Our investigations into the history of the orchard found some locals with fond memories of working in the orchard just before and during the early years of World War II when it was used as a fruit and vegetable garden.
It seems likely that the orchard was originally part of the kitchen garden at the rear of the old Rectory on Stage Lane and fronting onto the Bridgewater Canal.
We have found two references that link the then Oughtrington Elementary School on Oughtrington Crescent (now the Community Centre) to the site from 1906. Firstly an insert in the Clibrans’ Fruits catalogue No. 227 for the 1905-6 season, (Clibrans were a nursery based in Altrincham well known for its fruit tree propagation) which reads:
Oughtrington School, Lymm.
The Fruit Trees supplied are in every way satisfactory, and I think price reasonable. O.G SMITH, Head Master.
The orchard area seems to have been made available for the use of what was then Oughtrington Elementary School on Oughtrington Crescent (now the Community Centre), which had close connections with St Peter's Church. As far back as 1906 the then Rector, Reverend E.P. Wethered recorded in the Managers' Minutes of the school that there was a plan to build a gymnasium on the "plot of ground where the school gardens are situated between the Rectory and the Bridgewater Canal" designed by a Mr Miller, subject to sanctioning by Mr G.L. Dewhurst, the owner of Oughtrington Hall. As the gymnasium did not materialise it must be concluded that permission was withheld!
See plan from Rectory Deeds 1920 opposite.
We have no information on how the orchard was used during the First World War and before the Second World War in the time of Reverend G.S. Tudor Evans (1914-1924) and Reverend O.E. Gittins (1924-1930).
During the time of Canon Vickers (1930-1950) at some point during the war it was turned into a fruit and vegetable garden which lasted into the 1950's. The children at Oughtrington Elementary School spent many hours working there under the direction of Head teacher Mr "Pop" Beech who lived on Oughtrington Lane. Damson, apple, pear and plum trees produced fruit which was enjoyed by the community, as was the produce of the vegetable beds; potatoes, beans, carrots, leeks and in the summer, lettuces and radishes. There were two beehives close to the orchard from which honey was extracted by Mr Beech and sometimes, rather reluctantly, by the older children. Former pupils recall the sense of "leafiness" produced by the number of trees, fruit bushes and the smell of the flowers in the summer.
It is assumed that the same arrangement was continued after Canon Vickers left when Father McGee (1950-1954) took over, whilst Mr Beech was still the head. After Mr Beech left the school and a new vicar, Father Archer (1954-1975), moved into the rectory the link between the school and the rectory orchard seems to have been lost. Mr Hare, headmaster at the Elementary School from 1956-59, remembered that the pupils did not go into the orchard and he focused the school on learning the 3R’s rather than growing vegetables.
Over the next decade there seems to have been little interaction between the pupils at the school and the rectory orchard.
By the 1970's, the school had moved to its current site on Howard Avenue and the orchard provided grazing for two horses, Polly Flinders, who belonged to Mrs Archer, the Rector's wife and Bracken, a big bay, who was in the habit of gorging himself on the fallen apples. More recently, in the time of Father McKae (1980-1991), the orchard provided a home for some sheep which were allowed to roam where they wished in order to keep the grass down. When the orchard renovation started in 2005 the few surviving fruit trees that date from this time showed evidence of sheep, and possibly goats, as large sections of bark were missing as it had been chewed off by the grazing animals.
Since Rector Burgess (1992–present day) took over as vicar there have been a number of attempts to revitalise the orchard in the mid-nineties. A local enthusiast, Gordon Smith, co-ordinated a group to undertake pruning and maintenance work in the orchard. During this time (1996/7) a new apple tree was planted to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Cub Scouts Movement. Unfortunately the Japanese Knotweed that was taking hold caused the efforts to fade away.
We are grateful to several people who have contributed their memories to this section of the webpage; in particular Mr Raymond Massey, Mrs Eileen Pownall, Mr Alf Slattery and Mrs Betty Stansfield.
We are still searching for photographs or pictures of the orchard in any of its incarnations! Please get in touch with us if you know of any.
Since 2005 we have been working to maintain the orchard, here we are in 2006 at our first apple day.