must be the same apple, although it’s unclear whether the author considered them to be distinct) as a recommended kitchen variety, telling us they are: “grown very extensively in Norfolk for the purpose of drying, in which state they are much prized in winter”.

There’s no mention of anything named ‘Hereford-‘, ‘Norfolk-‘ or ‘-Beefing’ in any of the three volumes of John Lindley’s Pomologia Brittanica (1841). The work does cover a wide range of fruit types though, so it’s likely Lindley had to be quite selective of those he considered the very best of each genus.

The three editions of the extensive Catalogue of Fruits Cultivated in the Garden of the Horticultural Society of London, at Chiswick[6]‘ (1826, 1831, 1842) are more promising and turn out to contain some real gems. Alongside ‘Norfolk Beaufin’ – widely considered to be a gentrified synonym for ‘Norfolk Beefing’ – we find the only mentions in any of the historical texts of ‘Suffolk Beaufin’, ‘Beaufinette’ (perhaps a smaller version of a ‘Beefing’, Norfolk or otherwise?), and the rather superb-sounding duo of ‘Herefordshire Goose’ and ‘Herefordshire Monster’, along with a few more ‘Norfolk-‘ varieties.

A Guide to the Orchard and Fruit Garden (1831) by George Lindley (father of John Lindley) contains extensive variety lists of apples by season of ripening. Here we find the ‘Norfolk Beaufin’ (with ‘Norfolk Beefin’ given as a synonym and, according to the author “undoubtedly a Norfolk apple”), ‘Norfolk Paradise’, ‘Striped Beaufin’, ‘Winter Colman’ (assigned the synonyms ‘Norfolk Coleman’ and also ‘Norfolk Storing’). We’re also given the origin story1Edit, 06.01.22 – It turns out this is highly unlikely to be the origin story after all. Further researsh, for part II of this article, suggests a rather different point of origin for the ‘Striped’ variant of the Beefing. More detail to follow in said part II… of the ‘Striped Beaufin’, in which Lindley says:

I found a large tree of this sort in 1794, growing in the garden of the late William Crowe, Esq. , at Lakenham, near Norwich, a fruit of which I gathered, measuring twelve inches and a half in circumference, and weighing twelve ounces and a half avoirdupoise. It is a very excellent apple, and, being very hardy, deserves cultivation.

(Avurdupoise, by the by, is the name of the system of measurement using pounds and ounces.) George Lindley mentions only a single ‘Herefordshire-‘ named apple: the ‘Herefordshire Pearmain’ which is said to be a synonym for ‘Royal Pearmain’.

Volume three of the Transactions of the Horticultural Society of London (1822) contains details of a wide range of apples that were sent to the society for an exhibition in 1818, including the ‘Norfolk Beaufin’, ‘Norfolk Storing’ (which was sent from a garden in Hertfordshire) and ‘Norfolk Paradise’. The first volume of the Transactions (1820) doesn’t offer any contributions from founder-member Forsyth (who died a few months after the Society first met), but it does include a list of apple varieties presented to the Society in 1806 by a Mr Arthur Biggs, gardener to Isaac Swainson (founder of a botanic garden at Heath Lodge in Twickenham). On this list we find ‘Norfolk Beaufin’ alongside ‘Norfolk Storer’, ‘Norfolk Paradise’, ‘Herefordshire Pearmain’ and, rather intriguingly, the ‘False Beaufin’.

As mentioned earlier, ‘Beaufin’ (or ‘Beaufing’ or ‘Beau-fin’) was considered by Hogg to be an attempt to gentrify ‘Beefing’ to make it sound a little more refined (and French)[7]. So could a ‘False’ one be another ‘Beaufin’ / ‘Beefing’ that wasn’t the true ‘Norfolk Beefing’ (or ‘Striped Beefing’)? Perhaps an example of the ‘Herefordshire Beefin’ that Stroud sent to Forsyth? The apple is marked as a ‘new’ variety in the Transactions though, which suggests that Biggs might have raised it himself, so maybe it was a seedling from one of the other ‘Beefing’ apples instead? Unfortunately, Biggs doesn’t provide a commentary on this particular new variety, as he did for some of the others.

Thomas Andrew Knight’s Treatise on the Culture of the Apple and Pear (1818) doesn’t include a list of recommended varieties, so that’s a blank. His Pomona Herefordiensis (1811) is an entire volume of thirty of the best old cider and perry varieties and “new varieties of merit” to be found in the county, but it makes no mention of any ‘-Beefing’, or ‘Herefordshire-‘ named varieties.

Across the Atlantic, the American orchardists’ manual A View of the Cultivation of Fruit Trees and the Management of Orchards and Cider (1817) by William Coxe lists many English varieties that are said to be thriving in the U.S.A., among them the ‘Hertfordshire Underleaf’, imported from England, and the ‘Royal Pearmain’, which as we’ve seen was later said to be synonymous with the ‘Herefordshire Pearmain’ by George Lindley.

Hints Addressed to Proprietors of Orchards (1816) by William Salisbury contains an extensive list of apple varieties, which includes the ‘Herefordshire Redstreak’ (“An old fruit which can no longer be propagated. This was once much esteemed for cider.”), along with the ‘Herefordshire Pearmain’, ‘Norfolk Paradise’, ‘Norfolk Beafin’ and ‘Norfolk Storing’.

At last, we arrive at William Forsyth. We’ve already been told there’s no mention of the ‘Herefordshire Beefin(g)’ in his A Treatise on The Culture and Management of Fruit Trees (1802). But it does contain the plain ‘Beaufin’ (with given synonyms ‘Lincolnshire Beaufin’, ‘Yorkshire Beaufin’ and ‘Norfolk Beaufin’) and separate entries for the ‘Striped Beaufin’ and ‘Red-fleshed Beaufin’ (the only mention of the latter that I’ve found). There’s also the ‘Hertfordshire Under-leaf’, along with ‘Norfolk Paradise’ and ‘Norfolk Storing’. I’ve still had no luck tracking down the mysterious Mr Stroud, though.[8]

A.F.M. Willich’s The Domestic Encylopedia (1801) provides a list of those apples “most esteemed for making cyder”, which includes one called the ‘Herefordshire under-leaf’. Note the change of a single letter. Could there have been two ‘under-leaf’ cyder apples from very similarly-named counties, or was one of them a mis-print, or an attempt to claim credit for the apple in another county? There are also a couple of intriguing entries a the list of “the most useful fruit-trees in domestic economy”: the ‘Been Apple’ and the ‘Streaked or Striped Apple, “of the Germans”. Both are said to be good culinary apples; could ‘Been’ be a contraction of ‘Beefing’? Or could the ‘Striped Beefing’ have a Germanic origin? There’s no evidence for either supposition.

A little further back, William Marshal’s The Rural Economy of Gloucestershire vol 2 (1796), which also covers Herefordshire, mentions the decline of the ‘old’ varieties of cider apple and lists those still grown, but includes no ‘Herefordshire-‘ names.

William Hanbury’s A Complete Body of Planting and Gardening (1770) has a list of 62 recommended apples, but no ‘Herefordshire-‘ or ‘Norfolk-‘ varieties. He does mention the plain ‘Costard’ though, that very old apple that seems to have been so widely grown and eaten in the C17th and C18th that most authors dismiss it as “needing no description”. Here though, Hanbury does describes it, as a “large, irregular apple, finely striped with red … in universal request for baking and [it] affords the best sauce yet known for a goose, roast pork and the like savoury meats.” Is it a stretch to wonder if the ‘Striped Beefing’ might be a candidate for a synonym? Or was ‘Costard’ simply a term applied to any number of cooking apples?

Ten years earlier, in The Compleat Cyderman (1754) William Ellis devotes a chapter to “the best Herefordshire cyder apples” but makes no mention of any variety named ‘Herefordshire-‘, only mentioninig the ‘Underleaf’ in reference to Miller’s Dictionary (see below). Hugh Stafford’s Treatise on Cyder Making (1753); recommends the ‘Herefordshire Red-streak’ in a list of the best Herefordshire and Devonshire cider apples.

Phillip Miller’s The Gardener’s Kalendar (1751) only gives us ‘Herefordshire Pearmain’, saying it should be in prime condition in November. The first edition of Miller’s Gardener’s Dictionary (1731) records the ‘Herefordshire Under Leaf’ as a cyder [sic] variety “held in the greatest esteem”. So perhaps it was Forysth who was later mis-informed, or his hand-writing was simply mis-read by the printer and his work was used as a source by Coxe in America?

In Pomona, or The Fruit Garden Illustrated (1729) Batty Langley lists three dozen recommended apples, but there’s nothing we can add to our own list.

In the The Practical Fruit Gardener (1724) by Stephen Switzer, rather intriguingly, amongst a list of apples that the author has heard are “esteem’d by some Persons”, is the plain ‘Herefordshire’. No further clue is given, by way of a suggested use for the apple, as to whether this could be the ‘Herefordshire Beefing’, the ‘Herefordshire Under Leaf’, the ‘Herefordshire Pearmain’ or something else entirely.

Seventeenth century pomology texts are few and far between for obvious reasons, but T. Langley’s Plain and Full Instructions to Raise all Sorts of Fruit-trees That Prosper in England (1696) has a short list of recommended varieties for summer and winter use, but no likely candidates. Then, in John Worlidge’s Vinetum Britannicum (1678), with its extensive variety lists, there’s this: “The ‘Underleaf’ is a Herefordshire Apple of a Rhenish-wine flavour, and may be accounted one of the best of Cider-Apples”. Worlidge also mentions the ‘Costard’ but says it is an apple he is not familiar with.

Before we summarise, let’s nip ahead a couple of centuries and take a quick look of the list of apples that were exhibited at the 1934 RHS Conference on Apples and Pears, just to see what was still being grown 50 years after Hogg’s Fruit Manual was published. This gathering of the finest fruits from the finest growers in the land was held at The Crystal Palace and amongst the apples exhibited were ‘Herefordshire Beefing (with the given synonym ‘Hereford Beaufin)’, ‘Herefordshire Pearmain’, ‘Norfolk Beefing’, ‘Norfolk Beauty’, ‘Norfolk Challenger’ and ‘Striped Beefing’.

It’s time for a summary table of the variants of ‘Herefordshire-‘, ‘Norfolk-‘, and ‘-Beefing’ / ‘-Beaufin’ / ‘-Biffin’ apples that we’ve discovered so far.

Edit 09.02.21 As was inevitable, a number of additional sources have come to my attention after posting this piece. I’ve added the relevant summary information in the table below, and the details of any author or variety name marked with a double asterisk [**] will be included in the ‘Addendum’ section, at the bottom of the footnotes. The addendum items are in chronological order of original publication date, so scroll down until you find the one you’re after.

Edit 06.01.22 Ongoing research for part II of this article, on the vast and sprawling nomenclature of the ‘Norfolk Biffin’ apple, has resulted on even more possible variants coming to light, from a great many more sources. Rather than continue to attempt to update this table, I’m saving the additional material for a revised version in part II.

1678Worlidge‘Underleaf’ (from Herefordshire)
1690‘A Lover of Planting’ [**]‘Underleaf’
‘Stocken Apple’ (of Herefordshire)
1731Miller‘Herefordshire Under-leaf’
1737Lemery [**]‘Herefordshire Pearmain’
1751Miller‘Herefordshire Pearmain’
1753Stafford‘Herefordshire Red-streak’
1754Ellis‘Herefordshire Underleaf’ (via Miller)
1755Hitt‘Baffen Pippin’
1795Rössler‘Herefordshire Pearmain’
1796Lindley, G [**]‘Beaufin’
= ‘Lincolnshire Beaufin’
= ‘Yorkshire Beaufin’
= ‘Norfolk Beefin’
‘Norfolk Paradise’
‘Norfolk Storing’
‘Red-fleshed Beaufin’
‘Striped Beaufin’
1798Nicol [**]‘Norfolk Beafing’ [**]
1801Willich‘Herefordshire Under-leaf’
‘Been Apple’ (only mention)
‘Streaked or Striped Apple’ “of the Germans”
1801Sickler [**]‘Norfolk Beaufin’
‘Lincolnshire Beaufin’
‘Yorkshire Beaufin’
‘Striped Beaufin’
‘Red fleshed Beaufin’
1801Stroud (via Forsyth papers according to Hogg, via Bull c. 1884)‘Hereford Beefin’
(≠ ‘Norfolk Beefing’)
1802Forsyth, 1st edtn‘Beaufin’
= ‘Norfolk Beaufin’ (later errata: “for Norfolk Beaufin read Norfolk Beefin”)
= ‘Lincolnshire Beaufin’
= ‘Yorkshire Beaufin’
‘Striped Beaufin’
‘Red-fleshed Beaufin’ (only mention)
‘Herefordshire Pearmain’
= ‘Winter Pearmain’
‘Hertfordshire Under-leaf’
1804 – 1812Brookshaw [**]‘Norfolk Beefin’
‘Norfolk Paradise’
1806Biggs (via Hort. Soc. Ldn.)‘Herefordshire Pearmain’
‘Norfolk Beaufin’
‘Norfolk Storer’
‘Norfolk Paradise’
‘False Beaufin’ (only mention)
1806Rundell [**]‘Biffin’
1812Nicol [**]‘Norfolk Beafing’
1813Hort. Soc. Ldn. Exhibition [**]‘Norfolk Beaufin’
1813Loudon [**]‘Norfolk Beafing’
1816Salisbury‘Herefordshire Pearmain’
‘Herefordshire Redstreak’ (only mention)
‘Norfolk Beafin’
‘Norfolk Paradise’
‘Norfolk Storing’
1817Coxe‘Hertfordshire Underleaf’
‘Royal Pearmain’
1818Hort. Soc. Ldn. Exhibition [**]‘Herefordshire Queening’ (only mention)
‘Norfolk Beaufin’
‘Norfolk Paradise’
‘Norfolk Storing’
1818Page [**]‘Norfolk Beaufin’
‘Norfolk Coleman’
‘Norfolk Paradise’
1820Forbes [**]‘Norfolk Beafing’
‘Norfolk Storeing’
1826HSL Chiswick Catalogue (1st ed)‘Millmount Beaufin’
‘Norfolk Beaufin’
‘White Beaufin’
‘Herefordshire Goose’
‘Herefordshire Monster’
‘Norfolk Coleman’
‘Norfolk Paradise’
‘Norfolk Pippin’
‘Norfolk Storing’
1828Lindley, J. [**]‘Norfolk Beaufin’
1829Chambers [**]‘Norfolk Beefin’
‘Norfolk Pippin’
‘Norfolk Storing’
‘Norfolk Greening’
‘Norfolk Paradise’
‘Winter Colman’
‘Norfolk Colman or Coalman’
1831Ronalds [**]‘Norfolk Beauffin’
‘Norfolk Storing’
1831HSL Chiswick Catalogue (2nd Ed)‘Norfolk Beaufin’
‘Suffolk Beaufin’
‘Herefordshire Goose’
‘Herefordshire Monster’
‘Norfolk Coleman’
‘Norfolk Paradise’
= ‘Millmount Beaufin’
‘Norfolk Pippin’ (=’Adam’s Pearmain’)
‘Norfolk Storing’
1831Lindley, G.‘Norfolk Beaufin’
= ‘Norfolk Beefin’
‘Norfolk Paradise’
‘Striped Beaufin’ (origin 1794, Lakenham Norwich)
‘Winter Colman’
= ‘Norfolk Coleman’
= ‘Norfolk Storing’
‘Norfolk Pippin’
‘Royal Pearmain’
= ‘Herefordshire Pearmain’
1831Robertson [**]‘Norfolk Beaufin’
1837Rogers [**]‘Norfolk Beau-fin’
‘Norfolk Paradise’
‘Norfolk Colmar’
‘Herefordshire Pearmain’
1841Lindley, J.{nothing}
1841White / Bliss [**]‘Norfolk Beefin’
‘Norfolk Storing’
‘Norfolk Paradise’
1842HSL Chiswick Catalogue (3rd Ed)‘Norfolk Beaufin’
= ‘Cat’s Head’
= ‘Cat’s Head Beaufin’
= Read’s Baker’
‘Suffolk Beaufin’
‘Herefordshire Goose’
‘Herefordshire Monster’
‘Norfolk Paradise’
= ‘Millmount Beaufin’
‘Norfolk Pippin’
=’Adam’s Pearmain’
‘Winter Colman’
= ‘Norfolk Coleman’
= ‘Norfolk Storing’
1843Lee and Lee [**]‘Norfolk Beaufin’
‘Norfolk Paradise’
1845Acton [**]‘Norfolk Biffin’
British Pomology
‘Norfolk Beefing’
= ‘Norfolk Beaufin’
= ‘Norfolk Beau-fin’
= ‘Norfolk Beefin’
= ‘Reeds Baker’
= ‘Catshead Beaufin’
‘Norfolk Paradise’
‘Norfolk Stone Pippin’
‘Striped Beefing’
1855Delamer‘Norfolk Biffin’
‘Striped Biffin’
1855McIntosh‘Herefordshire Pearmain’
‘Herefordshire Queening’
‘Norfolk Biffin’
‘Norfolk Beaufin’
= ‘Read’s Baker’
= ‘Catshead’
= ‘Catshead Beaufin’
1863RHS Chiswick Catalogue (4th Ed) [**]‘Heredfordshire Monster’ (cider)
‘Herefordshire Redstreak’ (‘Scudamore’s Crab’)
‘Herefordshire Sack’ (cider)
‘Herefordshire Underleaf’
‘Norfolk Bearer’
‘Norfolk Beaufin’
= ‘Norfolk Beefing’
= ‘Norfolk Beau-fin’
= ‘Cat’s Head’ (of some)
= ‘Cat’s Head Beaufin’
= ‘Read’s Baker’
‘Norfolk Paradise’
= ‘Millmount Beaufin’
Adam’s Pearmain
= ‘Norfolk Pippin’
‘Norfolk Stone Pippin’
= White Pippin
= White Stone Pippin
= Winter Stone Pippin
Winter Colman
= ‘Norfolk Storing’
1863Rivers (catalogue) [**]‘Norfolk Bearer’
‘Norfolk Beefing’
‘Striped Beefing’
1867Watts [**]‘Norfolk Beaufin’
= Norfolk Beefin
= Read’s Baker
1872Smee‘Norfolk Biffin’
‘Herefordshire Pearmain’
1874Du Breuil‘Norfolk Biffin’
‘Striped Biffin’
1875Woolhope Naturalists‘Norfolk Biffin’
= ‘Beefing’ (old?)
1876Bulmer (at Woolhope)‘Beefing’ (old)
1876-1885Hogg & Bull
‘Beefing’ (new)
–> ‘Herefordshire Beefing’
‘Striped Beefing’
‘Norfolk Beefing’
= ‘Norfolk Beaufin
= ‘Norfolk Beau-fin
= ‘Norfolk Beefin’
= ‘Catshead Beaufin’
= ‘Reed’s Baker’
= ‘Taliesin’
1883Cassel’s [*]‘Red Biffin’
1884Barron (RHS Exhibition of 1883) [**]‘Herefordshire Pearmain’
‘Norfolk Beefing’
= ‘Norfolk Bearer’
= ‘Norfolk Coleman’
= ‘Ramsden’
= ‘Red Beefing’
= ‘Winter Coleman’
= ‘Winter Beefing’
‘Norfolk Paradise’
‘Golden Ball’
= ‘Norfolk Storing’
‘Striped Beefing’
‘Underleaf’ (“worthless”)
‘Yellow Beefing’ (“worthless”) ‘Winter Majetin’
= ‘Yorkshire Beefing’
‘French Crab’
= ‘Green Beefing’ (only mention)
Fruit Manual 5th edtn
‘Herefordshire Beefing’
‘Herefordshire Costard’ (only mention)
‘Herefordshire Pearmain’
‘Herefordshire Spice’ (only mention)
‘Norfolk Bearer’
‘Norfolk Beefing’
= ‘Norfolk Beaufing’
= ‘Norfolk Beau-fin’
= ‘Norfolk Beefin’
= ‘Reed’s Baker’
= ‘Catshead Beaufin’
= ‘Taliesin’ (only mention)
‘Norfolk Paradise’
‘Norfolk Stone Pippin’
‘Striped Beefing’
‘Winter Colman’
= ‘Norfolk Colman’
= ‘Norfolk Storing’
as per Barron, ‘N Colman’ and ‘N Storing’ are therefore ‘N Beefing’?
1886Coleman [**]‘Herefordshire Beaufin’
‘Norfolk Beaufin’
= ‘Norfolk Beefing’
‘Striped Beaufin’
1920Bunyard [**]‘Norfolk Beefing’
= ‘Catshead Beaufin’
= ‘Red Beefing’
= ‘Taliesin’
= ‘Winter Beefing’
‘Norfolk Beauty’
‘Norfolk Dumpling’
‘Norfolk Stone Pippin’
‘Striped Beefing’
1934RHS Conference‘Herefordshire Beefing’
= ‘Hereford Beaufin’
‘Herefordshire Pearmain’,
‘Norfolk Beauty’
‘Norfolk Beefing’
‘Norfolk Challenger’
‘Striped Beefing’
2021Glos. Orchards Trust‘Herefordshire Beefing’
= ‘Blood Royal’
‘Norfolk Beefing’
= ‘Red Two Year Old’
Table1 – Historical records of ‘Herefordshire-‘, ‘Norfolk-‘ and ‘-Beefing’ apples

What Does All This Tell Us?

By trawling through old pomological works, I’ve been able to put together an extensive list of varietal names that includes identifications of the ‘Herefordshire Beefin(g)’ in 1801 and 1885, potential alternatives (‘Herefordshire Costard’, ‘False Beaufin’?), older apples that may or may not be linked (‘Beefing’, ‘Herefordshire’) and contemporaries with similar names (‘Herefordshire under-leaf’, ‘Herefordshire Pearmain’), as well as the mysterious ‘Herefordshire Goose’ and ‘Herefordshire Monster’ growing in the Chiswick Gardens of the Horticultural Society of London in 1831 and 1842. Could one of these last two be a re-named ‘Herefordshire Beefing’, perhaps by way of a jest at the expense of the departed William Forsyth at the hands of his chief rival, Thomas Knight, who was the driving force behind the Chiswick garden? We’ll never know, but given the apparent rivalry between the two, it’s tempting to speculate.

There are a few apparent facts that can be stated:

  • The ‘Herefordshire Beefin’ was first brought to the attention of William Forsyth by “Mr Stroud of Dorsetshire” around 1801, according to Robert Hogg.
  • There seem to be two Herefordshire apples named plain ‘Beefing’ in 1876. The first is an older variety which, according to Rev. Bulmer, could be equated with the ‘Norfolk Beefing’. The second was presented to the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club un-named, seems to have been temporarily labelled plain ‘Beefing’ to distinguish it from the ‘Norfolk Beefing’, and was quickly re-named ‘Herefordshire Beefing’ by Hogg (perhaps Rev. Bulmer alerted him to the older variety?) who subsequently found mention of that earlier ‘Herefordshire Beefing’ in Forsyth’s papers.
  • The ‘Herefordshire Beefing’, ‘Norfolk Beefing’ and ‘Striped Beefing’ have always been considered to be separate and distinct varieties, despite their general similarity.
  • Likewise, the ‘Herefordshire Pearmain’ and ‘Herefordshire Underleaf’ / ‘Underleaf’ were always considered distinct; one a dessert and the other a cider apple, whereas the various ‘Beefings’ were most commonly considered to be suitable for cooking or preserving into biffins. (Incidentally, there’s an interesting pattern emerging as to how and when the ‘Norfolk Beefing’ apple is given the synonym ‘Norfolk Biffin’9, as opposed to the term ‘biffin’ referring only to the dried and pressed product, but I’ll be writing more about the history and etymology of Beefing / Biffin in another blog post.)

As we’ve seen, it’s difficult to draw a firm conclusion as to how old the ‘Hereford(shire) Beefing’ variety really is, or where it originated. It’s entirely possible that the ‘Herefordshire Beefing’ as Hogg and Forsyth understood it, has been around since the early 18th century, in the guise of Switzer’s ‘Herefordshire’ apple. Or perhaps it was a sport or descendant of the ‘Norfolk Beefing’ or ‘Striped Beefing’, that was growing at Twickenham and then (possibly the same apple, possibly not) 75 years later in Dorsetshire.

The main problem is that back in the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries, there was nothing resembling a central authority or repository for apple variety names. Any apple farmer or private grower could deliberately re-label, accidentally mis-remember, or simply pronounce a variety name in their local dialect – dropping a ‘g’ to turn ‘beefing’ into ‘beefin’ for instance – and thereby give a long-established variety a different name. Or, as Hogg bemoaned, they might present a colloquially-named variety at an exhibition without a label, on the assumption that an expert would know the “book name” instead.

As a result, the application of multiple names to the same variety of apple was rife[10], even within the same county. It’s the sort of problem that led one author, who wrote and published the short volume On the Management of Orchards (1824) under the initials ‘J. H.’, to duck the issue of variety recommendation altogether, saying:

Not having resided long enough in the County of Devon to become acquainted with the different Apples that are cultivated, and having noticed the same Fruits to have different names in different districts, I shall not attempt to describe or enumerate the various sorts, but recommend the Farmers to be careful in observing the Orchards in their respective neighbourhoods, and to select for their own, those Apple Trees, which experience has shewn to be best suited to their particular situation and soil.

The Horticultural Society of London’s Chiswick collection was established in order to address this very issue, and comparing the variety lists from the catalogues from 1826 through 1831 to 1842 shows just how many duplicates and synonyms had already been identified via trial and observation. Even after the Garden was established there was still a temptation for nurseries to give a new name to a good variety of fruit in order to “introduce” their own, novel variety in an attempt to expand their range. It’s no wonder that the picture is so confusing, with so many possibilities as to the true names of individual varieties.

Wouldn’t it be great, though, if there was another way to get a definitive picture of the actual relationship between some of these apples, with a reasonable degree of certainty?

Part III – The Genetic ‘Beefing’

There are a number of currently-available modern pomonas, and books about heritage apples, that are a great source of information both on those varieties that are still going strong and those lost to us. I’m thinking of the likes of Heritage Apples by Caroline Ball, The New Book of Apples by Joan Morgan and Allison Richards, The Apple Book by Rosie Sanders, and The Illustrated World Encyclopedia of Apples by Andrew Mikolajski, to name a few.

I won’t be going through all of those looking for ‘Herefordshire’, ‘Norfolk’ and ‘Beefing’ apples, (but if you’d like to pick up the trail, be my guest). Because there’s already a reasonably definitive database of apple nomenclature: the National Fruit Collection database, maintained by the folk at Brogdale Collections, just outside Faversham in Kent.

The reason the National Fruit Collection database is so definitive is that large parts of it are backed up by genetic testing that was carried across the apple and pear collections at Brogdale out between 2006 and 2010. The testing was extremely rigorous – as the report into the full methodology and results shows – and resulted, as per a recent tweet from the @NFC_Fruit account in dozens of candidates for ‘deaccession’ (removal from the collection).

Most often this was because one variety was discovered to be genetically identical to another in the collection. It’s likely the apples in question were similar but with enough minor differences to maintain them as separate varieties, until the genetic testing was carried out. The inventory codes of the deaccessed varieties tell us that some of the duplicates had been in the collection since the 1920s, which goes to show how difficult it can be for even the absolute experts to spot a re-named variety.

What this means for the ‘Herefordshire Beefing’ and its extended clan is that if any two apple varieties are now listed separately in the National Fruit Collection database and each is marked with ‘SSC’ they’ve definitely been proven to be genetically distinct.

Searching for apples that include ‘Hereford’ in their name we do find the ‘Herefordshire Beefing‘ (SSC). A search for apples that include ‘Norfolk’ brings up the ‘Norfolk Beefing‘ (SSC). And searching for apples that include ‘beefing’ brings up… tell you what, how about another table? This time it’s an alphabetical listing of all the variants I’ve uncovered in the historical works, cross-referenced against the National Fruit Collection database to see what we can see.

In the table:
– A link is to a variety record in the N.F.C. database.
– (SSR) indicates the variety has been genetically tested and identified as distinct.
– (nic) refers to an apple that’s listed in the database but is not in the collection, and is not available elsewhere.

Historical NameNational Fruit Collection Database
Baffen Pippin{not included}
Beaufin{not included}
Beaufinette= Beaufinette (nic)
Beaufin Millemont= Norfolk Beefing (SSR)
Been{not included}
Blood Royal= Herefordshire Beefing (SSR)
Catshead / Cat’s Head= Catshead (SSR)
= Norfolk Beefing (SSR)
Cat’s Head Beaufin / Catshead Beaufin= Norfolk Beefing (SSR)
False Beaufin{not included}
Green Beefing= French Crab (SSR)
Hereford Beaufin (Beefing)= Herefordshire Beefing (SSR)
Herefordshire= Herefordshire Beefing (SSR)
Herefordshire Costard= Herefordshire Costard (nic)
Herefordshire Goose= Catshead (SSR)
Herefordshire Monster{not included}
Herefordshire Pearmain= ‘Pearmain‘ (nic)
Herefordshire Queening= Crimson Queening (SSR)
Herefordshire Redstreak{not included}
Herefordshire Spice= Herefordshire Spice (nic)
Herefordshire Underleaf= Herefordshire Underleaf (nic) (Tidnor)
Hertfordshire Under-leaf{not included}
Lincolnshire Beaufin{not included}
Millmount Beaufin
(Beaufin Millemont?)
= Norfolk Paradise (nic) (but if
Millmount Beaufin = Beaufin Millemont
∴ Millmount Beaufin = Norfolk Beefing
∴ Norfolk Paradise = Norfolk Beefing)
See also: Addendum
Norfolk Bearer= Norfolk Beefing (SSR)
Norfolk Beauty= Norfolk Beauty (SSR)
Norfolk Beafin
Norfolk Beafing
Norfolk Beaufin
Norfolk Beauffin
Norfolk Beau-fin
Norfolk Beaufing
Norfolk Beefin
Norfolk Biffin
= Norfolk Beefing (SSR)
Norfolk Challenger= Cellini (SSR)
Norfolk Colman
Norfolk Coleman
Norfolk Coalman
= Winter Colman ∴ = Norfolk Beefing (SSR)
Norfolk Dumpling= Norfolk Dumpling (nic)
Norfolk Paradise= Norfolk Paradise (nic) (but see also ‘Millmount Beaufin’ and Addendum)
Norfolk Pippin= Adam’s Pearmain (SSR)
Norfolk Stone Pippin= Norfolk Stone Pippin (nic)
Norfolk Storer{not included} (= ‘Norfolk Storing’?)
Norfolk Storing
Norfolk Storeing
= Winter Colman (see below)
Ramsden= Norfolk Beefing (SSR)
Read’s Baker
Reed’s Baker
= Norfolk Beefing (SSR)
Red Beefing= Norfolk Beefing (SSR)
Red Biffin= Norfolk Beefing (SSR)
Red-fleshed Beaufin{not included}
Red Two Year Old= Norfolk Beefing (SSR)
Striped Beaufin
Striped Beefing
Striped Biffin
= Striped Beefing (SSR)
Suffolk Beaufin= Suffolk Beaufin (nic)
Taliesin= Norfolk Beefing (SSR)
Underleaf= Underleaf (SSR)
Underleaf “from Herefordshire”= Herefordshire Underleaf (nic)
White Beaufin{not included}
Winter Beefing= Norfolk Beefing (SSR)
Winter Colman
Winter Coleman
= Norfolk Beefing (SSR) also “confused with Norfolk Beefing”
Yellow Beefing= Yellow Beefing (nic)
Yorkshire Beaufin = Winter Majetin (SSR)
Table 2 – Historical Varieties checked against N.F.C. Database records

Conclusions, or Otherwise…

So there we have it. As far as the genetic profiling carried out on the National Fruit Collection is concerned, the ‘Herefordshire Beefing’ is definitely a completely distinct variety from both the ‘Norfolk Beefing’ and the ‘Striped Beefing’[11]. Messrs Stroud, Forsyth and Hogg were all quite correct. And if only I’d checked the database first, I could have saved myself all the time and effort of ploughing through those old volumes. (But then, where would have been the fun in that?)

We do, however, have a few remaining enigmas to ponder. The likes of ‘Herefordshire Costard’, ‘Herefordshire Spice’ and ‘Beaufinette’ are listed as distinct in the National Fruit Collection database, but with no examples in the actual collection to compare to anything else, so they could still be synonyms for the ‘Herefordshire Beefing’. And the venerable ‘Herefordshire Under-leaf’ is listed as being available via the Tidnor Cider Apple Collection[12], but hasn’t been genetically tested to see whether it is in fact the same apple as the ‘Underleaf’ in the National Fruit Collection. It’s not a ‘-Beefing’ synonym though, that much is clear.

Some historical ‘Beaufin’ varieties (‘False’, ‘Red-fleshed’, ‘White’) are unlisted in the N.F.C. database, suggesting that they could well have been temporary names, mis-applied (deliberately or otherwise) to established ‘-Beefing’ varieties. Others, such as the ‘Suffolk Beaufin’ and ‘Lincolnshire Beaufin’ seem to have disappeared as well, but as they were only mentioned once apiece in the historical records I’ve sampled, surely they were always an example of regionally-inspired re-naming[13]? [Edit, 21.03.21: See Addendum item Thomas Hitt’s A Treatise of Fruit-Trees (1755) for another possible origin for the ‘Lincolnshire Beaufin’.]

The ‘Winter Colman’ is described in the N.F.C. database as “confused with the ‘Norfolk Beefing'” and is also given as a synonym via the ‘Norfolk Beefing’ entry, so that seems definitive. The ‘Norfolk Paradise’, which in 1831 was equated with the ‘Beaufin Millmount’, must surely be the same apple as the ‘Beaufin Millemont’. As the latter is listed as a synonym of ‘Norfolk Beefing’, I think we can conclude that the ‘Norfolk Paradise’ is yet another version of the ‘Norfolk Beefing’. Which, by the way, has no fewer than 28 listed synonyms in the N.F.C. database. These include ‘Red Beefing’ (does that account for the ‘Red-fleshed Beefing’?), ‘Yellow Beefing’, (no historical mention that I’ve found so far) and, rather bizarrely, given the very different colouring of the two apples, the ‘Catshead’[14].

The Catshead is the accepted name for that Chiswick Garden oddity, ‘Herefordshire Goose’ though, bringing us neatly back to its associate the ‘Herefordshire Monster’. That variety has only turned up in the Chiswick Garden catalogues of 1831 and 1842 and has no listing in the N.F.C. database. I still suspect Knight of enjoying a chuckle at the expense of Forsyth, but of course we’ll never know.

Anyhow, these are puzzles for another day. I really do think this blog post has already gone on quite long enough (and then some). Thank you for reading this far (seriously, well done if you have!) and do let me know, via the comments (after the Footnotes), if you have any thoughts, questions, suggestions or can provide any as-yet uncovered clues as to the origins of any of the apples in the extended ‘-Beefing’ clan.


More information on relevant varieties has come to my attention since I first posted this article. Rather than shoe-horn them into the original piece, I’ll add and update the detail here, along with any fresh ideas or conclusions that the new information might result in.

(If you arrived here via a double-asterisk link, please use the ‘back’ button for your browser or device to return to your starting point.)

(added 09.02.21) The Compleat Planter and Cyderist (1690) by ‘A Lover of Planting’, In a list of “some apples of great esteem in their respective Countries [sic]”: “The Underleaf in Herefordshire, and Apple of a Rhenishwine Flavor, and may be accounted one of the best Cyder Apples”, also “The Stocken Apple in Herefordshire, tho not known by that name in many places.” Which is intriguing…

(added 13.03.21) The Complete Family-piece; And, Country Gentleman, and Farmer’s, Best Guide (1737) by M. L. Lemery presents a Gardener’s Kalendar, including a month-by-month list of the apples that are ready in the fruit garden. Under November, we find the ‘Herefordshire Pearmain’.

(added 21.03.21) In A Treatise of Fruit-Trees (1755) by Thomas Hitt, there’s mention of a ‘Baffen Pippin’, which is listed as a good cooking apple in all three editions of the book, but doesn’t appear anywhere else. Hitt actually died in 1710 and his work was published posthumously (British Farmers Magazine, vol 23, p.108 (1853)). He might have written the manuscripts on which the book (and another, on husbandry) during his tenure as gardener to Lord Manners of Bloxholm, in Lincolnshire, or in his time as “a nurseryman and designer of gardens in Kent”. This might place the ‘Baffen Pippin’ in that county in the late C17th and early c18th. The fact that ‘Baffen’ is capitalised in the book (as is ‘Bridgewater Pippin’, but not ‘lemon pippin’ or ‘orange pippin’) suggests that the apple was named for a place or person and as there’s also a ‘Dr Bernard’s Apple’, it seems likely that Baffen is a place, otherwise it would be ‘Baffen’s Pippin’. Could this be the origin of the ‘Lincolnshire Beaufin’ mentioned in the HSL Chiswick catalogues?

(added 13.03.21) Mathias Rössler’s Pomona Bohemica (1795) is written in German in mostly gothic type, but foreign varieties are picked out in a plainer font, so you can spot the likes of ‘Herefordshire Pearmain’.

(added 06.11.21) George Lindley’s ‘A Plan of an Orchard’ (1796) seems to be in effect an advertisement for his Norwich-based fruit nursery business and orchard management service. It’s a hugely important document that lists a few dozen apple, pear and other fruit varieties which were recommended by Lindley towards the end of the eighteenth century. This list must surely have fed directly into a great many of the early nineteenth century works on pomology, including those by Forsyth, the Hort. Soc. London, and of course Lindley’s own son, John, who edited George’s 1831 work A Guide to the Orchard and Kitchen Garden.

(added 11.03.21) In The Scotch Forcing and Kitchen Gardener (1798) by Walter Nicol there’s a list of apples recommended for growing on espaliers that includes the ‘Norfolk Beafing’, and the variety is mentioned again in the appendix, on orchard culture.

(added 13.03.21) Volume 15 of Der Teutsche Obstgärtner (1801), edited by Johann Volkmar Sickler, laments the confusion of apple names in England, as in Germany, citing the example of the new group of ‘Beaufin’ apples. He then cites the examples given in the table, which is an identical list to that published by Forsyth in the first edition of his Treatise a year later. Did Forsyth correspond with Sickler and share his list, or was Sickler getting his information elsewhere, and Forsyth then copied the list from Sickler’s magazine?

(added 23.03.21) George Brookshaw’s lavishly illsutrated Pomona Britannica (1804 – 1812) contains a colour illustration, on plate XCII, of both the ‘Norfolk Beefin’ and the ‘Norfolk Paradise’. Although ‘Norfolk Beefing’ is given as the spelling in modern sources, including the Taschen Books’ reproduction of the colour plates (irritatingly published without the accompanying descriptive text), The Book of Fruits (2005), the spelling is given as ‘Norfolk Beefin’ by a (presumed) quote from the Pomona in Alicia Amherst’s A History of Gardening in England (1895) on p.284, in which the author lists several varieties of apple to be found in Brookshaw’s volume that are “still favourites”.

(added 06.11.21) Mary Rundell mentioned the ‘Biffin’ apple as being one of two recommended for drying, in A New System of Domestic Cookery (1806).

(added 15.03.21) Walter Nicol (or rather, his editor, as the book was published posthumously) sticks to the ‘Norfolk Beafing’ spelling in The gardener’s Kalendar (1812).

(added 13.02.21) An example of the ‘Norfolk Beaufin’ was exhibited at a meeting of the Horticultural Society of London in November 1813, according to the Transactions, vol II. Possibly by Mr John Mahers of Edmonton (in North London)?

(added 13.03.21) In 1818, at another exhibition of apples at the London Horticultural Society, Mr William Morgan of North Mimms Place (now North Mymms Park) in Hertfordshire showed a selection of apples that included the ‘Herefordshire Queening’, which the LHS thought “merits particular notice, for its size and firmness of flesh. This is an Apple which deserves more general cultivation for the kitchen.” The ‘Norfolk Beaufin’ was also exhibited, along with the ‘Norfolk Storing’ and ‘Norfolk Paradise’, all of which are actually the same apple: the ‘Norfolk Beefin’.

(added 15.03.13) In A General History of the County of Norfolk (1829) by John Chambers there’s are two lists of “fruits said to be indigenous in Norfolk … probably, many are varieties originally raised here, or,from an adaptation to our soil and climate, may flourish among us in an eminent degree.” Top of the list is ‘Norfolk Beefin’ and then a number of unique varieties that I haven’t encountered elsewhere, including “the Norfolk colman, or coalman, from its dark colour”, which, as we know from later sources, is another synonym of the ‘Norfolk Beefin’.

(added 11.03.21) From John Rogers’ The Fruit Cultivator (1837): “Norfolk Beau-fin’ – An apple which keeps from November to May. How it happens to have a French name is not known, unless it was originally introduced into Norfolk from France, which is likely enough.”

(added 11.03.21) Hugh & Elizabeth Ronalds’ Pyrus Malus Brentfordiensis (1837) lists the ‘Norfolk Beauffin’ [sic] “a well-known Norfolk apple, much used for drying and baking”, and ‘Norfolk Storing’. The colour illustration of the ‘Norfolk Beauffin’ (plate XXXIII) shows a deep maroon-coloured apple, quite different to the ‘Norfolk Storing’ (on the same plate), “a little larger than the ‘Norfolk Beauffin’, and of a lighter red colour, the flesh is tenderer, more juicy, and of a richer flavour.”

(added 15.03.21) George Bliss (or George M. White, depending on which source you take for the author’s name) included in the second edition of The Fruit Grower’s Instructor (1842) descriptions of those apples commonly in cultivation at the time, including the ‘Norfolk Beefin’, ‘Norfolk Paradise’ and ‘Norfolk Storing’, all of which are, in fact, the same apple: the ‘Norfolk Beefin’.

(added 15.03.21) John Claudius Loudon’s Hints on the Formation of Gardens and Pleasure Grounds (1813) contains a list of “fruits, suitable for the gardens of small villas” in which “regard has been had more to the quantity and excellence of the fruit, than to the variety of sorts.” Includes ‘Norfolk Beafing’, with Nicol’s spelling.

(added 15.03.21) Short Hints on Ornamental Gardening (1820) by Alexander Forbes includes a chapter on Fruit Trees, with recommended variety lists that include the ‘Norfolk Beafing’ and ‘Norfolk Storeing’.

(added 22.03.21) Volume III of John Lindley’s Pomological Magazine (1828) has a brief mention of the ‘Norfolk Beaufin’ in a list of apples suitable for growing in the midlands or southern counties, with the comment “Excellent for drying”.

(added 22.03.21) The Fruit Cultivator’s Manual, Thomas Bridgeman
Norfolk Beaufin “ripens in November and is frequently to be obtained in England in July following.”

(added 06.11.21) Eliza Acton suggested using the ‘Norfolk Biffin’ for making ‘Black Caps par Excellence’ and mentioned dried Norfolk Biffins in another recipe, in the first (1845) through fourteenth editions of Modern Cookery. From the 15th (1855) onwards she included an actual recipe for making ‘Dried Norfolk Biffins’ as well. It’s interesting to note that the ‘Biffin’ spelling only seems to appear in culinary sources – such as Eliza Rundell’s Modern Cookery (1806), and James Gidney’s 1820 advertisement – and not in pomology sources, until round about the time of Acton’s runaway bestseller.

(added 17.03.21) The Fourth edition of the H.S.L. (by now the R.H.S.) Catalogue of Fruit Trees Grown at Chiswick (via the Proceedings of the RHS vol 3, 1863) lists a number of ‘Herefordshire-‘ and ‘Norfolk-‘ apples, including the ‘Herefordshire Monster’ and ‘Herefordshire Sack’, both identified as cider apples, and the latter later discovered to be a synonym of the ‘Devonshire Quarrenden’. ‘Norfolk Beaufin’ is also given as the primary nomenclature in preference to ‘Norfolk Beefing’ (which I imagine might have annoyed Robert Hogg no end.)

(added 17.03.21) The 1863 Descriptive Catalogue of Fruit Trees, from the Thomas Rivers and Sons nursery, lists the ‘Norfolk Bearer’, ‘Norfolk Beefing’ (“very large, excellent for drying”), ‘Striped Beefing’ and ‘Winter Colman’.

(added 02.04.21) In Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery (1883) “Biffins – These apples are prepared by exposure to a very gentle heat, and the process is long. They require to be put into a cool oven many times, perhaps seven or eight, and to be pressed after each baking. If the oven be too hot at first, the biffins will waste, and the pressing must be slowly and gently done. The Red Biffin or Minshul Crab are the sorts selected for drying. They should be stewed either in milk or wine.” The ‘Red Biffin’ being an alternate pronunciation version of the ‘Red Beefing’ (mentioned below).

(added 09.02.21) British apples: report of the Committee of the National Apple Congress, held in the Royal Horticultural Gardens, Chiswick, October 5th to 25th, 1883 (1884) by Mr A. F. Barron

Among the lists of apples presented at the exhibition that were highly recommended are several examples of ‘Norfolk Beefing’. There’s a list its synonyms as well: ‘Norfolk Bearer’, ‘Norfolk Coleman’, ‘Ramsden’, ‘Red Beefing’, ‘Winter Coleman’, and ‘Winter Beefing’. And in the full list of all cultivars exhibited, we also find: ‘Herefordshire Pearmain’, ‘Norfolk Paradise’ (not equated with ‘Norfolk Beefing’, said to closely resemble ‘Wyken Pippin’ instead), ‘Norfolk Storing’ (=’Golden Ball’), ‘Striped Beefing’, ‘Underleaf’ (“worthless”), ‘Yellow Beefing’ (“acid, mawkish; worthless”) and ‘Yorkshire Beefing’ (=’Winter Majetin’), plus a few other ‘Herefordshire-‘ and ‘Norfolk-‘ pippin-types.

Best of all though, in a list of the apples from the Cranston Nursery Company of Herefordshire is mention of ‘the New Herefordshire Beefing’, which suggests that the apple introduced and named at the Woolhope club was being developed for commercial use a few years later. The Breinton Parish website has more information about the company in question:

“In Breinton, Cranston & Mayos Nurseries, later known as Kings Acre Nurseries and once prominent along Kings Acre Road, have played a major part in the development of commercial apples and pears, – for cider and perry as well as for eating.

A new cooking apple, the Byford Wonder was introduced by Cranston’s Nursery and Seed Company Ltd. in 1894. Later, the King’s Acre Pippin, a cross between a Sturmer Pippin and a Ribston Pippin, was introduced by King’s Acre Nurseries in 1898, and also the King’s Acre Bountiful, a cooking apple, in 1904. This was a richly-flavoured, high quality fruit.”

Both the ‘Byford Wonder’ and the ‘King’s Acre Bountiful‘ are in the National Fruit Collection and both have an SSR mark so they’re definitely distinct from the ‘Herefordshire Beefing’. But their parentage isn’t recorded, so there could be some ‘Beefing’ in their make-up.

(added 24.04.21) 1886 – In a letter to The Garden Magazine headed ‘Neglected Apples’, a W. Coleman of Eastmore Castle, Ledbury, Herefordshire, Talks about The Beaufins: “Our county having become famous for ‘Biffins’, by the rediscovery of the handsome Herefordshire Beaufin, I must say a few words in their favour…” and goes on to mention the Norfolk Beefing growing well in Herefordshire, also saying: “This is the variety which produces the dried fruits sold by confectioners as Norfolk Biffins.” Coleman also mentions the Striped Beaufin and then the Herefordshire Beaufin: “…so named by pomologists after seeing some highly coloured fruit at the Apple show of the Woolhope Naturalists’ Field Club, held at Hereford in 1876. Like the old Norfolk Beaufin, this is an excellent culinary Apple, and naturally has the valuable property of drying well in the oven, for which purpose all the Beaufins will pay for extended cultivation. But whether this Herefordshire Beaufin will prove anything more than a highly coloured sample from an old and possibly a starved tree remains to be proved by the Cranston Nursery Company, as it is from this establishment that trees are now being distributed.” (see above re: Cranston Nurseries).

(added 09.02.21) I’ve spotted under the entry for ‘Norfolk Paradise’ in The Fruit Manual 5th edition (1884) by Robert Hogg that he says of the apple: “Its name seems to indicate a Norfolk origin, but I never could find it in any part of the county.” Although according to British Pomology (1851) this quote is attributed to “Lindley”, either George (most likely) or John. Either way, it would make sense if – as suggested via the connections between synonyms demonstrated under ‘Millmount Beaufin’ – the ‘Norfolk Paradise’ was widely grown in Norfolk under it’s actual name, ‘Norfolk Beefing’. Perhaps ‘Norfolk Paradise’ was a nurseryman’s re-naming to make it sound more appealing?

(added 17.03.21) A Handbook of Hardy Fruits More Commonly Grown in Great Britain (1920), Edward A. Bunyard
Contains a detailed entry for ‘Norfolk Beefing’ with given synonyms as per the table. “Origin, Norfolk; brought into notice about 1800. A useful late fruit, keeping plump till the end.” Bunyard also lists the ‘Norfolk Beauty’ (new introduction in 1902), ‘Norfolk Dumpling’ (origin undiscovered), and ‘Norfolk Stone Pippin’. He also has an entry for ‘Striped Beefing’, in which he says “Origin, probably English. Found in Norfolk and introduced to general cultivation about 1850.” Which suggests that Bunyard hadn’t read George Lindley or checked any of the early editions of the HSL / RHS Chiswick catalogues. The book doesn’t contain a single ‘Herefordshire-‘ apple.

(added 21.03.21) A late addition to the nomenclature, via the Gloucestershire Orchards Trust and the ongoing DNA analysis that they’re running on their county-wide apple collection, the January 2021 Update on the Native Apples of Gloucestershire, which compiles all the ongoing research lists ‘Blood Royal’ as a DNA match for ‘Herefordshire Beefing’ and ‘Red Two Year Old’ as a DNA match for Norfolk Beefing. Both these names are new to the Beefing list and demonstrate how easy it is for a ‘new’ local synonym to accrue to an apple that’s actually well documented and established already.

(added 06.07.21) Another mention of ‘Norfolk Beaufin’ can be found in The Orchard and Fruit Garden: Their Culture and Produce by Elizabeth Watts. In the section on ‘keeping apples’, Watts describes the Beaufin as “a kind which deserves a place in the garden, if there be room to spare. Like baking pears and quinces, it is of no use except for cooking” and gives the pseudonyms ‘Norfolk Beefin’ and ‘Read’s Baker’.

(added 06.07.21) In The Apple in Ireland: Its History and Varieties by J. D. G. Lamb (1951) reference is made to an 1831 catalogue from Robertson’s nursery in Kilkenny that lists ‘Norfolk Beaufin’ under late keeping apples.

(added 25.07.21) Page’s Prodromus; as a General Nomenclature of all the Plants Cultivated in the Southampton Botanic Gardens (1818) lists recommended apple varieties, including ‘Norfolk Beaufin’, ‘Norfolk Coleman’ and ‘Norfolk Paradise’. It’s unclear from the accompanying text whether all the apples listed are indeed grown in the botanic garden, or whether these are just recommendations.

(added 25.07.21) Another mention for the ‘Norfolk Beaufin’ over in the U.S. this time in The American Gardener’s Magazine and Register of Useful Discoveries and Improvements in Horticulture and Rural Affairs vol 1 (1835) edited by Hovey and Hovey. A New York nurseryman by the name of Michael Floy included the Beaufin in a list of winter apples of particularly good quality and marked it as “fully equal to the American sorts … well worthy of a general cultivation throughout the country“.

(added 26.07.21) The ‘Norfolk Beaufin’ and ‘Norfolk Paradise’ apples are included in a list of cultivars available from John and Charless Lee, Nursery and Seedsmen in Hammersmith, according to the Catalogue of fruit trees, cultivated and sold by John and Charles Lee for 1843.


[1] Twitter gets a lot of bad press – and quite rightly so – for being a place where angry, hate-filled trolls like nothing better than to attack people’s views and opinions without fear of consequence. But isn’t always a cess-pool of bile and vitriol, you just have to be careful who you engage with. And in these times of social isolation and the challenges to our mental health that this brings, it can be a lifeline of contact with like-minded people who share similar interests and quirky fascinations.

As long as you watch where you tread, try to remain polite and courteous at all times (tweet as if you were speaking to someone face-to-face and can see their immediate reactions would be my advice) and remember to never feed the trolls, you should be fine. [back]

[2] A ‘variety’ – as applied here to apples – is a type that has arisen naturally, either as a wilding or chance seedling. Examples would be ‘Granny Smith’, ‘Bramley’s Seedling’, ‘Monty’s Surprise’ and ‘Braeburn’ apples, all of which were discovered growing as seedlings, or were the result of planting random apple seeds, which were then propagated and developed by orchardists due to their superior characteristics.

A ‘cultivar’ is a ‘cultivated variety’, is a type that has been deliberately bred by manual pollination from selected parent varieties in an attempt to combine the best characteristics of both into something new that’s even better (and therefore, usually has great commercial potential). An example would be the recent American introduction ‘Cosmic Crisp’, which is the off-spring of ‘Honeycrisp’ and ‘Enterprise’ and the result of an intensive breeding programme by the Washington State University.

The lines between the two terms are easily blurred and are dependent on accurate knowledge of the history of the variety or cultivar in question, so tend to be inter-changeable for general use. [back]

[3] I’ve spent a fair amount of time sourcing and downloading historical pomology texts (which is just the sort of quiet, middle-aged fun that I enjoy and helps to keep me off the streets, which is handy in a lockdown). I’ve compiled a list, with links to the online sources where applicable, in a Google Spreadsheet, which you should be able to view and follow links from, if you’re interested in taking a look. [back]

[4] Spoiler alert: it is the same apple, as the N.F.C. database confirms… [back]

[5] There seems to be an archive of Forsyth’s correspondence in the RHS Lindley Library, and another at The Royal Botanic Garden, Kew but I can’t find an easily available digital version so I haven’t been able to access the original and check for a sending address, which would have been interesting to know. [back]

[6] The Chiswick collection was later transferred to (or re-established?) at RHS Wisley as the ‘National Fruit Trials and Collections’ and then transferred to its present location at Brogdale in Kent in the 1950s, where the National Fruit Collection still thrives to this day. [via brogdaleonline.co.uk] [back]

[7] In The Fruit Manual Dr Hogg tells us: “The name of this apple is sometimes written Beaufin, as if of French origin ; but it is more correctly Beefing, with a good English ring, from the similarity the baked fruit presents to beef.” [back]

[8] The UK census records don’t provide detail as far back as 1801 (the year of the first national census), so there’s no help there. Aside from the mention of ‘Mr Stroud of Dorsetshire’, all I’ve been able to find is in what seems to be a rather indignant rebuttal by Thomas Knight to something apparently said by J. C. Loudon, published in vol. V of Loudon’s Gardener’s Magazine and Register of Rural & Domestic Improvement (1826) in which Knight cites “Mr. Stroud, who has long been in the service, and now travels for, Mr. Miller of Bristol” as a character witness to his own apparently impeccable pineapple growing credentials. The same Mr Stroud? Impossible to say. [back]

[9] I have some ideas about how and why ‘Norfolk Beefing’ ‘Norfolk Biffin’ became confused and conflated, but I’ll be going into them, in detail in another blog post (you might be glad to hear). [back]

[10] It’s a problem that still continues today (in the guise of “re-branding”, “re-positioning”, “re-imagining” and any other marketing-bingo terms, I’m sure), as this Tweet from the thread, responding to a comment I made about C19th nurseries having a habit of re-naming good varieties of fruit in order to claim them as new and original, demonstrates:


[11] Although I’m not quite sure whether the results of the testing indicate whether any of them are the parent, or possibly a sport, of the others, which would be interesting to look into. The origin story of the ‘Striped Beefing’ is told by Hogg in British Pomology:

This noble apple was introduced by Mr. George Lindley, who found it growing in 1794, in the garden of William Crowe, Esq., at Lakenham near Norwich … It does not seem ever to have been in general cultivation, as it is not mentioned in any of the nursery catalogues; nor is it enumerated in that of the London Horticultural Society.

The fact that it was apparently found growing in a garden in and Hogg thought it possibly the only one of its kind until he started propagating it. suggests it was a chance seedling, quite possibly from a ‘Norfolk Beefing’. The ‘Herefordshire Beefing’ was first mentioned in 1801 growing in [back]

[12] The Tidnor Cider Apple Collection was established and curated for 25 years by Henry May until 2016 when – as Mar May was moving to France – it was adopted by the National Trust and divided between a number of their sites. Some of the varieties also seem to have been established amongst the 1400-strong apple collections at Megginch Castle in Perthshire. Guess which Scottish location has just shot to the top of my post-pandemic must-visit list. [back]

[13] What stout, apple farming yeoman, full of pride for their home county, would grow a ‘Norfolk Beefing’ in Suffolk or Lincolnshire if a ‘Suffolk Beefing’ or ‘Lincolnshire Beefing’ was available instead? Yorkshire clearly tried to claim their own Beefing as well, but have been defeated by genetic sequencing and will have to settle for ‘Winter Majetin’, but for Suffolk and Lincolnshire the dream lives on… if there are any examples of the apple growing anywhere. [back]

[14] If the fruit of the ‘Catshead’ that we grow in the heritage orchard at Ordsall Hall is anything to go by, this clearly a completely different apple to the ‘Norfolk Beefing’. Although to be fair, it’s definitely a yellow apple and it is of ‘Beefing’ size. [back]


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    Edit, 06.01.22 – It turns out this is highly unlikely to be the origin story after all. Further researsh, for part II of this article, suggests a rather different point of origin for the ‘Striped’ variant of the Beefing. More detail to follow in said part II…

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