Market Gardens of Penzance

Large pieces of ground about Penzance are laid out in market gardens, in which potatoes and brocoli are especially cultivated. Early potatoes were sent out from this neighbourhood in great quantities as far back as 1820. Soon after that time I recollect the carts from Penzance (twenty or thirty on a market-day), coming to Falmouth. Besides the potatoes consumed in the town, large quantities were taken abroad by the Falmouth packets. In 1828 some brought to Falmouth found their way to London by the steamers from Dublin, which used to touch at that port; still the greater part of the market produce was disposed of in the county. A new business was added about 1838, and it began in this way; Mr. [Sharrock] Dupen, the steward of the Herald and afterwards of the Cornwall steamer, which went from Hayle to Bristol, took up to the latter port some early brocoli, and they sold so well that he continued his adventure season after season. Of course this did not escape observation, and others tried the experiment, and so far succeeded that they carried their trade to London, and far into the midland districts of England. The trade in brocoli and potatoes gradually increased as facilities for sending them away became more fully developed, and now above 2,000 tons of brocoli are disposed of yearly. In 1838 new potatoes were I believe first sent direct from Penzance to London; at this time the best potatoes were to be had in July and August at four-pence to six-pence the gallon, and the later kinds mostly consumed at home ranged from four shillings and six-pence to eight shillings the Cornish bushel of twenty-four gallons; the latter was considered an enormous price. Now in the early potatoe season buyers are here from Leeds, Manchester, Hull, Wolverhampton, London, etc., and the quantity sold is very large. I have known one dealer to send away in a few weeks more than £3,000 worth. Besides potatoes and brocoli large quantities of fruit are sent at times from this district to the midland counties, and even as far as Glasgow. Forty years ago fine strawberries were sold in Penzance at two-pence and three-pence a quart. The cultivation of this fruit largely fell off, but lately gardeners in the higher part of Gulval and Ludgvan have again been turning their attention to it, and from Tremenheere many baskets have been sent to London. Onions and asparagus are also often sent away from this neighbourhood. At Penzance an exhibition of flowers, fruits, and vegetables is held every year in connection with the Western Cottagers’ Gardening Society; this society was instituted in 1836, and its first exhibition was held in the Assembly Room, at the Union Hotel.

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