Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Cider Jar of the Month - Hills

The jolly, scrumpy-swigging yokel is an enduring West-Country image, one which crops up all too often on another West-Country perennial, the stoneware cider jar.

It's hard to say where this rather cliched image would have originated from. I've seen literally hundreds of images of cidermaking from throughout the 1900's, and can't say that I've come across a single example of these bucolic, bearded cider cider folk. Even the Wurzels didn't wear smocks!

The West-Country yokel was of course a useful marketing tool for the nascent cider industry, particularly during the post-war years when there would have been an influx of thirsty holidaymakers to the West-Country. The yokel image tells a story of good old fashioned farm labour and wholesome country produce. Buying a flagon of farmhouse cider with one of these jolly figures on the label put a smile on your face, hopefully a foretaste of the pleasures to come, or maybe a distraction from the sour, vinegary contents within!

This jar of Hills Devon Farm Scrumpy Cider is a fine example of the style, the yokel is almost identical to those on jars from many other West-Country producers. Perhaps it was Pearson's of Chesterfield, the manufacture of these stoneware jars, which created the logos and imagery, the yokel figure being as generic to West-Country cider as the image of an apple!

The original cider business of FC Hill & Son was a huge regional cidermaker occupying a four acre site near Totnes in south Devon. They sold out the business to the even bigger concern of Whiteways Cyder in 1935, before setting up a new business at Barkingdon Manor, Staverton which thrived, servicing local pubs and the tourist trade until 1987 when ill health contributed to the business finally being wound up.

So has the yokel image endured? Perhaps surprisingly I couldn't find a single example on a trawl of Devon and Somerset cidermakers websites. Not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion, cider's image has come a long way since the bad old days of farmyard rocket fuel, and it's probably high time we left these rustic images behind. The predominant image of modern cidermaking is the apple, a consensus we at Rockingham Forest Cider heartily subscribe to.

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