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One of Melksham’s longest established businesses is celebrating its golden anniversary in Church Street this month.
The Beatles were still topping the charts. Leeds United were champions of England and Harold Wilson was Prime Minister when Ivor and Mary Newman opened their butchers shop in Church Street in May 1969. The couple had previously been running their business from premises in Lacock in what is now Watlings Jeweller, and in 1969 they took over an existing butchers shop owned by Stan Hill in Church Street and renamed it I.D. Newman Butchers.
Today the traditional family butchers is still going strong. Initially, the shop was based in the premises currently occupied by Melksham Insurance before relocating over the road to their current premises at 8 Church Street in 1990 when Ivor and Mary’s son, Michael and his wife, Debbie, took over the running of the business, with Ivor continuing to work in the shop and he was still making sausages until just before he died in 2007 aged 82.
The business is now run by Phil Gregson, still offering the same traditional values it did 50 years ago.
“We like to think of ourselves as a traditional family business, serving our customers in a friendly way and offering a range of prime quality beef, pork, lamb, chicken, cooked meats and top quality home-made sausages, burgers, pies and pasties,” said Phil.
Over the years Newman’s have become famous for their range of award winning sausages using only the best Scotch beef and local pork and a range of different flavours to suit all palates including unusual varieties such as pork and sweet chili, lamb and mint and pork and Somerset cider.
“We’ve been making sausages for over 40 years and the recipe has changed very little in that time,” added Phil. “The secret is simply using the best ingredients. If you don’t put good ingredients in, you won’t get good sausages out!
“They are all hand-made – not mass produced and a lot of care goes into making them. And the same goes for our popular range of pies and pasties. Our proud boast is that you won’t find a better pie anywhere’. The key again is simple – we use the best ingredients; we don’t fill the pies full of additives and stuff out of packets and tins. It’s all top quality meat and fresh ingredients. If you haven’t tried one yet, pop in, we think you’ll be impressed. And we actually make them here on the premises. They are 100% made in Melksham!
“There is so much news coverage about food now that people are paying much more attention to what they are eating and where it comes from. We source our meat locally wherever possible and for much of it, we know exactly which farm it was produced at to ensure the best quality.”
Church Street down memory lane…
Although Newmans are still using traditional values, things have certainly changed in Church Street.
Michael Newman takes up the story… “Fifty years ago, my father, Ivor Newman, took over Stan Hill’s butchers shop at 1 Church Street. Mr Hill ran the shop all his working life after he took over from his father who took it over from Mr Harriss in the 1920s I believe. Mr Hill worked for father for a few years delivering meat twice weekly to Melksham and the surrounding villages, as did the other butchers in town – Dewhurst, Baxters, Mr Hunt and Arthur Poulsom.
“The 1970s and ‘80s were busy times for all the butchers. Most families always had a Sunday roast and the supermarkets were not in existence like they are today and of course there was no Sunday opening and very little ready-cooked foods and takeaways like there is now.
“I came into the business in 1970 when I left school and spent all my working life in Church Street and have seen many different people, and of course in 1970 there were many more shops than there are now.
“On the corner of Church Street was WH Smiths, the newsagents; later to be taken over by Mr Hiam (my father was a paper boy there in the 1930s). Then there was our shop at 1 Church Street; next door was a bookies, then a deli, Mortimer’s fruit and veg; then came Wisbeys, the ironmongers, followed by the Co-op furniture store which was then taken on by Michael Pearce who has just retired in the last month. Then came Bob Missen’s motorbikes and cycles which was later run by Clive Brown and the late Keith Dobson.
“Across the road there was a ladies’ clothes shop where the tattoo shop is now. The Co-op moved opposite where Dorothy House is now and next door was Edmunds, the seed and grain merchant which we bought in 1990. Next to us was a wool shop run by Mr & Mrs Hopkins from Chippenham.
“At one time next door was the fresh fish shop run by Fishy Parks and his wife and I can still remember the long queues on Good Friday when people only ate fish on that day. Finally, on the corner was Loveridges, the jewellers ran by Bob Rowlands.
“So much has happened in the street. Now we have charity shops, estate agents and insurance brokers. We have lost most retail shops to more service-led businesses. Our business has changed over the years and now a large part is taken up by home-made pies and cakes which are all produced in the shop by Phil.
“Times have changed with the arrival of multiple supermarkets to the town and the change in eating habits, but we have still managed to survive – and thrive. At one time there were six butchers in Melksham; times change and you have to change with them. People today don’t have so much time to cook and so we introduced a range of home-made pies and pasties which are really popular, plus ready meals such as shepherd’s pies, lasagnes and beef casseroles for people who don’t have time to cook.
“It can be difficult to compete with the supermarkets as people are so short of time these days and tend to want to get all their shopping done in one go. But I think things may be changing a little as people appreciate the quality of food we offer and are looking more closely into where their food comes from.
“We try and source all our meat locally wherever possible and that way, we can be sure of the quality. And we have been making sausages, burgers and faggots in the same way for the last 45 years – and long may it continue.”