At the 1958 National Honey Show at Caxton Hall London, a talk by Dr. Beech on Mead and Homemade Wines, prompted his audience to declare an interest in wine competitions on a national basis. The Honey Show took this idea on board and included National Wine Classes in their show for the following year. It took a little while for the idea to catch on though. In January 1959, the Amateur Winemakers’ Society cancelled their first National Convention in Cardiff, when only two booking forms had been returned, despite great initial interest.
Our first National Congress was being planned in April 1959, to take place at the Fiesta Hall, in Andover on Whit Monday the 18th May. The fee was 6 shillings (6/-) per head and 170 attended this first National Show. The six competition classes were: White Dry, White Medium and White Sweet, plus Red Dry, Red Medium and Red Sweet. The National’s first trophy, the Shaw Porter Challenge Cup was won by Mr James of Bishop’s Cleeve Wine Circle, with a medium elderflower wine. Other varied ingredients in the award winning wines were, walnut leaf, parsnip, grape, orange, parsley, elderflower, strawberry and bellheather.
A talk by Commander Mudie, chairman of the Andover Wine Circle, on “Appreciation and Judging of Wine” took place in the morning with a further talk on “Conducting a Fermentation” by Dr. Pollard from the Long Ashton Research Station in the afternoon. This was followed by a “Brains Trust” with Cdr Mudie, Dr. Pollard, Mrs. S. M. Tritton and Mr. Ben Turner on the panel and Mr. E. J. Parker of the Andover Circle, the Question Master. A “Business Session” – a forerunner of our A.G.M.s, then discussed the formation of a national organisation and a national standards committee. These proposals were heavily defeated, as there were serious doubts about a national committee, but it was suggested that it be discussed again at the National Honey Show in October. This idea fell through, as no agenda was arranged and only half-a-dozen or so winemakers turned up.
However it was announced in December 1959, that Bournemouth Winemakers would host the second National Conference in 1960. The name of the event was to be changed from Congress to Conference to obtain conference facilities such as free pier tickets, deck chairs etc. plus a civic reception. The 1960 Conference was held as a two-day event in April at the Town Hall Bournemouth. The programme contained four lectures, a “Brains Trust” and a “Business Session,” plus a continuous film show to entertain over 300 winemakers. Many trade stands also made an impressive exhibition. Over 600 bottles were entered in the 20 classes the show had now grown to and there were now two trophies, with the Bournemouth Master Winemaker Trophy for most points in the show being added to the Shaw Porter Trophy for best wine.
At the Business Session on the topic “Do we need a national organisation?” once again almost every speaker was against the idea and the meeting voted accordingly. It was felt that a national organisation might prove expensive and difficult to run; also that it might attract unwanted legislation. Mr. F. Spark of Andover felt that whilst a national organisation might not be necessary, a committee to sort out wine standards and classifications was desirable. Thankfully, the meeting was wholly in favour of a committee being formed to run a National Conference and Show and Laurie Gilbertson, a delegate from Cardiff, proposed such a standing committee be formed. Some debate on how the National Conference should be financed followed and Andy Andrews, a Hertford delegate, proposed that Wine Circles be asked to make a financial contribution for the event; this was carried. Finally, a proposition from Ben Turner of Harrow, that Cyril Berry should select and appoint a committee to establish an annual conference, was carried and thus we are still here today!
A talk by Dr. R. A. Webb at the Bournemouth Conference, on “The Value and Functions of Wine Circles” appears today to have been somewhat prophetic. Briefly, his theme was that “circles must, to survive, not only attract a steady flow of new members but also retain their old ones. That was difficult, because winemaking as a subject was necessarily limited and the temptation was therefore, to enter upon a cycle of repetitious talks and activities, revised and presented in a new guise, perhaps, but still basically the same. This was not enough to keep intelligent members’ interest. What wine circles needed to do was to devote part of their programme to retaining the interest of the experienced winemaker by systematic tasting and judging by all members, not just a few. Other tasks would be to research new yeasts and equipment and devise some better system of classification of country wines, than at present existed and to organise inter-club competitions.” These ideas were certainly taken on board by winemaking enthusiasts and their clubs but sadly some of Dr. Webb’s forebodings are now coming into fruition in many of our circles.
After the Bournemouth Conference the 88 known winemaking clubs were invited to send delegates to form a National Committee and 50 winemaking enthusiasts turned up representing 20 clubs. The 20 clubs who sent delegates to the Andover meeting were – Andover, Bishop’s Cleeve, Bournemouth, Bristol, Cardiff, Cheltenham, Croydon, Farnborough, Gosport, Harrow, Hertford, New Forest, Rickmansworth, Southdown, Southsea, Twickenham, Watford, Weald of Kent, West Surrey and Winchester. They were all Southern circles but several Midland and Northern circles sent letters voicing their views. Cyril Berry, in the chair, explained that the idea of setting up a National Committee was in order that they be responsible for the year-to-year organisation of the conference; this was proposed and accepted. The subsequent election of Officers resulted in Cyril Berry (Andover) as chairman, R. C. Lucas (Bournemouth) Hon. Secretary and Ivor Morgan (New Forest) Hon. Treasurer. The elected committee were – C. W. Martin (Farnborough), S. W. Andrews (Hertford), L. W. Gilbertson (Cardiff), E. W. Malin (Bishop’s Cleeve), Dr. R. A. Webb (Bristol) and B. C. A. Turner (Harrow).
Delegates decided the National Conference must be truly national and not always held in the South. Suggestions were invited for the venue of the next year’s Conference and Ben Turner proposed Harrow, describing facilities at “The Rest Hotel”, Kenton. N. G. Timbrell and C. A. Rickman (Harrow) were co-opted onto the committee as local liaison officers.
An appeal was made for members of wine circles to donate a shilling (1/-) a head to finance the National Conference. A sum of £99/15/6d was eventually collected to get the National Association financially under way!
The third National Conference in June 1961 was at “The Rest Hotel” at Kenton in Harrow and proved to be a great success. Bottles judged on Friday afternoon totalled 753 and 18 wine judges nominated by their clubs, adjudicated over the 24 classes. The Bournemouth Master Winemaker Trophy, was won by Cedric Austin (Hertford) and the Shaw Porter Cup by Mrs. D. R. Martin (Farnborough). A winner of two classes, the grape concentrate and the dried fruit class, was Miss Pat Newsom the daughter of a former well-known wine and beer judge, Wilf Newsom. Pat was just 14 years old and possibly the youngest entrant to ever win a first award at the National Show. B.B.C. cameras were present to record the proceedings.
The Business Session that followed was chaired by Cyril Berry, with the previously elected committee on the platform. It was decided that the following year 1962, the so-called Business Session would be replaced by an Annual General Meeting to ensure an election of new officers and committee, plus presentation of the balance sheet for the 1961 Conference. The present committee would remain in office until that A.G.M.
Mr. Jakeway, chairman and spokesperson for the Cheltenham Amateur Winemakers Association, then offered a warm invitation, to hold the 4th National Conference at Cheltenham Spa, on Friday and Saturday 6th & 7th April 1962 and this offer was gratefully accepted by the conference.
Thus, the Town Hall at Cheltenham became the venue for the fourth National Conference and Show. Here there was ample room for this growing event, including the ten trade stands requested. On the Saturday, the show was attended by over 800 people, as well as reporters from the B.B.C., Manchester Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Daily Express and Sunday Express.
The entries in the 26 classes of 1,220 bottles, was a new record for the show. Liverpool won the Amateur Winemaker Shield, a new trophy for the club with the most points. Ken Hill (Liverpool) won the Bournemouth Master Winemakers Trophy and the Shaw Porter Cup, for best wine, went to C.D. Padwick (Andover). Two other new trophies, the Turner Salver for the best three bottles for a dinner was won by Mrs. F. Raven (Alresford) and the Andrews Trophy for best dry, fruit wine was awarded to Mr. & Mrs. Cedric Austin (Hertford).
At the A.G.M., delegates from the north voiced objection to the “National” continuing to be held in the south, but Cyril Berry told the conference that arrangements had already been made for Brighton in 1963. A proposal of new Constitution and Rules were accepted, including “any circle subscribing a minimum of 10/- to the Conference funds would become a member circle”.
At the following committee meeting, a profit of £108 for the Cheltenham Show, was declared and committee jobs re-allocated. Arrangements for the fifth National Conference were announced as the 19th & 20th April 1963, at the Corn Exchange, Brighton. Judging of the 42 classes would again be on the Friday afternoon, with a programme of lectures and the A.G.M. on Saturday. Two new classes were to be for Judges and Judges Stewards and Cedric Austin donated a trophy for most points in these classes. Gordon Instone presented a new trophy for the best Circle Display and R. C. Lucas one for a member of the Bournemouth Circle gaining most points. The Shaw Porter Trophy would be re-allocated to go to the best fruit wine.
Convenor of Judges, Andy Andrews estimated that 50% of the wines entered were sub-standard. He concluded that, “to prevent anomalies between judges, a standard set of rules for procedure and judging must be prepared. Classes must be of a manageable number, better liaison between judge and exhibitor and a revised set of rules must be prepared for the guidance of the exhibitor.” Andy concluded that the Brighton Show had outgrown it’s own organisation, with a small committee running a really large show.
After the Brighton Conference and Show the committee agreed the time had come to recruit and train judges to invoke common judging practice and standards; a judges’ examination was also suggested. A sub-committee was elected to examine this idea and the Amateur Winemakers National Guild of Judges, under the aegis of the National Conference, was launched at a meeting in London in November 1963. Elected officers for this new judges organisation were – Chairman S.W. Andrews; Secretary B. C. A. Turner; Treasurer A. Moore.
A sub-committee was chosen, to compile a judges’ handbook and lay down standards and procedures for judging wines. Shortly afterwards another sub-committee, comprising of Wilf Newsom, Don Hebbs and Bryan Acton, was set up to do the same for beers to be included in the judges’ handbook. A loan of £56/8/7d granted by the National Conference organisation, for the production of “Judging Home Made Wines” in October 1964, meant that judging practices for winemaking competitions, not only at the National Show, but at all levels would be standardised. When the handbook was revised in July 1967, it included the beer judging guidelines and in October 1978, the judging organisation changed their name to the National Guild of Wine and Beer Judges.
After Conference returned the show to Bournemouth in 1964, a new style of venue was tried in 1965 when we moved east to Butlin’s Holiday Camp, at Clacton. It was reported that Butlin’s were most co-operative, giving the conference every possible facility. An advantage of this venue was that accommodation and conference were all under one roof; there were however, mixed feelings about a holiday camp staging the show and conference. During this conference, the first qualifying examinations for entry into the Amateur Winemakers’ Guild of Judges were held. There were three passes, Doug Lancaster, Ruby Golding and Mr. G. W. Newton.
At the A.G.M. held in October 1965, the title of our organisation was altered from “National Conference and Show” to “National Association of Amateur Winemakers.” (It was renamed again in 1974 to ‘National Association of Wine and Beermakers‘.) Another resolution passed, was the granting of a vote for an individual member, as well as the two votes already allocated to member circles.
The first National Conference to be held in the north of England was at The Royal Hall in Harrogate in April 1966. Travellers from the south left their homes in driving snow blizzards, which was sweeping through all the southern conference centres – a good year to choose to hold our conference in the north! There were over 2000 bottles entered, with now 15 trophies to be won. The venue at Harrogate was well received, although several commented on the lack of trade stands on this occasion.
At the A.G.M. the following November, a resolution was put forward that would deprive individual members of voting rights; thankfully this resolution was defeated. Had it not been, it is possible that the association would not be in existence today!
We hold an archive of Annual Show Venues, plus show reports, and results.
The History of NAWB was written as an article entitled “The Start of 50 Golden Years” by Bob Marsdon, NGWBJ, and was first published in the association’s newsletter – News & Views – in August 2007. This version has been edited slightly for the World Wide Web.
A further article on the ‘Modern Wine & Beer Movement – Chronology to 1962‘, and written by W H P Dewar, was published in News & Views in November 1995 and March 1996. For some reason the article ends abruptly in the March 1996 issue, so it is incomplete.
A booklet was written in 1972 giving a short history of the Amateur Winemakers’ National Conference and Show to 1972, and also detailing the responsibilities of some of the Members of the National Executive.