Cider Musings

Sir Paul Neile, Royal Society and Cyder

Son of Richard Neile, Archbisop of York, ( and incidentally interrogated the last namer to be burnt at the stake for heresy, Edward Whitman in 1612).

Paul Neile was born at Westminster in 1613 and was admitted as a Fellow Commoner to Pembroke College, Cambridge, in 1627, at the age of 14. He was one of the Ushers of the Privy Chamber to Charles I and was knighted in 1633, and a founding member of the Royal Society in 1660. Sir Paul Neile has the dubious honour of being the only one of the twelve founder members of the Royal Society of whom there is no record in the Dictionary of National Biography! Nor is there an image of him.

At his knighting in 1633 he is described as of Sutton Bonvill which is now a small hamlet of Hutton Bonville north of York in the North Riding. At the time his father was Arch Bishop of York ( from 1631) .

He is recorded to have lived in White Waltham in the Royal Borough of Windsor leasing Hill House ( Waltham Manor) from 1653, Paul's son, William was also an astronomer as well as being a brilliant mathematician, who was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1663, built an observatory at Hill House, and died there early in 1670 of "a broken heart" over an unhappy love affair.

Samuel Butler in his poem Hudibras, a satire on science, lampoons Sir Paul, whom he considered as a conceited virtuoso, as Sidrophel the astrologer. Hudibras pomels Sidrophel as a dabbler or superficial investgator. Hudibras is the poem that first mentions "brisk" or sparkling champagne.

Sir Christopher Wren was using Neile's telescope at Waltham College and later at White Waltham in 1655 and in 1658 Neile gave a 35-foot telescope to Gresham College.

One of Neile's telescopes is in this portrait of Charles II by Marcellus Laroon

In 1661 the Society records show the Fellows "desired him to continue his employment of the artificer for making glasses for perspectives". Paul was known to employed people to grind and polish the lens and construct his telescopes at White Waltham. But he was considered an amateur by his fellows, and when Neile presented papers from the British astronomer Jeremiah Horrox ( Horrocks) to the meeting, they were referred on to Wallis and Wren for review.

Neile was an excellent conduit for the Royal Society to the King. He was active in the running of the Society, and fund raising.

His main contribution however was on cider not astronomy. His "Discourse on Cyder" was read on 8th July 1663, (and a subsequent second paper too), in which Sir Paul shows considerable knowledge and personal experience. Presumably at White Waltham but no records exist to confirm that nor of an orchard at that time. However it is likely as most substantial houses would have an orchard and there is one there now. Some trees being around 200 years old.

He states no expertise in orcharding but only that of cidermaking. He compares his cyder with that from that of Hereforshire and states he makes it from eating apples ie Eastern style. He states he prefers his cyder sparkling and is of significant financial means as he mentions glass bottles several times. He also states he prefers his French wine that way too!

Sadly a man again influential but marginalised by his peers and history