The Famous Swalwell Cabbage


When 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.

In 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 a guinea.

n October 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.

In November 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…….

The Swalwell 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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