The History of Cheddar Cheese

Reproduced with kind permission of The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company

Local legend has it that cheese was discovered accidentally when a village milkmaid left a pail of milk, for safety, in the nearby Cheddar Gorge caves.  Later the milkmaid returned to find that the milk had returned to a new tasty substance and Cheddar cheese was born.

Certainly cheesemaking was well established more than 800 years ago.  King Henry II declared Cheddar cheese to be the best in Britain, and the Great Roll of the Pipe (the king's accounts) records that in 1170 the king purchased 10240lbs. of Cheddar cheese at a cost of a farthing per pound.  Cheddar cheese was so liked that the king's son, the famous Prince John, purchased a similar amount in 1184.

The rich pastures of the Somerset levels provide the ideal grazing adding a distinct flavour to the cheese.  Also the Cheddar cheese producers had ideal storage for their product to mature in - The Cheddar Caves.  These caves maintain a constant 7 degrees Celsius throughout the year, but alas, the warmth of the caves and the taste of the cheese attracted vermin so that the cheese can no longer be stored there.


By the reign of Charles I, the parliamentary records show that such was the demand at court for cheese made at Cheddar, that it was 'bespoke', that is the cheese was already sold before it was even made.  It was then only available at the court.

In 1724 Daniel Defoe, author of "Robinson Crusoe" visited the Mendips and wrote "A Tour of the Islands of Great Britain", devoting a section to Cheddar and its cheese.

During her reign Queen Victoria was presented with a Cheddar cheese which weighed 11cwt., made from the milk of over 700 cows.

In 1901 the village of Cheddar was chosen to despatch an order of 3500lbs. of cheese to Captain Scot RN aboard the ship "Discovery", for his famous Antarctic Expedition.

History shows that the present site of The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Co. has been used for many years for the production of cheese.  After the site was re-developed it was opened by The Wurzels, and visited by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh.

In 1997 The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Co. won the London International Cheese and Dairy Competition 'Gold' Award and in 1999 its cheese was the supreme Champion at the British Cheese Awards.  The year 2000 has seen Cheddar Gorge Cheese win Gold at the World Cheese Awards and take first prize at the Devon County Show.

The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company is known around the world, and visitors come from all areas of the globe to see cheese being made here.

Reproduced with kind permission of The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company


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