Cider Musings

Lord Scudamore

The first Viscount Scudamore was born in 1601, and was baptised at Holme Lacy, the Scudamore’s primary residence in Herefordshire, just downstream from Hereford. Sadly the house was extensively rebuilt by his descendants. 

The Scudamores were one of the most prominent family in Herefordshire.  His father the Sir James was a scholar, and a benefactor of the Bodleian library, and aclose associate with its founder, who praises his ‘sweet conversation;’ and also a patron of the mathematician, Thomas Allen. He was a gallant soldier, accompanied Lord Essex to Cadiz, where he was knighted in 1596 . He was held up as a pattern of chivalry as Sir Scudamour in Spenser's ‘Faërie Queene,’ the fourth book of which is devoted to his ‘warlike deedes’ on behalf of Duessa.

John was educated under a tutor at Holme Lacy until 1616, when, on 8 Nov., he matriculated from Magdalen College, Oxford (he was created M.A. on 1 Nov. 1642). He excelled in learning and study and over his life acquired many books. Some of those he bequeathed to the Bodleian Library. After having been granted a licence to travel, spent less than three years abroad returning on his father’s death. 

He was appointed by the Earl of Northampton to be captain of horse in Herefordshire. His family had been famous for their horsemanship and breed of horses. On 1 June 1620 he was created a baronet, and he was M.P. for Herefordshire in 1620 and 1624, and for the city of Hereford in 1625 and 1628. He soon became a person of mark at the royal court offering “rondlettes [small barrels of 18 gallons] of syder then subsequently glass bottles of his cider, and was specially attached to Buckingham, whom he accompanied on the Rochelle expedition. On 1 July 1628 he was created Baron Dromore and Viscount Scudamore of Sligo, and shortly after his elevation retired to his country seat at Holme Lacy. He did not receive lands in Ireland. He was a prolific leaner of history and theology.

Scudamore was said to have had 3 passions; God Cider and Cattle. God see later. Cattle, he introduced 7 white faced red cattle from the Low Countries which are said to form the genetic forebears of the Hereford cattle breed.

He spent much time planting and grafting cider orchards, and is credited with introducing the the Herefordshire Redstreak apple, probably grown from seed on his estate —

Of no regard till Scudamore's skilful hand

Improv'd her, and by courtly discipline

Taught her the savage nature to forget,—

 Hence styl'd the Scudamorean plant   

(Philips, Cyder, bk. i. lines 503–6)

In the autumn of 1639 he sent 6 glass bottles of cider to London. At the time cider made from Redstreak apples changed hands at extraordinarily high prices - as high as the best imported wine - but by the late 18th century the variety was already in decline. By the 19th century the Redstreak was reported to be almost extinct due to a decline in quality and productiveness. Thomas Knight’s Pomona Herefordiensis (1811), noted that "trees of the Red-streak can now no longer be propagated; and the fruit, like the trees, is affected by the debilitated old age of the variety, and has in a very considerable degree, survived those qualities to which it was owing its former fame". This decline may have occurred due to viruses which gradually built up in the tissues over time and were transferred during propagation by grafting. At its best, the Redstreak cider was said to taste of peaches and Angelica root, and have medicinal properties.  

He married early one month after the legal age at 14 , on 12 March 1615, to Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Sir Arthur Porter of Llanthony, Gloucestershire, worth ‘a fair estate of £600 per annum or better’

When his father died young, John was underage, so his grandfather had guardianship of his estates till he died in 1623, then Scudamore inherited an estate, which included 13,600 acres in Herefordshire and a further 1,840 acres in Worcestershire 

Scudamore was enthusiastically attached to the English church. he repaired at great expense and endowed the dilapidated abbey church of Door (Dore) close to Holme Lacy in the 1630s. He became a devoted admirer of Laud, who often visited him in his journeys to and from St. David's when bishop of that see, kept up a correspondence with him as archbishop, and co-operated in his plans for the rebuilding of St. Paul's.

At the close of 1634 Scudamore was appointed by Charles I as his ambassador in Paris. He sailed in June 1635, and was received graciously by Louis XIII. Many important visitors including Sir Kenelm Digby, and Rev John Beale (who had relations in common, the Pyes) visited Scudamore when they visited Paris. 

However in February 1636 Scudamore was directed to serve a writ upon Lady Purbeck (who had escaped the clutches of the English Courts, (she was [probably falsely] accused of adultery and witchcraft by her brother in law Buckingham and fled to Paris), commanding her to return to England. This was a major scandal in English aristocracy at the time. Richelieu intervened, and sent a guard of fifty archers for the lady's protection which soured relations. Sir Kenelm Digby wrote of her: "I have not seen more prudence, sweetnesse, goodnesse, honor and bravery shewed by any woman that I know, than this unfortunate lady sheweth she hath a rich stock of" whilst they were both in Paris . Besides her natural endowments, doubtless her afflictions add much; or rather have polished, refined and heightened what nature gave her."

During his residence in Paris Scudamore had a private chapel fitted up in his own house aka Laud, with candles and other ornaments; he also gave some leading Huguenots to understand that the Anglican church deemed them outside its communion. It was to correct this bias, that in 1636 the King also appointed the staunchly protestant Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester  to the Embassy. This usurped Scudamore's diplomacy and lead to many disputes between them.  However the French Queen and Lady Scudamore also fell out and she returned to England. Scudamore then requested his own recall; he crossed back to England in January 1639. 

On his return Scudamore resided at a property in Petty France in Westminster, presumably hoping for further preferment, but it did not come., (in 1641 there was some talk of Scudamore being appointed to the vacant secretaryship of state but after failing that his Court career was essentially over). 

This is the house of the poet Milton who lived next door at the time .

Following the outbreak of civil war in September 1642, Scudamore returned to Herefordshire to Holme Lacy, was made high steward of Hereford city and cathedral, and kept open house at Holme Lacy with great magnificence the following Christmas at the request of of the King. Foreseeing the approach of the troubles, he laid in at Holme Lacy a stock of petronels, carbines, and powder. In April 1643, he went to Hereford city and put himself under Sir Richard Cave's orders. When, however, a few days afterwards, Waller made a dash for the city, most of Cave's men deserted, and Scudamore had to surrender at discretion. Scudamore was released on parole upon condition of submitting himself to parliament in London. The following pass was written by Waller, “These are to will and require all soldiers to permit the Lord Sudamore with his trainer, to pass their guards; and for their son doing this shall be their warrant. Given my under my hand, at Hereford, this 29th April 1643”. On going however he found that his house in Petty France had been sequestered and all his goods seized and inventoried. From London he received news, that various looting and sequestrations had been perpetrated by the Parliamentary Army at his country houses at Llanthony and Gloucester, but these were checked by Waller, who sent courteous apologies in answer to Lady Scudamore's remonstrance! Lady Scudamore was a force to be reckoned with and remained at Holme Lacy.

A lovely piece of irony was that in the 2nd siege of Hereford ( more bloody affair with bloodshed on the bridge across the Wye) by the Roundheads whilst Lord Scudamore was imprisoned in London, Dr Beale notes the Scottish troops made themselves ill eating unripe apples!

This picture of of the contemporary battle of Cropredy Bridge.  

 He remained in confinement in London for nearly four years, after which his liberty was settled upon his paying a fine of 2,690 pounds. All up Scudamore estimated that he lost 37,690 pounds by the civil war although he was still wealthy, After the Restoration he retired again to Holme Lacy. He visited London for medical care. 

He communicated with the Royal Society via members including Sir Kenelm Digby and John Evelyn and Rev Beale but as he no longer resided in London was not a member. He remained active making cider, and improving it. He recommended keeping cider in glass bottles and in cool and dark places with an even temperature, such as a cellar under sand or a spring. He constructed such at Holme Lacy with water flowing, and had a special Cider house which had a lock on the door. A lot of what is known of Scudamore’s cider techniques is from Beale’s correspondence with Hartlib. 

As well as Beale and himself, his doctor Roger Bosworth also made cider and all three competed in an annual completion in the 1650s. Dr Roger Bosworth was a physician and Puritan politician, who sat in the House of Commons from 1659 to 1660. Bosworth was from a lesser gentry family of Woolhope, Herefordshire. He studied medicine at Brasenose College, Oxford. In 1659, Bosworth was elected Member of Parliament for Hereford in the Third Protectorate Parliament. He was re-elected MP for Hereford in April 1660 for the Convention Parliament.

Through Scudamore’s efforts “all Herefordshire is becoming, in a manner, but one intire Orchard”. Again a quote from Beale

He continued to curry favour with gifts of cider in glass bottles. In 1663 Hartlib notes that “ Scudamore sent Mr Busby schoolmaster of Westminster ten dozen bottles of cider from Holme Lacy”. More than 350 years later, in 2017, excavations at the Great Kitchen, Westminster School, revealed the remains of one such bottle with B for Busby stamped on it. I wonder if that was Scudamore’s cider or his own. He was known to make cider, before getting cider from Scudamore. Westminster School was only 300 yards from Scudamore’s house at Petty France.

He died at his house in Petty France and interred at Home Lacy. Some of the property passed through a daughter to the Stanhope family, whence the Earls of Chesterfield who donated the Scudamore Flute to the London Museum.  It seems probable a whole set of these were made for use as the Ambassador.