Stilton, Cambridgeshire, UK

The Stilton Story

Ongoing - Interpretive Planning of the Stilton Cheese Story and development of a new visitor centre.

Stilton is a village in Cambridgeshire, England, and within the historic county boundary of Huntingdonshire. The Roman Ermine Street, which later became the Great North Road, was integral to the development of the village, and in late medieval times the village was a popular posting station and coaching stop. At one time there were 14 public houses for a population of around 500.

The main inns of the period were The Bell and The Angel, both of which are still in existence. The Bell Inn has been recorded since 1515 and was rebuilt in 1642. The Angel Inn, dating from the early 17th century was rebuilt as an impressive red brick house in the 18th century ceased to be an inn and was badly burned in 1923. Fires also damaged the village as a whole in 1729, 1798 and 1895.

The village gave its name to Stilton cheese. Previously the most widely accepted explanation was that the cheese came down to be sold at the coaching inns in Stilton. Daniel Defoe in 1722 described the village as famous for its cheese. Traditionally it was thought that supplies were obtained from the housekeeper at Quenby Hall, Hungarton, Leicestershire, near Melton Mowbray, and were sold via her brother-in-law to travellers in Stilton's coaching inns, namely The Bell or The Angel.

Subsequent research has led to claims that the cheese did originate in the village in the late 17th or early 18th centuries, before any contemporary references to its production in Leicestershire.

Today Stilton cheese is made in Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire ....but not in Stilton! The manufacturers of Stilton cheese in these counties applied for and received Protected Geographical Status (PGS) in 1996 so that production is currently limited to these three counties and must use pasteurised milk, which can be drawn from many counties within the central belt of England.

Recent compelling evidence indicates that it is unlikely that the village would have been a centre for selling of cheese unless cheese was also made in the area. Furthermore the original recipe for a cream cheese made in Stilton in the early 18th century has since been discovered and since more than one type of cheese was usually made, it is possible that a blue cheese was also made in the area.

The Parish of Stilton applied to Defra for an amendment to the Stilton PDO to be included into the Protected area but was unsuccessful.

However the fight to be allowed to make Stilton Cheese in Stilton continues!