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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Application Architect/Developer - Peterborough, Cam...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy