The Packham pear, which today accounts for approximately 60 per cent of Australia’s pear production, was developed by Charles Packham at his property “Clifton” at Garra, near Molong in the New South Wales central west. The town of Molong promotes the pear as a local product “since 1895”, although other accounts date its arrival to 1896.
Packham was an established orchardist in the area and, in the 1890s, won many prizes at local shows. At the N.S.W. Agricultural Society’s Sydney show in 1894, he won three first prizes. His new pear was a cross between an old British variety, Uvedale’s St. Germain, also known as a Belle or White Belle pear, and a Williams’ Bon Chretien, more commonly known just as a Williams or, in America, Bartlett pear. Both varieties were established in Australia and were among those grown by Sir William MacArthur at Camden Park, NSW between 1820 and 1861.
The tree that produced the Packham pear was planted around 1891 and by the middle of the decade was producing fine fruit. Packham supplied samples of the pear to the Department of Mines and Agriculture, where it was received with acclaim. In 1900, the Department’s fruit expert, Mr W. J. Allen, wrote to Packham saying:
I have had your seedling pear photographed and when the artist colors it I will have it inserted in the ‘Agricultural Gazette’. Would you kindly therefore send me any information you can about it, from what pear you think it was grown, &c., also the name you have decided to call it.
Packham suggested the pear be called “Packham’s Seedling”, but the Department subsequently suggested that “Packham’s Triumph” would be a better choice. The new pear attracted favourable attention the following year, with a number of articles appearing in the rural press calling it a “Credit to Molong” and a “Paragon Pear“.
Charles Packham died in 1909. At the time, there were about 20,000 seedlings in his orchard at Garra. Less than ten years later, all his trees had been grubbed out and, today, there is no trace of what was once one of Australia’s most significant orchards. The Packham pear, however, has gone on to become a best-seller around the world.