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Cheese presses

Eleanor Scarr volunteering in Dales Countryside Museum's Victorian kitchen
Photographer: YDNPA/DCM
Eleanor Scarr volunteering in Dales Countryside Museum's Victorian kitchen


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Cheese production remained an important local activity in the Yorkshire Dales until well into the late twentieth century. Most farms kept dairy cattle and had a cheese press.

What is cheese pressing? 

Cheese pressing is a normal part of making hard cheeses. Firstly milk is separated into curds and whey. The curds are then pressed in a mould. This removes any remaining whey and binds them together into a solid cheese.

How do cheese presses work? 

Curds were normally pressed by a suspended stone weight. The height of the weight was adjustable to allow cheeses to be removed and replaced. It also controlled the amount of pressure placed on the mould. The base sometimes had grooves to allow the whey to drain away.

Wooden cheese presses are less likely to survive in complete condition. Many stone presses were built into the walls of the farmhouse or dairy, but some are freestanding structures. There are also some complex double structures like the one at Hill Top at Muker.

The design of cheese presses changed through time. Some later presses include metal frames and movement mechanisms.

What to look out for 

In many cases, only the main stone weight or base survive. The weights vary from roughly-shaped to neatly finished stone blocks. Some have a groove in each side to keep the weight steady against the frame. Many weights will still retain an iron eyelet or eyelets in the top. Similar weights can be found on some lead dressing floors where they were used in the crushing process.

Weights are frequently re-used for other purposes. For example, a churn stand in Burtersett (also recorded by the Feature of the Season project) is made from at least one recycled cheese press weight. Many others can be found, re-used within buildings or walls near to the farmstead.


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