10th October 2018
By Peter Coles
On Saturday 6 October the Boston Preservation Trust in Lincolnshire invited me to give a talk on Morus Londinium and Britain’s 1900 year-old mulberry heritage. I received a warm welcome by Andrew Hoyle and other trustees at the Trust’s elegant Queen Anne home, Fydell House, a Grade I listed building next to the 14th century Guildhall. Set back from the road on South Street, Fydell House is one of a succession of handsome buildings running parallel to the Haven waterfront.
Once a busy market town, the Boston skyline is dominated by the 272-foot high medieval tower of St Botoloph’s Church, known locally as The Stump.
Despite the overcast weather with wind and rain, there were no empty seats for my talk. One of the unexpected questions I was asked is whether there might be a connection with Fydell House's own tall black mulberry tree (Morus nigra) in its ornate garden, and the celebrated naturalist Joseph Banks, who was a regular visitor in the early 17th century. Banks rose to fame when he accompanied Captain James Cook on his first great voyage to the southern hemisphere, bringing back exotic plants from Brazil, Tahiti, Australia and New Zealand. But the black mulberry is very much a northern hemisphere species, probably originating in northern Greece and Central Asia, so not a species Banks would have encountered.
The black mulberry at Fydell House probably dates from the 1960s
Without undue modesty (and to my delight) the highlight of the afternoon turned out not to be my talk, but the extraordinary mulberry high tea put on by inimitable volunteers, Sue and Carol. Using fruit harvested from the black mulberry at the rear of the house this summer, they put on a spread that would not have been out of place at Claridge’s or Fortum and Mason. There was mulberry and fig tart, mulberries and pana cotta, mulberry cake, mulberry jam and scones… To wash it down: mulberry fizz and even mulberry tea. It was possibly the best tea I’ve ever had and not one I’m likely to forget!
Thank you Sue, Carol and everyone who came along!