Our ancestors had a lot of processions and when a community wanted to make a statement they often did it with great drama. Lord Bute brought in a tax on cider in 1763 to help fund the ongoing Seven Years’ War. This was a potential disaster for the apple growing regions of the west country and the south east. This is from the Leeds Intelligencer, regarding Ledbury Gloucestershire:
“A procession was made through the principal parts of this town by the servants of he Cyder Merchants Coopers, Farmers, and some poor labourers with numbers of poor people, the day the Cyder Act took place, in the following manner, viz. A man, with a drum covered with black crape beating the dead march, drumsticks reverted; two mutes, with crape hatbands and black cloaks; an empty barrel upon a bier, carried by 6 poor Farmers, dressed in Cyder hair cloths, with hair cloths covering the barrel, and a gauging stick in the bung hole, and the pall of hair cloths supported by 6 others in black; 2 men, the one on the right with an empty can upon his head covered with crape, upon the top of which was a branch of an apple-tree, with apples thereon covered also with crape; the other on the left in black, with the tools on his shoulder necessary to be made use of in felling of trees; and in the rear a number of poor objects, with Apples in their bosoms covered with crape. The bells were rung muffled all the day; and eery face expressed a sympathetic sorrow for the impending ruin that awaits this country.”
Author Clifford Morsley explains further, that it infringed civil liberties: “it was hated generally because it required excise officers to investigate the affairs of every apple-grower in the country.And these were days in which there was growing concern about the despotic attitudes of the new king who had succeeded to the throne in 1760.
The opposition to the Cider Tax and to Lord Bute personally was so great that the Prime Minister – long uneasy – felt compelled to resign and he left office as the Act came into effect. It was not repealed until 3 years later.