A history of the Stinking Bishop

The bizarrely-named cheese appears in the new Wallace and Gromit film. But its manufacturer is worried. By Terry Kirby reports

"We can't expand to deal with this. For a start, we can't employ any more people because we don't have anywhere to park their cars or put in a new toilet. We're just a farm, after all," says Charles Martell, creator of the gloriously named Stinking Bishop cheese.

However, until it all blows over, Mr Martell will have to ride out an expected to be a tidal wave of demand for his lovingly handmade cheese, after it appears in the new Wallace and Gromit film, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, due out next month. When Wallace, the cheese-loving plasticine creation of Nick Park, expressed a fondness for "a nice bit of Wensleydale" in an earlier film, turnover at that cheesemaker soared.

Mr Martell is happy for his cheese to be featured - his wife Sasha, a fan of Aardman Animations, persuaded him to grant the trademark licence for free - but realistic about the company's need or desire to expand. Currently, the couple employ just two people who help them make 20 tonnes a year of Stinking Bishop.

"It's going to put a lot of pressure on us, but we are really happy as we are. We earn a living and I don't really want to increase production - and we really can't anyway. I want to stick by the people with whom we have been making and selling the cheese to all along." His belief that small is beautiful will strike a chord with food enthusiasts, who argue that the individualism of any such product could be endangered by attempts to move up a gear.

Stinking Bishop is one of hundreds of new varieties of British cheeses, usually made in small, farmhouse-style operations, that have sprung up in recent years. Its story is typical. A self-confessed child of the Sixties, Mr Martell was one of the first to, as he puts it, "go back to the land", moving to Gloucestershire to work for the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge.

After a propitious meeting with a Gloucester cow, one of around only 60 then surviving, he began to conserve and breed the cattle and took up cheese-making with their milk as a sideline. Both thrived; there are now several hundred Gloucesters in the world while Mrs Martell still makes single and double Gloucester cheese from the couple's small herd.

Mr Martell also began planting varieties of pear trees to make perry, a traditional local drink, including the Stinking Bishop, created by the local Bishop family and named after an unpopular relative. The perry it produces, says Mr Martell, has a distinctive effect. "It cuts you off at the knees - after you've drunk a few you're absolutely normal apart from the fact that your legs no longer work."

In the early 1990s, perry and cheese-making at the farm came together. "There was just something in my head from when I worked on a farm in France when I was young. I didn't have a recipe, I just fiddled about for six years..." Commercial production began 10 years ago, based on the methods of the Cistercian monks who lived in the village. In Mr Martell's process, the perry is used to "wash" the curds - made from milk bought in from other local farms - before being ladled into moulds and then again as the cheese matures over a period of up to two months, creating an orange rind and a creamy interior.

Even cheese connoisseurs agree that the end product does smell like old socks. But the taste and texture are entirely different and have earned it a following not only in Britain, where it is sold in specialist shops, but also in Japan, Singapore and North America. "It is a very well-made, serious cheese with a nice nutty flavour and fruity overtones. It's a very easy-eating cheese and much milder than you might expect," said Ann Hastings, a cheese expert at Neal's Yard, the cheese emporium in London's Covent Garden.

Back at Laurel Farm, Mr and Mrs Martell and are looking forward to seeing the film and discovering the closely guarded secret of what part their cheese will play in the plot. Mr Martell remains relaxed about the present and future publicity. "My accountant reckons it will all blow over in the end. I'm 60 now and I'm not sure I really want all this... and I'm bone idle."

Six British alternatives to cheddar and stilton

CORNISH YARG

Produced on a Duchy of Cornwall estate farm in Cornwall, the cheese is based on a 13th-century recipe, which includes being wrapped in nettle leaves. It has a moist texture, with a tangy, citrus flavour. A success since it was started, at the suggestion of the estate, 20 years ago and widely available. The name, although Cornish-sounding, is the makers' name, Gray, backwards.

CILOWEN ORGANIC

A Gold Medal winner at the 2003 British Cheese Awards, this is a hard cheese in a truckle shape made from organically produced milk from farms in West Wales by the award-winning Llanboidy cheesemakers. It is certified by the Soil Association. Smoked and leek versions are also available.

FOWLERS LITTLE DERBY

Made by Fowlers of Earlswood in Warwickshire, a family company that has been making Derby cheese since 1840, making them possibly the oldest cheese-making family in Britain. Originally the cheese was made in Derbyshire, and the family moved to Warwickshire in 1918. It is a hard, medium-flavoured cheddar-style cheese, without the anatto colouring used in traditional Derby cheese.

LANARK BLUE

Described as the first British blue sheep's cheese for centuries when it was first made in the 1980s, Lanark Blue is hand-made in a farm-house using using unpasteurised milk from ewes who graze the heather covered hillsides of Strathclyde. Only available from June to January.

TYMSBORO

Made from unpasteurised goat's milk by Mary Holbrook on a farm near Bath, it is usually produced in the shape of flat-topped pyramid and the natural rind, dusted with black ash, is covered with a white mould. Tymsboro is said to have the taste of lemon sorbet and apples.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman, Peter Capaldi and Nick Frost star in the Doctor Who Christmas Special, Last Christmas
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran