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Bridport Butchers To Feature On TV

Richard Balson

8:25am 10th January 2014

They've survived plague, fires, floods, two World Wars, and competition from Supermarkets and now a Bridport Butchers will have their story told on National TV.

R J Balson & Son are the oldest family business in all of Britain turning 500 years old next year (2015).

The Butcher's, which has always been in Bridport, has attracted the attention of the national media before but next week a programme will be aired on TV investigating solely into their history.

The filming took place in the Butcher's over the summer and some of the staff, including Owner Richard Balson, went on location with the film crew to learn more about the meat industry's history as a whole.

Wessex FM went to R J Balson & Son on West Allington and spoke to Richard Balson, who explained that the film makers contacted him specifically asking if he was interested in taking part in their 'Hidden Histories: Britain's Oldest Family Businesses' set of one-offs. Richard said there was no hesitation when he accepted to take part as his family's history has always interested him

When asked if he was surprised by anything that was uncovered from the past Richard answered, "I knew a lot about the family history from 1880 to the present day, but I didn't know a lot from before that. There were several macabre things that happened, one chap committed suicide and  another one was killed when his head was blown off by a shotgun in an accident. One of the questions they (the BBC) said to me was 'How do you feel about that?' and I said, 'Well, the thing is if you're talking of a history that's spanning 500 years it's not going to be all sweetness and good news, there's bound to be a couple of nasty things that happen along the way."

He also spoke about how Bridport High Street was dug up not so long ago and more surprises were revealed about R J Balson & Son's past, "The digger bucket scooped out a load of old bones, and it was amazing how I could identify each and every bone and what part of an animal it had come from, and one of my ancestor's could have put them there! The old market shambles was found by the Town Hall and that was where they would have cut the animals up."

Richard also said he learnt about the meat industry outside of his own butchers and that's shown in the programme, "We learnt about how the meat industry's changed through the ages. In 1515 throughout England the farmers would bring their animals in on horse and cart, and they would be slaughtered in the middle of the town and cut up, and people would come and buy their joints of meat. That's evolved, so then we went to slaughterhouses were everything was more hygienically cut up, and so on until present day."

Richard says he's very proud of what his family have achieved, "We've been here 499 years to be precise, so we're going to have a party coming up soon, but we've survived plague, wars, fires, floods, and still the family has managed to battle through with the love of the job and the passion that we've got for butchery, and that's why we're still here today making a living. It's hard work this trade, so you've got to love this job."

'Hidden Histories: Britain's Oldest Family Businesses' with R J Balson & Son will be on this Wednesday the 15th of January at 9pm on BBC4.

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