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Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Big Cheese

At last we have some daffodils blooming in our garden – I cannot remember them being this late for many years. Spring was a busy time for farmers in Regency Cheshire. Ploughing for barley began in April, and in May farmers started work on their potato crop. The end of the Napoleonic wars was a very bad time for Cheshire farmers; they found it very difficult to sell their produce, because there was a trade depression.
Cheshire, of course, was famous for its cheese. The best dairies were in the Nantwich area. The Weaver valley was said to produce some of the finest cheese in the county. During the early nineteenth century, 92,000 cows were kept for dairy production; about 11,500 tons of cheese were produced each year. Whey left over from the cheese-making process was used to feed pigs; the pigs favoured by Cheshire farmers were a mixture of long-eared and short-eared breeds.
In 1825, huge cheeses were presented as gifts to the Duke of York and the Bishop of Chester by some ‘No Popery’ Cheshire folk as a mark of approbation for the peers’ stance against Catholic Emancipation. The Duke of York’s cheese weighed 132 lb.

Image: ‘The Cow and the Mischievous Boy,' and ‘The Bull, the Pig and the Robbers’. Engravings by Harrison Weir and J.Greenaway, Children’s Picture Book of the Sagacity of Animals, George Routledge & Sons, 1872).

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