Friday, 21 September 2012

Howden tomatoes and grapes

While researching material for my book on Howden I often become distracted and spend much longer than necessary following up ideas.

One such distraction this week has been market gardening around the town. There was a lot of soft fruit grown which was transported by rail to the fruit markets of Hull, Leeds and sometimes London. Apparently Howden was a good plum growing area.

But most interestingly I have been reading and talking about the grape growing industry. There were grapes grown in hot houses in all the large houses such as Howden Hall, Sandhall and Knedlington Manor but in the later nineteenth century commercial vineries were established.

Mr Henry Holmes Moore is credited with beginning this - his vineries were down Hailgate. But soon afterwards Mr George Henry Shaw built grape greenhouses at the end of St John St. I have seen a lovely picture of a wedding reception held in the greenhouses where the tables are laid out under the vines which are bearing huge bunches of grapes.

An area of new housing in Howden has been named The Vinery but as yet I have not found that grape growing took place on the site [do get in touch if you know differently]. It lies off Kensington Gardens where I know that tomatoes were grown.

Howden Tomatoes were famed throughout Yorkshire and travellers from the West Riding to Bridlington and the coast would often stop and buy them on their way home. I recently sampled a Clibran's Victory tomato - grown from an original Howden tomato seed. Its taste was delicious and I could understand why they were so popular.


  1. Are Clibrans Victory tomato still available. Half a dozen seed would do.

    1. I have some friends who grow the tomatoes and who do save the seed. If you contact me direct I may be able to get you some. They are not commercially available as far as I know.

  2. My great uncle Philip Saltmarshe lived in Oaklands Avenue and grew the most wonderful tomatoes in his greenhouse. Howden tomatoes taste like no others anywhere!

  3. My father (Vernon Jessop) had market gardens at Elm Tree Gardens on Howdendyke Road. He grew grapes for a while in a glasshouse but switched to growing tomatoes in there during the early 1950s.
    The vinery had a huge central water cistern with a water pump driven by a petrol/parafin two stroke engine to water the plants in there and the connected long greenhouse.
    Coincidentally I met Tom Snydel from Skelton one day and he told me one of his early jobs had been to dig out the hole for the cistern. Quite a bit of soil to move as the cistern was around 6 feet deep x 6 feet wide and 70 feet long!