I was a kid in the 50s, one of the stories that was repeatedly told
in the village was that of a giant cabbage which had been grown in Swalwell by a
local green-fingered gentleman. At the time no-one seemed to recall
his name but the story was so often related that we couldn’t believe
anything other than that the story was true. At one time, around the
late 60s I think, the cabbage was also mentioned in the Guinness
Book of Records but this entry later disappeared. Thanks to
Derek Herring a former Swalweller,
we have at last, some proof. Derek has sent me the following article
which appeared in a local newspaper in 1897.
Details of the Horticultural
Achievements of Mr. William Collingwood
Mr. Collingwood died on October 8th, 1897 at the
age of 74, and was interred at Whickham Churchyard on the 10th. He
was an old bachelor and enjoyed excellent health up until a year
ago, when he was seized with a severe illness, from which he never
recovered. He was well known and respected in the village and for
miles round about. He was a practical gardener, his advice on leek
growing etc, being sought from far and near. He produced some
extraordinary leeks, cabbages and gooseberries, which will be seen
from the following records, which are only a few of the many.
1865, he grew a
red cabbage (without suckers) which
stood 4ft 2in high, measured 7yds 5in round
and weighed 8st 11lbs. This is the largest on record. The stalk was sold to a Mr. Hogg, Seedsman, for a sum of half
1869, he set up a show held at Ox Close near Usworth, three sets of
leeks of 3 each, of which the following are the weights: First, 17lb
12oz; Second, 14lb 14ozs; Third, 13lb 11ozs. (total 46lb 5ozs). The
three leeks that were second on the scales weighed only 4lb 15ozs.
1876, he showed the heaviest leek on record at the ‘Buck Inn’,
Swalwell (The Gamekeeper today). The
following were dimensions: 14in in circumference, 8in long in the
blanch, 10ft 4in in length from end
to end, and weighing 6-1/2 lbs after the leaves were taken off. This
leek was scaled by Mr. Gasconi and Mr. J. Banks of Addison Colliery.
At the same show he also showed in the class for beauty leeks, two
leeks which blanched 16 ins and were perfect models in symmetry.
Only last year (1896?) he showed at Whickham the
heaviest white gooseberry on record that season, and it was produced
from a year old bush.
In August 1863, challenges were issued by Mr. Jas
Birkett and Mr. Fenwick, Derwenthaugh, to the world backing Mr.
Collingwood to show six of the heaviest and six of the best quality
leeks for any sum, but neither of them were taken up…….
cabbage held the record as being the world's biggest
cabbage for 140 years until two bigger cabbages were
grown in Wales (1989) and Alaska (2009).
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