A cobnut is a cultivated variety of hazelnut, just as a Cox is a cultivated variety of apple. Mankind has enjoyed wild hazelnuts from time immemorial, and cultivated hazelnuts, sometimes known as filberts, have been grown in gardens and orchards since at least the 16th century. Children played an early version of 'conkers' with hazelnuts; the game was called cobnut or cobblenut, and the winning nut "the cob".
Many new cultivars were bred in the 19th century. The variety Kentish Cob was probably introduced in about 1830 and was so successful it soon supplanted most other varieties. Cobnut production increased greatly, especially in the Home Counties, where the produce could be taken to London by train. Labour was cheap, and by 1913 plantations extended to over 7,000 acres (2,830 hectares), most of the orchards or 'plats' being in Kent.
After the First World War, labour became more expensive, and home produce had to compete with imported fruit and nuts, which became increasingly available as transport and refrigeration improved. By 1951, the area of cobnuts in Kent was estimated at no more than 730 acres (300 hectares), and by 1990 this had declined to about 250 acres (100 hectares) and many of the plats were derelict.
The Kentish Cobnuts Association was established in 1990, with the aims of regenerating the industry, promoting cobnuts and representing its members. Membership currently stands at 150. It runs courses on pruning and plat management, produces a newsletter about three times a year, and holds events such as the Annual Nutters Supper. Members attend and compete in the National Fruit Show. Advice on how to prune cobnut trees is given in our booklet 'Pruning Kentish Cobnuts'.
Membership of the Association costs £15.00 pa. To join complete and send the application form.