Ever wondered where that great Sam's Cider comes from? We’ve been making proper Devon Cider on site for 100 years! Winkleigh Cider has a rich and interesting past, so we’ve pulled our timeline and history together for you to learn exactly where our great Devon Cider comes from.
Enjoy the photos of our cider through time at the bottom of the page; dating back to the very beginning!
Tis Proper Devon Cider
1916 / The Beginning
It all started in 1916, where Sam Inch started to make cider here at Western Barn in Winkleigh. Times were hard and apples were paid in lieu of a salary. At first this arrangement worked to Sam’s advantage but the following year a glut of apples sent prices tumbling. Faced with imminent ruin, Sam was forced to take immediate action. He recognised the potential in his only asset so he borrowed the necessary equipment and made some cider- two hogshead which eventually found their way into the cellars of the White Hart Inn.
Word of mouth was, and still is a powerful marketing agent. It was not long before other public houses were carrying Sam Inch’s cider. Over the next few years, business grew, although business was steady, he still looked at his cider making as a hobby, his first occupation as a coachman and second a postman, this was through the inter-war years.
His reputation as a cider maker grew, and his business could have taken off at this time if was not for the fact aggressive marketing was not part of the Sam Inch style.
1952 / Inches Poured into Bottles
In 1952 Inch’s Cider was first poured into bottles; the distribution network was expanding through Eggesford station. The distinctive Inch’s trademark, a tailcoated gentleman downing a glass of cider with a barrel of brew in the background soon became well known.
Many local people were taken on as staff, including a young David Bridgman In 1966 at the age of 15, Sam and David worked very closely with each other and formed a very close friendship. David worked alongside Sam and gained a very precious skill.
Sam’s son Derek Inch entered into the business and made some changes, one included marketing, which pushed the business and increased sales. Inch’s was now disturbing all over the British Isles, Middle East, Europe and United States.
1988 / More Growth
Over the next few years, the corporate aim was to make cider a more up-market drink. New equipment was purchased, and at the end of Derek’s time in Inch’s Cider, 25 x 40,000 gallon oak vats, standing in proud place, in the vat houses.
Derek sold Inch’s in 1988, and was brought out.
The next ownership turned the company into a multi million pound business. Over the next few years it put Winkleigh on the map. Producing many different ciders including White Lighting and Stonehouse. Business was good and sales were worldwide.
1998 / Bulmers
The directors decided to sell the multi million pound business and in 1996, the giant of the cider world, Bulmer’s, brought it for 23 million.
The next 2 years were fairly shaded, profits declined and staff numbers dwindled. Then in September 1998, Inch’s (owned by Bulmer’s) announced that it was to close the cider making site. This was a massive blow for everyone, including locals and staff. All but 4 of the 100 year old oak vats were destroyed.
1999 / The Winkleigh Cider Company
David Bridgman who was the cider maker throughout all the takeovers, decided to take action. In January 1999 The Winkleigh Cider Company was born. Bulmer’s took the Inch’s name, so David was unable to use it. Cider making has gone back to it roots to produce proper ciders and Scrumpies and is now named after his mentor “Sam’s Cider”. The 4 remaining 100 year old oak vats, now take pride of place here at Winkleigh Cider Company, as well as all its history.
David Bridgman, along with his Daughter and son in law, Kylie Beardon and Christopher Beardon (who is in fact Sam Inch’s great nephew) and their children, have gone into partnership together, taking on the heritage and tradition of cider making.
We've included a photo of the family for you to the right!