Gordon Bosley was born at Fairlawn, Harwell, on August 20th, 1900; he was named Gordon after General Gordon, there being a vogue at that time for naming children after great men. Gordon’s father, William, was a coal merchant, with interests in grass-mowing, poultry-rearing and the hiring out of agricultural machinery. William’s one ambition was to acquire land to plant his own orchards. William’s opportunity came in 1907, when he was able to take over the tenancy of King’s Farm (Townsend), though he still lived at Fairlawn, which had ample yards for his other business interests. His account book, kept by his wife, still exists, bound in leather, showing the diversity of the work he undertook.
When William’s son, Gordon, finished his schooldays at King Alfred’s School, Wantage, at the beginning of the First World War, he went at once into his father’s expanding business. William bought fruit from many orchards and stored it at Fairlawn. Young Gordon was kept out of the army by a strained heart and varicose veins; he was unaware of these disabilities then, and they had no effect on him afterwards.
Gordon worked hard for his father, and in 1926 suffered several accidents: he was badly stung by a swarm of bees, treated for suspected tetanus after sticking a hay- fork into his hand, and finally found unconscious in the road, having come off his motorcycle on his way home from a tennis match. He took up poultry-rearing then, as a lighter sideline, for it was discovered that he had severed an optic nerve, and lost the sight of one eye.
His father leased Middle Farm, and in 1934 Gordon married and went to live at Pomander House and then King’s Farm. In about 1937 or 1938 William and Gordon bought 1200 cherry trees at 2s.6d. each, from Kent, and planted them, one between four Bramleys, on King’s Farm; but William became ill, and Gordon had to give up his poultry. William was worried by the need to pay tithe arrears under the 1936 Tithe Act; he took part in the protest march to London, but in July 1939 he died. That year they had a wonderful crop of cherries, and the cherry barn at Middle Farm was full; William’s ambition had been achieved. Gordon and his wife and daughter moved to Middle Farm and went on with the business.
During World War II, Gordon had to supply milk to all Harwell and the surrounding area. He had to install milking machines and sterilising equipment and milked about thirty cows a day. He was able to buy Middle Farm from his landlords in 1946. By doing so, he ended ownership of the farm by Magdalen College, Oxford, which had lasted over four hundred and sixty years. He began to grow some of the best fruit in the country, and won a silver medal at the Royal Show in 1954, for the best cherry orchard south of the Thames; this was judged to be William’s big orchard at King’s Farm. Unfortunately a virus attacked it almost straight away.
Gordon grew such wonderful cherries, including a new variety of his own, named Judy’s Fancy after his daughter, that people came from all over the world to buy Harwell cherries and fruit of all kinds. There were only about two months in the year when he had no fruit for sale because he built huge sheds in which the fruit was stored at a wide range of temperatures. The cherries and other fruit were sold in the medieval barn at Middle Farm; many famous people wrote letters of appreciation, for Gordon supplied English Prime Ministers and Chinese ambassadors. John Masefield used to come regularly for fruit, and wrote his poem “The Cherries” showing that he had studied more about cherries than most people who bought their chip-baskets of the beautiful fruit.