Higginsons, Grange-over-Sands' award winning butcher
PUBLISHED: 00:15 12 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:52 20 February 2013
They met in Australia but Stuart and Pauline Higginson couldn't wait to get home and now run one of the country's best butchers right here in Lancashire. Emma Mayoh reports
Stuart Higginson travelled a long way for a Lancashire pork pie. Hed spent ten years living in Australia but the thought of never sinking his teeth into one of the jelly-filled delicacies was too much to bear.
Id only gone on a 12 month working holiday and I ended up staying for ten years, explained the jolly 60-year-old butcher, who doesnt seem to have lost his Lancashire accent during his time down under. I was a 22-year-old living in Grange and I wanted more. It was somewhere Id always wanted to go, so I went.
I met my wife there, we started a family but, in the end, I just got too homesick. I missed my family back in England, I missed the seasons and I really missed having a decent pork pie.
Stuart, who had worked in two of the butchers in Grange-over-Sands since he was 14, took his pursuit to heart. Looking at the traditional shop, youd think it had been a part of the community for decades. But it wasnt until 1983 that he and Weymouth-born wife Pauline set up Higginsons of Grange in the town centre. It had originally been the hairdressers shop Stuart went to as a child. They opened for business just two weeks after Pauline had given birth to their third child, Lisa. Friend Jim Proctor, and former colleague, agreed to work with the couple. Stuarts family, too, including mum, Jessie, dad, Norman, and brothers Nigel and Don all pitched in to get the shop off the ground.
Stuart admitted: Weve only just been able to retire my mum. Shes been a massive help since we started up. Shes a trained baker and she used to make black pudding for us too and dad did the books.
It was a busy time but when youre young, you dont notice it as much. We just got on with it. The office Im sat in was our bedroom and I remember thinking everything was pokey compared to Australia. But I was so glad to be home.
Stuart learned his trade as a boy working for Asplins Butchers, no longer open, as well as picking up other skills with sheep shearing teams and butchers in Australia. He looks after the butchery and food sourcing side of the business and Pauline, a trained cook, comes up with the recipes and makes their tasty pies, many of which are award-winning. They also have staff who help with new recipes for sausages and other produce.
Much of the meat is locally sourced including Holker Salt Marsh Lamb, Cumberland Sausage and hams from his Grange neighbour, Marion Clarke, who has a smallholding. Stuart also has around 40 rare breed Saddleworth and Tamworth cross pigs on his smallholding which he rears for stock - something he describes as a hobby. Goose and turkey come from Fylde farmer, Richard Smith. Beef, including Caledonian, comes from a little further afield as does his Ayrshire bacon.
Weve got all this great food right on our doorstep and we wanted to make the best use of that. But some things I go further afield for because its so good.
Stuart is the perfect ambassador for regional food and his home town. Just the week before we met he filmed a lesson on how to make the perfect Cumberland sausage for the Japanese tourist industry. The many awards the butchers have won have come thick and fast too, including the award for Britains Best Butcher from the prestigious Q Guild which he describes as one of his proudest moments.
We were invited down to London for the ceremony and we didnt have a clue that we were going to win, remember Stuart. When they said we were Britains Best Butcher the whole room stood up and cheered, we couldnt believe it. We were so overwhelmed. It was a very proud moment.
Weve been here for 27 years and hopefully well be here for a lot more. I love what we do here and I love the people. Yes, weve had a lot of awards but its not just about that. We just both love being in Grange doing something we love.