Swaledale cheese has been made in the Dale that bears its name for centuries. It is thought that cheese making was first brought to the Yorkshire Dales in the 11th century by Cistercian monks who arrived from Normandy and settled in the local abbeys. They in turn passed on the cheese making techniques to the local farmers of Swaledale and thus, Swaledale cheese was born.
Originally Swaledale cheese was made with the milk of Swaledale sheep or Goats milk and it was not until the 17th Century when dairy cows were introduced into the Dales that Swaledale cheese was made from Cows milk.
The Farmers would make cheese by way of preserving the excess milk after calving time, some would be kept to feed the family and some would be bartered with Grocers and Corn Merchants, for food and flour.
By the turn of the Century numerous Creameries had been opened, milk was collected from the farms, and taken to the creameries where cheese was made in large quantities. This started the decline of on farm cheese making in Swaledale. And after two World Wars it was on its way to extinction. By 1980 there was only Mr & Mrs Longstaff of Harkerside above Reeth in Swaledale, still making traditional Swaledale cheese. The recipe, which was shrouded in mystery, had been handed down her family for generations.
In the early eighties Mr Longstaff died and Mrs Longstaff sold her smallholding and retired from cheese making, so Swaledale cheese was all but extinct.
In November 1986 Mrs Longstaff gave the original recipe to David & Mandy Reed and acting as chief taster she helped them to re-establish authentic Swaledale cheese. The Swaledale Cheese Company was set up by David & Mandy Reed in February 1987 and since then the business has grown year on year. The company now produces approximately 1.75 tonnes of Swaledale cheese per week, supplying specialist cheese shops, delicatessens, independent retailers, and cheese wholesalers throughout the U.K. In 1995 The Swaledale Cheese Company achieved *PDO status for both Swaledale Cheese and Swaledale Ewes Cheese and over the years have won many prizes for their range of cheeses.
In June of 2005 the company’s family roots were extended with the arrival of David and Mandy’s daughter, Louise, to the business. However the year of 2005 was not to be an eternally happy one. On the 20th July 2005, David suffered an unexpected heart attack and he sadly passed away. His presence both professionally and personally was greatly missed and had a devastating effect on the family.
Despite this massive loss and with a huge amount of support from the staff, customers and the community, The Swaledale Cheese Company continued to grow from strength to strength and in May of 2007, Mandy and David’s son, Sam, entered the business and became another part of The Swaledale Cheese Company’s extensive history.
Sadly, early in 2012, Mandy tragically passed away after a sudden accident. And so, a new chapter begins. The company is now being taken forward by Louise and Sam who, between them, are determined to continue David and Mandy’s passion for making Yorkshire’s finest artisan cheeses.