I am fascinated by the history of Cheshire cheese. I think it’s Britain’s first named cheese, although Ned Palmer (in A Cheesemonger’s History of the British Isles) disputes the popular story that it was mentioned in the Domesday Book.
Cheshire cheese was for a long time Britain’s most popular cheese (today it’s Cheddar, followed by Mozzarella). Cheshire cheese had an international reputation – it was sold sometimes sold as Chester cheese, as more people overseas had heard of the city of Chester than the county of Cheshire.
Historically milk production was very seasonal, with most cows calving in the spring, and producing very little in the winter. Milk production woul peak when summer grass growth was at its highest. Cheese making was a useful way of preserving surplus milk, and providing an income when milk sales had declined.
The introduction of the railways helped expand Cheshire cheese production. historically cheese had been moved by boat from Chester to London. The railways enabled the cheeses to be quickly sent to the large industrial towns and cities nearby. With the introduction of the railways, by 1915 25% of Cheshire cheese was produced in adjacent Shropshire.
In Britain, traditional farmhouse cheese production stopped in World War 2. Lance and Lucy Appleby, of Hawkstone Abbey Farm, revived the tradition in 1952. You can still buy their excellent cheese:
This project is a work in progress, and more will be added when time permits.
Sarah Lunt, who is Lucy Appleby’s sister, has kindly let me show their families pictures of making cheese at the Lighteach here:
I have also written a History of the Worleston Dairy Institute. This school was the UK’s first ever college of dairying, and quickly gaines an international reputation.
I am in the process of prparing a map of Cheshire Cheesemakers around about 1908. It’s mainly based on Edmund Driver’s book Cheshire: its Cheese- Makers, their Homes, Landlords, and Supporters, and a 1908 Catalogue. It’s a work in progress, the latest version is here. Inevitably there will be errors in a project of this nature. For instance, sometimes no farm name was given so we have had to guess it. Sometimes the farm has been plotted in the wrong place – I am currently working on this to correct the errors, so please come back to this page to get the lates link for the updated map.