The Fordhall herd of Pedigree TT Jerseys was founded in 1951. The making and selling of cream and cheese was still not allowed until 1954; Arthur sold liquid milk until 1956. Then things began to change. If you went to Market Drayton, Wellington, Newport, Wolverhampton, Stockport or Chester markets in 1957 you could buy at Fordhall Farm’s own little stall a superb array of wonderful dairy products. It must have been a bit like being a ‘child in Santa’s grotto’, with delicious mouth-watering, fresh food made on the farm. Cream and speciality cheese were unobtainable between 1940 and 1954. So only two years after the end of rationing and food restrictions, a display of cream cheese, clotted cream, farmhouse butter, farm bottled Jersey TT milk, Jersey cream, buttermilk and farmhouse Cheshire cheese would have been irresistible.
Until 1956 you could only buy clotted cream in Devon and Cornwall. So how did Arthur and May Hollins find the secret of making clotted cream in Shropshire?
“While I was there (At home in Cornwall) Arthur came down on holiday and he asked me if I could take him to some farms that made clotted cream. We looked up quite a few and visited them. They were quite happy to tell him their secrets, clotted cream was only made in Devon and Cornwall then, but Arthur went back to Fordhall and started to make clotted cream.” Mary Cowen
“With his wife May, Arthur began experiments in making the rich cream after studying methods used in Cornwall. It was not long before his cream was competing alongside Devonshire cream in Plymouth shops. In 1957 they sold 2000 cartons of clotted cream per week reaching 4000 in strawberry season.” Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News, November 1957
In an interview for the ‘Sunday Pictorial’ 1958, May tells us about their holiday in the West Country in 1950. “Naturally we tried a clotted cream tea, and we thought the milk from our own cows would produce cream of equal quality. So back home the experiments in scalding and separating began. The cream produced was delicious. A market had to be found to sell it. And it was actual market stalls that the bulk of the supplies were sold. We know we had hit on something worthwhile when we introduced the cream into high-class Midlands shops. It was an immediate success,”
The farm was run on “self-contained” lines, and Arthur invented a lot of his farm machinery himself. The milk goes straight from the milking machines into the steaming and clotting dairies, where May took over. She packed the cream into cartons, and these were dispatched at the rate of about 200 per week. During the Christmas week 1,200 cartons left the farm.
“I lived in the farmhouse… I had two winters here; it was a cold house in 62 and 63. I remember at the time the Royal Canadian Air Force was at Tern Hill, in those days it was helicopter training… I know that Buntingsdale was then the district or regional command because we supplied the officers’ mess there with cream, yoghourt, cheeses and everything. They wanted the best and they bought the best… On one occasion Arthur came into the cow shed at about half past five and said ‘Tidy yourself up you’re going to Birmingham’. Barrows of Birmingham were catering for an event at the Town Hall that evening and the Queen Mother was coming. They had had about a gallon and a half of cream, and they tipped it over and spilt it and they wanted another gallon and a half… and off I went to the middle of Brum with most haste, in that van (points to picture of white Commer van) with this small churn of cream. These were the exciting things that happened when you were working for a small company; you had to turn your hand to anything.” Mike Niccolls
The business of making and selling of clotted cream was gradually built up into an output of about 4,000 cartons a week. Selling was local in those days, but demand was there even then, and it was a logical step to use the clotted cream unit to produce more dairy specialities.
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