In 1991 Charles Martell conceived the idea of establishing a collection of perry pears. Farms across the three counties of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire were scoured for the old varieties. 59 had been rediscovered and planted around the Three Counties Agricultural Society showground at Malvern by 1998.
In 1999 a second collection was started by Jim Chapman in Hartpury to replicate and extend the Malvern collection. In 2003 he gave 25 acres to the Hartpury Heritage Trust to establish a new orchard. This was to become the National Perry Pear Centre.
In addition to the orchards, over the next few years a wetland nature reserve was created and by 2008 the Orchard Centre had been built. The first training course, run by Peter Mitchell’s Cider Academy, was held there in September 2008.
In 2015 the Centre was extended to include a library and office space. By then the perry pear collection had increased to 105 distinct varieties. To improve bio-security, it was decided to spread the collection between the sites and in 2016 the Malvern collection was enlarged to 75. By way of comparison the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale includes only 20 perry pear varieties.
Increasingly Hartpury Heritage Trust is working with Gloucestershire Orchard Trust through a jointly owned Community Interest Company to manage both their own orchards and enabling them to care for others. Together they are also producing a range of publications about orchards.
Hartpury Heritage Trust, the charity which owns the Centre and manages the National Perry Pear Collection, is a small village charity. Other than support from Natural England’s Countryside Stewardship programme, it currently receives no financial support for its activities, although the National Association of Cidermakers did provide annual support for 3 years.