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Godwin's Cider

At the start of the 20th century large cider works were being established in the Hereford area. They would buy fruit from local farmers and press in bulk, and then ferment and blend their own cider to be sent out in bottles.

In 1898 Godwin's Jubilee Cider Works was established at Holmer by Henry Godwin. Henry Godwin was actually a retired builder and manufacturer of English encaustic tiles by trade, and had been in partnership with William Hewitt. The Godwin and Hewitt Tile Works stood next door to the cider works. Mr Godwin was joined in the cider business by his son John Henry Godwin, who helped run the mill.

The cider mill was powered by steam and was capable of pressing 20 hogsheads a day. Fruit was milled using a coarse scratter mill and then ground under rollers. This meant that the fruit was crushed much more finely and faster than with the old stone mills, as well as increasing the juice yield.

The resulting pulp was dropped from a hopper onto a trolley running on rails, and then wrapped in manilla cloths and lifted onto the press by three men. After a first pressing the cheese (as the layers of pulp and cloth were known in Herefordshire) were put back on the trolley and sent along the rails for another pressing on a different press. Juice collected at the first pressing was reserved for premium ciders while the juice from the second pressing was known as second quality.

The juice was then filtered through charcoal and "racked" into casks to ferment for two or three days. During this time a thick brown head would rise to the top of the juice; this was made of floating particles of fruit. The wild yeasts that had been present on the skin of the apples would fall to the bottom of the cask. The cider would then be siphoned off from these substances. This technique is little used today as the stopping of fermentation increases the risk of spoiling the cider. The fermented juice was eventually racked into clean casks, having first been filtered through linen bags.

Each variety of fruit was pressed separately, fermented and then blended to produce the flavour required. Godwin's employed a cooper to work on site making the casks required. The bottling of the cider was done by hand with the bottles being closed with corks.

The underground cellar at Godwin's was kept at a constant temperature and could hold 60,000 bottles of cider and perry in quarts, pints and splits (1/3 pint). The cider quality was indicated by the colour of the foil on the bottle neck - gold for premium, silver for second quality.

Henry Godwin died in 1910 at the age of 82. In 1948 Bulmer's acquired Godwin's cider along with their premium perry brand "Golden Godwin", which they hoped to market in baby-sized bottled as a rival to Babycham.

[Original author: Miranda Greene, 2005]