With the festive season around the corner, I could no longer ignore my Christmas to-do list. As I marched about the shops taking note of possible present ideas, quite by accident, I was delighted to come across a revamped vintage treat. A large bottle of Babycham caught my eye on a high shelf, clad in a sparkly turquoise sequinned jacket alongside a tempting champagne glass set. I felt a warm tinge of nostalgia for the heritage of my Somerset hometown, Shepton Mallet (also well-known its huge antiques fair).
What is Babycham?
The chances are most of us have memories of Babycham, the ladylike perry tipple with the iconic deer leaping across the bottle. The jolly deer has become somewhat more famous than the drink itself and, as a result, the power of the brand lives on.
Being a Shepton Mallet girl born and bred, my first memory of the company was seeing the large Babycham model stood atop its headquarters as you approached the town. Today, the deer has a lower profile position on the verge, though it can still be glimpsed as you drive by.
Babycham is a great example of why vintage makes me tick. It's not so much the items themselves but the memories that they hold. My late grandmother worked at Babycham in the 1970s and I recall all the memorabilia that she had at home: tea towels, pretty champagne glasses, even silver and gold Babycham bracelet charms that she later kindly gave to me. How did this successful empire begin from a small Somerset market town?
Who created babycham?
The four brothers who co-founded Babycham - Francis, Herbert, Arthur and Ralph Showering - came from unassuming beginnings. Francis started work in his parents' pub, The Ship, brewing beer and cider for both the family pub as well as other local hostelries. As a small concern, they struggled to compete with national brewers.
It was only during the Second World War that they managed to flourish despite a shortage of raw materials, building up a delivery fleet consisting of long-retired vehicles. After the war, however, the Showerings needed to find a niche in order to compete. This is when their experimentation led to the production of perry, a form of cider made from pears.
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When the sparkling drink was launched in 1953 it was mainly aimed at young women and fast became the tipple of choice in its glamorous champagne saucer–style glasses adorned with the deer. In 1957 it became the first ever alcoholic drink to be advertised on television and as production increased, Babycham realised worldwide success. Pear orchards were acquired in the Midlands to cope with the demand and a staggering 108,000 bottles were produced every hour in 1967. In 2013 the bubbly drink celebrated a mighty milestone, its 60th anniversary.
How much is Babycham memorabilia?
Now owned by Accolade Wines, Babycham continues to be produced, while vintage pieces of its memorabilia are as popular as ever. I often see it at flea markets and online. The glasses can be bought for around £7 each, tea towels in good condition fetch around £15, and I have a beautiful vintage Beswick ashtray that I wouldn't part with for less than £35 – if I could bear to. There are also pinnies, plastic deer figures, posters, coasters and bracelet charms. I even have a giant green Babycham bottle for saving up my pennies.
Now that I live close to the original factory, I can only imagine the excitement of the hustle and bustle in the business’s heyday. How I wish I could time travel back to the 1950s to witness the hubbub of such a local success story.
These days, it is heartening to see Babycham still being sold. This Christmas, it has also launched two more vintage-inspired flavours: cherry and cream soda – ideal gifts for the vintage lover. At least I know what I'll be having this Christmas – as the famous slogan goes, ‘I'd love a Babycham.’