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
News
peopleNational cycling charity CTC said he 'should have known better'
News
i100
Life and Style
The fashion retailers have said they will now not place any further orders for the slim mannequin
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Ugne, 32, is a Lithuanian bodybuilder
tvThey include a Lithuanian bodybuilder who believes 'cake is a sin' and the Dalai Lama's personal photographer
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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Project Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an est...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Representative - OTE £55,000

£30000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Why not be in charge of your ow...

Recruitment Genius: Business Operations Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation based in Peac...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £43,000

£20000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful and rapidly gro...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food