According to the Ministry
of Agriculture Bulletin (no. 60, dated December 1932), asparagus
was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans, but was not introduced
to England until the 16th century, when it was probably brought from
Holland. The diarist Samuel Pepys recorded that he bought a 'hundred
of sparrow-grass' in Fenchurch Street, London in 1667.
It was evidently grown
in Evesham as early as 1768. Arthur Young, secretary of the Board
of Agriculture, visited the town during that year and his book A
Six Months Tour of the North of England, published in 1771, tells
us that asparagus was carried from Evesham to Bath and Bristol.
A letter from an Evesham
writer to the Morning Chronicle newspaper, 30 August 1782,
also mentions asparagus sent from the town to Bath and Bristol.
W Pitt in his General
View of the Agriculture of the County of Worcester (1813) saw
several flats of asparagus in the fields. (A flat in this context
refers to a large stretch of level ground.)
In 1830 the Royal Horticultural
Society awarded a medal to Anthony New for his fine specimens of asparagus
exhibited at shows of the Vale of Evesham Society in this and the
previous year. (See Gaut: A History of Worcs Agriculture, page
However, all references
to Evesham asparagus during the late 18th and early 19th centuries
appear to relate to the town. There is no suggestion that it was cultivated
so long ago in any of the surrounding villages.
But by 1866, and possibly
earlier, it seems that the crop was grown in Badsey, although it is
practically certain that it would have been on a very small scale,
as market gardening in the village was then in its infancy. In 1866
the Hereford Journal advertised for sale: 'Asparagus roots,
yearling and two years old, at one shilling per hundred. Apply to
J Jones, Badsey, Evesham'.
With the rapid expansion
of the market gardening industry in Badsey and other neighbouring
villages during the last quarter of the 19th century, so too did the
acreage of asparagus increase.