Everyone has heard of a Cox’s Orange Pippin, which accounts for half the apple sales in the UK. But when I was researching Joseph Griffin, I discovered a different kind of pippin apple, the Pound Pippin, which I had never heard of before. It proved difficult in fact to find anything out at all about a Pound Pippin. It isn’t listed on any of the apple websites and the idea of an apple weighing in at as much as pound a time seems likely a crop would break a tree before it would ripen.
After a little research I discovered the first mention of a Pound Pippin was in 1840, when a man called Marshall from Cheddar grew a 14 1/2 ounce apple. Sadly, this is the only mention of it. Was it the only one on the tree? Where had the seedling come from? Pippin refers only to the fact that the tree has been grown from seed. At this date, a Cox’s Orange Pippin was a new introduction and not sold commercially until 1850. So the parentage of the Pound Pippin remains a mystery. It is possible, that as is suggested with a Cox’s pippin, one of the parents was the long lived Ribston Pippin, which was grown from French seed and was definitely grown in Somerset at this time.
The second mention of the Pound Pippin is on a whole new scale, when Joseph Griffin of Congresbury grows a 22 ounce apple in 1842 and exhibits it at the Clevedon Agricultural Show.
It is clear, that at this date, big is beautiful at the Clevedon Show, From super sized vegetables and fruit to massive pigs and machinery for turning supersized cheeses!
Curiously, having made this great entrance to apple exhibiting, Joseph Griffin returns to his more established pursuit of stock showing and all goes quiet on the giant apple front.
The next mention of a Pound Pippin is not until 1863 and then it is on the other side of the Atlantic!
To me, keeping one’s apples packed in dry fertiliser doesn’t seem the most appetising of storage methods, but the Victorians were far less worried about such things and it would seem so were the Americans of Victorian times. Keeping a large crop of apples can be difficult even now and those not bred for their longevity, as we have today, would doubtlessly spoil very easily.
The question about this article is whether he means the Pound Pippin, or whether the writer in Devon has attributed the name to his apple?
A year later, on 15th November 1864, the Western Times discusses the dessert apples shown at the Devon Botanical and Agricultural Society Show. The Pound Pippin is mentioned, but no prize is given. The list of apples shown and given prizes is full of character and amazingly long- Braddick’s Non Pariel, Cox’s Golden Drop, Cornish Gillflower, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Golden Reinette (no award this year), Hertfordshire Pearmain (only one entry!), Lemon Orange, Maigre, Martin’s Non Pariel, Old Golden Pippin, Pearson’s Plate, Red Ribbed Greening, Ribston Pippin, Sam Young (no award this year), Stormer Pippin, Taunton Golden Pippin, Winter Warden (no award this year), Anysort Prize (a collection of no less than 12 sorts with two of a sort), Dressing Apples, Alexander, Blenheim Orange, Dunelow’s Seedling, and the Fair Maid of Wiltshire, Ford’s Flat, Golden Harvey, Hawthornden, Keswick Codlin, King of Pippins, Knott’s Seedling, Irish Red Streak, Lord Nelson, Monstrous Pippin, Warner’s King….the colour, smell and general excitement of the show can be felt in the massive choice and wonderful names. Was a Monstrous Pippin more or less than a Pound Pippin? Was Ford’s Flat a placename, or was it a flat apple! To my knowledge, few of these varieties have made it to modern consumption.
A few years goes by without mention of a Pound Pippin. Then, in 1870, J. Burch, Cottager wins first prize and Mr C. Adams, second. In the description of the Show of Chrysanthemums and Summer Fruits, Devon in November 1870 the Western Times describes them thus-
“J. Burch, Cottager, who successfully competes with the dwellers of mansions”
“Mr C. Adams, our City Amateur”
Mr C. Adams is almost impossible to find. John Burch however, of Dawlish Water Cottages, Dawlish, was born in about 1819 and lived in Dawlish all his life. There seems absolutely no connection with the Griffin Family. Sadly, the weights of Burch’s apples are not given, so we have no idea if his apples weighed in at Joseph Griffin’s supreme 22 ounces. Was Joseph’s apple the heaviest ever recorded? I would love to know. Like Joseph, Burch seems to have retired in glory from apple exhibiting. Perhaps the tree was short lived. Certainly, I can find no mention of the Pound Pippin existing after 1870 and I have no way of knowing how common a tree it was during this period.
Incidentally, John Burch’s wife was called Grace Cox. Again, there seems no connection with Richard Cox, breeder of the Cox’s Orange Pippin, even if I would rather have liked there to be!