A charming ‘outsider’s view’ of Goostrey’s Goosegog “strange custom”

Blog by Vic Gardener. “Remember the Gooseberry Show bit in #VictorianKitchenGarden? Well, this year I went to #Goostrey to see for myself. Amazingly, the top prize was won by Doug Carter, son of Frank, who won in VKG in 1987.”

On Saturday 27th July, 2019, I fullfilled a long-standing promise to myself. No, not that one, something even better. I finally made it to the annual Gooseberry Show in Goostrey, Cheshire. After I’d seen the ‘July‘ episode of ‘Victorian Kitchen Garden’ back in 1987 I knew that, one day, I would have to go and see what Peter Thoday termed the “strange custom” for myself. So, almost thirty-two years later, I found myself sat in a prime spot in The Crown Inn at 1pm.
Peter was right, it is strange and, if I hadn’t seen it on TV first, it would probably have seemed stranger still. Despite some modern technology, the ‘feel’ was exactly as I remembered watching on TV. Expressions like those I’d heard in that episode, “Can we have the Association Witness, please?”. and “Frank Carter’s on.” were echoed throughout the afternoon, as some very large berries were played, one against the other, on the delicate balance.

PictureOne of the gooseberry boxes, still sealed

The formalities of the competition seemed as unchanged as they are mysterious. Once permission is given to open the boxes of berries, picked and sealed the night before, berries are offered for balancing, class by class. They are transported from competitor to the High-Priestess of the scales by another official, in a way that looks confusing to the uninitiated but no brown envelopes change hands, and no-one complains about sleight of hand. They are balanced and re-balanced until not only the largest berry is found in each class, but 2nd, 3rd, etc., too. They are then individually weighed and recorded using the old troy measures of pennyweight (dwt) and grains (grns).

The Holy Grail of a Gooseberry Show is the ‘Premier Berry’; the heaviest of the heavy. In that episode from 1987, the winner of Premier Berry was the legendary Frank Carter. Not only was Frank a prolific grower and shower, he also bred new gooseberry varieties, and most of the modern winners have been grown on Frank’s varieties.

How fitting, then, that the 2019 Premier Berry class was won by Frank’s son, Doug Carter. Doug hasn’t been doing so well for a few years but came back this year with a vengeance. Not only did he win Premier Berry, with one of Frank’s varieties, ‘Bank View’, weighing 28dwt 18grns, he also came first AND second in the class for ‘Green’ berries, and first and second again in ‘Yellow’, and second and third in ‘White’. In all, I think I counted eight trophies in his haul including, because he’d been out of contention in recent years, the cup for this year’s most improved grower! It really was Doug’s year.
These days, as well as the silverware which has to go back at the end of the year, a ‘Frank Carter Memorial Plate’ for the winner of Premier Berry is also awarded. Each one is unique, with the year, winners name and the variety recorded on it. This way they get to keep a permanent memento of their win. Unbeknownst to Doug, there had also been moves to create a special ‘Lifetime Achievement’ version of the plate, to acknowledge his contribution to gooseberry growing in Goostrey over the years, meaning he gets not one but two plates this year.

The award presentations were made by author and local man, Alan Garner of the Blackden Trust, and the Frank Carter Memorial Plate was the idea of Alan and his wife Griselda, who was also showing gooseberries.
Despite how it seems, Doug didn’t get it all his own way. Last years Premier Berry winner, Emma Williams, won the ‘Red’, the ‘Twins’, and the Yellow ‘Show Plate’ (12 berries) classes. Another Premier Berry veteran, Terry Price, won the ‘White’ class, and 2017 winner Martin de Kretser won the Red ‘Show Plate’ class, for instance.
Full results can be found here.
My thanks to the Goostrey Gooseberry Society (in particular, Secretary Martin de Kretser for imparting his knowledge and for convincing me to go this year), Doug Carter, the ‘Crown Inn‘, and the good people (and their dogs) of Goostrey. See you next year!

Doug Carter wins heaviest Gooseberry 2019

Veteran grower Doug Carter triumphed at Goostrey’s 122nd gooseberry show at the weekend.

Despite early promise of the heaviest berries for a number of years, earlier than usual plagues of wasps and alternating hot and cold weather and heavy thunderstorms decimated many growers’ crops, with many growers losing all their berries to berries bursting full of juice or being eaten by wasps.

This year’s winner of the Heaviest Premier Berry was veteran grower Doug Carter, with a Bank View berry of 28 Pennyweights and 18 grains.

Doug also won the overall show and was awarded eight trophies, including the C.R. Griffiths Challenge Cup for the Heaviest Premier Berry and Frank Carter’s Point Cup for the most points accrued and the Frank Carter Memorial Plate.

Frank Carter’s Memorial Plate is awarded by Alan and Griselda Garner from the Blackden Trust in memory of Doug’s late father, Frank Carter, who was a legendary grower and breeder of the majority of the competition gooseberry varieties still used by growers today.

Knutsford Guardian:

Goostrey’s gooseberry growers at The Crown

Doug also won the Graham Lenihan Memorial Cup for the most improved grower having leapt from ninth place last year.

This was the first year the Graham Lenihan Memorial Cup has been awarded, and is in memory of Graham Lenihan, a stalwart of the Gooseberry Society for more than 20 years.

Graham was the former records officer and former Society secretary who sadly died at the end of last year.

Fellow veteran grower Terry Price took second place with a Belmarsh of 26 pennyweights and 4 grains, with former secretary, with last year’s winner, Mrs Emma Williams, taking third place with an Ann Archer of 24 Pennyweights and 18 grains.

Knutsford Guardian:

Terry Price also won the Bob Groves Memorial Cup for the heaviest white berry in the show.

Mrs Emma Williams also won the J Walton Challenge Cup for the heaviest twins and the John Egerton Cup for the heaviest red berry in the show.

The Junior competition was very close, with former champion Jamie Goode reclaiming his crown, just beating last year’s champion by only 2 grains. Jamie’s berry was a Newton Wonder of 14 pennyweights and 10 grains and Hugh’s was a Millenium of 14 pennyweights and 8 grains.

The novice growers didn’t go empty-handed, with Karl Lord winning the Tom Bayley Challenge Cup for the Heaviest Plate of Assorted Berries in his first year of showing, and Carl Hooper winning this year’s wooden spoon with a Fascination of 4 penny weights and 16 grains.

Current secretary Martin de Kretser won the Margaret and John Lawton cup for the Heaviest Four Sets of Twins. “We are also pleased that three new growers expressed an interest in joining the Society during the show; it is the continual interest and influx of new growers which will help gooseberry growing in Goostrey continue for many years to come.” Knutsford Guardian

Well done to The Crown for the party/barbecue on Gathering night, and Show meal. Many people visited the show and bought raffle tickets and sponsored prizes, vital in helping to continue to fund the Society.

Full Results with variety of berry and it’s weight in pennyweights: congratulations all!

Premier Berries

1 D. Carter Bank View 28.18, 2 T. Price Belmarsh 26.04, 3 Mrs. E. Williams Ann Archer 24.18, 4 M. de Kretser Blackden Gem 21.01, 5 Mrs C. Heath Newton Wonder 20.07, 6 G. Buckley Edith Cavell 19.00, 7 N. Hassall Bank View 17.22, 8 I. McFarlane Newton Wonder 17.04, 9 Mrs. G. Garner Edith Cavell 16.13, 10 D. Hardacre Millenium 14.10, 11 K. Lord Surprise 14.01, 12 S. Edwards Just Betty 13.07, 13 S. Smallwood Newton Wonder 11.21, 14 Mrs. H. Wood Seedling 11.03, 15 D. Hassall Edith Cavell 9.03, 16 C. Hooper Fascination 4.16.

Triplets Not Won


1 Mrs. E. Williams Millenium 33.04, 2 M. de Kretser Bank View 28.02, 3 Mrs C. Heath Bank View 27.18, 4 T. Price Seedling 26.23, 5 D. Carter Montrose 20.10, 6 N. Hassall Bank View 16.11, 7 G. Buckley Careless 15.23, 8 S. Smallwood Blackden Gem 15.10, 9 D. Hassall Edith Cavell 12.12,10 C. Hooper Fascination 4.14


1 Mrs. E. Williams Lloyd George 23.22, 2 T. Price Seedling 22.08, 3 D. Carter Blackden Gem 20.22, 4 T. Price Seedling 20.10, 5 Mrs. E. Williams Lloyd George 20.08, 6 M. de Kretser Blackden Gem 19.22, 7 D. Carter, Blackden Gem 19.02, 8 N. Hassall Blackden Gem 19.00, 9 M. de Kretser Blackden Gem 18.10, 10 N. Hassall Blackden Gem 18.09


1 D. Carter Millenium 28.15, 2 D. Carter Millenium 26.07, 3 Mrs. E. Williams Millenium 22.14, 4 T. Price Ann Archer 21.15, 5 Mrs. E. Williams Montrose 20.05, 6 G. Buckley Edith Cavell 17.12, 7 M. de Kretser Millenium 16.22, 8 G. Buckley Edith Cavell 15.16, 9 Mrs. G. Garner Edith Cavell 15.15, 10M. de Kretser Millenium 14.07


1 D. Carter Bank View 27.02, 2 D. Carter Bank View 26.04, 3 T. Price Seedling 20.09, 4 Mrs C. Heath Bank View 20.01, 5 M. de Kretser Bank View 19.05, 6 Mrs C. Heath Bank View 18.23, 7 T. Price Seedling 18.08, 8 M. de Kretser Bank View 16.20, 9 Mrs. E. Williams Admiral Beatty 12.20, 10 Mrs. E. Williams Admiral Beatty 12.11


1 T. Price Belmarsh 25.08, 2 D. Carter Newton Wonder 22.01, 3 D. Carter Newton Wonder 21.21, 4 M. de Kretser Jodrell White 20.23, 5 Mrs C. Heath Newton Wonder 19.23, 6 T. Price Lord Kitchener 19.14, 7 M. de Kretser Jodrell White 18.11, 8 Mrs C. Heath Newton Wonder 16.10, 9 G. Buckley Newton Wonder 15.03, 10 S. Smallwood Lord Kitchener 11.20

Championship Show Plate

1 D. Carter Millenium

Show Plate

Red 1 M. de Kretser, 2 T. Price, 3 N. Hassall

Yellow 1 Mrs. E. Williams, 2 No Entries, 3 No Entries

Green 1 Mrs C. Heath, 2 N. Hassall,3 Mrs. E. Williams

White 1 No Entries, 2 No Entries, 3 Mrs C. Heath

Mixed Plate 1 No Entries, 2 No Entries, 3 No Entries

Assorted Plate 1 K. Lord

Juniors 1 Jamie Goode Newton Wonder 14.10, 2 Joe Banks Williams Millenium 14.08, 3 No Entries.

Goostrey Gooseberry Show 27th July 2019

Goostrey Gooseberry Show Saturday 27th July from 1pm at The Crown (til 6ish).

The first Goostrey Gooseberry Show was in 1863 with the first one held in the Red Lion, Goostrey.

The current Society has been going since 1897.

It’s all about who can grow the heaviest Gooseberry, some of which can grow to the size of a hen’s egg! After 12 months of carefully tending their ‘goozgog’ bushes the members will be on tenterhooks from the day before for “The Gathering” – when they pick their berries in front of witnesses and lock them away in special boxes until the all important weigh-in on the Saturday…..will they have split overnight?….will they be the heaviest?…..

Fingers crossed the weather is kind to them….too much sun? ….too much rain?

The Society would be grateful for your support on Saturday 27th July from 1pm (go along and witness this lovely village tradition and buy a raffle ticket!). The Crown will be serving food and drinks to round off an exciting day. If you live in Goostrey, Allostock or Twemlow you can join the Society and help keep this tradition alive!

2018 winners Goostrey Gooseberry Show

2018 Gooseberry champion

Emma Williams has won the 2018 trophy for the heaviest premier goosegog at today’s 121st Goostrey Gooseberry Show, held at The Crown. Her Montrose berry weighed 28 pennyweights 18 grains. Terry Price’s Bellmarsh berry was 2nd at 25 pw 1 grn and last year’s winner, Martin de Kretser, came third with a Bellmarsh at 21 pw 17 grns.  Well done all!

(photo: John Williams)

(last year’s winning Blackden Gem berry weighed 23 pw 19 grns.)

Gooseberry Show Sat 28th 1-6pm

Goostrey Gooseberry Society will be having its 121st show day next Saturday, at The Crown Inn, which marks this year’s long quest of who can grow the heaviest gooseberry.  It’s all about the weight, with many growers having secret potions and growing methods to obtain the heaviest berry.  There are 4 different colours of berries Red, Green, Yellow and White with prizes for the heaviest berry, heaviest twin, heaviest triplet (very rare !), and heaviest plates of 12 berries.  Weighing is undertaken on an old balance scale and berries measured in penny weights and grains.

Competitive gooseberry growing started in the mid 1700’s when it was very fashionable, results were recorded in the Gooseberry Growers Register which was published each year.  Once there were over 200 shows in the UK, now there are only 9 left, 8 of which are based in villages around Goostrey and form the Mid-Cheshire Gooseberry Association, with Goostrey being the largest show in the Association.  The remaining show being in Egton Bridge in Yorkshire.

One of the legends of Gooseberry growing in Goostrey was Frank Carter, who used to work at the fruit farm in Goostrey (now Orchards Farm) and also was the head gardener in the arboretum at Jodrell Bank.  Frank bred many of the competitive varieties still grown today and was born at Toad Hall, now home of Alan and Griselda Garner of the Blackden Trust.

With the number of Gooseberry growers declining we are in need of new members to help keep this village tradition going and currently have space for 10 new growers, so if you are a keen gardener (or even if you are not!) please do come to the show and speak to one of the members.  New members are proposed at the Society’s meeting in September so they can be equipped with gooseberry trees ( not bushes!) prior to March meeting when the growing season commences.  Although some members have been growing for nearly fifty years, you don’t have to be growing for long to have a chance of winning.

There is an active social life as well with the Society members getting together to build a float for Rose Day each year.  The Society meets 4 times a year in September, January, March, and in July prior to Show Day.

This year Jason at the Crown Inn has kindly organised a Barbeque and Gooseberry cocktails for the adults for show day, and balloon modeller and facepaints for the children and music for both the Friday and Saturday night.

A film for TV is also being made of  Gooseberry growing and the Show on Saturday, so a filmmaker will be present on Saturday with their cameras. We would be grateful for your support and look forward to seeing you all on Show day.

Goostrey Gooseberry Show is on Saturday 28th July from 1pm at The Crown…….with prizes awarded around 6pm.

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