November Newsletter

Lockdown 2 is upon us and as a consequence there is very little to report. However there are some beautiful autumn colours to be enjoyed.

Last week I racked and fined my ginger wine. I will be bottling it later this week ready for Christmas.


The old Bull Inn on the High Street was demolished in 1962. What’s there now? Peacock’s - currently displaying “closing down” notices!

The Bull was a very fine building. It had a smoking room in which was displayed a copy of the London Gazette dated 1685! The boxer Tom Sayers once used the same room; he used to train at Hadlow... Sayers, erstwhile described as “the bravest of the brave” originally hailed from Brighton.

Much of this information came from “A walk through Tonbridge in 1896”. Intriguingly it mentions the old sign, from “the thirties” which was “very valuable” and painted by B. Herring. Of course, this was the 1830s! It describes some parts of the building being of considerable antiquity: some are evidently Elizabethan, while other parts were of a much earlier time – these were the immense rough-hewn solid beams.

The Bull had a rather sinister connection with a horrible murder. In 1841 an Irishman called Daniel Good had fled to Tonbridge and lodged there. Remarkably tiring to the modern reader are the old “Times” accounts of “the Roehampton murder”. The prose is colourful, quaint and, often, exceedingly tedious. However: I dun it! What struck me was the care with which the investigations were carried out. The proceedings against Good were thorough and painstaking and every effort was made to give the man a fair trial. The headless and limbless trunk of Jane Jones was discovered in the stables where Good worked as a coachman. A nearby fire contained calcined bones that had been subject to “white heat”. Good was suspected immediately. Locking his would- be captors in the stable; he fled to Tonbridge and, under the pseudonym of James Connor, found work as a builder’s labourer. Unfortunately for him, he was recognised by Thomas Rose, a former constable of the Metropolitan Police, now also working as a labourer. Rose found Superintendent Humphrey and had the man arrested – he was subsequently incarcerated in Maidstone gaol before being sent back to London. Cutting a long story short, he was hanged outside Newgate on Monday, May 23, 1842 at 08.00. His executioner was the notorious Calcraft who had a predilection for using the short drop as a means of intensifying the suffering of his victims. Distressingly, Good’s final moments were inhuman and degrading. As the dreadful sight of the gallows loomed into view, the vilely abusive crowd heaped taunts and insults upon the hapless wretch. Such is the power of the press – who had whipped up frenzy against him. Don’t forget public execution was the norm until 1868 when it was abolished. To use that wonderfully euphemistic Victorian phrase, he was “launched into eternity”. Poor Good “seemed to struggle violently for some seconds” – not surprisingly: testament to the macabre skill of Calcraft. Good never admitted the murder – indeed he denied it vociferously up to the end. Now, with the benefit of modern forensics – I wonder...


This month’s winemaking recipe uses a seasonal fruit.

CRANBERRY WINE, TV Times - Make your own Wine

3 lb fresh cranberries           3 lb sugar

6 pints water                        2 tsp citric acid

Yeast                                    Nutrient

Boil half the water and pour over the cranberries already placed in a fermenting bin and stir in the sugar. When cooled, add the rest of the cold water, acid, yeast and nutrient. Keep covered in a warm place for 5 days, stir well daily and then strain into a demijohn. Top up to the neck with water, if necessary.  Fit an air lock and ferment out in the normal way.


A classic cocktail with an interesting bitter twist.

It is believed to have been created by Harry MacElhone at Harry’s New York Bar, Paris in the 1920’s. According to legend it acquired its name in honour of an eccentric military man, who would arrive at the bar in the sidecar of his chauffeur-driven motorcycle.


50 ml brandy

20 ml lemon juice

20 ml Cointreau

Sugar for the glass

Shake all the ingredients together over ice and strain into a chilled martini glass with a sugared edge.


An easy recipe which makes 16 small cake squares and is suitable for freezing. It’s called a buckle as the batter mixture “buckles” around the fruit as it cooks.

Raspberries, blackberries, chopped pears and apples also work well with this recipe.

Blueberry Buckle Waitrose Weekend

75g salted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

150g caster sugar

1 medium egg

Grated zest of 1 lemon

250g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

120ml milk

250g blueberries

Topping: 75g soft dark brown sugar, 75g plain flour, 50g butter

Preheat oven to 190C (gas mark 5). Butter and line the base and sides of a 20cm square cake tin with baking parchment. Cream the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and stir in the lemon zest. Sift the flour and baking powder into a separate bowl, then fold into the butter mixture, alternating with the milk. Spoon the mixture into the tin and scatter the blueberries over the top.

For the topping, mix the dark brown sugar and flour together, then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over the blueberries and bake for 35-40 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Carefully lift out and cut into 16 squares.


Top Marks for Portuguese Wines

Daily Mail: Portuguese wines gained a bad reputation in the UK as they became associated with Mateus Rosé, the party staple of the 1960’s and 70’s. However, a recent interest has arisen in Portuguese wines. Sales at Marks & Spencer have increased by 30% in the last year, while a 27% increase has been reported at Waitrose and a 23% one at Sainsbury’s. The trade body ViniPortugal, claim that the nation is now the world’s 9th largest wine exporter, with the industry worth more than £525 million last year. Sales to the UK rose 22% in 2019 alone. This upsurge of interest could be due to greater media coverage of Portuguese wines on TV food and travel programmes. Another theory is due to current travel restrictions people are buying wines previously enjoyed on holiday in Portugal to remind them of happy times on the Algarve. Whatever the reason these wines are now regarded as a quality product at a good price. Olly Smith, Wine Expert for the Mail on Sunday, says: “Their unique range of local grapes, geography and blending skill creates wines that taste like nowhere else on the planet.” His choices are:

Robust red: Tesco – Porta 6 2019 (£7.50) For a plush, bold, easy, berry-scented red this delivers the goods, with the bright label (picture of Lisbon tram) reflecting the informal, yet appealing, wine. One of Lin and Les’ favourites!

Zippy white: Waitrose – Azevedo Vinho Verde 2019 (£8.99) Brisk, bright white with a spritz, it delivers finesse with lighter alcohol at 11.5%.

High Street Bargain: Aldi – Carlos Lucas Portuguese Dão 2018 (£5.99) Exceptional red blend for the price. Think of it as a lighter version of a Spanish Rioja with irresistible aromatic fruit.

Fortified: Morrisons – The Best 10 Year Old Tawny Port (£12) Port isn’t just for Christmas and this bottle is beyond brilliant – think liquid sultanas. Serve chilled.

Offbeat: Majestic – Planalto White Reserve 2018 (£6.99) Punchy light white from Douro Valley. With tropical refreshment and turbo zing, this is perfect to chill and sip.

(Article kindly supplied by Jan Powis)

Drink Red Wine (or Tea) to help lower Blood Pressure

Daily Telegraph: Some good news in times of woe. According to research a daily glass of red wine or a cup of tea could assist in preventing a heart attack or stroke. These drinks are high in flavanols – healthy plant chemicals that help lower blood pressure. Other food and drinks rich in the antioxidants include apples, berries and cocoa.


The Christmas tree by the river first spotted  on 12 November. A little early perhaps?


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Latest comments

05.10 | 15:57

Just to let you know we are up and running again. Our next meeting is on Thursday 7 Oct, a commercial wine tasting. Pls let me know if you would like to come.

05.10 | 15:53

Thank you for visiting our website. We will ask our members at our meeting on Thursday and let you know if anyone is interested.

05.10 | 15:00

Good afternoon. We have a lot of black grapes ready for harvesting. Just wondered whether anyone would like them?
We’re based in Sevenoaks

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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