On 28 April 1992 the death was announced of Lymeswold. Few noticed. Fewer mourned.
Billed as the first new British cheese for two hundred years, Lymeswold had been launched with great fanfare a decade earlier at the behest of the Milk Marketing Board and with the endorsement of the agriculture minister, Peter Walker. The fictitious name was intended to evoke an ideal English village. ‘The Americans are crazy for that sort of thing,’ explained a sales director, as British hearts sank. Rather implausibly, the product was also intended to be capable of exporting to France, as though creamy blue cheeses were in short supply over the Channel.
This aspect of the project foundered when it was discovered that the word Lymeswold was almost unpronounceable for the French, but even a rebranding overseas as Westminster Blue didn’t help, since the product itself was so bland and tasteless. The domestic market was similarly unimpressed, especially since it was more expensive than many imported French cheeses. And after a decade of underperformance, the Milk Marketing Board gave up the struggle, closing down the Lymeswold factory in Birmingham that had been making the stuff, with the loss of thirty-eight jobs.
There was a moral here, a moral about the limitation of government intervention in industry. At least that’s what The Times thought, running a leading article on the subject: ‘Politicians and civil servants and nationalised industries have their uses, but cheese-making is not one of them.’ Private enterprise, however, was not always much better than the bureaucrats, and the following year saw the launch of Emmerdale, an equally unimpressive cheese, in a licensing deal with Yorkshire Television, the company that made the soap opera of the same name. That wasn’t a great success either…
This is an outtake from Alwyn Turner’s A Classless Society: Britain in the 1990s. It’s posted here to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Lymeswold.