Stilton campaigns to reverse decision banning it from naming blue cheese after famous village

  • Cambridgeshire village claims to be birthplace of famous cheese – but cannot use its name
  • European law states Stilton can only be produced in Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire

By
Chris Parsons

01:33 EST, 18 April 2012

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01:53 EST, 18 April 2012

For years it has been a village synonymous with one of Britain’s most famous cheeses.

But while the Cambridgeshire village of Stilton may claim to be the home of the crumbly blue favourite, those who produce the cheese are bizarrely not allowed to use its famous name.

A current European Law ruling means Stilton cheese can only be produced by seven dairies in Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

Tradition: Cheese makes in Stilton, Cambridgeshire, have been banned from using the name for the famous cheese produced in their village

Tradition: Cheese makes in Stilton, Cambridgeshire, have been banned from using the name for the famous cheese produced in their village

Famous: Stilton makes the most of its association with the famous cheese, and villagers are hoping to gain official recognition from Defra soon

Famous: Stilton makes the most of its association with the famous cheese, and villagers are hoping to gain official recognition from Defra soon

The ‘ridiculous’ decision means that while the famous blue cheese can be made in Stilton, it has to go by the name Bell Blue.

Now, after last year finally winning the right to produce Stilton in their village at all, campaigners in Cambridgeshire want the right to call their product by its proper name.

THE HISTORY OF STILTON CHEESE

Stilton

The
current dispute over Stilton being able to use the cheese’s name in its
own village stems in part from the historic blue’s history.

Historical evidence suggests a cream cheese was being made and sold in and around Stilton in the late 17th century.

A
recipe for Stilton cheese was published in a newsletter by Richard
Bradley in 1723, but no details were given on its size, shape, or how
long it was matured.

In
1724 Daniel Defoe commented in his ‘Tour through the villages of
England Wales’ of Stilton being ‘famous for cheese’ and referred
to the cheese as being the ‘English Parmesan’.

A
later article by John Lawrence in 1726 suggested that the perfect
Stilton should be… ‘about 7 inches in diameter, 8 inches in height and
18 lbs in weight.’

As Stilton became a trading post between London and Edinburgh, the cheese was said to be sold to passing traders.

As demand for the cheese grew, its production moved to Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.

It
was at this stage that the cheese’s trademark blue veins became a part
of the product, as it also became semi-hard blue cheese.

On Monday the village of Stilton applied to Defra for an extension of the protected designation of origin (PDO) for the cheese to cover their parish.

The village launched their campaign
two days ago at the start of National Stilton Week 2012, and will boost
their efforts by adding the phrase ‘Original Home of Stilton Cheese’ to a
sign outside their village.

Stilton
cheese is said by some to have got its name after being sold to
travellers passing through the village in the 18th century.

Officials
in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, however, say Stilton was only a
trade link and that the recipe was created in their county.

Stilton is officially recognised as
coming from Leicestershire, and can only be produced there and in its
two neighbouring counties following the PDO in 1996.

Liam McGivern, landlord of the Bell Inn in Stilton, makes a version of the cheese which until now he has had to call Bell Blue.

He said that not being able to call
the cheese Stilton is ‘embarrassing’, especially given the tourist
appeal that comes with the product.

He said: ‘We get people coming in all the time saying, “Oh, can you direct me to the cheese factory?”

‘If you asked 99 per cent of the population where the cheese comes from, they would say Stilton.’

The
campaign in Stilton has been created by various people and businesses
in the village, and fronted by local historian Richard Landy.

He told the Peterborough Evening
Telegraph: ‘Since first being announced at last year’s Stilton Cheese
Rolling event, this campaign has continued to gather momentum.

‘We
have now fulfilled Defra’s requirements that we must be making the
cheese, which we have been doing since 2011 and that it must be for
commercial sale.

‘They are the conditions that need to be satisfied before applying for an amendment to the PDO.’

Matthew
O’Callaghan, chairman of the Melton Mowbray Food Partnership, disputes
whether blue Stilton was ever made in the village of the same name.

A
spokesperson for Defra said: ‘To amend the geographical boundaries of
an existing protected food, an applicant must first prove they are an
interested party by showing they genuinely already make it commercially
on a permanent, regular basis.

‘We
would then carefully consider an application and if the claim was
justified we would hold a UK-wide public consultation before making any
decision.’

Association: Stilton has long enjoyed a link to the famous blue cheese, and even has an annual Stilton cheese rolling event through the village

Association: Stilton has long enjoyed a link to the famous blue cheese, and even has an annual Stilton cheese rolling event through the village

Landlord Liam McGivern makes a recipe that follows the Stilton recipe, but under EU rules is forced to call it 'Bell Blue'

Landlord Liam McGivern makes a recipe that follows the Stilton recipe, but under EU rules is forced to call it ‘Bell Blue’

Here’s what other readers have said. Why not add your thoughts,
or debate this issue live on our message boards.

The comments below have not been moderated.

John Bradford, 16500 Brillac, France., 18/4/2012 12:00…….I am also led to believe that beneath the old Great North Road is a catacombe of tunnels where highway robbers could escape from the authorities……..and your point is what?, other than you can not spell , catacomb.

I am sick and tired of the EU telling us what we can and cannot do, it is way, way past time that we had a referendum on whether we want to remain in this odious system FOR WHICH WE NEVER VOTED in the first place. We voted to be part of European Economic Community (not me) and then we wake up one morning and we are the European Union ~~~ what happened? Weak government is what happened, we need a bulldog back in office to sort this mess out.

I thought Stilton was famed only for being where the cheese was sold – being once strategically located close to the main north-south A1? For as long as I can remember, Stilton was noted for NOT being the place where the cheese is made. Anyone in the town now looking to trade on the name is questioning their own history and special heritage. The quirk that true Stilton cheese was not made in Cambridgeshire added to its charm as far as I was concerned. What a shame that this could now change.

A stinking EU rule.

Gosh ! Liam McGivern has changed considerably since I last saw him. However, I used to understand that Cooper Thornhill’s (Owner of The Bell Inn at the time) sister in law made it for him to sell to the stagecoaches. I have since learnt that it was originally made in Stilton but in insufficient quantities to satisfy the demand hence the involvment of the sister in law. I am also led to believe that beneath the old Great North Road is a catacombe of tunnels where highway robbers could escape from the authorities.

Stilton cheese was not originally MADE in Stilton, but only SOLD there. It was produced in other areas but sold in Stilton as that was a larger “stop” on the old Roman Road.

Once this is sorted out, let’s have real Cornish pasties back.

What a cheek! Fancy wanting to call his Stilton Recipe cheese made in Stilton, Stilton! I think the EU should throw the book at him! Now, I need to get my chauffeur driven Bentley to my private Jet, so I can attend the 2 days a year I spend in Brussels (all courtesy of gullible British taxpayers of course).

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