Brake, Leonard (b.1904)

In 1918 Leonard Brake’s father started a small cider making business in Nailsea, North Somerset.  They never produced cider on a large scale and never in bottles as became popular.  However, at one time they supplied five pubs in Bristol and others in the surrounding area, but once breweries began binding landlords to their products in the mid-1950s, the Brakes could not continue supplying them with cider.


Redvers Coate (of R N Coates Cider) once told Leonard Brake that Brakes was the best draught cider in Bristol.

A pile of Kingston Blacks apples. Kingston Blacks are possibly named after Kingston St Mary, a village north of Taunton. A pile of Kingston Blacks apples. Kingston Blacks are possibly named after Kingston St Mary, a village north of Taunton.
Sound File
Listen to Leonard Brake - 1.37MB Duration 3:21 min.

PL: Right, so you got your apples in locally, did you?  Did you buy them in then?


LB: Well, we used to buy the orchards.


PL: Mm.


LB: Buy the apples on the trees in the orchards.  Then we had, a, a, about half-a-dozen chaps we employed that used to pick them up by so much a basket or a peck [dry measure of eight quarts or sixteen pints] in those days.  And er...


PL: What were the baskets like?  Were they...?


LB: Well, quart, what we used to call quarter sack baskets, hold about fifty pounds, and they used to fill, pick up the four baskets for a shilling in, in 1920s and then some of our own chaps would go as well with the lorry, horse trolleys, and pick up and bring back the fruit as well.  But, we used to buy about two hundred acres locally, year after year; we used to have the same orchards mostly.


And, then we’d buy a lot, by the ton which would be delivered from down the country, Martock, Shillingstone, Devon, and through that country.  And then we’d mix this fruit with our own fruit, and by doing that you get a quality cider and a cider that would keep its colour and sparkle nicely for the trade, you know.  Other...


PL: So what kind of apples did you particularly like?


LB: Well, you had a mixture of bitter-sweets or, the main variety we liked were mixed with a sharper apple, a bit.  But you got quite a good cider from, from a bitter-sweet mixture, and of course Kingston Blacks were few and far between.  There were a few tons come in but they were very rare.  And we used to press this in the early stages with two double-screw press, presses, and then...


LB: ...about two hundred cattle every autumn when we were cider making and used most of the apples on it ourselves for fattening cattle which we used to show quite a lot at Christmas times.  And  [] taken dozens, hundreds of prizes, I suppose, all over the place.

Copyright Information
Copyright. This recording was made by Ann Heeley in November 1989. Photograph ©SRLM. For access to full interview please contact the Somerset Heritage Centre.