2018 is a special year for our Society, as it is our centenary.
The ‘Park Cattle Society’ was formed in January 1918 with the Earl of Tankerville (Chillingham) as Patron, the Duke of Bedford (Woburn) as President, and the Duke of Hamilton (Cadzow) as Vice-President. The first herd book was published in 1919. At that time the herd book included both horned and polled cattle as polled cattle with the White Park colour pattern were incorrectly deemed to be closely related.
By the 1940s the name of the Society had changed to the ‘British White Cattle Society’ which added further confusion with polled British White cattle. The President was the Duke of Hamilton and the Vice-President was Lord Dynevor, and the heritage horned herds (Dynevor, Cadzow and Woburn/Chartley) provided the senior office holders throughout the life of the herd book.
Following a lapse of thirty years or so registrations resumed in 1974, the first volume of a new herd book was published in 1975, and the White Park Cattle Society was (re)formed in 1983 when the Duchess of Hamilton (Cadzow) was President and the Chairman was G L H Alderson CBE (Dynevor). Lawrence Alderson became President in 1988.
At the end of 2017 we were contacted by a non-member who had owned three White Park cows for several years, using them for conservation grazing only. The owner was retiring and had decided to re-home his White Parks. But he wanted them to live out their natural lives, as close as possible to his home, and had specified that they could not be used for breeding. If we could find a new owner that met these criteria, the White Parks would be transferred free of charge.
Luckily Dr Greenall of Herefordshire was only too willing to give the three females a new home. Following the necessary movement tests Stoneleigh Ashow, Stoneleigh Grandborough and Pepperbox Alderbury moved to Ledbury and are now living with five other White Parks in the beautiful surroundings Bromesberrow Place.
Congratulations to members David and Sue Graveston of Bolton by Bowland, Lancashire, whose White Park bull Ribblesdale Muskateer triumphed as the Interbreed Champion at the Melton Mowbray Rare Breeds show and sale held on 9 September 2017.
The Donald family of County Armagh were excited to take their White Park heifer Claycappagh Lilly to her first show, the Gosford Rare Breed show in Northern Ireland. After winning her breed class Lilly and her half sister Louisa Jane went on to win the beef pairs, before Lilly triumphed in the overall championship. Congratulations to Claycappagh Lilly, beautifully shown by the two youngest members of the Donald family, seen below holding their trophy.
For one cattle breed 2017 holds an extra special significance. The White Park Society held a celebratory dinner on 21 July to celebrate several significant historic events. The dinner was hosted by the President of the Society, Lawrence Alderson CBE, and was master-minded by celebratory chef, Mark Hix, with beef from the Bickleigh herd of White Park cattle owned by Society Vice-Chairman, John Lean.
It was twenty years since the Society hosted a banquet in 1997 in Butchers Hall, headquarters of The Worshipful Company of Butchers in the historic Smithfield area. The White Park beef-on-the-bone piped around the Great Hall marked the last occasion before the ban on beef-on-the-bone came into effect. However, that anniversary was somewhat fortuitous.
The original purpose of the banquet was to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Rhys ap Gruffydd, the famous ruler of the kingdom of Deheubarth in southern Wales who died in 1197. Rhys owned the colour-pointed white cattle which we now know as White Park, and he was a ninth-generation descendant of Rhodri Mawr, who built Dynevor castle as a defence against the Vikings and first brought the white cattle to our attention in 856 AD. His grandson, Hywel Dda, formulated the Welsh Laws in the Venedotian and Dimetian codes in which the cattle appeared as payment of fines for infringement of the ruler’s prerogative.
Therefore, Dynevor cattle, which now are kept on Salisbury Plain, demonstrate a provenance tracing back more than 1,000 years which other British breeds of cattle have not been able to record. But one family in the Dynevor herd can claim an even more remarkably ancient provenance. A paper by Ludwig, Alderson et al has added a new dimension to the history of the breed. It shows that those cows belonging to the Tawe family possess a mitochondrial haplotype which has been passed down the female line from a cow that lived ten thousand years ago.
The main purpose of the dinner in July 2017 was an important anniversary celebration for another reason. Although history was an integral factor, it was concerned more with meat quality. In 1617 James I was travelling through Lancashire and in early August was hosted by Sir Richard Hoghton at Hoghton Tower, which was home to a herd of White Park cattle. The obligatory banquet after a day of hunting included beef from the resident herd. The king declared “Finer beef nae man ever put his teeth into. What joint do ye ca’ it, Sir Richard?”. “The dish, sire, is a loin of beef” replied his host. “A loin! By my faith that is not a title honourable enough for a joint sae worthy. It wants a dignity, and it shall hae it. Henceforth it shall be Sir-Loin, an’ see ye ca’ it sae”. Thereby the excellence of White Park meat was written into the history of quality beef.
The quality of White Park beef remains notable in the twenty-first century for its marbling and flavour. It is marketed as a speciality product which commands a premium with outlets in London and in several provincial centres.
Council member Amy Cope and her White Park bull Beaudesert Maximus were placed First in the Rare Breed bull class at the Leek Show on 29 July and were then awarded the overall Rare Breed champion. Congratulations Amy and Maximus!
Our dinner to celebrate the 400th anniversary of ‘Sir Loin’ was held at Hanford in Dorset on Friday 21 July. Members and guests dined on a meal of White Park beef cooked by renowned chef and restaurateur Mark Hix MBE and supplied by farmer John Lean of Tiverton, Devon. The meal was supported by the fine food department store Fortnum and Mason.
In 1617 King James I enjoyed a loin of White Park beef so much at a banquet at Hoghton Tower in Lancashire that he conferred the title of ‘Sir Loin’ on it. The qualities of marbling and flavour that so impressed him remain the trademarks of White Park beef today.
President of the White Park Cattle Society, Lawrence Alderson CBE, who hosted the dinner, said: “The White Park is an ancient type of cattle kept in Britain for more than 2,000 years. The first written records appeared in the mid-ninth century in Wales and more herds were enclosed by the nobility in parks in other parts of Britain in the thirteenth century. They now are noteworthy not only for their distinctive appearance and beef quality, but also for their ease of calving and thrifty hardiness.” The White Park breed is classified as a rare breed by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.
After the dinner had concluded the rare breeds auctioneer Clive Roads of Worcester Livestock Market hosted an auction of items donated to the White Park Cattle Society.
Our 2017 AGM and open day was held at Hanford Estate in Dorset on 22 July, by kind permission of the Pearson family.
After the formal meeting had concluded we held an open forum. Following lunch the members present were then taken on a tour of the 1800 acre Hanford Estate which, as well as including a herd of White Park cattle, had a state of the art dairy facility, Aberdeen Angus cattle and sheep. There are also some beautiful wildflower meadows and scheduled monuments on the estate. We finished the day with afternoon tea in the farmyard.
We would like to thank Mark, Charlotte and Lucy Pearson for helping us with arrangements and for being such fantastic hosts.
Over 1600 visitors attended the Open Farm Sunday event hosted by our members Laura and Robert Cooper who live at East Farm near Avebury in Wiltshire.
As well as the herd of White Park cattle that were on show, visitors were also able to meet pigs, sheep and horses. Children were able to ride on mini self propelled tractors and play in the grain pit, whilst a fake udder was available for anyone who wanted to have a go at milking. Locally sourced food was on sale and the Co-op had brought along an educational game to see if visitors knew where their food came from. And the Wiltshire Museum had brought along some old farming implements to give a flavour of a bygone age.
East Farm has undertaken a great deal of conservation work and together with its neighbouring farm has 5 miles of hedgerows, 7 miles of grass margins and 3 miles of wildflower margins, all of which provide superb cover for birds.
Our thanks go to the Cooper family for their hard work in promoting White Park cattle during the event, and also to members John Barker and Adrian Crocker who went along to East Farm to help them.