Business Start up - RUYTON DAIRY
by Yoland

The dairy business in Ruyton originated as a purely private concern at Hall Farm (by the Cross) in 1912, when the grandfather of the present owner, Mr. William Howell Gittins, built a new dairy to make Cheshire cheese.  Only milk produced on the farm was used for several years.  The cheese was made by Mrs. Gittins, later assisted by the family and also Miss Olive Tomlinson, who came to learn cheesemaking.

However, Thomas Ward-Green, Shropshire County Councillor for Ruyton XI Towns Devision, wrote in his diary on 25th July 1906 that there had been a proposal for a cheese factory in the village. Another member of the Ruyton Division at this time was Mr.William Howell Gittins, then living at Avondale, in School Road, rather than Hall Farm.

Ruyton XI Towns Cheeses went on to win many prizes at local and national dairy shows, and later became known as `G` Brand Cheese, possibly indicating a Gourmet cheese.  Much of the cheese was sold in the Manchester area and also retailed in the village.

After three or four years, milk was purchased by Mr. Gittins from one or two local farmers.  The cheese was still made at Hall Farm in the summer months and liquid milk cooled and sent away by train in the winter.

In 1918, a group of local farmers formed a limited company, registered as Ruyton Co-operative Dairies Ltd.  Mr. Gittins was made Managine Director and bought a new site for the expanding dairy in School Road.  Miss Tomlinson, now Mrs. Davies, took charge of the cheesemaking for a number of years.

A dairy was opened at Baschurch about 1920 or soon after.  This dealt with liquid milk to be sent away, and pasteurising and a brine cooling plant was installed.  The man in charge of this was Mr. E.G. Lewis who, in later years set up a butchery business in Baschurch.

A piggery was built so that the whey could be fed to the pigs, and this was very profitable.

This was the nucleus of the present dairy at Ruyton XI Towns which, of course, was  extended a good deal over the years.

Also about this time, an office, shop and four distributing depots were acquired in Birmingham.  Milk was also sold in London and Liverpool and supplied to hospitals, institutions and restaurants.

In 1936, the business was sold to the Kraft Foods Ltd., an American company. 

During the years of food rationing, cheese, like potatoes, was a vital part of people`s diet , when we did our best to live on what we could grow and produce in Britain. Ships crossing the Atlantic with vital supplies such as fuel and munitions only needed to bring food, such as  orange juice for us babies, that we could not produce ourselves.  Rations varied according to what was available, cheese was just 50g per person but sometimes rose to 100g. According to the Kraft website, the company was responsible for sending four million pounds of cheese from America to Britain every week.  Presumably, this is why our cheese ration sometimes rose to the dizzy height of 225g   Butter allowance was just 50g a week.

Kraft`s main emphasis was Chedder cheese production so many improvements were developed at Ruyton, including an effluent plant on the oposite side of School Road to treat the waste water before discharging into the river Perry.

At this time, Ruyton was not on mains water and the expansion of the Dairy meant they used more water, leading to wells along the Brownhill drying up.  The answer was to deliver drinking water to the cottages, to be stored in redundant milk churns, but rainwater had to be collected for other uses.

In 1954, Ruyton Dairy was bought by the Express Dairy company and  the improvement to production efficiency continued.

At this time, peak capacity could amount to 50,000 gallons of milk daily, cooled to a temperature of 39 degrees F and stored in two silos of 20,000 gallons and four smaller tanks. 

Heat treated whey from cheese was despatched to Minsterley for butter making.  Other whey products were used for biscuit making and animal foodstuffs.

In 1968, a tall square building was erected to house a spray dryer, capable of producing 3,000lbs of powdered whey an hour. Another new building was built to store the extra powder, it had a clear span of 106 feet clad in Galbestos. Yes, asbestos was incorporated in the roof.  A separate storage building was built for keeping the 40lb cheeses, weighted, wrapped and heatsealed, at a constant temperature of 45–50degrees F, and then stored for three months.

The cheese making process, specialising in Chedder and Cheshire production, was carried out in a new building opened in March 1969 to deal with 40,000 gallons daily.

Quality was controlled in three laboratories testing the raw material, regular sampling of the products, with samples of each product tested for moisture content, fats, salts and acidity.

A bacteriological filtration system was employed using four enclosed filter beds and two large open beds.  The final effluent was diluted by clean cooling water from the plant before discharging into the River Perry. In 1972, an aerating tank had been added to the system to completely elimate any smells.

A serious Accident                                                                                                                                

In August 1981, there was a very serious accident at the dairy. A glass fibre silo containing  whey at 70degrees centigrade, split down one side, pouring hot whey onto Mr. Ted Jones from Ruyton and Mr. Razik Patel from Express Dairy`s Research and Developent unit in London.  Three other people, Mrs. Josephine Cork, Mr. Arthur McDonald from Bomere Heath and Mrs.Christine Dean from Ruyton were passing on their way to the canteen for lunch were also injured.  Mr. Ted Jones and Mrs.Cork were transferred to the Burmingham Burns Unit, and were said to be be very poorly.  Mr. Patel and Mr. McDonald were taken to Shrewsbury hospital and Mrs. Dean was allowed home after treatment.

A Shrewsbury man who was at the scene at the time reported the silo split open without warning at about midday.  He said the tank suddenly disintegrated, pouring the hot whey onto the factory yard.

Mr. K.W. Skinner, the factory manager, said the cause of the accident was still being investigated.  He said there had been no previous problems with the silo.

This information was published in the local press and is all I know about this very bad accident.  It would be a very good subject for a lot more research.

The Great Stink

In the summer of 1986, there was a mighty pong in Ruyton XI Towns.  Doors and windows had to stay tightly shut to keep out the odours and even on the hottest days, villagers were unable to sit in their gardens.  One of the inhabitants told the Advertizer that the smells had persisted for ten weeks but were finally fading away.

Properties affected most were in School road and from the Cross up to the Church Bank. 

Mr. W.E Lockhart, production director for Express Creameries, said that the company had put in some new equipment because not enough oxygen was getting into the effluent lagoons.  He told the press the nuisance had not persisted for ten weeks, “I would say it is a very short time – ten days at the most”.

It seems the effluent lagoons operated using an aerobic digester system, i.e. it depended on oxygen and bacteria to process the waste.  However, if any accidental large spillage, of milk for example,  entered directly into the lagoon it would overwhelm the bacteria, rendering the process quite useless. It is worth mentioning that smells are in fact gases and the smell in School Road could very likely be the cause of sickness and headaches suffered by some residents.

The apparent lack of an investigation by the company, or even a demand for one in the village,  is very strange and makes one think of unexplained disasters in the 19th century.

Dairy Closure

The next event at Ruyton Dairy was its closure, again even this was carried out in an underhand way.  The workers were on a high when they heard a 96 million management buyout had gone through and they were looking forward to a secure future.  Then just one week later at mid morning in August 1992, the employees were called together and it was announced that the factory would close in August the following year.  They were then told they could stop work and go home and tell their families.

The Vicar, Robin Bradbury, called a meeting at the Victoria Rooms to discuss what the village could do to help and the dairy organised a Job Shop.  Advanced early retirement pensions would be available, and good severance terms, while staff might be offered retraining or alternative jobs in Dairy Crest, who now owned Express Dairies.  I guess that was enough to keep everyone sweet.

1993 - January 31st – last milk intake.  February 2nd – last cheese production.  February 13th – first redundancies take place.  End of June – last site operation of whey production.  End of August – closure of cheese store.  End of November – total site closure.

How ironic that a smelly problem arose in Davidstow, Cornwall at Dairy Crest`s Creamery in November 2018.   https://www.independent.co.uk/news/cornwall-fishy-smell-davidstow-cheese-dairy-crest-creamery-a8630166.html                                                                                                                                                Fishy smell from creamery prompts uproar in Cornwall village - The odour is 'like a cross between gone off fish and cheese, with a bit of sewage chucked in'.

Dairy Crest was bought by Canadian Dairy processing company, Saputo, in April 2019.

In 1994 a newspaper reported that, Pentons Cold Storage & Haulage, the new owners of the Express Dairy site in Ruyton XI Towns, had offered to lease the canteen on a 99 year lease to the village, as a modern village hall, and provide almost five acres of open land at Doctors Meadow for sport, including fishing rights on the River Perry.  The company had also applied for planning permission for around 100 low cost houses on land across the road from the old dairy site.

Some 90 odd houses were built, low cost ones along the School Road and, we have an excellent football field and play area.  However, the Parish Council turned down the offer of the Dairy canteen as a village hall.  

 Kraft Express Lab 
 Fox milk
 Kraft Dairy from the church - date unknown
Express Dairy development and laboratory   Collecting water from Dairy milk churn
Busy dairy car park in 1990
Dairy Staff in 1993
Doctor`s Meadow from the churchyard, before the houses were built

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