Enthusiasts turn up to honour clergy twister

19 August 2009

by Pat Ashworth

CORKSCREW ADDICTS from around the world will gather in Bow Church, east London, on Monday to honour the Revd Samuel Henshall, Rector from 1802-1807, and inventor of what he called the “piratical screwmaker”.

Professor Henshall, an Oxford academic in the field of Anglo-Saxon, died in 1807, and is buried in the chancel of the 700-year-old church.

He de­scribed his new inven­tion in a letter to the Birmingham metal­smith, Matthew Boulton, as “a new Mode of applying the Screw, and a Mode which every Person who sees it will be surprised that he himself did not find out”.

Boulton, who worked on early steam-engine design with James Watt, manufactured the corkscrew for Professor Henshall in one of his factories. A circular cap at the base of the worm (i.e. screw) prevents it from going too deep into the cork, and also forces the cork to turn, thus breaking any seal it has formed with the bottle neck. Professor Henshall boasted that it would have the power to extract “the hardest, tightest or most decayed Cork”, and would rapidly supersede its rivals.

Members of the Interna­tional Corres­pondence of Corkscrew Addicts (ICCA) will visit his grave and present a plaque in his memory. The ICCA, whose membership is strictly limited to 50, held its first meeting at the Guin­ness Brewery in 1974, organised by Dr Bernard Watney, its first Chief Corres­pondent. A Californian monk, Timothy Diener, who made wine for the Christian Brothers, was its first chaplain.

Applicants to the closely knit group must specify “size and nature of collection, number of years collecting, how addiction was developed, and any research done”, as well as supplying biographical information.

The Rector of Bow, the Revd Michael Peet, will dedicate the plaque at 10 a.m. on Monday, the exact anniversary of the granting of the patent in 1795. “This must surely be a unique event in the 700-year history of the church,” he suggested. “I hope the ‘Addicts’ bring a couple of Henshall cork­screws with them so that we can raise a glass to my illustrious pre­decessor.”

Wine has long been a feature of the Church’s spiritual and recreational life. Is there a corkscrew in your vestry? Vote here

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