Wensleydale Cheese - once made by monks

Food & Drink

Wensleydale Cheese - once made by monks

Wensleydale is a crumbly and mild hard cheese originally produced in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire.

Wensleydale cheese was originally made by French Cistercian monks who had settled in Lower Wensleydale - building the monastery of Jervaulx there. The cheese was made with sheep's milk, with cow's milk increasingly added during the 14th century.

During this period Wensleydale was usually a blue cheese.

When the monastery was dissolved during Henry VIII's Reformation of 1540, the recipe was passed to local farmers, who continued to make the cheese.

The first commercial creamery for the production of Wensleydale cheese was established in 1897 at Hawes.

Independent cheese-making suffered a serious blow during the Second World War, when most of the nation's milk was diverted into making "Government Cheddar". The British cheese industry never returned to pre-War levels.

Wensleydale cheese fell to low production in the early 1990s, but its popularity was revitalised by frequent references in the Wallace and Gromit animated series. This was a happy coincidence for the cheese - the animation team had chosen the cheese because it was fun to lip sync to!

Wensleydale is now one of Britain's more prominent native cheeses, and often to be found with additives such as cranberries or ginger. It is regarded as a good desert cheese that goes well with sweet biscuits and cake.

The Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes is still operational, and is also a popular visitor attraction in the area.

Further reading

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