Hartington Cheesemaking

Cheesemaking was for centuries an important cottage industry in the Hartington area, which has thousands of acres of fertile grazing for cattle. Traditionally the cheese made would have been Derby cheese, which is a plain, mild, rather heavy cheese not unlike White Cheshire (for which it was sometimes mistaken).

The coming of the railways in the late 19th century meant that agriculture began to turn to mass production, and William Gilman built the first purpose-built cheese factory at Longford near Derby in 1870. Several cheese factories were established in the Dove Valley soon afterwards - these include factories at Hartington, Glutton Bridge, Reapsmoor (near Sheen) and Ecton.
hartington cheese factory

Hartington Cheese Factory

old cheese shop

The Old Cheese Shop

The Hartington factory was empty between 1894 and 1900, when it was purchased by Thomas Nuttall, a Stilton maker from Melton Mowbray. The factory went through several changes of ownership and was acquired in about 2000 by Dairy Crest.

After 1900 the factory specialised in Blue Stilton cheese, and Hartington was one of just three areas in the world which was allowed to produce this delicious cheese.

This was not their only production though - they also had their own specialities such as Dovedale Blue, which was produced nowhere else in the world.

However in 2008 the creamery was sold by Dairy crest to Long Cleaton Dairy, located as it happens just 6 miles north of Melton Mowbray, whose Thomas Nuttall had introduced Stilton to Hartington in the first place over 100 years previously.

Unfortunately this Leicestershire Stilton maker (Leicestershire is one of the two other areas permitted to make Stilton cheese) acquired the business just to acquire the contracts and within a month took steps to close the creamery down, with which task within 6 months they were successful (despite the involvement of the Monopolies Commission) - in March 2009 - with the loss of 190 jobs. Until then Hartington was the supplier of 25% of the world output of Stilton cheese.

The Business also had a cheese shop just 80 yards away adjacent to the duck pond, selling the creamery's produce, which was visited by tourists and residents, many from far afield. This carried on for six months, albeit no longer of course selling the creamery's output, and then was sold to two enterprising young couples who continue to run it as a cheese shop, specialising in other local cheeses, and also selling a modest range of beer and English wines. See the entry under Shops and Business for more information about their business.
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