The Bard’s Tale with Mike Bardell

I am indebted to Allan Cook for this photograph which may be enigmatic to some readers and wonder if its subject is related to an ever-growing trend in vegetarianism.

Can I say that I am omnivorous but could possibly swap meat for cheese.

Yet I wonder if the abandoning of meat as a food choice is somehow connected to the disappearance of butchers and slaughterhouses from our streets?

What was commonplace not many years ago is now largely absent.

Until 1974 Wright & Son had a butcher shop at 72 High Street (now Manze’s pie and mash) and occasionally an animal would escape from the slaughterhouse behind the shop.

The sights, sounds and smells of this everyday business were something people lived with.

This Fifties scene shows the recapture of a lamb further along High Street.

The young man on the left is Allan Cook, then a Wright apprentice, later in business in his own right at 29A Bank Street.

He retired around 1995 from what was the smallest shop in town, it is now the lower end of Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

HO Cook, later Baughens, the pork butcher had a slaughterhouse roughly behind Christ Church, while in Sunnyfields Road Solomon Porter the horse slaughterer and knackerman could be found, his premises open to the road.

The horsemeat was sold as dog food from a shop in Bradford Street adjacent Friars Lane.

Almost immediately opposite, adjacent Phillips Chase, Cyril Richardson had a substantial business and regularly provided a whole carcass for the carnival’s celebrated “Ox Roast” on Meadowside; his slaughterhouse closed in 1976.

At 50 Railway Street, Fuller had a shop with small slaughterhouse at the rear, it was the town’s last, operating into the early Eighties.

Today we mainly see our meat clinically wrapped in supermarkets, a great distance from the reality of its production.

But we still have Humphreys, an excellent traditional butcher in Bank Street, although their killing is done at Burnham-on-Crouch.