One of the treasures held at the Yorkshire Film Archive (YFA) is a film called ‘Dale Days’. It was made by an amateur film maker called Charles Chislett while on holiday with family and friends in the Yorkshire Dales in 1940. Part-way through is a long sequence called ‘From Cow to Cheese’ which shows cheese production at the original Wensleydale Dairy down in the centre of town. At 6 minutes into the clip it starts with a brief glimpse of a man carrying a full backcan up Hungerhill, Faw Head near Gayle. Notice the wooden roadside churn stand behind him. The family then pay a brief visit into Swaledale and take part in various sports before the ‘Cow to Cheese’ sequence begins.
The cheese-making sequence is described by the YFA as follows:
Title – ‘In the evening we watch the first chapter of from Cow to Cheese’
A lengthy sequence shows the process of Wensleydale cheese being made at a dairy in Hawes. Cows are herded into a stone shed where a man is shown milking one.
He then pours the milk into a churn which is then loaded into a small van. He then drives to another farm where he collects another churn.
Title – ‘The following morning the milk is collected’
The same man wheels some churns in a cart before they are lifted onto the back of an open topped truck. He then gives another man a receipt for the milk. The postman poses by the truck. The truck goes off and the man collects more milk churns from other surrounding farms.
At the dairy, a group of men unload the churns, pouring the milk into a trough that takes it into the large troughs in the creamery at the Hawes Dairy. An interior shot shows the milk pouring in.
The whey is transferred into a pig trough, and the children watch and laugh as pigs and piglets come into the yard and line up by the trough, and eat the whey. Later in the farmyard, the children stand with their mother. Chickens, pigs and a dog held by the farmer are also there.
Title – ‘The whey is drained off and goes where it is much appreciated’
Interior scenes then show a man move about the curds that are forming in the trough.
Title – ‘After draining the curd is salted and packed into tins where it is kept under pressure all night. In the morning’.
On a bench outside two women unpack the cheeses from the tins. They cut off untidy edges and then wrap it in muslin. Interior scenes then show the cheeses lined up on shelves.
Title – ‘And so to complete the cycle’
A man, accompanied by a dairy worker carries a child across a field towards a cow. The sequence closes as the man holds the round Wensleydale cheese towards the cow which it proceeds to sniff.
Watch the full clip on the Yorkshire Film Archive’s website