Sausages, stage shows and saving community life

PUBLISHED: 07:50 12 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:53 20 February 2013

Peter and Jessica Tatlow at The Golden Fleece

Peter and Jessica Tatlow at The Golden Fleece

Richard Young discovers a keen sense of community and belonging in Braughing

Sizzling sausages

MENTION Braughing and most people think bangers. Famous for its sausages for over 60 years, D.White Butchers continues the tradition, and keeps its original recipe a well-guarded secret.

There has been a butcher on Green End since the 1920s, but it was in 1954 when Douglas White and his wife Anna struck on a spicy seasoning for their sausages that the shop really came into its own.

A friend of the family since her 20s, Mary Stone has worked at the shop for 36 years and has seen many changes in her time.

When I first worked here we had a slaughterhouse and slaughtered our own bulls and lambs. I remember we lost a bull down the street once. The old man used to go to the market and bring back the animals and it ran off the lorry and escaped. They caught it in the end though.

Mary, who describes herself as part of the furniture of the shop, says it remained relatively unchanged until 12 years ago when it was modernised to meet EU regulations. We had sawdust on the floor before. It was very rustic. We had to have tiles put in and that kind of thing.

Sausage production, which has now hit 30,000 a week, was moved off site after the family business was sold four years ago. We still do our meat and cure bacon, the only thing we dont make is the sausages, Mary says.

The shop is still a destination for sausage lovers from miles around many of whom Mary has seen grow up from bumps to university, while orders go out to village stores and pubs as well as countrywide by overnight post.

Asked the secret of its popularity, Mary says, Its the spices. They are quite a spicy sausage. And we always use good pork the hams and bellies and good rusk. And can she reveal the recipe? Even if I did know it, I couldnt tell you, she says with a laugh.

Putting on a show

KEEPING a keen sense of the theatrical in the village is the aim of two key figures in its annual review show.

Lesley and Graham Purse have been involved with the Braughing Drama Group for 25 years both on stage and behind the scenes helping to raise thousands of pounds for charities and local organisations.

The couple got involved with the group after renovating a house in the village, as a way of getting involved with the community. Lesley started with make-up, then went on stage as a performer, subsequently moving to managing front of house, while Graham began as chairman, introducing the acts, and has done so ever since.

The focus has always been to produce one show per year (performed around 12 times between November and February) using a musical hall and variety format, Lesley says. The format includes a mixture of comedy, sketches, songs and choruses so it is easy for all sorts of people to join. One of Grahams lines is if you turn up for the audition you are in the show.

Graham said his role as chairman and master of ceremonies means he gets to see all the shows and introduce the acts, and can insult them after their performance.

He adds, Its a fun night out the cast enjoy performing, and for the audience its not a night in front of the telly, nor a West End theatre they are encouraged to join in, to sing along and to heckle.

Local organisations hire the show with a fee to cover costs. Then the organisation sells the tickets and runs a raffle to raise funds directly for their cause often this is 500 per show, Graham says.

This years show runs until mid-February at the village hall. For dates and information on how to get involved with the group, contact secretary Sandy Varley on 01920 822589.

Safeguarding village life

WHILE many pubs are closing due to lack of trade, one couple took on the challenge of renovating and reopening an historic inn as a freehold.
Jessica and Peter Tatlow made many villagers dreams come true when they reopened The Golden Fleece after a long community battle to save it from being turned into housing.

But after years of standing empty, being gutted, and theft (the lead flashing was stolen from the roof), the building, which dates back to the 17th century, was in need of a lot of work when the couple bought it at auction in April 2010.

The bar and trade kitchen had been ripped out, the cellar equipment was cut out, the bar area had no floor, the dining room had puddles of water, all signage had gone, the water pipes inside were split and burst and the boiler destroyed and the garden was a jungle with muntjac deer living in it, Peter, aged 40, says.

But the couple, who ran the George and Dragon in Watton-at-Stone, were not prepared to let the workload put them off, as they had tried for years to buy the pub where Jessica, 38, a chef who grew up in the village, had her first kitchen job while at school.

She says, We had huge help from friends, neighbours and family to help keep costs sensible. They worked with the contractors to offer extra labour and this meant that we broadly came within budget, and were able to open on July 16 2010 the same day as the Braughing wheelbarrow race, which saw an incredibly busy evening for us. The total project took three months of seriously hard labour. When we opened the doors it was a massively proud moment.

Peter says the hard work was well worth it, because the pub has something that is rare.

Some buildings have a special feeling when you walk in. Peter says. The Fleece does. We knew when something felt right and was well worth the time and effort to create our business model. We believed that what we offered would work well at the Fleece. We feel that no matter how good your offer is, the warmth and charm of the building has a major impact on the success even when everything else is great, this gives the extra five per cent.

The Golden Fleece has just received CAMRA recognition in its Good Beer Guide and is highly regarded for its largely gluten-free menu. 01920 823555.

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