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Audlem and District History Society History Shorts 47

28th February 2021 @ 6:06am – by Graham Dodd
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Edmund Driver – purveyor of Cheshire cheese

In the early years of the 1900s Edmund Driver chartered trains to transport Cheshire Cheese to Yorkshire. An early ripening Cheshire Cheese was popular in northern industrial areas as a nourishing and affordable food.

One pound of cheese was claimed to be more nutritious than three pounds of meat.

edmund driver ed

Edmund was born in 1851 on a farm near Bradford. When he was eight years old he worked in Aireville spinning mill earning one shilling a week. He was educated at Keighley Grammar School and subsequently took a two-year apprenticeship at Mary Sugden's grocery shop.

In 1876 he purchased a grocery business, which eventually extended to 20 branches located in Bradford, Leeds, Wakefield and Halifax. He took no risks, ensuring that one branch paid for the next. The emphasis was on quality, one of his maxims being: "dead stock is often a dead loss".

He was one of the first to import butter from Denmark, and eventually over 60 % of that country's butter was exported to the UK.

Between July 1907 and December 1908 six trains, some specially chartered, carried between 18 and 50 ton loads of cheese to Yorkshire.

The picture below depicts the 1907 Christmas Cheese Train loaded with 1257 cheeses weighing 18 tons and worth £1900 (over £233,000 today).

image 1907 cheese train ed

The load included virtually all the first prize and gold medal winners from the Cheshire Cheese Shows with the trophies and medals, which were not usually allowed to leave the county.

One 1908 train included an award-winning cheese produced by Mrs Nunnerley of Bradley Green, reputed to be one of the best milk producing farms in the district. It was cheese fit for a king as one of the cheeses was given to Edward VII.

Edmund Driver contributed to the international movement, setting food standards and establishing a trade 'entente' for mutual protection.

Hitherto the international standard for Cheshire Cheese only required the use of partially or totally skimmed milk, whilst in Cheshire and the surrounding area it was always made from whole milk.

It's thought that this photograph was taken at either Broxton or Malpas station on the long-disused Whitchurch – Tattenhall Road (Chester) railway.

There's another photograph of a cheese train, being loaded at Broxton, at:

Photographs: Nantwich Museum Collection

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