Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Worcester’s black pear

A black pear – a form of pear, Pyrus communis, which produces dark coloured fruits – is featured on the Worcestershire county coat of arms, and elsewhere, and it is said that Worcestershire bowmen who fought at Agincourt in 1415 had pears emblazoned on their standard.  The pear, known either as Worcester Black, or Black Worcester, was reputedly brought to Worcester by monks from Warden Abbey in Bedfordshire, where ‘the pear, or at least a pear, appears in monastic reference as far back as the thirteenth century’.  Today the name Warden, or Wordon, pear is given to ‘a group of large hard pears that never ripen fully and so are only any good as culinary or cooking fruit’.

A particularly well-known Black Pear  is the one planted in Cripplegate Park, Worcester, by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) to commemorate the park’s opening in 1932.  At one time the city council attracted ridicule by cordoning off two trees in the park, attaching notices to the trees ‘Warning pears falling’. Recent studies suggest that the Prince’s tree and other trees of about the same age are not true black pears, but DNA evidence shows that trees sold in recent years as Worcester Blacks are identical to ‘some of the Bedfordshire trees’, thus the belief that the Blacks originated from Warden Abbey could be true.

Major sources of information:

Wade Muggleton, ‘The Black Worcester Pear’, Worcestershire Record 40: 40-4, 2016.                                                                                                                                Wade Muggleton, ‘Will the real Black Worcester Pear please step forward’, Worcestershire Record 42: 40-2, 2017.

Images:  main, black pear tree depicted on Worcester Diocese Mothers Union banner, in Worcester Cathedral; upper inset, tree in grounds of The Hive, Worcester; lower inset, Worcester City coat of arms, as depicted on city litter bins; all September 2021.