Village Maid Cheese
PUBLISHED: 11:24 29 August 2013 | UPDATED: 11:24 29 August 2013
Village Maid Cheese
Village Maid Cheese was started by Anne Wigmore in 1986 after she had been working for the National Institute for Research in Dairying in Shinfield for 10 years, initially in the microbiology department, and then learning her craft of cheese-making in their research dairy department. Anne began making cheese at the NIRD in 1984, in the experimental dairy where she produced different types of cheese for projects within the institute and organised tasting panels. Today together with her husband Andy and staff the company now produce three award-winning cheeses.
After leaving the institute to travel abroad with Andy, Anne formed her own company under the government Enterprise Allowance scheme where she was paid £40 per week and offered short training courses in administration to become a successful entrepreneur. Thus the seeds of Village Maid Cheese were sown and the company was born from humble beginnings in a garden outbuilding in Spencers Wood near Reading in 1986.
Not having a farm meant milk supply was to prove difficult, but undeterred, Anne was keen to put into practice what she had discovered whilst sailing, including the wonderful cheeses of Sardinia made from ewe’s milk, particularly Pecorino Sardo.
Spenwood cheese, named after its birthplace Spencers Wood, is the culmination of many years of trials and even today, 27 years later, changes are continually made in order to maintain the quality and flavour remembered from Sardinia.
In 1987 the Duke of Wellington approached Anne to make a cheese for the estate to be matured in the cellars of Stratfield Saye. Using the milk from his pedigree herd of Guernsey cows, Anne developed a Cheddar-type cheese, Wellington, which was produced and highly acclaimed, until the Duke retired and production was transferred to Village Maid. During this time Anne was working on developing semi-soft washed curd cheeses, which have a shorter maturation time. With the support of James Aldridge as an affineur and retailer, Village Maid produced Rook’s Nest, a smoked ewe’s milk cheese, and Golden Saye, a washed rind cheese. After The Times diarist recorded the sad demise of Golden Saye, Anne was quick to resolve its replacement in Waterloo, now made from the milk of a local single Guernsey herd. Around the same time Neal’s Yard Dairy, in Covent Garden, were looking for a semi-soft ewe’s milk cheese and encouraged Anne to try and develop one alongside the Spenwood, and after several years in development, Wigmore was born and has now established itself as a unique ewe’s milk cheese, achieving many awards including Best British Cheese on several occasions.
In 1991 came the move to Riseley on the Hants/Berks border and a steady increase in production of the 3 cheeses has continued without compromise to quality.
Today, Village Maid Cheese Ltd. is recognised as producing three consistently award-winning cheeses, and is ranked as one of the best British artisan cheese manufacturers.