How Herefordshire Helped Save the British Cider Industry

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There has been a strong tradition of cider-making throughout Herefordshire for over three-hundred-and-fifty years. The county still accounts for over half the cider produced in the UK.  The earliest written  mention of cider can be found in Hereford Cathedral’s famous Chained library in the Wycliffe Bible.  Today’s cider and perry industry owes much to Herefordshire and in particular a few influential and passionate men who played a crucial role in its development.In the 1600s, Lord Scudamore, who had been  ambassador to France, returned to his estate in Holme Lacy, Herefordshire, determined to take on the French cider industry.  He set to work growing and improving fruit trees and began producing cider at his estate on a large scale.  He is recognised as developing the Redstreak cider apple, which became celebrated as the finest cider apple variety in England. Cider produced from this apple was so sought after that it is reputed to have commanded prices as high as the best imported wine.

Thomas Andrew Knight, born in 1759 at Wormsley Grange in Herefordshire, is regarded by many as the father of modern scientific pomology. He helped to develop many of the fruit varieties we know today. He carried out physiological experiments on fruit trees such as grafting and pruning. Pests and diseases were poorly understood in the 18th century. Thomas Andrew Knight gives the first accurate description of the life histories of common pests and diseases that afflict fruit trees in his Treatise on the Culture of the Apple and Pear. In 1811, he published Pomona Herefordiensis, the first colour illustrated book of apples and pears in the world. It was a landmark in the history of the perry pear since it was the first book which included illustrations of pears.

By the 19th century, the cider industry in Herefordshire was in decline and Lord Scudamore’s Redstreak cider apple was reported to be almost extinct.  The Woolhope Naturalists Field Club commissioned Dr Robert Hogg, secretary of the influential British Pomological Society, to conduct a survey of Herefordshire’s orchards and identify the best local varieties.  It resulted in the famous illustrated Herefordshire Pomona which covers the classification of fruits, descriptions of key features, the history of the different varieties and areas where they are grown. The club distributed grafts of 92 different apple varieties and successfully revived cider apples such as the Foxwhelp and Skyme’s Kernel. The Woolhope Club and Dr Robert Hogg’s  contribution to the revival of the cider industry should not be underestimated.

In 1887, Henry Percival Bulmer, youngest son of the Rector of Credenhill, rented a warehouse in Maylord Street, Hereford and started producing cider. Up until then cider had only been produced on a small-scale in cottages and farmhouses. Percy Bulmer turned cider production into a multi-million pound industry and today HP Bulmer Ltd  exports to more than sixty countries worldwide.

 

 

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