Coate, Redvers (b.1900)

In 1924 having completed some research at the National Fruit and Cider Institute in Long Ashton, near Bristol, Redvers Coate decided to start a cider-making business in Nailsea, a town in North Somerset.  His father gave him eight thousand pounds to found a factory in some derelict barns.


Redvers Coate encountered many difficulties in setting up, but eventually formed a limited company and spent years promoting and marketing his cider.  He invested in modern equipment that bottled cider, as well as using port wine barrels.

He chose his apple varieties and suppliers very carefully and managed to produce different high-class ciders.  He had to find marketing opportunities amongst stiff opposition from beer breweries but succeeded by developing bottled cider that didn’t have to be sold in pubs.
R N. Coate Ltd pricelist, 1928. R N Coate Ltd pricelist, 1928.
Sound File
Listen to Redvers Coate - 1.36MB Duration 2:58 min.

PL: So how much cider were you able to produce in your first years?  Can you remember how much gallonage?

RC: No, I can’t.


PL: Did you have your three vats full?


RC: Oh yes, yes.  Oh we made, we made, it must have been in the region of fifty thousand gallons.  Well, I thought that was the important thing to make it good, really good cider, and it was good, and I never thought about the selling part of it, never thought of that when it was made.  So anyway, we had all this beautiful cider and nobody knew about it, nobody wanted to buy it.  So the next job was to go out as a commercial traveller round the pubs.  Now in those early days the pubs were not tied for cider, they were tied to the brewers for beer, but the landlords could buy cider wherever they wanted.


And so really one had to start at the pubs and that entailed pub-crawling in a big way every night, every night of my life I was out on this selling business.  And that was very hard work, it was terribly hard.  Well, eventually we build up a clientele.  We got a representative, a sales representative to help on this and built up a little connection.  Well then the blow fell.  The brewers thought, ‘Well, now, this cider is making inroads into our beer sales.  We must do something about it.’  And something about it they did do.  They proceeded to tie their houses and to their own cider which they could supply.  And so we lost all those customers that we’d gained, you see, with so much sweat and tears.  Then we had to go to the breweries and try to sell to the breweries.  Well, that wasn’t so good because they wanted a very big slice of the profit.  So we had to cut the price, which wasn‘t very helpful financially at all.


PL: When was this, what…?


RC: Oh, this was about, it started in the early 1930s, so we had to cope with that.  But eventually we got, um, got in with a certain number of breweries and, well, then we went ahead.

Copyright Information
Copyright. This recording was made by Philippa Legg in 1983. Photograph ©SMES. For access to full interview please contact the Somerset Heritage Centre.