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Made in Lancashire... Say Cheese

This Lancashire Day, the 27 November, we are celebrating all things made in Lancashire, especially cheese.

Cheese-making can be found in Lancashire as far back as the 13th Century, and there are records of it being transported from Liverpool to London in the 1600’s.

An old Lancashire cheese-maker, 'pre-Gornall'.

But the lack of quantity, consistent quality and reliability of Lancashire cheese through to the end of the nineteenth century meant that it did not become a well-known and popular 'brand', unlike its neighbours in Cheshire.

But, at the turn of the century, that was about to change, thanks mainly to one man and his passion.

Photo of Joseph Gornall, from a commemorative plaque

Joseph Gornall was a Lancashire farmer and food technologist who, in the 1890s, through his teaching, writing and invention, pioneered a revolution in Lancashire Cheese-making.

Joseph Gornall was born on the 16th June 1856, the tenth and youngest child of Joseph and Mary (nee Jenkinson) of Upper Birks Farm, Eagland Hill.

As young man, Joseph was employed on his father’s farm as a labourer. In 1880, he married Elizabeth Hoyles and during that decade began farming in his own right at Clay Lane Head Farm, Cabus.

Joseph and Elizabeth had nine children, six girls and three boys.

Joseph specialised in quality cheese and, in 1891, he became a peripatetic instructor in cheese-making for the County Council, visiting or staying on farms in order to give practical advice, so raising the quality and achieving uniformity of the end product. Joseph often worked with Miss Knowles of the new County Council "Dairy School" at Hutton Agricultural College.

Joseph encouraged farmers to keep detailed records “especially the temperature of the dairy and the milk at night, and the night's milk in the morning“ which had an important influence on the quality and nature of the milk and thus the cheese produced.

In 1892, Joseph patented the "Gornall Cheese-maker".

Diagram from Joseph's patent application for his revolutionary design.

His aim in designing a new cheesemaker, as the patent explains, was to reduce the amount of labour needed when draining the whey from the curd.

He describes its use in “Lancashire Cheese-Making”:

“After letting the curd settle, fasten the cloth over the opening, and put on the perforated lid. Having taken all the water from the cistern, turn the cylinder gradually till the lid is underneath the curd….After being turned down one side, turn back and down the other side…The curd should then be sufficiently dry to cut into blocks, and be lifted out with the hands into the drainer".

Preston Guardian advert for Gornall's cheese-maker to be demonstrated at Preston Cheese Fair

It was a successful design, and was used by many of Lancashire's cheese-makers. The most popular model was the fifty gallon edition which cost £9.5s in 1903, although cheese-makers with a capacity of up to 90 gallons were also available. It was sold from 1892 to 1919 and was used for many years after that, though few survive today. He also designed and sold curd knives and cheese moulds, the tinwork being made by Singletons of Garstang.

An original Gornall patent cheese-maker, now on display in Garstang.

Joseph retired to "Glencoe", Smallwood Hey, Pilling. He died aged 71 years on March 25th 1928.

Lancashire Cheese prospered, as seen by the great Cheese Fairs of the 1920s and 30s.

Find out more about Lancashire cheese and its history on the Lancashire Museums Stories post for Lancashire Day.

See more Red Rose Collections images for Made in Lancashire

See the Red Rose Collections News Archive

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