A History of Cider Making

The Origins of Cider

The first apple trees are thought to have grown near the River Nile in Egypt, all the way back in 1300 BC. However, it’s difficult to pinpoint when cider making started in the UK. After the arrival of the Romans in 55BC, apple orchards started to be cultivated and it was around this time that Kentish villages started drinking an apple beverage that had a strong resemblance to cider.

Cider Making in Monasteries

Following the return of Christianity to England in AD 597, monasteries starting keeping orchards and vineyards, producing cider both to sell and to drink. Despite numerous Viking attacks during this time, most monasteries survived and their orchards lived on. One of the most famous cider producing monasteries was at Ely in Cambridgeshire, along with Christ Church monastery in Canterbury which was known for growing eating apples as well as crops for cider making.

Norman influence on Cider Making

Historians used to claim that it was the Normans who brought cider to England in 1066, but many now believe that it was being made long before this. What can be said of the Normans, though, is that their organisation skills had a huge effect on cider making. Rather than using trees that were already available, the Normans grew new trees, with new orchards featuring apples more suited to cider making. By 1300, England’s southern counties were full of cider producers, and orchards started springing up across the country – even as far north as Yorkshire. Cider making became so popular that by the 1400s it was normal for farms to pay their labourers with the drink!

19th Century Decline

Cider making had seen a surge in popularity in the 17th and 18th centuries, but by the 1800s fewer people were drinking cider and there was a decline in production. There was also a large campaign to see the eradication of alcoholic drinks as payment, and in 1887 the Trunk Act made this illegal.

Modern Cider Making

Luckily, more and more people started drinking cider again in the 20th Century, bringing a “cider revival” in England. So popular was the drink that it started being mass-produced in factories to meet the high demand.

Despite its large commercial success, traditional producers resumed cider making, meaning that for cider lovers today, there is a wide range of high-quality varieties to choose from.

So, there you have it – a short history of cider making in the UK. If you’ve found this interesting, perhaps you feel inspired to start making cider for yourself! Just get in touch with us here at Vigo Presses to find out more.