Dairying and Cattle

Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire


The Paddocks, Ashley Road, Bradford on Avon

The Paddocks, Ashley Road, Bradford on Avon 1920s. The tall trees were elms, after which a neighbouring house was named. Painting by W.H. Allen © Hampshire County Council, provided by Hampshire Cultural Trust

Traditionally the lowland area of the Hundred of Bradford was dairying country, a part of the “cheese” of Wiltshire’s “chalk and cheese”. The heavy clay soils were more suited to pasture than to arable farming. Most farms would have had a dairy for making butter and cheese for their own consumption or to sell at markets and fairs. 

In recent years, the pattern of small producers serving local customers directly has changed to one of a few large farms that have taken over the land of others to keep large herds, often in “industrial” farming covered yards, supplying large milk processors like Westbury Dairies (since 2016 a subsidiary of the Scandinavian multinational Arla). An early industrialisation of dairy products in the area was the setting up of the Anglo-Swiss company’s condenser factory at the former woollen mill at Staverton in 1897; it became part of the Swiss multinational Nestl√© in 1935. Many locals farms supplied it with milk.

Cheesemaking was once important in the area; North Wiltshire cheese was similar to Gloucester cheese, but it is long extinct. Rev John Wilkinson, Rector of Broughton Gifford, wrote of the rich grassland in his parish in 1857 that they made 4cwt of cheese per cow per annum per three acres, so a herd (he used the word ‘pack’) of 50 cows on 150 acres would produce 10 tons of cheese a year. There were cheese factors (dealers or merchants) in 19th century Bradford directories and the Bradford on Avon ironfounder and engineer George Milsom made cheese presses for farms at his works in Trowbridge Road.

In the early part of the 20th century the Twerton Co-operative Society in Bath was supplied with milk from a dairy at Atworth, where they also had a factory making cheese.

The Paddocks, in the painting above, was a small farm in the 1920s on the edge of Bradford. Bungalows were built on the field in front in the 1980s and St Laurence School covers the fields behind and so it is a farmhouse no longer, standing at the entrance to the school’s car park.