The Battle Between the Devil and a Cider Maker

Franklin's Night

Cider and English Folklore

Cider making is an ancient practice which has been a core part of life in the Crediton valley for many hundreds of years. As with anything that relies on the will of the weather gods, there have always been rituals and superstitions attached to the production of cider. Tall tales have passed down from generation to generation and when you throw in the opportunity for a cider-based celebration, it is no wonder that cider is at the heart of a good amount of English folklore.

If you live in the west country, you may well have heard of, and even been to, a wassail. It’s the customary blessing of the apple trees during the winter to ensure a great apple harvest in the autumn. A noisy, yet jolly event, that involves plenty of singing and cider drinking! However, there is another big date in the Devon cider maker’s calendar that is much less well-known and that is Franklin’s Night!

Franklin’s Night, which falls in mid May, roughly around the 17th to 21st, is a Pagan tradition, which historically involved the head cider maker having a fight with the devil!

Wassail

The History of Franklin’s Night

So what on earth would possess a cider maker to take on the devil? Well, it is, as it always is with cider makers, all about the apples! In order to enjoy a bountiful crop of apples, there has to be a healthy blossom coverage in the spring. Blossom is very susceptible to damage from a late frost and the old story goes that a late frost was the devil’s work, so if the cider maker could defeat the devil there would be no frost to wither the blossom, plenty of apples to harvest in autumn and copious amounts of cider to enjoy!

And why would the devil want to wreak havoc on the cider makers? Well, there are several versions of the tale but Legendary Dartmoor suggests that Franklin, a brewer looking to increase his beer sales by taking cider out of the equation, made a pact with the devil to send a late frost to hit the apple blossom. In return for a depleted apple harvest and reduced cider supply, Franklin sold his soul to the devil!

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact origins but, over time, a superstition developed that late frosts in mid May were the result of Franklin’s deal with the devil and defeating the devil was the only way to prevent this! So Franklin’s Night celebrations evolved with a fight with the devil at the heart of the event!

Keeping these Stories Alive

These long-honoured festivities are part of our cider making heritage, particularly in our home town of Crediton. Here at Sandford Orchards, we think it is incredibly important to continue these traditions because they bring the community together and they remind us all of the fragility of the natural world and our reliance on it for our food and drink. We certainly don’t need to fight the devil to produce great cider any more but we do need to look after the land, trees and climate that is critical for great apple production.

So we continue to mark Franklin’s Night, here at Sandford Orchards, with the emphasis very much on celebrating with the local community. It is a great excuse to get together and drink cider! Mid May is the time of year when the previous years’ cider is ready for drinking. The saying goes that you mustn’t taste your cider until you’ve heard the first cuckoo of spring, so around Franklin’s Night is the perfect opportunity to try our latest batches.

Franklin's Night at Sandford Orchards

We aren’t expecting the devil to turn up to our Franklin’s Night celebrations on 18th May but there will be a play from the Mummers depicting the tale and a band with some live music. There will be food and there will definitely be cider. Why not join us for a little bit of local history, washed down with some fabulous local cider. You can find out more and book your ticket.

One comment on “The Battle Between the Devil and a Cider Maker

  1. Pete Laity on

    The ‘Fraklin’s Night’ legend makes a great story – and provides a good reason for a get-together to drink cider. As my name might suggest to you, I originated from further west than Devon, but am presently living in West Yorkshire. So a trip to Crediton to drink cider is rather ‘out of the question’ for me – even for cider as good as Sandford Orchards’.

    Nevertheless, I am very happy to drink Sandfor Orchards’ cider and will continue to order it as long as you keep sending it to me.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *