Friday, 16 December 2011

Happy Birthday Bob, godfather of modern cidermaking

Today is 16th December. This day in 1846 a clever chap called Robert Neville-Grenville was born (what a treat to have a newborn so close Christmas!) He died 89 years later on 13 September 1936. 'Great..' I hear you say 'but who the chuff was he?' Allow me a brief introduction...

He was a squire, patron and a pioneer - someone all modern day cidermakers owe a little something to. He was born into a fortunate family so he studied at Eton and Cambridge, he went on to become a wealthy and prominent squire of Butleigh Court in Somerset in the 1880's. As squire, you were responsible for many things aside from the obvious, one of the most important being the livelihoods of the many families in your employ. As such, you had to manage your affairs successfully and the rural farming economy of the time here in Somerset very much depended on the cider and cidermaking - boiled down to the fact that quality cider was the lynchpin of a succesful farm. Quality cider meant decent labourers which meant..... you can figure out the rest. RN-G knew it was important to progress cidermaking from the farmyard into the science behind how and why it works so he started that process. He was instrumental in the cider industry and together with chemist Frederick J Lloyd spent 10 years experimenting and researching champagne ciders. Robert Neville Grenville set up experimentation into cider making at Butleigh Court during the 1890s, and supported the opening of the National Fruit and Cider Institute, Long Ashton, in 1903 to undertake systematic research into cider who then took on the mantle of modern cider research.

He even won a Gold medal from the French for his efforts in research and that doesn't happen every day

I LOVE the fact we had a National Fruit and Cider Institute, with a lab, for research, to make our cider BETTER!

I've heard he was a bit of a pioneering motorist too, due no doubt to that all the cider he had running through his veins. Maybe he was the inspiration for this little gem:

Thats how I like mine served.
After some Holmesian sleuthery, I managed to track down his grave so I could go and pay my respects.

Its quite tricky knowing what to do photographically speaking. I decided to keep it really straight and go for a documentary approach. Is there any reason to do it any other way?

Rest in Peace sir - you did good.

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