Buxlow Paigle is currently (2004) the only cheese made in Suffolk, England. The cheese is made by Margaret Reeve, using milk from the herd of Friesian cows kept by her husband Will at Church Farm in Friston, near Aldeburgh.
Will Reeve runs an “automatic dairy”: the cows go to a machine and get themselves milked at whatever time of night or day they choose.
The cheese is somewhat like Wensleydale.
Suffolk used to have a very good reputation for cheeses. In 1563, Suffolk cheeses were good enough to send 6 of them to Henry the 8th as a present. The cheese centres were Woodbridge, Dunnage, and Southwold.
Along the way, though, butter from Suffolk came to be highly esteemed and much in demand, so Suffolk dairy producers naturally prioritized butter in their production, as it had become more profitable. To make the butter, they used all the cream from the milk, leaving, skim milk.
The problem arose when they tried to keep on making cheese from the leftover skim milk. Great cheeses can be made from skim milk. The term used in England at the time for skim milk cheeses was “flet cheese”. Single Gloucester is an example of a good skim milk cheese that the Royal Navy had a standing order for. Cheddar, however, is what would have been traditional in Suffolk. The Suffolk producers kept on trying to make cheddar except with skim milk. It didn’t take long for it to acquire the nickname of “Suffolk bang” because the cheese came out rock hard.
The writer Daniel Dafoe said that Suffolk had the best butter — but the worst cheese — in England. Samuel Pepys complained that his servants wouldn’t eat it. In 1753, the English Admirality banned Suffolk cheese altogether from the navy, because sailors refused it. After that, cheese production in Suffolk withered and disappeared, as all Suffolk cheeses had acquired a bad reputation.
Two sayings survive about old Suffolk cheese: “Hunger could break through anything except Suffolk Cheese” and “Too big to swallow, and too hard to bite”.
Literature & Lore
“Woodbridge has nothing remarkable, but that it is a considerable market for butter and corn to be exported to London; for now begins that part which is ordinarily called High Suffolk, which, being a rich soil, is for a long tract of ground wholly employed in dairies, and they again famous for the best butter, and perhaps the worst cheese, in England.
The butter is barrelled, or often pickled up in small casks, and sold, not in London only, but I have known a firkin of Suffolk butter sent to the West Indies, and brought back to England again, and has been perfectly good and sweet, as at first. The port for the shipping off their Suffolk butter is chiefly Woodbridge, which for that reason is full of corn factors and butter factors, some of whom are very considerable merchants.” — Daniel Dafoe, Tour through the Eastern Counties of England, 1724.
Buxlow is a hamlet of just a few houses near Aldeburgh; Paigle is a Suffolk dialect word for Cowslip flower.