When we were children it did not seem remarkable that there should be a mulberry tree behind our houses in Reform Row. It was a magnificent tree, regularly producing a good crop of mulberries and one of the last remnants of the 17th century orchard behind the Quaker meeting house. Our tree found itself in the forecourt of the small factory behind Reform Row and pressed up against the newly built gymnasium of Parkhurst School. It was clearly a survivor
Our mothers would let us know when the mulberries were ripe for picking, and on a Sunday, when the factory was closed, we would climb over the wooden gates and into the factory grounds clutching our bowls for the fruit. We knew this was scrumping, but to our mind the tree did not belong to anyone and its splendid fruit would otherwise go to waste. We scrambled up the lower branches, the bigger children helping the little ones, and with luck gain access to the flat gym roof, where we could wander round collecting the rich purple fruit. Plenty went into our bowls, but quite a lot into our mouths. On one occasion I remember being told off by my friend because I ate too many mulberries and there was not enough for my mum to make jam. My mum’s jam was highly regarded in our family and the street
The tree did not long survive the new ownership of the factory in the 1970s, but a companion tree lasted a lot longer in the playground of the nearby Parkhurst School – since renamed the Mulberry School in honour of that survivor.