Pear Williams Bon Chretien (Bartlett)

I’ve always been a bit wary of the phrase “a good all rounder”. At school I was described as such and it always seemed to say competent at most things, master of none. It’s a very unexciting phrase.

So I feel a little ungenerous describing the pear Williams Bon Cretein as a good all rounder but in this case it is a fair description. This English heritage pear, first found in 1765 and later sold by Richard Williams has a smooth buttery flesh and real pear flavour. It is well suited to eating fresh but can also withstand cooking so can be used as a culinary pear. The pear itself is so good that many have tried to claim heritage. In the USA it is known as Bartlett after Ehnoc Bartlett started producing it in the USA in 1817 and the continent also had a stab, the “Bon Chretien” being the French for Good Christian which references a story that the King of France was supposedly cured after eating this pear sent by A holy man some 300 years before but there is no evidence that Williams is the same pear and Bon Chretien was added after. Many people will still call the pear Williams.

Pear Williams Bon Chretien ©️LucySaunders2020

In the kitchen

A multi purpose pear. Can be eaten fresh and also used in deserts such as poached pears or tarts. Helpfully Williams turns either yellow or red, depending on the variety when ready to eat. You would normally harvest this a little underripe in late summer. Mine were ready this year in late August, very early September.

Yield and plant health

The yield was so high on mine this year that a bough broke under the weight of them. Serious thinning can be required to help the tree produce fewer but better quality fruit.

Pear Williams Bon Chretien ©️LucySaunders2020


Fairly widely available but you can also find at

Orange Pippin

J Parker’s


Pear Williams Bon Chretien ©️LucySaunders2020

How to Grow

Pears are hardy trees that can live for 50 plus years if well looked after although they are considered to be a bit more fussy than apple trees, Traditionally they are planted when dormant in the winter and you can buy either pots or bare rooted plants.

Trees are often grown on different rootstocks to reduce the size that they will grow to. The smaller the root stock, the faster to fruit but yield is reduced. Smaller rootstocks are good for training pear against walls in the forms of cordons or “stepovers” or for growing in pots.

Quince C – Trees will grow up to three metres and fruit after 3 years. Plant trees 4 meters apart and will need permanent staking.

Quince A – Trees will grow to 4.5 metres and fruit after 4 years. Plant 5 metres apart and stake for the first 5 years.

If your tree is not self fertile you will need to find it a partner tree in the same pollination group. Pollination group A can usually pollenate A and B. Pollination group B can pollinate A, B and C. Pollination group C can pollinate B and C and D. Pollination group D can pollinate C and D. Some trees, like conference are self fertile, others like Beurre Hardy or Merton pride are poor pollinators for other trees. Check if you need a partner before you buy.

Before your plants arrive prepare the ground in a sunny, sheltered spot preferably with good drainage. You will also need stakes and ties and you might want to have mmycorrhizal fungi

Dig a hole the size of the rootball in depth but three times as wide. If your soil is heavy clay you might want to incorporate some extra drainage with some grit and compost. Position your stake in the planting pit and bang firmly in using a mallet. If using mycorrhizal fungi then gently sprinkle over the roots before laying them down in the planting pit, spreading the roots out in the pit. The tree should be no deeper than previously planted and the graft, if it is a grafted tree should not be covered. Cover the roots with soil and gently firm in with your foot around the tree. Tie the tree to the stake and water well.

After this your tree should need little attention. It is advisable to remove any fruit that sets in the first year to allow it focus on setting up healthy roots and growth and to water in dry periods in the first year. The stake should remain for at least the first two years but pears grown on dwarfing rootstocks may need permanent staking and watering if dry.

Remove and dead or crossing branches in winter when dormant. You can also thin in summer to allow more light in to the tree. Spur bearing trees can handle greater pruning than tip bearing, where removal of the tips mean the removal of all fruit. This means only spur bearers should be used for cordons and stepovers.

Pears are ready to harvest when if you bend the fruit by 90 degrees it pulls easily away from the tree. Once they have reached full size, a few dropping can be a good indication. Because many pears store well in cool conditions they can be harvested a little underripe and stored in the fridge.

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