Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Mr Bailey's Orchard at Narre Warren

In the 1890s William and Frances (Fanny) Bailey settled in Narre Warren North and established the first commercial orchard in the area. William was born in Harrow in England, the son of a farmer (1). William arrived in Victoria in 1861 for the purpose of learning the nursery and horticultural business from his uncle, who owned the well-known Coles' Nursery at Hawthorn. For ten years Bailey worked for his uncle and then bought what was the first plant nursery in Malvern on land adjoining Elizabeth Street (2).  The plant nursery was called Malvern Nursery, and it was on the aforementioned Elizabeth Street and Toorak Road.

In 1872, William married Fanny Godwin and they had ten children, all born in Malvern - Annie Frances (1873-1944,  married Charles Brown in 1896), George Robert (1875-1960, married Florence Emma Toe in 1901), James William (1877-1962, married Lucy Agnes Webb in 1903), William Henry (1879-1942, married Christina Cameron in 1905), Rose Emmeline (1881-1891), Alfred Percy (1883-1966, married Margaret Josephine Coxon in 1910), Charles Cornelius (1885-1965, married Lilian Mary Mickle in 1911), Charlotte Myrtle (1891-1979, married Edward Percival Krummeck in 1932), Violet Emma (1891-1952, Edward George Hill in 1915), Ivy Edith May (1893-1941, did not marry) (3).

In 1891 William Bailey purchased 50 acres at Narre Warren, and began planting out his orchard then, but the family did not move there until after the birth of the last child, Ivy in 1893.  The Narre Warren property was called Bona Vista, in Bailey Road (4).

Some of William and Fannie's children remained in the area after they reached adulthood - their eldest son, George (1875-1960), had a General store in Narre Warren, operated by family members until the 1970s. George and his wife Florence built Brentwood (later called Clarinda Park) in 1904. In 1993, the address was 271-299 Narre Warren North Road, I don't think it still exists.  Another son James married, as we said,  Lucy Agnes Webb, the daughter of Sidney and Anne Webb. He was also a fruit grower. They built Araluen in 1903 and their daughter, Lucy,  lived there until she died  in April 1997 and the land was sub-divided. Araluen burnt down in mysterious circumstances a few years ago.

William died December 29, 1922 aged 81 and Frances (nee Godwin) died May 28, 1929, aged 78. 

I don't have a photograph of William Bailey, but this is his son, James Bailey with his son, Sidney James Bailey, taken c. 1918 
in their Narre Warren North orchard.

There are two reports of William Bailey's horticulture enterprise - the first is from the Weekly Times of April 15, 1899 (see here)  and the second from The Leader of February 23, 1907, (see here.)  They are interesting as they talk about the many varieties of apples grown on the Bailey property, many of which we no longer hear about, and certainly don't see in the supermarkets.

FRUIT GROWING AT NARRE WARREN (By Our Agricultural Reporter.) The Weekly Times of April 15, 1899 

The cultivation of fruit has not been extensively carried out in the Narre Warren district, but a splendid object lesson is afforded, as to the possibilities of the district, by Mr W. Bailey's Bona Vista orchard, about 4½ miles from the Narre Warren railway station and 1½ miles from old Narre Warren township

The orchard is pleasantly situated on the side of one of the numerous hills to be found in the district. When Mr Bailey first started the land was heavily timbered and covered with dense scrub. He was laughed at when he stated his intention of planting fruit trees, and was told failure was bound to ensue. Being a practical orchardist, he formed his own opinion about the matter, and from the results there is no doubt as to the soundness of his judgment.

Although the orchard has only been started eight years, the growth made is simply marvellous. Pinus insignis, planted for breakwinds, would, from the growth made, lead one to suppose they had been planted at least twice that period. What strikes one on first entering the orchard is the uniform size of the trees - one tree would serve as a model for the whole of any particular plantation. The soil is of a granite nature, and at the first glance would not impress one as to its fertility.

The orchard has a north and westerly aspect, which seems to suit the trees admirably. Remarking on the size of the trees, Mr Bailey explained that he followed out a system of summer pruning, so often advised in "The Weekly Times", for by this means all the available growth is directed into the proper channel, instead of making rank growth, which has to be cut away in the winter pruning.

The whole of the orchard has been thoroughly drained by means of either tile or charcoal drains, but for efficacy Mr Bailey prefers the former. Although no insect pests have yet made their appearance, spraying is regularly carried out during the winter months as a preventive, Bordeaux being the mixture chiefly favored.

The area devoted to Peaches at the present time is about two acres, and these trees look remarkably well, with the exception of a few worked in the almond stock, and these have proved far from satisfactory, while a few have grown as freely as those worked in the peach stock. The majority are dwarfed and stunted. Why this should be Mr. Bailey is unable to explain, but it should serve as a warning to all intending planters in the district. The crops this season have been very fine, and have given good returns. The varieties most favored are Briggs Red May, Hale's Early, Early Crawford, Fosters Royal George the Comet.  The trees have been planted 15ft x 15ft. apart, and this, Mr Bailey finds, is far too close.

There are twelve acres devoted to the cultivation of apples, and these have also made very free growth. In some instances the outer growths have been brought into a horizontal position, thus causing lateral shoots to grow out, besides utilising the exuberant growth, the size of the trees has been considerably extended. This system has been more particularly observed with trees having a tendency to grow into close pyramid form. 

The following varieties give equally good results: - Rome Beauty, Jonathan, King of Pippins, Reinette du Canada, Summer Scarlet Pearmain, London or Five Crown Pippin, H.U. Cole's Prince of Pippin, and Cole's Rymer. The latter is an enormous cropper; its only fault is that it comes into bearing the same time as Jonathan. The apples are planted 20 x 20 feet apart.

The Rome Beauty apple, one of the varieties grown by William Bailey.
This illustration, dated March 1881 was done by John Charles Cole of the Richmond Nursery,  the first cousin of William Bailey (see footnote 2).
State Library of Victoria Image H96.160/2075

The three acres of pears show remarkably clean growth, and the fruit is of excellent quality. Williams's Bon Chretien, Souvenir de Congres, Bailey's Bergamot, Keiper's hybrid, Beurre d'Angon, Doyenne du Bossoch and Vicar of Winckfield are the principal sorts grown.

Plums also receive attention, but not to such a large extent as the other fruits, but from the success attained Mr Bailey would feel quite justified in the area devoted to them. Orleans, Washington, Black Orleans, Fellenberg, and Golden Drop have given the best returns. Whilst on the subject of plums we must not forget the Japanese variety, Kelsey. This kind is an enormous bearer, and is especially useful for private use. The blood Japanese Mr Bailey would advise grown as a weeping, ornamental plant, for planting on the lawn or elsewhere.

Apricots seem as much at home as the other varieties of fruits, but only the following varieties are grown to any extent: - Ouillen's Early, Moorpark, and Campbellfield's Seedling. The strawberry plantations are by no means the least important item at Bona Vista. The returns from this source have been excellent. The plants are placed in double rows, 2½ feet apart, and 15 inches in the rows. This enables the horse hoe to work readily between the rows.

Mr Bailey remarked that, to grow strawberries successfully, cultivation of the soil must be carried out the whole of the year, and not, as many growers do, leave the plants untouched directly the fruit is gathered until the following spring The manure used for this crop is principally bonedust and stable manure. The following are the varieties grown: - Marguerite, Edith Christy, Trollope's Victoria, and Arthur. The latter does exceedingly well, but, unlike the other varieties named, does not produce a second crop.

Mr Bailey has a clean lot of young fruit trees, suitable for planting this season. The collection comprises all the leading kinds of peaches, apples, pears, plums, strawberries, etc. Besides the orchard, Mr Bailey has about [illegible] acres devoted to the growth of tomatoes, peas, pumpkins, maize, and other crops, suitable for feeding purposes. (Weekly Times of April 15, 1899, see here)

, February 23, 1907

Mr. Bailey was a prominent member of the Royal Horticultural Society of Victoria, but after settling at Narre Warren he was forced, owing to the distance, from Melbourne, to take a less active interest in its work. The son of a strawberry grower near London, Mr. Bailey came out to Australia, and started work in Mr. J.C. Cole's Richmond nurseries (5), and, though now well advanced in years, he is still actively engaged; and working with the enthusiasm born of a natural fondness for watching and encouraging plant growth. Several sons are engaged in horticultural pursuits; two of whom are working in their father's plantation. 

The orchard, which covers 35 acres, is situated near the summit of a granitic hill, about three miles from the Narre Warren railway station. The character of the land is such that the breaking up of the soil and planting fruit trees demanded more than ordinary pluck, and endurance. Immense granite boulders jut out from the surface of the soil. To remove these extraordinary blots from an orchard site meant, digging holes, under each boulder and lighting fires. As granite carries a large percentage of water, the heat forces an expansion, which splits the rock, and thus facilitates the work of removal. The soil, of course, takes its character from the granite. Mr. Bailey reckons trees get all the potash they require, but stable manure is frequently used. The latter is applied as a mulch to the trees direct from the stables and cow bails, and thus there is no waste of ammonia, as is frequently the case when stacking in pits. 

Horses and cows are stabled the year round, and with plenty of bayonet grass, pea straw, &c., every pound of animal manure is secured, for the orchard. "It is no use running an orchard without it," Mr. Bailey remarks.  The orchard is tile and timber drained throughout, and, owing to its exposed position, the property is divided into sections by lines of pine, tree break winds, which are trimmed flat on both sides, leaving no overlapping branches near the fruit trees. The soil around the established trees is kept in fine tilth by constant ploughing and scarifying, while immediately under the trees the spade and hoe are used. 

The trees being pruned to bear low down, it is impossible to work horse implements too close. The cost of digging is reckoned, at 1d. per tree, or 5/ per acre, per annum. Owing to the tendency of the soil to wash away on this hillside orchard, paths at irregular intervals are retained in an unploughed condition, and covered with rushes. The latter is a carpet which serves the purpose of retaining the moisture and keeping weeds down, and forms one of several novel and attractive features of a well ordered plantation.

To note the fruits in detail, first place must be given to the apples of which there is an extensive collection of varieties. The trees are arranged at even distance of 20 feet each way, but in one of the recent plantings they are set out at 23 feet distances, with peach trees planted half way between in one direction only. The latter method is adopted with the view of removing the peaches after they have yielded several crops, by which time the apples are fairly established. Some dead peaches near an open drain have been allowed to stand as frames for passion fruit vines.

An interesting example of the passing out of favor of a good apple is shown in a patch of the Yates variety, grafted on the butts of what used to be John Toon trees. The latter used to pay well until the Jonathan came into favor, and so it had to give way to a more profitable variety. The Jonathan is one of the best apples grown in this orchard. Trees growing 20 feet apart had branches touching when they were six years old, and yielding five cases of fruit per tree. They are now over ten years old, have yielded regularly every season, and one year the trees yielded 50/ per tree through export consignments.

Cox's Orange Pippin - a variety grown by William Bailey
This is a wax model, made in the Melbourne Museum 
by Joy Dickins, August 1, 1949.

"This is the land for Jonathans," Mr. Bailey remarked, and, pointing to a tree bearing a good half crop, added: "That is the way I like to see them growing. Last year half a crop, this season the same, and it will be repeated next year. Grown like that you get a better grade, better size and better quality." A number of Rennettes were cut back and grafted with this popular variety, and good crops are now in sight. 

Comparatively small quantities of this orchard's produce is exported, the fruit being grown to meet the requirements of local markets. How ever, one of Mr. Bailey's sons took 500 cases to England on the steamer Geelong, a steamer in which the engineer took particular care in regard to the maintenance of an even temperature in the fruit storage room throughout the voyage. For this reason chiefly, Mr. Bailey states, the care in selecting good fruit and careful packing was not wasted, and Jonathans, Bismarks and a few Cox's Orange Pippins opened up in London, as sound as on the day they were packed. High prices were realised, and in regard to Cox's Orange Pippin especially Mr. Bailey is convinced that it is one of the best paying apples if landed in England in good condition. A few Munro's Favorite are grown, but owing to the tendency of the skin to split near the stalk, a failing of this variety common to the cooler districts of the State, it is not favored. 

The Jonathan apple, another variety grown by William Bailey.
This is a wax model, made in the Melbourne Museum 
by Joy Dickins in 1950.
Image: Museums Victoria Collections

From ten year old Bismarks 20 bushels of fruit per tree have been taken. Red Astrakans started to color three weeks ago, and this is a late season. The latter is on the market now. Mr. Bailey keeps for a day or two after picking, and by the time they are marketed the fruit is very juicy and attractive. Odd varieties are dotted about the orchard, such as Lord Suffield and Cornish Gilliflower. The latter is a very pretty streaked apple, known in Tasmania as the Ribstone. It is an old English variety, and is blight proof. There is a good show of fruit on the Rome Beauty trees, a result due to the thrip insect attacking the blossom, which in this variety blooms very late in the season. This pest threatens to become a most serious menace, especially to late varieties, such as Rome Beauty. Like Munro's Favorite, the Cleopatra is better suited to the warm districts north of the Dividing Range, but in this orchard a few trees are showing good crops of clean fruit, "because they were sprayed at the right time."

One of  the best paying apples grown here is the Gravenstein, a variety which has become so popular in local markets that a Melbourne salesman said, "If I were planting an orchard it would, comprise Gravensteins for the most part." These trees produce very strong, sweeping branches, and while 20 feet distances suit certain upright growing varieties, Mr. Bailey would prefer, now that Gravensteins are established, that they had the freedom of 25 feet distances. 

In commenting upon the low-lying branches which sweep the ground beneath his apple trees, Mr. Bailey remarked, "You can cut off a branch at any time, but you cannot grow another one in that position in a single season. Fruit on these low-hanging branches are not affected by the wind; it is easier to pick, and the tree is easier to spray."  Particulars regarding the culture of other fruits, will be given in a second article. (The Leader of February 23, 1907, see here. A follow up article was in The Leader of March 2, 1907, see here, and it discussed the other fruits grown on Mr Bailey's orchard )

(1) William's obituary in The Argus of  January 3, 1923 (see here), says he was engaged with his father in fruit growing. An article in The Leader of  February 23, 1907, see here, says he was the son of a strawberry grower.
(2) Cooper, John Butler The City of Malvern: from its first settlement to a City (Speciality Press, 1935), p. 124.  His uncle, was Mr Thomas Cornelius Cole (1810-1889, the brother of William's mother, Annie Cole). Two of Mr Cole's sons also had nurseries - John Charles Cole (1838-1891)  had the Richmond Nursery and Henry Ungerford Cole (1843-1904), a Hawthorn Nursery. Another son, the Reverend Thomas Cornelius Cole (1836-1879)  was the vicar at Malvern. You can read about the family in the entry written by Richard Aitken, in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, here and information about the Nurseries in The Australasian, August 19, 1876, here.
(3) Information from the Indexes to the Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages
(4) William Bailey is listed as owning 50 acres from the 1891/1892 Rate Books. As all the children were born in Malvern I am assuming they moved after the birth of Ivy in 1893. This is confirmed by the fact that William is listed in the Malvern Rate Books (available on in 1893, but not 1894. 
(5) See Footnote 2 - this implies he was at his cousin's nursery, not his Uncle's nursery

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