The Thatchers family from Somerset that has been cider making for five generations

  • Report by Charlotte Gay

Thatchers Cider was started at Myrtle Farm in Sandford by Martin Thatcher's great grandfather William in 1904. It is now big business but the company's managing director still gets poetic when it comes to the humble apples that go to make the popular drink.

Katy apples are one of the 26 varieties of the fruit that Thatchers grows for commercial use. Credit: ITV West Country

Martin Thatcher says, "The start of the apple harvesting season is a great time of the year. It's when summer turns to autumn, the mornings are a little bit fresher and cooler and, when we start harvesting, you get this beautiful apple aroma of the apples coming in.

"This year in particular we've had some great weather, we've had a lot of sunshine which of course is great because it give us all the beautiful flavours that we need in the apples to make fantastic cider with it."

Martin's great grandfather William started cider making at the farm near Weston-super Mare, his grandfather Stan made it into a business, John built it and Martin has taken it from strength to strength.

His daughter Eleanor is the fifth generation to take on the mantle.

Three generations of cider making - William, Stan and John Thatcher. Credit: Thatcher Family
Two more generations. Martin Thatcher in the middle as a boy and on the right and daughter Eleanor in brown. Credit: Thatcher family

John Thatcher has retired but still keeps his hand in. When he started, Myrtle Farm was still a working farm.

He says, "When I was young, we used to press two tonnes of apples a day, that meant doing one tonne between milkings and one tonne in the evenings.

"We now do 500 tonnes a day with five people working 24 hours. So how things have changed!"

The company is investing in more technology to keep up with demand for its ciders. Credit: ITV West Country

And production is set to soar even more. Thatchers is investing £14 million in a new cider mill at the site to keep up with demand.

Martin Thatcher says, "It always comes back to the original. We want to make better and better cider all the time and that's really important to us and we want to keep moving forward and to do that you have to keep investing in new technology, new bits of equipment, new ideas and that's what we've done over the past 30 years." 

A bird's eye view of the apple harvester on Myrtle Farm. Credit: ITV West Country

Martin's daughter Eleanor is following in her father's footsteps.

She says, "I think dad has done a great job so far and I obviously want to build on the successes of that. I will have my own ideas I'll bring in and I just want to keep innovating."

When it comes down to it, it is all about taste, as John Thatcher says: "Probably the best advice as a cider maker I have ever had was that the then boss of Bulmers, he said, 'John we've got to make cider easier to drink'. That's possibly the best piece of advice a cider maker could have."

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Cider produced on a farm in North Somerset is now drunk all over the world. Credit: ITV West Country