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Iliffe’s Pork Butchers

Photograph of Cliffe & Eileen Iliffe outside the shop in 1958 Photograph of Cliffe & Alan Iliffe with their baking
Left - Cliff & Eileen Iliffe in 1958
Right - Cliff & Alan Iliffe in the 1970s

Cliff Iliffe’s mum & dad started the shop at 22 Church Street in about 1930 taking over from Mr Smith, the organist at St Mary’s church, who had a music shop there. Cliff started work when he was 15 years old. When his mother retired in 1955 he took over the running of the business and his wife Eileen joined him. Later when their son, Alan, left school he also went into the business and they all worked together until the business closed in August 1985.

It was a pork butcher’s shop when it started but by the 1970s they sold bread and groceries too. Baking bread meant getting up early for a 5am start to get the bread into the ovens by 7am. Once the bread was cooked there were other things to make – pork pies, sausages, brawn, dripping, cooked meats, bread and cakes. On Tuesday it was faggots made from pig’s lights and hearts and they got them on sale by 11am. At only 15p a pound (in 1974) it was a nutritious but economical dinner for the shoe workers who would call on their way home. Most people ate 'dinner' at mid-day in those days.

Then in 1979 a coffee lounge was opened in the upstairs room, with access from the side door in John Street where up to 50 people could sit and enjoy a coffee and a cake with their friends and catch up on the news, or enjoy a full lunch with all the food made on the premises.

Staff in the shop in 1981 celebrating the wedding of Prince Charles & Princess Diana Photograph of staff outside the shop in 1981 for the wedding of Prince Charles & Princess Diana Staff in the shop in 1981 celebrating the wedding of Prince Charles & Princess Diana
In 1981 the staff dressed up to celebrate the marriage of HRH Prince Charles & Lady Diana Spencer.

Evening Telegraph, Thursday March 28th 1974, by Ruth Garrod

He has fingers in every pie
Cliff Iliffe isn't a candlestick maker, but he is a butcher and a baker, and a grocer as well. The pork butchery came first, and his son, Alan, who is in the business with him at the bottom of Church Street, Rushden, is a fourth generation butcher.

Iliffe's, with its trio of interests, is a fascinating place, and many of the customers are surely lured in by the smell of newly-baked pies and bread, and sometimes piping hot faggots.

Tuesday is hot faggot day — no marks for guessing what half the local populace has at Tuesday dinner times. The faggots, made in large blocks and sold at 15p a pound, are made by Cliff, with lights and pigs' hearts. They are on sale from about 11.0 am. in time for the houswives coming out of the shoe factories to pick up on their way home. On other days faggots are available cold.

The pies made at Iliffe's are like home-made ones. They are not made in vast quantities, but enough are produced for their own customers, and they are sold fresh each day.

I found Mr Iliife senior with a mountain of pastry he had made, putting the finishing-touches to the latest batch of well-filled pies. There were chicken pies and steak pies big enough to serve five or six people, at 28½p, and half size ones at 16½p.

Texture

Their 1lb. pork pies are 28p and they make them up to 3½lb. They also make apple pies, sausage rolls and pastries. Recently they have been developing a service for freezer owners, making pies for deep freezing.

Shopping at a small family firm, one is made to feel that nothing is too much trouble. Several years ago, Cliff Iliffe frequently heard customers complaining of the lack of taste and rubbery texture of sliced wrapped bread from the multiple bakeries.

He had ovens in premises at the back of the shop for cooking hams and meat and baking pies. "Why not make bread here, too?" he thought.

It meant starting at five in the morning. "It's two hours from starting on it to getting it into the oven. You can't hurry bread," he said. They make enough for their own shop's requirements, but also make rolls for special orders—for anyone giving a party, for instance — and for Rushden and Higham Ferrers Rugby Club.

It is small firms like Iliffe's, producing comparatively small quantities of pies, that help retain a little individuality in what we eat.


The last pork butchers in Rushden. Mr Joe Iliffe was butler to the Sartoris family living at Rushden Hall. After serving in the First World War, Joe joined his wife’s family pork butchers business, Green’s, in Rushden High Street.

The Rushden Echo, 27th April, 1917, transcribed by Gill Hollis

Tradesman Wounded - Suffering from Trench Fever - Private J. Iliffe
News has been received that Pte. J. Iliffe, Inniskilling Fusiliers, a well-known pork butcher, of High-street, Rushden, is in East Dulwich Hospital, London, having been wounded and having contracted trench fever in action in France. He has almost recovered from his wound and is progressing well. Mr. Iliffe, who is 36 years of age, joined the forces last October and was sent out to France at the end of January this year. Previous to becoming a tradesman in High-street, Rushden, he was for 18 years butler at Rushden Hall for Mr. Hugh Sartoris.

About 1930, Florrie and Joe Iliffe branched out and bought their own business at 22 Church Street, where it continued as a family business until August 1985.



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