Standing proudly on the doorstep of his family butcher’s shop, Richard Beaman talks passionately about what makes quality meat.
“You’re looking for something that’s been well-fed and looked after,” he says. “You look at the back, the neck and the shoulders, it’s something you pick up with experience.
“A lamb that has been well fed and cared for will have more meat on it and is going to taste better.”
At the moment Bridgnorth High Street is in contention for the title of Best Large Market Town in Britain, and maybe it is the number of independent shops and restaurants proudly selling food and drink from nearby farms that helps make it so special.
Many businesses in the town are supporting the Shropshire Star’s Fair Deal for Farmers campaign, which is an indication of the strong bond between the shops in Bridgnorth and the farms that supply them.
Within a few yards of Beaman’s Victorian shop front in High Street is Penny’s delicatessen, which specialises in artisan cheese, and Catherine’s bakery, which supports local farms. Just round the corner in Whitburn Street is Mike and Sarah’s butchers, which also specialises in Shropshire meat. And a few doors up from there, Richard’s daughter Annabelle Beaman is following in her father’s footsteps with her new bistro Stable Bar, which sources all its meat, fruit and vegetables from local farms. Bridgnorth is a town which is well and truly backing our farmers.
For Richard Beaman, the importance of fresh, local produce is in the blood. His family have kept the shop since 1890, and Richard grew up on a farm. He started working as an errand boy in the early 1980s, and remembers many of his present customers as children who used to come into the shop with their children.
His father Robert and brother Jonathan run beef farms in Claverley and Eardington, and it is here where all his shop’s beef comes from.
“Customers want local produce these days,” says Richard, who is 49. “There is much more interest now because of all the cooking programmes that are on television, people want to know where their food has come from and they know that we have got traceability.”
His shop’s Christmas turkeys are also reared on the family farm, and Richard says that all his meat is sourced from within a few miles.
“We buy all our lamb from Bridgnorth livestock market, we source it from several different farms, all in Shropshire, we will have a look at what we like the look of best that week,” he says.
“Our pork is mostly from Richard Cotham, who keeps a farm in Claverley, it is all Gloucester Old Spot. We do 10 different sausages, all made on the premises from Gloucester Old Spot. Our venison and pheasant comes from Game and Country in Craven Arms.”
Richard’s daughter Annabelle opened Stable Bar, which is set back behind Whitburn Street, last year, and believes there is real demand in the town for fresh local produce. The meat comes from her father’s shop, while the vegetables are sourced from a specialist supplier in Albrighton which gets them from local farms.
“The quality of local produce is so much better than if you buy it in bulk,” says Annabelle, 20.
“If an animal has lead a happy life, and has been grass fed, it is going to make better food.”
Chef Theo Van Deventer says it is important that the food does not spend too much time in transit.
“Why would you want to bring in food from miles away when we have got so many good farms in Shropshire?” he says.
“It’s also about supporting local businesses, we work with each other.”
A few doors down is Mike Pearce, 57, who runs Mike and Sarah’s butchers’ shop with wife Sarah. Like Richard, he is a veteran of the butcher’s trade, having spent 40 years in the industry, and he too believes there is no substitute for keeping it in the county. “We buy all our cattle from Bridgnorth Market, and also our lambs,” he says. “All our pigs are free-range rare breeds from a lady called Jane Banks in Newport, and a lot of our cattle comes from Dave Chiltern in Church Stretton.
“Our lambs come from a few farms, we source a lot from Roger Williams and Pete Morris in Stottesdon.”
Mike says the public has become more discerning in recent years, and says that this has been a big boost to his business.
He moved to his present shop eight years ago, having previously been based in the town’s indoor market.
Back in High Street, it is hard not to be lured in by the fragrance of freshly baked bread which emanates from Catherine’s Bakery.
“Our milk comes through Mawley Oak in Highley, and our eggs from Grange Farm in Hilton,” says manager Catherine Carris.
“The sausages are from Sessions in Worcester, and the fruit and veg comes from Downes in Broseley.”
Across the road in the market hall, Penny Martin is busy behind the counter of Penny’s Delicatessen.
Penny, who has kept the business for 13 years and worked there for 32, is passionate about supporting local farmers. “I was born and bred in rural Shropshire, my father worked on a farm,” she says.
Her Red Leicester cheese is hand-made at Belton Farm in Whitchurch, the eggs are sourced from Wood Farm in Wheathill, and Hereford Hop cheese comes from Laurels Farm just over the county border in Hatherton, Cheshire.
Penny says it is important to source products from local farmers, saying there is a real difference in how they taste.Subscribe to our Newsletter