A brief timeline and history of the Orchard and its purposes, from original planting until the 1960s.


Fulford Community Orchard is a remnant of the 1-acre Orchard in the 6-acre Kitchen Garden which provided fruit and vegetables for the staff and patients of Naburn Hospital from 1906 – 1948, and possibly until the early 1960s.

This summary is based on research in progress, conducted by our committee member, Anne Akeroyd.

We would very much welcome memories or stories you, your relatives or friends might remember about the Orchard and Kitchen Garden.

Please get in touch via the Contact Us page on this website.

Naburn Hospital was formerly called York City Asylum (1906 – 1927) and York City Mental Hospital (1927 – 1948). In 1948 it was renamed Naburn Hospital (1948 – 1952) and later Naburn and Bootham Park Hospitals (1952 – 1988).

During World War II a hutted general military hospital was also built in its grounds, and later on used for prisoners of war.

The new NHS acquired the military premises in 1948 and converted them into Fulford Hospital (1954 – 1983) and the Maternity Hospital, Fulford (1954 – 1983). Naburn Hospital closed in Feb 1988; and the site was sold for redevelopment. The Designer Outlet shopping centre opened in 1998.


1899 (Sep) The City of York bought Acres House Farm to build an Asylum to house what they then termed its ‘pauper lunatics’, and to use the rest for the Asylum’s Hospital Farm. The Hospital’s 28 acre site lay in Water Fulford; the remainder of the farmland (126 acres) was in Naburn Parish.
1904 The asylum was named York City Asylum. Locally, (though, it was already being called Naburn Asylum).
1905 The Medical Superintendent, from Kent County Asylum, was appointed.
1906 (Jan) The Head Gardener, from the West Riding Asylum, was appointed. He was in charge of the grounds and gardens, and the 6-acre Kitchen Garden.
1906 (Feb) The Dietary Tables were developed. Patients were given vegetables daily but not fruit – indeed, fruit was not introduced into their Dietary until 1937!

Staff and Officers were provided with vegetables daily as part of their emoluments; and for Staff “Fruit (when produced on the estate) may be allowed in proportion”, whereas Officers were allowed “Fruit when produced on the estate”.

1906 (c. Autumn) The Head Gardener had ordered fruit trees for the Orchard from Clibrans in Altrincham, nr. Manchester, before he died in November.
1907 (Jan) The second Head Gardener, from the North Riding Asylum (later Clifton Hospital), was appointed. [He was in charge until he retired in 1934].

Trees from Clifton Hospital Orchard still survive, and are today being cared for by the new community group, Friends of the Dormouse Community Orchard. They stand next to The Dormouse pub now.

1907 (Oct & Nov) The Gardener recommended purchasing “certain standard fruit trees”. The Tender was awarded to Messrs Backhouse of York; but the Medical Superintendent substituted “other trees for some of those mentioned in the Tender” – [perhaps ones favoured in Kent?].
1914 (Sep)


It was decided to double the size of the Orchard in the Kitchen Garden to c. 1 acre to allow fruit to be grown fruit for selling purposes. Bush Tree Apples were chosen as the most profitable fruit; and raspberry canes were to be planted between the trees.
1914 (Nov)


The offer of Messrs Backhouse & Sons, Ltd to supply apple and plum trees and raspberry canes was accepted.

200 apple trees and 2,800 raspberry canes were purchased [it isn’t clear if plums were also bought].

  The monthly and annual reports of the Medical Superintendent and the Asylum Visiting Committee/Mental Hospital Committee became much shorter and much less informative about non-medical matters thereafter; information about the Kitchen Garden, Orchard and even the Farm was scarce. However, in the 1930s considerable concern was expressed about the state of the fruit trees; but it is evident that this was mainly (if not solely) about the commercial crop, the Bush Tree Apples planted in 1914.

Click here for an aerial picture from the Britain from Above archive showing the York City Asylum in 1927.

1930 (Feb) The Medical Superintendent was authorised purchase certain fruit trees to replace old ones.
1932 (Mar) Poor fruit crops led the Medical Superintendent to seek advice about the state of the trees from the Instructor in Horticulture at Leeds University. He recommended pruning and purchasing a sprayer. He also revisited the site in May.
1932 (Jun) After the Instructor’s report was received, the Mental Hospital Committee inspected the Orchard, interviewed the Head Gardener; and ordered him “to mark with tape such fruit trees and canes which he advised should be removed and to make recommendations as to what other kinds should be substituted.”
1932 (Sep) The Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Miss Argyles were appointed a Sub-Committee to purchase, in consultation with the gardener, new raspberry canes and fruit trees at a cost of about £10. ” [They probably went again to Backhouse Nurseries in Holgate for these –  there was a payment to them of just over £10 in Feb 1934.]
1934 (Aug) The third Head Gardener arrived, but departed in September 1935.
1935 (Sep) The fourth Head Gardener, from Bradford City Asylum, was appointed.
1937 (Apr) Fruit was finally to be introduced into the Dietary for patients.
1937 (Dec) Further poor fruit crops, despite the spraying and pruning, led to advice being sought from the Lecturer in Horticulture at Leeds University. He recommended the digging up and destruction of 23 apple, 15 plum and 6 pear trees.
1938 The removal of the trees was done; and a number of young trees were bought and planted, and the garden soil analysed. [The Medical Superintendent had been authorised to carry out the Lecturer’s recommendations, though over a period of three years; but we don’t know if that happened, given the onset of the War. It is not clear who supplied the trees – Backhouse Nurseries appear in the invoices paid at about the right time, but a similar large sum went to R V Rogers of Pickering (which had been growing fruit trees on a commercial scale from 1929).

The fruit crop that year was still disappointing.

1939 “With the exception of plums, the fruit trees did very well, pears were abundant and apples were above the average.”
1940 “The fruit crops, with the exception of apples and pears, were plentifuI.”
1942 “The fruit crop, with the exception of plums, was well above average in quality and quantity.”
1944 “Apples and pears were also plentiful, but plums and tomatoes were scarce.”
1945 “The fruit crop, with the exception of apples, was disappointing.”
Post-1948 Staffing was a perennial problem. Kitchen Gardens were increasingly grassed over and/or converted to cut flower production; and Market Gardens were sold off or let.

By 1962 there were no market garden activities in any of the York ‘A’ Group Hospitals (in which the 3 Naburn hospitals were included).

Some “relatively small areas in some hospitals [were still being] used for vegetable production on a kitchen garden scale”, a practice being discouraged by the Ministry of Health.

In 1963 an area near the Naburn cricket field [i.e. probably part of the old Kitchen Garden along the west boundary of the pitch] was still used for vegetables; but some part had been turned into a turf and plant nursery in c.1964, and by 1966 the area was to be let out as grazing.

At least 56 trees survived – and others would have fallen victim to the redevelopment of the site and/or old age or bad weather.