The Orchard, first planted in 1868, became a Tea Garden purely by chance. A group of Cambridge students asked Mrs Stevenson of Orchard House if she would serve them tea beneath the blossoming fruit trees rather than, as was usual, on the front lawn of the House. The Orchard soon became a popular ‘up-river resort’.
A famous lodger at Orchard House was Rupert Brook the poet. He had moved out of Cambridge in 1909, hoping to escape his hectic social life there, but in vain. The charismatic young Brooke drew a constant stream of visitors, and eventually became the centre of a circle of friends, later dubbed by Virginia Woolf the ‘Neo-Pagans’. Brooke had fallen in love with his idyllic life in Grantchester, and, while in a homesick mood on a trip to Berlin, wrote one of his best-known poems, ‘The Old Vicarage, Grantchester’: the famous final lines immortalising afternoon tea in the Orchard.
Stands the church clock at ten-to-three And is there honey still for tea?
The Orchard today
My friend enjoying lunch (before the heavens opened and we ran for cover!)
Well we didn't have honey, but we did have a delicious lunch in the Orchard which can't have changed much from Brooke's time.
Just a few months before Brooke died in 1915, on a troop ship bound for Gallipoli, he wrote his poem The Soldier which contained these immortal lines on Grantchester.
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England
Well we certainly thought it was a very special place.