Cheese Carving in Wensleydale – 1

Excerpt from the book 40 Humourous British Traditions. Is British humour your cup of tea? Britain has many well documented, yet strange traditions. This book describes 40 more traditions in a similar vein, all of which are less well known. Get ready for interesting characters, thought-provoking ideas, and strange events – all of which are fiction!


Wensleydale is a crumbly white cheese from North Yorkshire. This cheese is difficult to cut without pieces falling onto the ground, which might explain why the cheese cutters of this part of the world are regarded as the finest around. The carvers in the valley held competitions amongst themselves for hundreds of years before allowing anyone else to take part. Characters such as Elias Cattermole, Fred Heathcote, Bert Boycott and Roger Vaughan are the stuff of legend – each able to carve the most intricate animals and birds from the crumbliest cheese in the 60-minute time limit.

In 1831, the big decision was made to extend the contest to people from outside the dale, even from Lancashire, just so long as they carved Wensleydale cheese and didn’t bring their own cheese with them. In the 1832 contest Bert Boycott won first prize for carving a falcon plunging upon its prey and local carvers continued to dominate until 1862 when Elsie Jerrard from Arkengarthdale became the first ‘outsider’ to win for her rendition of a cat curled up in some grass. Elsie’s comment upon being announced the winner was “It were abaht time someone else wun’t carving – this’ll giv them Wensley people a shock.”

Published by Julian Worker

Julian was born in Leicester, attended school in Yorkshire, and university in Liverpool. He has been to 94 countries and territories and intends to make the 100 when travel is easier. He writes travel books, murder / mysteries and absurd fiction. His sense of humour is distilled from The Marx Brothers, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and Midsomer Murders. His latest book is about a Buddhist cat who tries to help his squirrel friend fly further from a children's slide.

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