Ribes rubrum ‘Raby Castle’

‘Bunches, very long, more so than those of Red Dutch. Berries, larger, brighter red, and rather more acid. The bush has a rapid and unusually tall habit of growth. Shoots, reddish brown. Leaves, shining above, dark bluish green, very rugose, and darker than those of any other variety. Flowers tinged with red. This is a valuable currant; the fruit ripens later, and hangs longer than that of any other variety; but it is not an abundant bearer, and on account of its strong, vigorous growth, Mr. Barron recommends it as very suitable for growing as standards or large bushes.’ [Hogg – Fruit Manual p.321/1884].  See also Ribes rubrum L.

Horticultural & Botanical History

‘Were it not for the fact that the berries are small and ripen rather unevenly, Victoria would hold high rank among cultivated currants. The plants are exceedingly vigorous and productive, and the fruits are among the best in quality and possibly keep longer on the bushes than those of any other variety. The plants are rather more resistant to currant borers than those of other varieties, and are very free from most other insects and diseases as well; they are, however, susceptible to scalding in hot weather. In Canada it is found that Victoria is hardier than most other standard currants. The variety has the peculiarity of holding its foliage very late in the fall. More confusion exists in the identity of this currant than with almost any other sort. So many varieties have been sold under the various names appearing above that it is almost hopeless to straighten out the tangle. From various accounts it appears that the variety originated about 1800 on an estate known as Houghton Castle, near Hexam [sic], Northumberland, England, having been discovered by Robert Charlton, a nurseryman's apprentice. Charlton later sold the new currant under the name Houghton Castle. About 1840, a Mr. May, Ripon, Yorkshire, England, advertised a currant under the name May's Victoria, which he had procured from gardens at Raby Castle, and which had been known there as Raby Castle. Later Mr. May identified his Victoria with Charlton's Houghton Castle and upon investigation found that the Houghton Castle had once been sent to Raby Castle, where it had been renamed. While Bunyard, in the reference given, is of the opinion that Raby Castle and Houghton Castle or Victoria are distinct, the writers believe that they are identical. In 1852 the American Pomological Society placed this variety in its list of recommended fruits under the name May's Victoria, but later shortened the name to Victoria.’ [Small Fruits of New York p.297]. Figured in this publication as ‘Victoria’, the illustration used here.

This communication to The Gardeners’ Chronicle provides further details of the history of this plant. ‘The Houghton Castle, alias May’s Victoria, alias the Raby Castle red Currant. – The following is the history of this excellent currant, which I took down a few days ago from its discoverer, Mr. Robert Charlton, nurseryman, Wall near Hexham, Northumberland. About 40 years ago Mr. C., then apprentice to a Mr. John Gray, a jobbing gardener, who took care of Captain Smith’s gardens at Houghton Castle, situate a few miles from Hexham, on the banks of the North Tyne river, was sent by his master to gather red currants for the house to be used for preserving. He commenced his labours on the bushes trained as riders on the north side of a wall which had been built about six years previously. When he reached the last bush, at the west end of the wall, he was much struck with the appearance of the fruit it bore, which was very superior, and larger that that of the other bushes. He at once went to his master, to ask him, what sort of currant it was, who said he did not know, but returned with Charlton to look at it. Mr. Gray then recollected that when he planted the wall he had a bush too few, and looking about the garden found a seedling growing under a gooseberry bush which he took up and planted, and which proved to be the bush in question. The lad set to work and propagated it extensively, giving it to everyone, and when he commenced a nursery on his own account, regularly sold it as the Houghton Castle Currant, under which name it was advertised in an early volume of the Chronicle. When some 8 or 9 years ago, Mr. May, after being satisfied at Mr. Charlton’s nursery with the identity of it and his Victoria currant [see Gard. Chron. p.607/1842], was asked how and where he got his plants, he informed Mr. Charlton that he received the variety from the gardener at Raby Castle, whither it had been sent from the late Mr. Falla’s nursery at Gateshead. Charlton had previously been regularly supplying Mr. Falla with plants. It is, therefore, an accidental seedling variety, and is very generally cultivated in the gardens of Northumberland, where it is much esteemed and deservedly so. I have no doubt Mr. Charlton can supply any of your readers with plants, and I trust it will now be extensively grown all over the kingdom, for it certainly is a valuable addition to our list of fruits. – G. W.’ [Gard. Chron. p.717/1847].

It was still a prized variety in Australia at the end of the 19th century. ‘This is an excellent and useful late variety, with very long bunches. Berries large, bright red, and somewhat more acid in flavour than the Red Dutch and most other kinds. An abundant bearer, and the fruit will hang longer after it is ripe than most other sorts. Plant hardy, and spreading in habit.’ [Crichton - The Australasian Fruit Culturist vol.1, p.290/1893].


History at Camden Park

Listed only in an Addendum to the 1857 catalogue as ‘Raby Castle’ [Currant no.1/1857].


Published Jun 07, 2010 - 05:00 PM | Last updated Jul 21, 2011 - 02:34 PM

Figured is a fruiting shoot showing lobed leaves and several bunches of red fruit. Small Fruits of New York p.297, 1825.

Ribes rubrum ‘Raby Castle’ | Small Fruits of New York p.297/1825 | BHL


More details about Ribes rubrum ‘Raby Castle’
Family Grossulariaceae
Region of origin

Garden origin, uncertain but probably England

  • Gondouin
  • Imperiale Rouge de Hollande à Grappes Longues
  • Houghton Castle
  • May’s Victoria
  • Victoria
  • Goliath
  • Wilmot’s Red Grape
  • New Red Dutch
  • and others similar


Common Name

Red Currant

Name in the Camden Park Record

Raby Castle 

Confidence level high