Just who are Cherry Beckford and Olive Snodgrass?
Forgive that strange introduction, but we quite frequently get questioned on the origins of both our hotel and restaurant name. The hotel’s origins are simple; originally commissioned as a residential home by the 8th Marquess of Queensberry in 1771, the hotel in its previous guise, spanned three Georgian terrace townhouses. In the years following, the hotel would see past lives as the aforementioned residence, as a bed and breakfast, as student accommodation and now finally as a luxury hotel since 1987. Appropriately named after the Marquess (who himself was well-known for his quirks and career) the hotel expanded even further to occupy four townhouses and stands the same at this present day.
When it comes to places to eat in Bath, the origins of our restaurant have to be considered far beyond any title or heritage. Refurbished in 2015 and awarded a Michelin star in 2018, the restaurant is sometimes a tad confusing for press and diners. The food makes perfect sense, but why the name? Despite the Olive Tree being housed in the dining spaces below reception, it is a misnomer to assume that it is a Mediterranean restaurant, or that there are any Mediterranean roots to the establishment at all.
It is at this point that we are able to introduce Olive and Cherry more formally into our blog.
Olive and Cherry – those two names hold much weight in the history and creation of our restaurant. Olive Snodgrass and Cherry Beckford are caught in a perpetual scrap as our logo shows. By a strange twist of fate, Cherry still lives on even though she wasn’t the victor! While to scrap seems quite vicious, and upon first look quite untoward, it makes sense why many diners ask, “What on earth matters quite so much to these ladies?”
We don’t condone violence, and nor do the Queensberry Rules. As unseemly violence goes, it’s not the most mindless; there’s a principle at stake, and the right to a lasting legacy. Allow us to share a little background on these players, before we discuss the fisticuffs.
Cherry Beckford – beloved and admired by almost everyone in Bath, Cherry spent her days practising embroidery and indulging in a spot of Sherry a few evenings a week. Polite and revered, she had many admirers and when the time came to announce that a restaurant was to hold a competition to decide its name (in our fictional Victorian era at least) many gentlemen put her name forward and expected it to be chosen. As a cherry is the fruit of many plants of the genus Prunus, and cherry fruits are usually hail from a limited number of species, the gentlemen of Russel Street favoured her name as they thought it signified rarity but at the same time inclusivity – an indicator of dishes that would be on offer and the ingredients used.
Olive Snodgrass – strong-minded and generous, Olive was by no means unruly, but her reputation for fun and frolics around the city proceeded her. Never hurtful, her jokes always brought a smile to local faces. She was most unlike any other ladies, and just as the olive branch is renowned as a symbol of abundance, glory, and peace, she was known around the upper areas of Bath for sharing advice and at times money, with whomever needed it. Olive put herself forward to be the namesake of the restaurant and garnered much support. One passer-by is said to have remarked at how the leafy branches of an olive tree were once used to crown victors in ancient times – fitting, then, almost foreshadowing that Olive is the winner in our tale but we digress.
It has been long forgotten what the original competition was meant to be – some say blindfolded ingredient tasting, others say something less taxing. One thing is sure – no one expected Olive to propose they arm wrestle when both her and Cherry made it to the final two names. This was quickly scrapped, and instead, an unnamed gentleman jokingly referenced the Queensberry boxing rules. Lo and behold, words were exchanged and before everyone’s eyes both Olive and Cherry were in fisticuffs.
No gentleman wished to step in and referee – Miss Olive Snodgrass and Miss Cherry Beckford fought for a full twelve and a half minutes over whether the restaurant should be called the Olive or the Cherry Tree. You can guess who won! They were the talk of Bath for three or four months before the women chose to devote their time to less raucous activities.
Laurence said – “Conveniently and thankfully, those who talk of our fictional history have forgotten the details of the fight. All we know is that Olive won and the restaurant became the Olive Tree. Our heritage closely ties into actual history – you need only look at the influence the Marquess of Queensberry has had on the hotel.”
You won’t see fighting in the restaurant any time soon, but we are rather grateful that both Olive and Cherry had that argument. To book a table at one of the finest places to eat in Bath, contact us today.