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Baileys the Butchers

This village institution was run by four generations of the Bailey family, starting with Fred Bailey in 1905. Their pork pies were famous, not just in the village and all the surrounding area, but the Test Match Cricket Commentary team were well known devotees when England were playing at Trent Bridge. Sadly Baileys closed their doors in 2017, this history of their pork pie business was written by Pat Bishop and published in 1992.

Bailey's pork pies in Upper Broughton and the surrounding locality have no less renown than those made in Melton Mowbray itself, being regularly supplied to butchers, caterers, pubs and satisfied customers in an area bounded by Ruddington, Radcliffe, Asfordby and Long Clawson.

The present Mrs (Lillian) Bailey surmises that pork pies have been made on the premises for well over 75 years. In 1905 Mr Fred Bailey, newly married to Jane Houghton, moved to Upper Broughton and bought the butchers’ business from Mr Woolley, the previous owner. Before this Fred Bailey had worked in the well-established Asfordby butchers’ business run by his three brothers. In those early days the pies were made by Mrs Jane Bailey and Stanley Waby, who worked for Fred Bailey and who lived in ‘Hillview’ on Top Green. The pies, when made, were taken by pony and trap, later by van, to Nether Broughton where they were baked at Whittaker’s bakery in King Street, one of the two bakeries in that village, the other being Bowler’s also on King Street.

It was not until around 1956, soon after the death of Jane Bailey, that an oven was installed by Fred’s son Sid and his wife so that the firm could cook their own pies. Jack, Sid’s brother, who had been working in the business since 1927, told the story of how he was the one who had to put the first lot of pies into the oven because Sid, who had been really keen to have the oven, was nervous that the pies wouldn’t bake properly. Since then there have been three ovens – firstly a coke oven which needed constant watching and careful stoking up, then a calor gas oven and most recently an electric oven. As Mrs Bailey remarks, it is certainly cleaner and easier than the original though probably no better in terms of the pork pies it produces. The ovens have served the village well- not only for the baking of pork pies but also for cooking the villagers’ turkeys at Christmas – often well into the teens in numbers. The ovens were turned on at 6.30 on Christmas morning by Jack Bailey and the turkeys put in by stages according to weight. All in, and the Bailey family would be off to Church and back to deliver up to delighted owners (who were usually waiting with a bottle of something festive!) perfectly cooked turkeys. Since the installation of the electric oven in recent years, the shelves are too narrow in depth to take turkeys.

Nowadays five people are employed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to make between 600 and 700 pies a week, varying in size from the small 8 oz and up through the 1lb, 1½lb, and 2 lb. At Christmas, 3lb pies are made and other large ones by request for special occasions such as the Melton Bowling Club gathering. Originally each pie was hand-raised on a wooden block but now they have the help of a machine - not by any means the latest thing in technology and probably already a museum piece in its own right- rather like a potter’s wheel on which apiece of boiled dough is ‘thrown’ and moulded. The pie-cases thus made are still free-standing as they always were, which accounts for the characteristically ‘bulging’ sides. Then these pastry cases were put outside to cool and ‘set’ before the meat could be added- the netting can still be seen which protected them from the birds and Sam Cross’s hens! Now of course they are cooled in the fridge. After being cooked they were again stood outside so the meat could cool before the liquid jelly was added to keep the meat moist and from setting into a solid block.

The pork used in the pies is from one supplier only, at Whissendine, and the pigs are now slaughtered on Mondays in Melton Mowbray, though until only 2 years ago the slaughtering was carried out on the butcher’s own premises. The meat must be well cooled before pie-making can commence. I didn’t expect to be given the Authentic Bailey Pie Recipe but Mrs Bailey confided that she thinks the best pies are made using only the best cuts of pork, seasoning and water. She feels that the temptation to add onion or herbs should be avoided as it does nothing to improve the pie, and that the custom of some manufacturers of adding salt bacon to the meat to make it pink in no way enhances either the flavour or the appearance of the pie. Occasionally would-be pie makers order two pounds or so of the meat ready prepared for their own-baked pies. Having tasted Bailey pies, I know I’m happy to leave it to the experts-whose reputation was spread even further afield by an appearance on the BBC TV “ Taste of Britain” programme a few years ago. Did anyone in the village, I wonder, own a video-recorder then and make a tape? If so we’d like to make a copy of it for the Bailey family, and for the village archives.

Jack Bailey, already a legendary figure, when I moved into the village 15 years ago, had worked as a butcher for 62 years from the time he left school in 1927 until his death in 1989. He had been President of the Nottingham Butchers Association, and National President of the Meat Traders’ Association.

Luckily, the Bailey tradition continues into another generation with Alan Bailey and his wife. Just to complete the pattern, Keith Bailey, Alan’s brother, has returned to Asfordby and taken over the butchers’ business thee, the third generation to do so.

Pat Bishop

« February 2024 »
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