June Newsletter

A four-week delay in the lifting of Covid restrictions, so no return to meetings for the time being.


Congratulations to Tom for correctly guessing the name of the roughest pub in Tonbridge, which was the Railway Bell. Another member suggested the Humphrey Bean!

The Railway Bell was located on Priory Road at the junction with Priory Street. The Telegraph Inn (see next month’s newsletter) was on the opposite corner. It may seem odd two pubs almost next door to each other on a Tonbridge side street, but this may have been influenced by the siting of the railway station. The first Tonbridge station was built in 1841 on the east side of the main road with its entrance on Priory Road. In 1864 it was moved to its present site and the original station was demolished in 1865. There were cottages on both sides of Priory Road beyond the station and railway yard. This area would have been abuzz with railway employees, travellers and local residents all seeking a convivial watering hole.  

The first record relating to the Railway Bell lists John Barnes as the landlord in the 1851 census. He was also employed as a carman on the SE Railway. Carmen were often employed by railway companies for local deliveries and collections of goods and parcels, using horse-drawn vehicles. John would have been well placed for this work living across the road from the station. The Railway Bell, along with many other Tonbridge pubs, was originally a beer house. In 1948 the landlord, William Thomas Wall, was granted a full licence.

Over the years the Railway Bell gained the unfortunate reputation of being the roughest pub in Tonbridge. It closed in 2008 and was demolished in 2010. Flats now occupy the site. Paul Bailey writes in his informative beer and travel blog: “the pub itself was an attractive, late Victorian building which still could have had a viable future in the right hands”.

(Acknowledgements: Dover Kent Archives, Paul Bailey: Paul's Beer & Travel Blog)


Tom has provided an old Don Sayers’ recipe (13 Oct 1980) for this month’s winemaking section. Some of the ingredients may need to be substituted with similar products.

“Try this for a dessert red wine the formulation of which has taken about 15 years of experimentation to perfect.

2-gallon batch

Into a large plastic bucket put:

1½ lbs dried apricots, roughly chopped

1 large jar of bilberries in syrup

6 oz prunes

4 oz dried elderberries

Pour on 1½ gallons of boiling water in which you have dissolved 2 lbs of sugar. Cover and leave overnight. Next day simmer for ½ an hour 1 lb bananas cut in slices in 1 pint of water, strain and add liquor to batch.

Dissolve two 20 mg vitamin C tablets and two 3 mg B1 tablets in ½ cup of tepid water, together with 2 teaspoons of wine nutrient and add to batch.

Stir and sprinkle on 1 packet of Vinquik yeast. Cover and ferment at 75˚F ± 1˚F for not more than 3 days.

Strain through coarse muslin into another bucket, add 1 kg tin of CWE Burgundy concentrate and stir in 2½ lbs of sugar. Transfer to two 1-gallon demijohns and fit air locks. When gravity is about 1.010 SG start to feed, aim at a final gravity of 1.030. Rack, add 3 Campden tablets per gallon. Rack again 6 months later, keep 1 to 1½ years. Then 2 days before a show add 2 drops only of almond essence to the show bottle and the best of luck!! Don”


The July 2020 cocktail, Aviation, contained Crème de Violette. The liqueur is made by macerating violet flowers in a neutral spirit or brandy base. Only a small dash is required to flavour a drink. This month’s cocktail again contains Crème de Violette.

Flower Power Martini

60ml gin

20ml dry vermouth

10ml Crème de Violette


Edible flower or orange twist

Add all ingredients to a mixing glass with ice and stir. Strain into a martini or coupe glass and garnish.


Enjoy either as a dessert or a special cake.

Elderflower and Lemon Bundt Cake with Blueberry Glaze, based on a recipe from Waitrose Magazine

1 unwaxed lemon, zest and juice

3 fl oz single cream

3½ oz light olive oil, plus extra for greasing

6 oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting

6 oz caster sugar

2 eggs

2 oz elderflower cordial

1 tsp baking powder


1 lemon

Handful blueberries


3 oz blueberries

12 oz icing sugar

1 tbsp single cream

½ lemon, juice

1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C, gas mark 4. Mix the lemon juice and cream together and set aside for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, grease the inside of a 1 litre bundt tin with a little oil, using kitchen paper to help you get into all the nooks and crannies. Dust with flour and tap any excess out.

2. In the large bowl of a freestanding mixer (or using electric beaters), whisk together the sugar and eggs until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the oil a little at a time, whisking until it’s all incorporated. Pour in the cream mixture, elderflower cordial and lemon zest. Mix together at a slow speed until combined. Sieve in the flour and baking powder, stirring until just combined. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 40-50 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before carefully turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to its lowest setting. For the decorative (inedible) dried lemon, carefully cut the lemon into very thin slices and lay on a baking tray lined with parchment. Bake for 2-3 hours, rotating the tray every 30 minutes, until the lemon slices are crisp and dry.

4. Once the bundt has cooled, make the glaze. Cook the blueberries in a small pan over a low heat for about 5 minutes – they should burst to release their juices. Transfer the berries and their juice to a high-speed blender or the small bowl of a food processor, along with the remaining glaze ingredients. Whizz to a vivid purple glaze, then pour over the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Decorate with the fresh blueberries and slices of dried lemon.


British Sloes snubbed by Buckingham Palace

Daily Telegraph: Buckingham Palace’s Royal Collection Trust have recently added a sloe gin to their range, but admit that they have imported sloes from eastern Europe as the UK’s sloes do not meet the required “quality and quantity”. However, David Patrick founder of a Norfolk based sloeberry producer, said this was “absolute nonsense”. He stated: “A typical sloe is 1 cm across. A blackthorn bush, wherever it is in the world, would produce the same sloes. It is not like a rose which has a million different types. They mass-produce and flash freeze them in Bulgaria. Anyone importing them can only be doing so to save money as they sell them by the ton and it’s cheaper.” He suggested some producers might grow bullaces, which are from the same family, but have a larger berry that is slightly less acidic and pass them off as sloes.


The Trust’s sloe gin sells at £30 for a 50 ml bottle. Last summer it launched its London dry gin, which sold out within 8 hours of going online. The sloe gin is made by steeping the sloes in Buckingham Palace Gin and is described as having citrus and herbal notes. It is derived from 12 botanicals including lemon verbena, hawthorn berries, bay and mulberry leaves, some of which are collected from the palace garden.


It is not known whether the Queen has sampled the sloe gin, but it is believed that, like her late mother, she enjoys a gin cocktail. The Queen has also recently launched her own beer, a Sandringham bitter.


Aldi champions over Pimm’s

Daily Telegraph: Which? asked 101 tasters to compare Aldi’s Summer Punch, Tesco’s Summer Cup and Pimm’s No 1. Aldi’s Summer Punch was the highest-rated, scoring 72%, followed by Tesco’s version and Pimm’s.


Did you know?

The maraschino cherry was invented at Oregon State University during Prohibition to liven up virgin cocktails.                                                   

Waitrose Weekend


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Latest comments

31.03 | 15:44

Hello, We have some demijohns and fermenting buckets, they are free of charge.If anyone would be interested please contact me.
Thank you

09.11 | 20:18

Thank you for your kind offer of the wine rack. Unfortunately Rainham is rather a long way to travel, as many of us live in Tonbridge.
Best wishes,

09.11 | 19:34

Hello I was a wine maker many years ago and have a 90 bottle wine rack for FREE if anyone can collect from Rainham Kent

09.09 | 18:31

Looks yummy! You list garlic in the ingredients list, but I don’t see where you add it to the recipe. I would guess that you add it to the partially sautéed oni

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