CHEVALLIER BARLEY makes a come-back

February 2018

Greene King, Brewers of Bury St Edmunds, who were the final owners of the Tolly Cobbold brands  has introduced two Heritage Ales as part of their ‘New Heritage Range created from rediscovered Suffolk Malt.’  So the publicity material states; it goes on to say ‘Replicating real ale from the 1800s, two limited edition premium beers, Heritage Suffolk Pale Ale (5%) and Heritage Vintage Fine Ale (6.5%), have been lovingly created using East Anglian Chevallier malted barley.  Reintroduced two years ago by local maltster, Crisp Malt, five preserved Chevallier seeds were re-sown and crops harvested to create the volume required to replicate a traditional Greene King real ale from the 1800s.’  You might be forgiven for thinking that Crisp Malt had sown the 5 seeds quite recently.

Here’s what actually happened.  Dr John Chevallier (1774-1846) (#729 on the web family tree) and his brother Charles Chevallier (1772-1844) (#2050) were working the land at Aspall, Suffolk undertaking experiments to improve yields.  Chevallier barley would come to dominate world barley markets for nearly 60 years and this is the story according to the History of Debenham (1845).

About the year 1820, John Andrews, a labourer of Mr Edward Dove of Ulverstone Hall, Debenham had been threshing barley, and on his return home at night complained of his feet being uneasy, and on taking off his shoes, he discovered in one of them part of a very fine ear of barley – it struck him as being particularly so – and he was careful to have it preserved.  He afterwards planted a few grains from it in his garden, and the following year Dr and Mrs John Chevallier, coming to Andrew’s dwelling to inspect some repairs, saw three or four ears of barley growing.  Dr. John requested it might be left for him when ripe.  The Doctor sowed a small ridge with the produce so obtained, and from the increase thence arising, he began to dispose of it, and from that time it has been gradually getting into repute.  It is now well-known in most of the corn markets of the Kingdom, and also on many parts of the Continent, America etc., and is called Chevallier Barley.

It grew in popularity until at its peak perhaps 80 to 90 per cent of British barley was Chevallier and the variety was grown and demanded widely round the world.   Little wonder that Dr John became known as Dr John (Barley) Chevallier.

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