Celebrating an old tradition

By staff reporter in Local People

Gloucester Life Museum turned back the clock at the weekend for its annual Apple Day - celebrating what is still a major crop in the county.

For this day only, entry to the museum, formerly the Folk Museum, was free, and outside in Westgate Street stood Pete Simmonds, who is known as The Butler, exhorting people to go inside and enjoy all the apple-based fun.

Pete, complete with blackened face, top hat and wassail bowl full of cider, might not have seemed the ideal welcomer, but everyone realised it was all in good fun.

Apples and cider and morris dancing have long gone hand in hand and, at the rear of the museum, there were morris workshops run by the local Lassington Oak side, after which the mainly young people who took part performed with experienced men in the museum garden.

The museum owns a complete stone cider mill, which is housed ready for use in a building at the rear.

Every year on Apple Day, it is brought back into use to show how the juice and pulp was extracted in days gone by, with Fergus the horse walking round and round to crush the year’s harvest.

The Gloucester Apple Day was started by a group of enthusiasts 20 years ago, and one of them, Eric Freeman, still goes along every year.

“That 20 years has flashed by,” he said, while he watched the morris side in a stick dance.

“They still have photos of me here from those early days.

“I’m Gloucestershire born and bred and I still make cider from my own apples.

“I try to promote anything to do with the history of the county, and we still have a wassail every January at my farm to wish the apple trees well and promote a good harvest.”

People watched apples being crushed by a hand press, and could taste the juice as soon as it came out of the spout.

There were traditional crafts and the museum’s marvellous traditional Sweet Shoppe was open for bull’s eyes, mint humbugs and sherbet lemons.

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