John Worlidge, on Growing Pears for Perry

“There are some forts of Land on which Apple-trees will not prosper well and are more apt for the Pear tree ; as the cold, gravelly, clayish, wilde, and stony land, on which this Tree, especially the more wilde sort of Pear will thrive exceeding well.

The Pear, when it has room enough to spread,
Where it has warmth sufficient over head,
If it be seconded by the wet ground,
With Blooms and swelling Fruits will be crown’d

Perry being near of kin, for its excellency, to Cider and the Pear-tree far exceeding the Apple-tree for its greatness and fruitfulness ; there having been one very lately, not far from Ross in Herefordshire that was as wide in the Circumference as three men could encompass with their extended arms, and of so large a head that the Fruit of it yielded seven Hogsheads of Perry in one year, as I was credibly informed.

The Choakie Pears of Worcestershire and those adjacent parts, or the Horse Pear, and Bareland pear, and Bosbury pear, are esteemed the best for the Press, bearing almost their weight of excellent Liquor. The more coloured any Pear is the better.”

John Worlidge, Vinetum Britannicum (1678)

Or in other words: “Soggy ground? Plant a perry pear tree!”

Perhaps not quite as eloquent as Mr. Worlidge’s pair of rhyming couplets, but I think that’s a good-enough summary of his advice.

The National Perry Pear Collection, based at the National Perry Pear Centre in Hartpury, Gloucestershire, includes the ‘Bareland’ a.k.a. ‘Barland‘ pear, although it doesn’t look like ‘Choakie’, ‘Horse Pear’ or ‘Bosbury’ have survived the intervening centuries.

Having said that, ‘Bosbury’ is given as the potential original location of the ‘Barland’, so the two varieties may be synonymous. And there’s a ‘Moorcroft‘ pear which has the synonyms ‘Choke Pear’ and ‘Chokers’, so that one might just be related to ‘Choakie’?

I suspect that ‘Horse Pear’ was probably a generic term for a large, robust type (as per horseradish?) or one that was usually fed to horses (as per horse chestnut?) although Googling the term just results in endless iterations of the question “can horses eat pears?” (answer: yes, “pears are an excellent treat for horses, and they are extremely healthy for them”, in case you were wondering.)

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