DNA of Shakespeare's pear

Tuesday 19 July 2016

Shuttleworth College is celebrating winning a Heritage Lottery Fund grant for its “Bedfordshire Old Warden Pear: Identification by DNA testing, Propagation and Bedding Out” Project.

Shuttleworth College which is located in the village of Old Warden, Bedfordshire has received a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant, it was announced today. This exciting project, “The Bedfordshire Old Warden Pear: Identification by DNA testing, Propagation and Bedding Out”, at the Old Warden site, and led by Paul Labous, RHS Tutor, has been given £8,400 towards identifying the original Old Warden Pear from different varieties, using DNA testing, and exploring the heritage of the pear and its associations with the village of Old Warden.

Shuttleworth College is a further and higher education college set in Old Warden Park in Bedfordshire, England. The college is part of Bedford College and offers a wide variety of full-time and part-time land-based courses, making full use of the natural resources available, which include parkland, farm land, lakes and woodland.

The aim of this project is to research the origin of the local culinary Warden Pear, believed to have first been grown at the Cistercian abbey near to the village of Old Warden in Bedfordshire, circa 1388.

The verification of a distinct Warden Pear, mentioned in Shakespeare’s ‘The Winter’s Tale’, is of significant interest in Bedfordshire and to the local community of Old Warden village. Warden pear pies were a Bedfordshire speciality, being baked in the residual heat of the traditional bread ovens, overnight.

Shuttleworth College will carry out an investigation aimed at distinguishing remaining specimens of the original ‘’Old Warden Pear’’, from other ‘Wardens’, (a general name used in the middle ages to describe any culinary pear).  In order to achieve this we will commission a series of DNA tests which would show genetic differences between various pear samples from various areas of the country.

Commenting on the award, Paul Labous said, ‘It’s very exciting that we have been awarded the HLF grant, especially in this four hundredth anniversary year of William Shakespeare and his reference to a Warden Pie in ‘The Winter’s Tale’.

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund, East of England, said: “Sharing Heritage is a wonderful opportunity for communities to delve into their local heritage and we are delighted to offer this grant. Thanks to National Lottery players, The Bedfordshire Old Warden Pear project can now embark on a real journey of discovery. Heritage means such different things to different people, and HLF’s funding offers a wealth of opportunities for groups to explore and celebrate what’s important to them in their area.”