After graduating in Library Studies, Margaret Roberts spent her career with the Ministry of Defence, followed by management roles with The Royal British Legion and the NHS. Now retired, she spends her time volunteering at Warden Abbey Vineyard, a community project in Bedfordshire.
Warden Abbey was founded in 1135, but on the orders of Henry VIII, the buildings were flattened in the mid-16th century, leaving behind nothing more than a few bumps in the ground and a story begging to be told. Starting in the summer of 2014, Margaret’s interest in tending the vineyard extended to discovering more about the abbey’s past, and her research has taken some unlikely turns. Curious to find out whether either the abbey or the nearby village of Old Warden had any connection with the warden pear (pears feature on the abbey’s arms), she headed off in a new direction. Her first book, The Original Warden Pear, is the result. Touching on a wide range of subjects, it can be enjoyed not only by visitors to the vineyard, but by anyone with an interest in horticulture, the history of Bedfordshire, medicine in the Middle Ages, or recreating medieval recipes. Profits will go towards the upkeep of the vineyard.
As well as sharing the abbey’s story with visitors to the vineyard, Margaret is working hard on her book, Warden Abbey: the lost plot, which she hopes to complete in 2018.
Warden Abbey Vineyard
ABOUT ‘The Original Warden Pear’
Having enjoyed widespread popularity until the late seventeenth century, the warden pear gradually faded into obscurity. The Original Warden Pear uncovers its story, bringing together evidence from monks, horticulturalists, physicians and bookkeepers. Poets, songwriters and playwrights captured the spirit of the pear from the late fourteenth century onwards, while twenty-first century DNA testing has sought to discover whether anything of the old warden pears has survived. The Original Warden Pear will appeal to those interested in horticulture, the arts, theology, Bedfordshire local history and medieval medicine. Recipes are included, so that readers can recreate the sorts of pear dishes enjoyed by the fifteenth-century nobility, or bake one of the famous Warden Pies.
The Original Warden Pear will be available on line in early May.