A History of W.H. Russell & Son  


by Mrs. Betty Ellis (1999)


Located in Ludlow House, Elstead and Milford

My father Arthur Henry Russell (born 25.11.1895) was a Master Butcher for 35 years until 1962. The shop was adjoining the house and was the 'hub of activity'. The meat was lovely - beef, pork, lamb, sausages. Father and Grandfather used to go once a week to Guildford Cattle Market to buy bullocks, calves and pigs. Mother, myself and twin sister often used to go with them to watch the animals, the auctions and general hustle and bustle. The cattle lorries would bring the animals home. The calves had to be slaughtered, the worst part, since we all liked them, even my Dad who had the job to do. The pigs were put in the stys to fatten up.

In the shop Mondays were cleaning days and slaughtering. Although the shop was left 'spotless' every night - even Saturdays when they used to close at 10 p.m. there was always something to do e.g. cleaning windows. Sawdust is (and was) the great cleaner - every day it was scattered on the shop floor - it soaked up any blood and stopped anybody slipping and of course the block. This was 'scrubbed' with a special wire brush several times a day with sawdust.

The beef cattle were slaughtered elsewhere and carriers delivered the fore and hind quarters. These in turn would be cut up by my Father and staff. The fore quarters were basically stewing meats. The hind quarters were the best for roasting, grilling and frying joints - known as the rump steak (in 1960 it was 5 shillings per lb.). From the bone, suet was cut away in one piece and used grated for steamed pudding and pie pastry.

The bones were enjoyed by the dogs - they loved a large shin bone but bones and waste was collected by Rag & Bone men once a week. The beef originally came from the UK - Scotland and Argentina.

Lamb came from New Zealand, about 6-8 lambs a week, always wrapped in muslin cloth (wonderful for all sorts of things including washing-up cloths - I still miss them!). It was chopped in half long ways. You then had the leg – the most expensive and the loins of leg with kidney to the shoulder – much cheaper. This could be cut be cut in half and provide knuckle and blade ends. There was the neck scragg and breasts of lamb - lovely for stewing. There were chump chops for grilling and frying.

Pork was killed and dressed in the slaughterhouse. It was humane, licensed and protected - yes, in the 1930s. The fire was lit well in advance for the scalding hot water required to scold the hair off the pigs in very large wooden tubs. The pigs were then hung up on pulleys and dressed, which was an art in itself. Nothing was wasted. The pig provided pork, ham, bacon and our gorgeous pork (and beef) handmade sausages. Our sausages were so lovely they were posted to ex-customers anywhere in the UK (8O-85% meat was used, then breadcrumbs, herbs, sage and water were added and then all mixed together). We helped make the sausages and linked them; 3 for pork, 2 for beef. We had pigs head and trotters, and all that was not sold or cooked would be made into brawn. Any fat over would be reduced down into our own ½ lb. and 1 lb. Packets of lard.

The animal skins and sheepskins were taken to tanneries. Wild rabbits were stewed, casseroled. Etc., their skins were made into fur-backed gloves - I still have a pair.

Gypsies were intriguing, they would buy all the cheapest cuts. Their recipe was the bladder filled with offal (kidney, liver, bits) and lots of vegetables like onions, potatoes, swede, turnip, beet, etc. They would boil this long sausage-like mixture then just cut into thick pieces hot or cold.

Deliveries took place twice a week from the shop to all round the village and Thursley, Bowlhead Green, Witley, Milford, Enton, Shackleford, Compton, Cutmill, Seale, Sands and Tilford.

My mother (Mrs. Ellen Elizabeth Russell originally from Wandsworth) helped in the shop when necessary but was basically in the office especially Saturdays. This was open from about 6 am to 11 p.m. Tickets were put on each joint with weight, price per lb., and amount, for you never knew when a weights and measures man might come round or stop the delivery van, so it had to be correct What money was not collected on delivery customers had monthly accounts so there was plenty of office work.

Remembering the war in 1939-45 when we lost so many food ships (convoys) the ration was reduced to its lowest ebb. I can see my father now, cutting a leg of lamb into 4 or 5 minute joints and he would bone it out and tie into a baby joint. The beef was pretty terrible, old cows, of which the family had several Sunday roasts which was yellow instead of its usual beef colour. Not very appetising!

Christmas - well, sheer hard work for at least a month, up very early working very late. Slaughter took place a week before with all hands on deck. There were possibly 4-5 men plus mother who was cooking sausage rolls, mince pies, toast and dripping all hot. She made elderberry wine, very hot with sugar and ginger for the men. With the turkeys, poultry, ducks and geese, tubs of feathers were collected. But it was wonderfully exhilarating, with plenty of fun and laughter. Going on the rounds for Christmas was a treat. The vans were full to capacity and you often couldn't find the customers' order which probably consisted of turkey, a joint of lamb, beef or pork, sausages and sausage meat, bones, dripping, offal etc. Then the cup of tea, a chat, a laugh and carry on. Sometimes a present - money, a wallet, purse and of course a drink - most had to be refused or else we would never have finished the round, but by the tail end drinks were accepted. Phew! by the time the men arrived back at the shop they were well and truly giggling! They were great times and very much missed even now.

December 1999