County awash with fermented apples

Rouser139  02-08-13

Rouser139 02-08-13

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Most Rouser readers will know this old man has a soft spot for cider.

Here he is in 1979 at a cider brewing exhibition. Time and fermented apples have since taken their toll.

Rouser doesn’t know where in East Sussex the picture was taken - or why!

Cider has had a long and fascinating history in Sussex, the West Country and Kent.

It is likely that the wandering peoples who travelled through the countries which we now know as Spain and Northern France, introduced their ‘shekar’ (a word of Hebrew origin for strong drink) to the early Britons.

However, it is true to say that the later Normans had the most positive effect on the history of cider making.

After their conquest of England in 1066, they introduced many changes - perhaps the drinking of cider was one of the best! The popularity of cider grew steadily; new varieties of apples were introduced, and cider began to figure in the tax records.

Cider was produced in substantial quantities on Sussex farms; every farm would have a few cider apple trees as well as cooking and dessert apple trees in the orchard, and it became customary in the 18th Century to pay part of a farm labourer’s wage in cider.

A typical allowance on a farm would be three or four pints per day.

Labourers were rated by the amount they drank; one comment was that a two gallon a day man was worth the extra he drank!

In the latter part of the 19th Century, a campaign to stop payment in the form of alcoholic beverages brought about the addition of a clause to the Truck Act of 1887 which prohibited the payment of wages in this way.

Probably a good idea!