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Take a Butchers
Two generations of Coates at no. 10. Eric  Junior (left) with his father. Photo courtesy of Nick Coates.

Butchers, along with bakers, grocers and greengrocers, have been one of the mainstays of town high streets. There were many more butchers in the days before supermarkets, often family businesses over several generations. They usually had sawdust on the floors to soak up the blood, and awnings out front to protect meat from the heat of sunny days. Butchers sourced their meat variously – as live animals directly from farms, sometimes their own; or at local livestock markets, to be slaughtered in the butcher’s own abattoir; or as carcasses from meat markets.

Shoppers each had their favourite butcher, perhaps based on the cuts of meat, cleanliness, personality of the butcher or, simply, proximity to their houses. Before domestic fridges, meat was stored only for a day or two in a meat safe or a cellar. Some cellars had a cool stone slab to keep food off the ground. Little of the animal was wasted. Tripe, offal and trotters were all popular, pig’s blood became black pudding, and bones flavoured stocks and soups. Rationing during the two world wars prompted butchers to produce sausages, pies and other products that stretched the meat. Butchers over 35 were exempt from conscription during the Second World War.

Until the 1960s, the butcher was the only place shoppers could buy meat. Independent butchers began to close with the rise in supermarkets and self-serve shops after the 1960s. In 1829, Wirksworth had 15 butchers listed in Glover’s Derbyshire Directory. Almost 200 years later in late 2020, the town has two – Walker’s and Mitchells’.

In 1857, White’s Directory lists 12 butchers, and by 1899, Kelly’s Directory lists nine. Samuel Ogdon was the only butcher recorded at both dates, while Abbott, Buxton and Slack were the next generations of family businesses first recorded 40 years earlier. Buxton and Hawley were pork butchers, who specialised in pork sausages, pork chops, bacon, gammon, pork pies, black puddings and other cuts of pig. Abbott and Smith were also farmers. By 1912, Kelly’s lists ten butchers. Abbott, Buxton and Hawley were all still working, while Joseph Rains had taken over from his uncle John.

Wirksworth Butchers in 1857 (White’s Directory)

William Abbott, The Dale

Henry Buxton, St John Street

John Chambers, Market Place  

Robert Marshall, Coldwell Street

Thomas Ogden, Market Place

William Ogden, North End

Samuel Ogdon, Market Place

Daniel Slack, The Moor

Edward Slack, Market Place

Richard Spencer, St John Street

Francis Walker, Greenhill

George Wayn, Market Place

Wirksworth Butchers in 1899 (Kelly’s Directory)

Josiah Abbott & Son, The Dale and Town Hall buildings

William Blackwell, 27 Market Place

William Buxton, 8 St John Street

James Hawley, Dale End

Samuel Ogdon & Son, 10 Market Place

John Rains, 7 St John Street

Francis Slack, 2 Market Place

Charles Smith, North End

Samuel Walker, St John Street

Wirksworth Butchers in 1912 (Kelly’s Directory)

Josiah Abbott & Son, The Dale and Town Hall buildings

A. & O. Bartlett, 15 St John Street

William Buxton, 8 St John Street

James Frith, 13 St John Street

Frederick Hatfield, Bolehill

James Hawley, 1 The Dale

Sarah Killer, 43 North End

London Central Meat Co Ltd, 2 Market Place (West End)

John Rains, 7 St John Street

Arthur Turner, 10 Market Place