Bartlett is one of the oldest English dessert pears, it was discovered in the late 18th century and quickly became popular. In England and Europe it is known as Williams or sometimes Williams Bon Chretien, after the nurseryman who first propagated it.
Shortly after its discovery it was taken to the United States where it quickly established itself as an important commercial variety, a role it has retained to this day. In North America it is always known as the Bartlett pear, after the Boston nurseryman who promoted it.
If you buy tinned pears, they are very likely to be this variety. Don't let this put you off though - Bartlett is a good early-season pear variety for the gardener too, with a very good flavor and fairly easy to grow.
Williams pear trees for sale
11-year maiden bare-root
Quince Eline rootstock
Medium size (2.5m-3m after 10 years)
21-year maiden bare-root
Quince A rootstock
Large size (3m-4m after 10 years)
31-year maiden bare-root
Pyrus c. Kirchensaller rootstock
Full size size (4.5m-6m after 10 years)
How to grow
Make sure you pick the crop just before it becomes ripe - which will be late August or early September in the UK.
Williams is generally easy to grow but can be susceptible to scab in wetter areas. Croping is usually reliable.
UK, 18th century. This pear is known both as Williams and Bartlett.
The fascinating origins of this pear were recorded by the Victorian fruit enthusiast Robert Hogg. He credited its discovery to either a Mr Wheeler or a Mr Stair, both schoolmasters in the town of Aldermaston, Berkshire, England some time before 1770. It was subsequently propagated by a nurseryman, Mr Williams of Turnham Green - who named it the Williams pear (perhaps to cut through the confusion surrounding its origins).
In 1799 trees were sent to the United States - a good demonstration of the close ties that already existed between England and the newly-independent United States. The imported Williams pear trees were planted in an orchard near Boston and came to the attention of a local nurseryman, Mr Bartlett, who played an important role in popularising the variety in the USA. It appears the original variety name was uncertain by this stage, so Bartlett (nicely repeating the decision of his English counterpart) decided to give it his own name.
In this way the new variety became known as Bartlett in North America and Williams in the UK and Europe.
Hogg suggests that the Bartlett pear was well suited to the climate of its new home, and was soon regarded as "the finest pear of its season". It became a major commercial variety in the USA.
- Picking period (southern UK):early September
- Picking season:Early
- Keeping (of fruit):1 week
- Food uses:Eating fresh
- Gardening skill:Average
- Self-fertility:Partially self-fertile
- Flowering group:3
- Pollinating others:Average
- Vigour:Average vigour
- Bearing regularity:Regular
- Fruit bearing:Spur-bearer
- Disease resistance:Poor
- Fireblight:Some susceptibility
- Scab:Some susceptibility
- Climate suitability:Temperate climates, Warm climates
- Cold hardiness (USDA):(5) -20F / -29C
- Summer average maximum temperatures:Cool ( 20C - 24C / 68F - 75F), Warm (25C - 30C / 76F - 85F), Cold (< 20C / 67F)
- Frost resistance of blossom:Good resistance
- Country of origin:United Kingdom
- Period of origin:1750 - 1799
- Fruit colour:Green - light
- Awards:RHS Award of Garden Merit