My Grandfather said the boys (Joseph and Dudley) should learn a trade, the family had relations in Helston who were in the butchery business and it seemed to be going well for them.
A man called Jacka was employed to teach the two boys the art of butchery, Joseph (Jo) was 19 and Dudley 15. It seemed that this was going to be a gamble as well as a challenge, but the business is still going strong after 85 years of trading.
So the business started from ‘Treverrow’ in 1923, the farm was well off the beaten track between ‘Trefresa Farm’ and Porthilly, but trade was gradually built up with some customers actually coming to the farm, the remainder was delivered by bicycle, or horse and wagon.
In January 1924 they moved to ‘Rock Hill’ and took over the lease which included some land. This was done so that grandmother and the girls could run it as a guest house, and the boys could expand the butchery. They built a small slaughter house at the back. This was a great advantage as they could control the quality of the meat sold and hang it for the correct time.
A bullock would cost £25 then, in 2008 it’s £830. The policy was, and still is, to sell the best quality available. This payed off as the business began to flourish. They delivered as far afield as New Polzeath, Amble, St Kew, and St Kew Highway, by horse and wagon, cutting the meat as they went. They also had a small shop in the Pavilion building.
Cattle and sheep had to be purchased from Wadebridge Market and sometimes St Column, then driven back by men on bicycles with a dog to help. My father would normally do the buying and drive them back to ‘Rock Hill’ where they could be rested in the fields for a few days before slaughter.
As the lease would soon run out at ‘Rock Hill’, it was decided in 1929 to purchase land and build a bungalow and shop on Rock Road. We still live and trade from the bungalow called Trehaven today.
During the early 1930s sales increased. In a good week they would sell three bullocks and thirty lambs. Two men and a boy were employed at the time. With no refrigeration available, an ice box was installed in the shop. They had to go each morning to meet the ferry and collect the ice in hessian sacks from the ice factory in Padstow with a horse and cart; no time could be lost coming up the hill or the ice would melt. It was then put in the top of the icebox to melt and cool the small amount of meat that they would hold for sale in the shop.
The bulk of the meat was still not cooled and was placed in the hanging room at the slaughterhouse, being fat it would keep well, then it was cut up on the horse and wagon as they delivered. It’s hard to imagine just how hard they worked in those days, cycling to Wadebridge, driving the stock back, collecting the ice, slaughtering cutting and delivering, looking after the horses……how did they have the time?
As time progressed through the 1930s refrigeration was installed and two Morris vans were purchased for delivery. These were good years in the business and continued to be right up to the outbreak of the Second World War. I was told it was still faster to deliver orders in the village with the bicycle, so this was continued.
When the war started in 1939 the slaughterhouse was shut down by government order and they had to purchase from Wadebridge Abattoir which had just opened and father said the quality of the beef was so bad he was ashamed to sell it. Meat was rationed like most things. This business, like many, suffered considerably.
Able-bodied men from the village were called up for military service including our employees and Dudley. Father then started to rent fields around the parish, and started a small holding using the slaughterhouse and other outbuildings for 5 cows, pigs, and all types of poultry.
I was twenty when father died. I had no interest in butchery and had spent very little time learning the trade (my aim was to join the RAF). This left me with a hard choice, do I leave mother who would have to sell the business and have no other means of support, or try to run it with her? History shows which choice I made.
It was a hard learning curve; cutting meat was very different from today, most of it was sold on the bone.
Jean and I met when she came to stay in Rock. We married in 1960, she worked in the business all her life serving customers and doing the books and found time to raise three children. Times were hard to start with; we had to sell some of the land to pay for a new cold room. We delivered to Amble, St Kew and all around the local area, a lot of our customers were farmers. I could sell a side of beef before I reached St Kew, go back to Wadebridge abattoir for more so I could complete the round.
As deep freeze cabinets became available farmers would have a bullock or lamb slaughtered for their own use, so trade declined.
This was a time of great change for us, instant meals, the start of supermarkets, Wadebridge abattoir selling direct to the public, all these things reduced sales.
We had been delivering since 1923, but it just did not pay to have a man and a van on the road for just small orders.
Rock was then becoming a popular holiday destination, so summer trade increased, this was good but it does mean working 80 plus hours a week for our son Nigel. Good dedicated staff are most important and we are very proud of the ones we have today. They show genuine interest in the business.
When I started in 1958 rump steak was 25p per lb, topside 17.5p per lb. What a change I have seen in 50 years. In the early days most of it was sold on the bone. The labour involved today in boning rolling and trimming adds greatly to the price, but it’s quality and presentation today that sells, and that requires great skill.
Nigel joined the business in 1984 and has run the shop for the last five years. He is committed to selling only the best quality locally sourced meat, supplied by reputable local suppliers.
As the business has been going for 85 years he is sure this is the correct policy for the future.
We would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to all our customers old and new, and look forward to serving you in the future.