Thursday, 24 December 2015

Mr Ablethorpe's orchard at Gembrook

The Leader newspaper of March 14 1903 had an interesting report on the Beaconsfield, Gembrook and Pakenham Horticultural and Fruit Growers' Association. The report said that it was one of the 'most progressive of  its kind in Victoria' and was one of the largest in the State. The article continues on describing some of the orchards in the area and finishes up with an interesting description of Mr Ablethorpe's farm at South Gembrook, which grew a veritable cornucopia of  fruits and berries.  You can read the full article here on Trove.

Charles and Emma Ablethorpe are listed in the 1903 Electoral Roll at Gembrook South. Charles died in 1904 at the age of 67 and is buried at Pakenham Cemetery. Emma is listed in the 1909 Electoral Roll and Emma is still at Gembrook South in the 1913 Rolls. Emma married Henry Lello in 1919, and they lived in Northcote and she died July 5, 1922 and Henry died three years later. We have met Emma before in this blog as she was one of 30,000 Victorian women who signed a petition agitating for female suffrage in 1891. You can read more about this here.

Here is the account of Mr Ablethorpe's orchard

Twelve years ago Mr. C. Ablethorpe established a 9-acre orchard at South Gembrook, and, in conjunction with his son-in-law, Mr. Warren, this small plantation has been worked without the aid of outside labor. There are some remarkable examples of the district's adaptability to fruit culture, as the trees and plants comprise apples, pears, peaches, oranges, lemons, plums, quinces, grapes, wineberries, tree tomatoes, chestnuts, white and red currants, gooseberries, Cape gooseberries,
raspberries, strawberries, figs, cherries, loquats and other fruits. Some apricot trees were chopped out, and black currants fail to set. Peaches and gooseberries form the leading fruits in this compact but prolific orchard, and the results are attained solely by means of hand cultivation. A vine hoe (a five pronged implement) is used. The orchard  being on a steep slope the soil is pulled over once a year by means of the long prongs, the only other implement used being an ordinary hoe. The growth of tree tomatoes here is remarkable, and as Mr. Ablethorpe often receives up to 14/ per case, and never less than 4/, it is surprising that more attention is not given by gardeners to this ornamental and profitable plant. There are 4000 gooseberry bushes, producing an annual average of 10 tons of fruit, the yield sometimes reaching as high as 15 tons. The fruit trees are planted at 24 feet distances with gooseberry bushes 8 feet apart in two rows between the trees. 

Mention might be made of the work carried on by several other growers in Gembrook and Beaconsfield, but at present Mr. Ablethorpe's orchard may be noted as a remarkable example of what can be done on a few acres in the Gembrook and Beaconsfield districts. Nine acres have practically supported two families for the past twelve years, and the limit of production is certainly not yet in sight.

Gathering gooseberries at Gembrook (c. 1882 to 1902)
Photographer: Charles Rudd  
State Library of Victoria Image H39358/73

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