Museums' days out Hereford Cider Museum and Water Museum
PUBLISHED: 16:47 25 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:36 20 February 2013
Get out and get interested this month to beat the springtime crowds says Sue Knox, Herefordshire's Museum Development Officer
As we battle through the colder months, its generally assumed that museums and heritage sites will have closed down for the winter. However, this isnt so, especially for more and more sites across this fabulously interesting county, many of which stay open or are extending their opening hours to cover the quieter months. This being the case, why not find somewhere of interest to visit before the traditional tourist season begins again at Easter? Theres nothing better than being a bit more active and learning something new about your own county or revisiting a favourite haunt.
Just to give you a flavour of whats out there, heres an insight into two of the museums you can visit right now. Theyre within striking distance of each other, open throughout the winter and show different but equally fascinating aspects of the county and its industry.
The Cider Museum and King Offa Distillery, Hereford
A visit to Herefords famous Cider Museum, set in a former cider factory on Rylands Street, will reward you with a bountiful knowledge of the history of cider making from milling and pressing, to the production of the juice which is fermented to make cider. You can explore the champagne cellars and there is every kind of cider-making equipment, a vat house and a coopers workshop.
The Hereford Cider Museum Trust, which is a registered charity, runs the Cider Museum and was founded in 1973 to ensure the preservation of the history of cider and perry making worldwide. The museum now has a fine and extensive collection, including mills and presses, coopers tools, casks and vats, photographs and films plus packaging and marketing from 1900 onwards; in fact everything you need to give you a fascinating insight into how cider was produced and marketed from the very beginning to the present day.
You can admire the lovely collection of delicately engraved, 18th century, English lead crystal cider glasses and horn drinking vessels or appreciate the museums collection of pomonas: books which contain beautiful, accurate illustrations and descriptions of varieties of apples and pears.
Before you reach all these gems and there are many you will encounter a well-stocked shop at the entrance, selling an enticing range of ciders as well as gifts, books and cards. It also sells the museums own cider brandy, apple aperitif and liqueur which are made on the premises at the King Offa Distillery and are well worth a try! Granted a licence for the cider brandy in 1984, the first in more than 200 years, it is, even now, only one of two places making cider brandy in Britain.
The Cider Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday, all year round, plus bank holiday weekends. Every year, there is a Cidermaking Festival weekend where you can see working practitioners presenting and explaining their skills along with an abundance of other features and attractions.
The Waterworks Museum, Hereford
Located in a pretty setting by the River Wye, the Waterworks Museum is truly deserving of a visit. Open on Tuesdays all year round, it gives a thoroughly excellent experience with something new to discover on every occasion. The countys industrial heritage is brought vividly to life by the museums working engines, along with many exciting exhibits and interactive displays. They tell the story of drinking water from the very beginning, through the Industrial Revolution to the present day. There are impressive beam, gas and diesel engines and the oldest working triple expansion engine in Britain, all of which are restored and maintained by a truly dedicated group of volunteers who devote many hours to the cause. Fronting this valiant band is the Chair of the Waterworks Museum, Noel Meeke, who has been awarded a richly deserved MBE in this years New Years Honours List, for services to the museum.
Situated in the Victorian pumping station which served Hereford for 120 years, the Waterworks Museum was founded in 1974. Established as a charitable trust, it has enriched its collection over the years not only with relevant engines and a beautifully coherent story but also by moving an entire building to the museum. This was Leominsters historic pumping station which saved the town from an epidemic of typhoid fever in 1865 and which was rescued from demolition.
The museum also holds an important archive of written material relating to the development of water supplies in Herefordshire and beyond. It is a treasure trove of information available to students and those interested in this significant area of social history.
The museum welcomes groups of all kinds. Art groups use it for interesting subject matter and inspiration and it has space for meetings, conferences, wedding receptions and other celebrations.
As well as the Waterworks Museum being open every Tuesday throughout the year, it holds in steam open days on the second and last Sundays of every month from April through to the end of October, plus bank holidays. The summer season sees many extra activities and attractions to entice you to take part.
These sites offer a chance to raise your spirits at what could, otherwise, be a somewhat uninspiring time of year. Both of the excellent featured museums have an abundance of events throughout the year, along with all the other heritage sites and museums across the county which will be explored further throughout the coming months.