Cider has been a staple of the British hearth for two thousand years, if not more. In 55 BC, the Romans upon their first travels to what they called Britannia found the native population already living there making a type of cider in what is present day Kent. Since the early Roman era, dessert and cider apples had been spreading out of the Mediterranean and naturally would have eventually been brought to Gaul. Much later the northern part of Gaul, heavily populated by a mix of Gauls, Romans, and other Celts, became Normandy and the domain of the lords that grew apples on their fiefdoms. The Normans were most certainly a vector for the arrival of continental apples to England-the word ”cider” derives etymologically from the 12th century French word cidre- but older accounts tell a different story. Saxon chronicles before their conquest of British Celts mention cider-like drinks and also mention the production of a drink called æppelwīn, an ancient cognate of the Modern German ’apfelwein’’, both literally meaning a wine or alcohol made from apples. Though it is unknown if there is any relation between the ancient drink and the modern German product at least one account indicates the drink was a luxury item that only the wealthy could afford. There is also evidence from the mid-late Saxon period of the growth of orchards before, during, and after Christianisation of this group and their ceremonial use, most famously the custom of Wassail at Yuletide, and it is known that monks grew apples in their gardens. There is also more recent evidence that indicates that the Romans were growing apples and pears in their stay in Britain, and one of the Vindolanda tablets indicates that the guardsmen near Hadrian's Wall, men with an apple and cider culture predating their own conquest by Rome, were seeking the best apples that could be found locally.
Further evidence from an archaeological dig in Gloucester in 2002 suggests that crab apples in addition to their traditional use as a foodstuff was also being pressed into an alcohol sweetened with honey. With the invasion of 1066 the natural sugar in the Norman apples slowly displaced the need for honey as a sweetening agent and so began the love affair between the English and their apples and cider. Increased planting of apple trees began in earnest as soon as the feudal system introduced by William of Normandy could be secured, and continued down over what is becoming close to a thousand years. One of the earliest mentions of a named apple cultivar in English comes from the Plantagenet era near the end of the 12th century, ”Costard”. This apple was an all purpose apple that was occasionally used in cider and remained wildly popular until at least the 19th century: as an illustration, a slang term for the head or brain in the works of Shakespeare is ”costard”, a word a man who spent his life traveling back and forth between his wife in Warwickshire and the theatre in London would have known very well; indeed Shakespeare named one of his clowns after the product in the case of Love's Labour's Lost. In Renaissance England, a ”costermonger” was a seller of apples or wares and remained so right up until the 1960s, long after the apple it was named for went extinct.
The Cider Museum is housed in a former cider making factory in Hereford. This was the birthplace of Bulmer's Cider. Henry Percival Bulmer started making cider in 1887 and a year later purchased a plot of ground on the outskirts of Hereford to build a 'shack' to make and store cider. Extensive cellars were later excavated and the building was extended to incorporate both the factory and offices. A tour of the Museum reveals the history of cider making and exhibits include a 300-year-old French Beam Press, a rare collection of English lead crystal cider glasses dating from 1730 and a collection of watercolours depicting the different types of apples and pears grown. Visitors can walk through the original cider cellars and see how champagne-cider was produced and view a cooper's workshop, vat house and bottling line before sampling cider and related products in the gift shop. The ground floor is fully accessible for wheel chair users and there are books and computers available showing the cellar displays. The Orchard Tea Room and toilets are situated on the ground floor and there is a lift giving access to the Beam Press Gallery where art exhibitions are held. There are various inter-active computers to view as well as vintage film and other audio visual presentations Assistance dogs are welcome (they do not get to sample the cider).
Location : Pomona Place, Hereford HR4 0EF
Transport: Hereford (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes : 71, 72, 437, 446, 461, 501, 504 and X15 stop nearby.
Opening Times : Daily 11:00 to 17:00.
Tickets : Adults £5.50; Concessions £5.00; Children/Students £3.00
Tel: 01432 354207