APPLE growing - and therefore cider production - was once as prolific in East Sussex as it remains today in Kent.
According to Apples and Orchards in Sussex by Brian Short, in Ashdown Forest there was an orchard at Old Lodge in 1658.
At nearby West Hoathly, Thomas Comber was reported to the Lord Chancellor in May, 1671, for withholding tithes on his produce which included great quantities of honey and wax as well as a ‘great store of apples, pears, plums, walnuts and other fruits’.
But most orchards were modest in size. For example, the Rogers family at Iford, near Lewes, in January, 1658, rented from Swanborough Manor a cottage, barn garden, orchard and land of 10 acres.
Another document from 1609 cited ‘apple mylls’ used for crushing apples for cider, stored in an outbuilding at Robertsbridge Manor.
Richard Mantell, a gardener at Southover, Lewes, left in his will ‘four glass frames and a parcel of apples 10s’ and a ‘cyder room’ with cider press in October, 1720.
Modern cider makers still distinguish between bittersharp and bittersweet apples -reflections of the mix of acid, sugar and tannin in varieties, and take care to ensure the right mix to achieve the desired taste.
Long may they continue.