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Our Story

Two little boys slaving away in Yorkshire!

I am lucky enough to have grown up with my brother, Richard, in Womersley Yorkshire in a family of generations of
botanically enthused people... 

Martin & Aline Parsons at Womersley

Martin & Aline Parsons at Womersley

My father, Martin Parsons, was a keen plantsman and gardener who made the most of our large kitchen garden in Yorkshire, filling it with an array of fragrant herbs and delicious fruit. Over the years from 1979 onwards when my parents, Martin and Aline, started their Aladdin’s cave of a craft and food shop in the quiet village of Womersley, we saw the reputation of the vinegars and jellies grow above all the other locally made crafts they stocked. Martin's flair for concoting deadly cocktails in his rakish youth was inherited from his father and he put that to good use with the vinegars and dressings.

My brother, Richard, and I used to spend many hours as children slaving away picking endless amounts of raspberries for the vinegar come rain or shine! Meanwhile, our father would merrily hum the tune "Two little boys..."

In 2009, having spent my years since school repairing clocks, I exchanged time for thyme (groan) by initially helping my parents then taking over the fruity world of Womersley. I soon decided that it was very important that we rebranded the business in order to compete more efficiently and so our bottles would really stand out beautifully.

We won a Designing Demand Grant from the Design Council and appointed Mayday Living Brands to oversee our rebrand and design. Through them, we were introduced to the amazing Swedish artist, Petra Borner, who did the artwork for our new logo. I am so glad we rebranded the company, as so many people have told me how much they love our logo, that it is really bright and eye-catching.

Richard, meanwhile, now lives in northern New South Wales where he has a lovely big garden and grows bananas and macadamia nuts and all sorts of exotic plants, having got the same bug of being... Botanically Enthused.

At Womersley, there are currently just the two of us: me, Rupert, and my wife, Jani. But we work hard to bring you the best fruit vinegars, especially the multitasking one... 

                 Rupert Parsons

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The Womersley brand was launched by Martin and Aline Parsons from their home, Womersley Hall, in 1979 and has become one of Yorkshire and England's leading Gourmet Brands.

The home grown specialist herbs and fruits are the key ingredients of our now famous fruit and herb vinegars and jellies. Martin attributes his expert knowledge of speciality herbs to his family's background. The Parsons family has lived in Yorkshire for generations and is famous for grand gardens and horticulture at Nymans in Sussex and Birr Castle in Ireland. Martin's instinctive ability to blend specialist herbs and sumptuous fruits with vinegar and sugar has created for cooks and chefs a product of such versatility that they are rightly famous and have won numerous taste awards.

In 2009, Martin and Aline's son, Rupert, took on the privilege of running Womersley. Since doing so, he has overseen the move to a bespoke new, and larger, premises as well as rebranding the company image to make the look more inclusive. Rupert says that 'having listened to my father's glowing testimonials of his own creations over many years, I wanted to find another way of showing how delicious our jellies and vinegars are by displaying beautiful artwork on the outside of the bottle.'

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Memories of the co-creator of Womersley, my father, Martin Parsons:

My brother, Richard, and I were both born in Melbourne, where we lived for the first few years of our lives. We had a lovely home and garden on Willesden Road in the suburb of Hughesdale. One of my vivid memories was the lemon tree our father planted in the middle of the lawn. While we lived there, Granny came to stay and was delighted to be able to pick a lemon from the tree for her gin and tonic. So, from then on, Richard and I referred to it as the Gin and Tonic tree...

Everyone who knew Martin will relate how he did rather like a drink or two and was always very hospitable. In his twenties, he set up the Pink Elephant Tie Club which only ever had very few members: the conditions of entry inevitably involved the consumption of a "couple" of drinks which, in Australia meant any number more than two and preferably considerably more. After work, he would call in at the now iconic Young and Jackson's bar opposite Flinders Street Station (not far to stagger for the train home) for a couple. Asked once if it was about time he went home for supper, he remarked that there was a (metaphorical) pork chop in every glass! And so it was, on the second anniversary of his death this week, that I decided to remember Fa (as Richard and I called him) with a couple of real pork chops bought from our local butcher within the nearby Garden Centre, Wyatts, tenderised in my favourite of Fa's creations, Lime, Black Pepper & Lavender. Oh, and it was all washed down with a bottle of Melbourne's beer, VB: hardly the best beer in the world, but from my home town, so it tastes special.

Victoria Bitter    

This year, we are privileged to have been selected as Food Heroes by fine wine merchants, House Of Townend, who have put a lovely photograph of Fa on their cover. This was actually a picture taken by Joan Russell for the feature in Yorkshire Life in 2010 and shows him with a huge basket of geranium leaves in his garden in Yorkshire. This is a particularly lovely story since one of Martin's greatest friends, with whom he went to Eton and did his National Service, is David Butler-Adams, Past Master of the Vintners Company (2000-1) and Consultant to House of Townend.

Martin Parsons. Photo by Joan Russell

David gave the address at Martin's very colourful funeral in 2010 and has kindly allowed us to share the notes of his words which are a fitting tribute to such a colourful character:

"Born at Nymans, the Messel home, on 23rd December 1938 in the snow! Often having a bad cough as a child, a hyssop bush was planted beneath his window, maybe the start of his love of herbs!
Aged 8, he was sent to Prep school at Summerfields in Oxford. From there, he progressed to Eton where four of us here today became good friends. We had stamp collecting and tennis in common as well as trying to do as little work as possible!
My first visit to Birr (the family home in Ireland), in the early 1950s, was unforgettable. Marts insisted on my taking some pills to stoop me getting ill from so much rish food! Footman behind every chair in the dining room, Connors (the butler) in charge and Hoysted driving the car. His Papa always charming and Mama quite strict as well as beautiful.
On leaving Eton, we found ourselves on the same train going to Caterham on my birthday, to join the Irish Guards at their National Service depot. Basic training was tough and I remember one evening Marts wanted to go to the loo. Permission had to be granted and Marts duly went the 100 yards down to the latrines. Half an hour later, no sign of him and I was sent to investigate... he had passed out from the fumes of the open anthracite fire lit to stop the pipes from freezing!
Martin received an injury which prevented him from completing his National Service. He went on to work at De Steins Merchant Bank for a while before moving to Australia in 1961 to join Consolidated Zinc in Melbourne. He followed this up with a nine year stint at Qantas, where he made all the travel arrangements for international medical conference delegates and during which Aline followed him out to Australia.
1964 saw a get together of friends and family in Ireland: how we managed to drink at Molly's Bar, return to the house where we had some of the famous Birr Cocktails then still had to make sense to Lady Rosse at dinner, I shall never know....
Martin and Aline were married at St Michael's, Chester Square in London, followed by a very pissy party!
They returned to Melbourne where Rupert was born in 1966 and Richard in 1968. Then, in 1972, Martin's aunt Bridget died, leaving her London home in Lennox Gardens to Martin. So the family moved back to London and, a year later, to Yorkshire. I remember well the barbecues in the snow.
In 1976, Martin, Aline and the boys moved to Womersley, the family home for many generations and still the home of Martin's grandmother, Lois de Vesci, who lived to the ripe old age of 101. The house was already in a poor state, with leaky roofs, but the kitchen garden allowed plenty of scope for Martin's botanical enthusiasm to finally be set free. Martin and Aline set up their Craft Shop and Herb Centre in 1979 and soon started making herb jellies and, eventually, fruit vinegars to a traditional Yorkshire recipe.
After years of trying to maintain the house, though, in 2004 it had to be sold and Martin and Aline moved to a far more manageable (and warmer) home nearby.
2009 saw Rupert take time out from his horology profession to take on running Womersley which was, by then, an exclusively food business.
Apart from Marts' great love and expertise in the field of herbs and plants, especially medicinal, the vinegars are still unbeatable.

You could not find a more generous, fun loving person who never complained. But, of course, like all of us, his secret of success was to find his adorable Aline who, against all odds, kept him on the straight and narrow and moved him out of "the fast line..."

Thank God for his 71 years, he will be sorely missed."

Martin in his Greenhouse, with one of his favourite Apache Chillies. Photo by Joan Russell

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When I was only nine years old, we moved to the family home at Womersley Hall in Yorkshire in the drought Summer of 1976. This was not like an ordinary house move, since our new home was completely furnished with the many generations of contents collected over the years. From the moment we moved in, my brother (Richard) and I definitely had the feeling that we were merely the latest generation to be allowed temporary use of this house.
It was big (certainly compared to the rented house near York we came from) and, in Winter, unbelievably cold. There was no heating and the ice would form on the inside as well as the outside of the windows: it was very pretty! I would wake up curled into a little ball at the bottom of the bed.
When the buckets used in the early days of vinegar and pickled walnut making were no longer cleanable, they found useful employment all over the house catching the leaks which poured through the cracks in the lead. But it was our home, and the space and privacy was a luxury we enjoyed.
During the war, the house was divided to allow the army temporary residence in one wing and the attics. There are still scratched panes of glass in the attic where they made their mark. Whilst there, they constructed a single storey building for further accommodation which became the apple store after the war. A little while after we moved there, we cleared the apples as my parents had decided to open a shop full of local crafts and herbal goods. So we all got painting....
The green and white building was always heaving with goods: herbal pillows, corn dollies, wood turning, glass, dried flowers, cards and masses more which lent the whole building a permanently fragrant air. With a long held love of herbs and a big kitchen garden, my father was now in his element. He really loved coming up with herbal remedies and grew a huge number of herbs to make all the various sachets and oils.
One day, when my Granny was staying, she wondered whether the shop could sell her Mint Jelly. She had used the same recipe for many years, one which included vinegar and green colouring. Mum gave it a go but, upon seeing that beautiful rich golden colour of the jelly, decided to omit the green colouring. That was the first food we ever tried to sell and it proved popular enough that my father and mother soon decided to try other herbs in the garden to make more jellies.

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Amidst lots of publicity around Raspberry Vinegar, I was looking forward to a weekend at our old family home in Sussex and witnessing our visitors getting the "wow factor" when they tasted ours. A good variety of exhibitors at the Nymans annual Green Gardening Festival enjoyed a warm sunny weekend and my neighbours, Yummy Lollies sold out of their delicious fruit ice lollies on both days.
The Summer Borders in October!            
Strangely, it always seemed to rain when I visited my grandparents at Nymans and this persisted into my visit to the Green Garden Fair last year. So I was really delighted to feel the warmth of the sun in October this time and to have the opportunity to get a few photos of Nymans looking its best.
Fuschia Detail
In the late 19th century, the Messel family bought the Nymans estate, in the picturesque High Weald landscape of Sussex, to make a home in the country. It became a happy family home and refuge from their town house at 18 Stafford Terrace in Kensington. Inspired by the setting and the soil, the Messels created one of the great gardens, with experimental designs and new plants from around the world. Here they entertained family and friends, enjoying relaxing times, strolling in the garden, playing, picnicking and walking in the woods. 
The Entrance Wild Flowers
My father, Martin Parsons, was the only member of the family to be born at Nymans and it was this start in his life which made him the "Botanically Enthused" person he became. As a child, he suffered terribly from croup and it was inhaling the fragrance of the hyssop grown under his bedroom window which gave him some relief from the incessant coughing. Years later, having moved to Womersley, my father used the kitchen garden to grow the masses of fruit and herbs which were eventually used in his concoctions which we make to this day.
The Summer Borders
Nymans is now a very popular National Trust property and rejoices in being an excellent location for family visits. The team has done a superb job over the past few years of maintaining the colourful and abundant gardens whilst making the whole property feel like it is still a family home. I believe it is precisely this connection with the family which persists in ensuring that Nymans attracts many new AND repeat visitors. 
The Ruins of the House

I was delighted to greet Urvashi Roe and her family on our stand. Urvashi was fresh from her appearance on the popular BBC programme "The Great British Bake Off" and we both enjoyed sharing our views on being "Botanically Enthused."

Urvashi Roe getting all Botanical
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My father, a keen plantsman and gardener, developed our large kitchen garden in Yorkshire, full of a huge array of fragrant herbs and delicious fruit. Over the years, from 1979 onwards, when my parents, Martin and Aline Parsons, started their Aladdin’s cave of a craft and food shop in the quiet village of Womersley, we saw the reputation of the vinegars and jellies, in particular, grew above all the other foods we were stocking. In 2009 I took over the running of the company, and I decided that it was very important that we rebranded the business in order to compete more efficiently.

We won a Designing Demand Grant from the Design Council and appointed Mayday Living Brands to oversee our rebrand and design. Through them, we were introduced to the amazing Swedish artist, Petra Borner, who did all the artwork for our new logo. I am so glad we rebranded the company, as so many people have told me how much they love our logo, that it is really bright and eye-catching....perfect for deli shelves and to show off in your kitchen, too!

So much has happened in the last year: we have won a Gold** at the Guild of Fine Food Awards and we have set about really focussing on those product lines that represent our strengths. The Foodie Bugle approached me to write all about our artisanal fruit and herbal vinegars and jellies, and to tell readers how they can be used in cooking.

We are a small, artisanal family business, we take great pride in what we do and I hope I have inspired you to be a little more adventurous in your cooking. Our website tells you all about our stockists, but if you would like to meet us or taste our products, then do come along to one of the food fairs where we exhibit. I really look forward to seeing you there.

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Womersley Packaging Designs by Mayday and Petra Borner
The Penta Award Winning Designs

"The Womersley brand was launched by Martin and Aline Parsons from their home, Womersley Hall, in 1979 and has become one of Yorkshire and England’s leading Gourmet Brands. When refreshing the Womersley brand this year, Petra Börner was commissioned by Mayday Living Brands to develop their logo and illustrate 24 packaging designs for their jellies and vinegar ranges. Each design is individually inspired by each flavour. To find out more about Womersley and to see the whole, beautiful product range, please visit the product pages.

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