The Wiltshire Loaf Cheese

A famous product of the local area is Wiltshire Loaf Cheese, which is a semi-hard cheese, smooth and creamy on the outside and crumbly inside, with a yellow skin. Wiltshire Loaf cheese was traditionally made in the area around Swindon, including the dairy farms on the Lydiard Tregoze estate, reaching peak popularity in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Known for its rich, intense flavour, it was made from the milk of long horn cattle and shaped into a long and narrow “loaf” rather than a wheel. Far superior to the standard farmhouse cheese, the Wiltshire Loaf Cheese took longer to mature and achieve its rich flavour, which made it more expensive to produce. Once made, it was transported to London down the Thames from Lechlade where it was highly prized for its quality. Mr. William Marshall, a cheese expert of period, describes how the “narrow Loaf-cheese that goes under the name of North Wiltshire” became “high in fashion, as to fetch fifteen or twenty shillings a hundred weight more at market, than Thin Cheese of perhaps a superior quality.” By the start of the 19th century it was selling for 50 shillings per hundredweight, the equivalent of £110 in today’s money.

The fashionable nature of North Wiltshire cheese made it worthy of a mention in Emma, by Jane Austen, published in 1815:

“Mr. Elton was still talking, still engaged in some interesting detail; and Emma experienced some disappointment when she found that he was only giving his fair companion an account of the yesterday’s party at his friend Cole’s, and that she was come in herself for the Stilton cheese, the north Wiltshire, the butter, the cellery, the beet-root and all the dessert.”

So profitable was it to produce Wiltshire Loaf Cheese that some cheesemakers tried to pass off inferior cheese as true Wiltshire Loaves. One case describes a woman from Somerset adulterating local cheeses with special rinses and rinds in order to give them the appearance of the yellow-coated Wiltshire Loaf Cheese. One can imagine the diners at Lydiard House enjoying tucking into their local Loaf Cheese along with beetroot and celery!