Colwick Cheese is a fresh cheese invented around the 17th Century in the village of Colwick, south of Nottingham on the River Trent. The cheese has recently been revived using traditional methods and milk from the rare Red Poll Cattle.
Colwick is a soft, curdy cheese. Because of the way it is made; it has a unique shape, forming a bowl. The centre of the curd falls to the bottom of the mould while the sides still hold to the cheese cloth. Nottingham locals would place all sorts of flavourings into this bowl: jam; soft fruit such as strawberries, apples, pears etc. Others would eat a savoury version with onion, garlic or pieces of bread. It was also combined with cream in the hollowed out bowl and locals would spoon the two together.
Colwick cheese is normally made using moulds similar to cake tins. Many households which traditionally made their own cheese would tip the curds into a cloth, rather than a mould, which they would hang on a line, letting out the whey until the cheese is dry.
Colwick can be eaten either fresh or ripened. To ripen: the cheese is covered to exclude the air. In former times the traditional way to cover it was with cabbage leaf placed over the top.
History of Colwick Cheese
The name Colwick comes from the Old English word wic, which was a word for a farm and particularly a dairy farm. Colwick might well come from the name of the farmer, i.e. as in Cole’s Dairy. The Domesday Book mentions the village as Colewic:
“There was a church there and a water-mill by the Trent side, and attached to the manor were the important rights of a free fishery. More dwelt seven villeins and six bordars in addition to a priest and two serfs or servants.”
The cheese is believed to have been made since as far back as the 17th Century. It is said to have been invented by a John Clarkson who lived in the village and died in 1645 and was one of the family buried in the nave of St John’s church.
Colwick Cheese is celebrated in an 1857 poem by John Dilks ‘The Artist’s Bride’ which also features the River Trent (page 23);
“Many others, there assembled,
Cosy, sitting at their ease;
Or despatching with great gusto,
Pleasant ‘Colwick,’ thy rich cheese.”
The entry in an 1813 guide book states for Colwick:
“The village itself is rural, at present in some measure romantic; has a number of pleasant villas and cottages, and has long been, famous for a race of dairy people, who make a very pleasant kind of soft summer cheese.”
-‘A topographical and historical description of the County of Nottingham’ By Francis Charles Laird (page 153). The entry is repeated word for word in ‘The Beauties of England and Wales’ by John Britton. (Volume 12, Part 1 Page 153).
The entry for Colwick in the 1832 Nottingham directory by William White (page 667) states:
“The village is noted for the making of a thin soft kind of cheese, called Colwick cheese; it is often seen amongst the refreshments set before parties at the tea gardens, and other places of public resort around Nottingham.”
The 1864 edition by Francis White (page 501) adds the following:
“The Clarkson and Horsley families who have been resident here for the last three centuries, have been noted for their manufacture of this kind of cheese, for the last 150 years. Although vast quantities of cheese made in other places is styled the ‘real Colwick cheese,’ it is only that made in this village which is the genuine article.”