> > > >

British Cheeses

Before World War One (1914 - 1918), there were 3,500 independent British cheesemakers.

The British Milk Marketing Board was established in 1933; everyone in England and Wales producing milk or cheese was compelled to belong to it, and pay a levy to it. A similar board was established in Scotland in the same year. [1] Still, many makers survived despite the economic depression at the time. In 1939, in the south-west of England alone, there were over 514 varieties of cheddar alone being made, not to mention all the other types of cheeses, or other areas of England.

The economic requirements of World War Two (1939 to 1945) decimated the number of cheesemakers. At the start of the war, by wartime law, anyone making cheese in Britain was compelled to make a single, uniform cheddar-style cheese called "Government Cheddar." Rationing allowed everyone 2 oz (50g) of it a week. By the end of the war in 1945, less than 100 independent British cheesemakers had survived. But they weren't out of the woods yet: the law stayed in effect until 1954.

In 1954, production of traditional cheeses such as Lancashire, Red Leicester, Stilton, and Wensleydale were revived. The British Milk Marketing Board was opposed to it; for instance, the Wensleydale revival only succeeded because the small cheesemaker called "Wensleydale Creamery" stubbornly saw them off.

But until the 1990s, only those cheeses plus cheddar were available, largely owing to restrictions imposed by the British Milk Marketing Board. If anyone wanted a better cheese during that period, they bought European cheeses.

A champion of reviving British cheese was Patrick Rance (died 22 August 1999, age 81.) He ran a shop in Streatley, near Henley-on-Thames, and out of personal interest sought out traditional, raw-milk cheese producers to supply his store. In 1973, he was commissioned by the British tourist board to write an article on British cheese. His research for the article inspired him to go further and write more on the topic. He published "The Great British Cheese Book" in 1982. He made it clear that he felt the enemies were the Milk Marketing Board, and large industrial cheese companies, in collusion with each other.

In 1982, the Milk Marketing Board, through its subsidiary Dairy Crest, attempted to quell growing consumer desire for another British cheese by creating itself a new industrial cheese called Lymeswold Cheese. They spared no expense, drawing on the latest business techniques in focus groups, market research and taste tests. But still, the cheese just refused to move off the shelves. They gave on up it in the early 1990s.

Finally, on 1 November 1994, the Milk Marketing Board was abolished; this is when the British cheese explosion began. Milk producers were freed up to do what they wanted to do with their own milk. There was no more Milk Marketing Board to dictate what they could and could not do.

By 2002, there were over 450 different speciality cheeses available in Britain. By 2010, over 700, compared to 600 French cheeses, 100 fewer in France. Seventy of the British varieties were blue cheeses.

As of 2011, 25% of the milk produced in the UK was used in making cheese. [2]

Exports of British cheeses to Germany were worth £326m in the first half of 2009; in the first half of 2010, that number had risen 20% to £392m. The most popular were cheddars and blue cheeses. As well, in the first half of 2010, cheese sales to Spain increased 8%, sales to Americans increased 41%.

As of 2011, 98% of households in Britain regularly include cheese in their main food shopping.

Cheddar remains a firm favourite. 55% of all cheese sold in Britain is still cheddar. To meet the demand, cheddar is still imported, typical from Commonwealth countries such as Canada and New Zealand, or Ireland. In, 2008 the UK imported around 138,000 tonnes of Cheddar. Some consumers complain that sometimes this cheese is labelled "packed in Britain", which can be misleading.

The Scottish Highlands produce mostly soft cheeses.

As of 2010, the largest commercial cheese company in the UK is "Milk Link."

British Cheese Week is the last week in September.

Literature & Lore

'To taste an unpasteurised, cloth-bound cheddar made from the milk of cows whose diet is fresh grass, clover, buttercups and daisies, is to taste a piece of England.' -- Juliet Harbutt, in "The World Cheese Book". 2009.


[1] A Milk Marketing board was not formed in Northern Ireland until 1955.

[2] British Cheese Board 2011. Retrieved March 2011 from http://www.britishcheese.com/facts/faqs-31

Apple, R.W. Jr. Keeping the Real British Cheeses Alive. New York Times. 14 November 1984.

Grimes, William. Patrick Rance, 81, British Cheese Crusader. New York Times. 30 August 1999.

Hutchison, Peter. Germany goes mad for British cheese. London: Daily Telegraph. 22 September 2010.

Miller, Keith. The British Cheese Conspiracy. London: Daily Telegraph. 22 October 2010.

Miller, Norman. It’s time to celebrate British cheese. London: The Times. 19 September 2009.

Mitch Potter. Cool Britannia rules the whey. Toronto, Canada: The Toronto Star. 9 October 2007. Page A3.

Wallop, Henry. British blue cheese conquers the French. London: Daily Telegraph. 18 December 2010.

Wilson, Bee. The Kitchen Thinker: British cheddar. London: Daily Telegraph. 29 September 2010.

Solid Performance by Milk Link. Dublin, Ireland: Food & Drink Business Magazine. 28 June 2010.

See also:

British Cheeses

Beenleigh Blue Cheese; Blissful Buffalo Mozzarella; Blue Wensleydale; Botton Cheese; British Cheeses; Buffalo Blue Cheese; Buxlow Paigle; Buxton Blue Cheese; Byland Blue Cheese; Caboc Cheese; Caerphilly Cheese; Canterbury Blue Cheese; Capricorn Goat's Cheese; Caradon Blue Cheese; Cheddar Cheese; Cheshire Cheese; Colston Bassett Stilton Cheese; Cornish Blue Cheese; Cornish Yarg Cheese; Cotherstone Cheese; Cottage Cheese; Crowdie Cheese; Curd Cheese; Daylesford Cheddar Cheese; Devon Blue Cheese; Dorset Blue Vinney; Dunlop Cheddar Cheese; Exmoor Blue Cheese; Farmhouse Cheese; Galic Cheese; Gevrik Cheese; Gloucester Cheese; Government Cheddar Cheese; Grimbister Cheese; Gruth Dhu Cheese; Harbourne Blue Cheese; Highland Crowdie Cheese; Huntsman Cheese; Isle of Mull Cheese; Katy's White Lavender Cheese; Lanark Blue Cheese; Lancashire Cheese; Lincolnshire Poacher Cheese; Lord of The Hundreds Cheese; Lymeswold Cheese; Mrs Bells Blue Cheese; Oxford Blue Cheese; Oxford Isis Cheese; Pantysgawn Cheese; Penyston Cheese; Red Dragon Cheese; Red Leicester Cheese; Royal Windsor Red Cheese; Shropshire Blue; Stilton; Stinking Bishop Cheese; The Crumblies; Troo Bloo You Cheese; Truckle; Wensleydale Cheese with Cranberries; Wensleydale Cheese; White Cheddar; Windsor Red Cheese; Yeel Cheese; Yeoman Cheese

Please share this information with your friends. They may love it.


Oulton, Randal. "British Cheeses." CooksInfo.com. Published 30 April 2011; revised 30 April 2011. Web. Accessed 06/23/2018. <http://www.cooksinfo.com/british-cheeses>.

© Copyright 2018. All rights reserved and enforced. You are welcome to cite CooksInfo.com as a reference, but no direct copying and republishing is allowed.