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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue