Thirty Years of the Gloucestershire Old Spots Pig Breeders’ Club
1990 In 1990 there was in existence the Berkshire Breeders’ Club but no other. The NPBA (now BPA) at that time were somewhat indifferent towards the rare/traditional breeds and thus Richard Lutwyche called a meeting of the leading breeders of GOS at Gloucester Cattle Market in 1990. About 10 people attended including George Styles, Andrew Robinson, Geoffrey Cloke, Gordon Cullimore, Gabriel Dudley and Charles Russell. It was agreed to form a GOS Club to promote the breed, (see constitution re full remit), and a committee was formed to establish it. Debra Lang was elected Secretary, George Styles, President, Andrew Robinson, Chairman, Ray Sims, Vice-Chairman, Richard Lutwyche as Treasurer, Charles Russell as Newsletter editor. Committee members included Geoffrey Cloke and Gordon Cullimore.
A quick count up at the meeting resulted in an estimate of a potential membership of 36 people! It was agreed that those joining in 1990 would be known as Founder Members and we actually recruited 70 of them. Quite a few are still members today. A Constitution was put together and agreed.
1991 Within a year, Debra had resigned through ill health and Richard Lutwyche took over as Secretary and Gabriel Dudley became Treasurer. Charles Russell produced one newsletter (March 1991) after which it became the Secretary’s job to produce them on a regular basis.
1992 One of the first ‘initiatives’ was to offer Club Best of Breed rosettes to all shows willing to stage classes for pedigree GOS pigs. The Club also took on responsibility for organising the Champion of Champions which is officially a BPA competition. By March 1992 we had introduced the promotional breed leaflet made available to all members who had by then reached 92.
1993 In 1993, the Club began card grading all entries at the RBST Show & Sale at Stoneleigh, the first pig breed to do so. In April that year it organised its first workshop on showing at Clevedon, Bristol. Later that year, Princess Anne who keeps a small herd of GOS at GatcombePark, agreed to become an Honorary Member. At the end of the year, the Club published a leaflet explaining the breed’s Cyclic Breeding System which was circulated to all members.
1994 In 1994 Geoffrey Cloke took over as Chairman. A workshop was held at Clevedon on Marketing the End Product which coincided with the beginnings of the RBST’s Traditional Breeds Meat Marketing Scheme. Indeed, the first Accredited Butcher was recruited at the workshop where he was a speaker. In April, Andrew Robinson held a major reduction sale of his herd during a period of economic hardship in the industry. The Club issued a press release about the dangers to the breed and it was picked up and published in Country Living magazine among others. A charitable foundation contacted the RBST and offered a sizeable donation (several thousand pounds) for the purpose of buying some of the pigs and placing them in existing herds. This meant that Geoffrey Cloke, on behalf of the RBST, was able to bid for a number of pigs which were then placed on agistment agreements with various herds around the country.
A few days before the sale, a phone call was received from Gatcombe Park stating that the Princess Royal was interested in buying Andrew’s boar, Foston Sambo 21 which was Royal Show champion and Champion of Champions in 1993 and asked that the Club bid on her behalf. Geoffrey Cloke agreed and Richard Lutwyche went back to the Secretary to clarify what expenditure limits might prevail. She didn’t know and couldn’t reach the Princess. Lutwyche explained that normally such a boar might sell for 200gns but if several buyers were interested, bidding could go as high as 600gns. She had been given no ceiling and somewhat nervously told him to go ahead. The bidding was lively and it soon became apparent that Geoffrey Cloke and one other were vying to buy the boar. The price quickly went over 200gns and the 600gns and then over 1000. Two thousand and then three thousand were reached and surpassed and Richard Lutwyche started signalling to Geoffrey Cloke to stop. Eventually he did and the boar sold to the Prison Service for 4000 guineas, a British record acknowledged in the Guinness Book of Records. Geoffrey Cloke bought another nice boar – a Patrick – for the Princess for 600gns.
In the summer, the Club organised its first breed show at Hartpury, Glos.
1995 In 1995 the Club organised a competition through the pages of Country Living magazine to come up with a new pig-related saying. Country Living told us that we might get 250 entries but as it was a creative competition, it might only be 100. In the end 377 had to be judged by RWF (Willy) Poole, the writer, Lord Barber of Tewkesbury, President of the RBST and Geoffrey Cloke. The winner was adjudged to be ‘Beauty is in the Sty of the Beholder’. Ten runners-up also won prizes and the Club achieved considerable publicity.
The Club organised a show and workshop at the Cotswold Farm Park.
1996 In 1996 the Club organised two major breed displays at museums in Gloucestershire – 25 May-21 July at Northleach Countryside Collection and 27 July-8 September at Gloucester Folk Museum. It also organised a shipment of 20 unrelated pigs from 3 herds in Devon (the Uglow family), Gloucestershire (Jonathan Crump) and Worcestershire (George Styles) to America to re-establish the breed there. Geoffrey Cloke and Richard Lutwyche selected the pigs and helped the breeders to establish isolation units for the period of several months whilst the pigs underwent various veterinary tests before being shipped across the Atlantic from Heathrow.
Another show & workshop was organised at the Cotswold Farm Park. The Club was involved in selecting a GOS gilt for Joanna Trollope the novelist to give to the Prince of Wales as a birthday present. However, it sadly did not lead to the establishment of a GOS herd at Highgrove where they prefer Tamworths and Large Blacks.
1997 April 1997 saw the first breed sale organised by the Club at Ledbury cattle market in Herefordshire. All 44 pigs entered sold with a top price of 300gns. Another show and workshop was held at the Cotswold Farm Park.
1998 In 1998 the sale was repeated with a larger entry and whilst not every lot entered sold, some very good prices were achieved with a top price of 330gns. A show and workshop were again organised at the Cotswold Farm Park.
1999 1999 saw the launch of the GOS Pig of the Year competition based on an accumulation of points from shows throughout the season with a cup given by Judith Sims. Also North of England and South of England Championships with trophies presented by George Styles and Jim Sherriff respectively. The show and workshop moved to the Autumn Exhibition at the East of England showground. The Club launched its own website. A third Spring Show & Sale was organised at Ledbury but prices were disappointing with a top price of just 105gns.
The Club sponsored a boar at AI at Masterbreeders to ensure that the facility was always available since the RBST had cut back on the service they offered. The Club commenced a programme to secure protection for GOS pork and bacon throughout Europe by employing a consultant to put together a proposal.
2000 In 2000, Masterbreeders went into liquidation and the Club transferred the AI boar to JSR at Selby. The Club sponsored an initiative to export a group of pigs to Northern Ireland to help re-establish the breed there with some fresh blood. The last Show & Sale took place at Ledbury before the market was redeveloped. All pigs forward sold well with a top price of 400gns. Some later shows were disrupted by an outbreak of Swine Fever in East Anglia.
2001 2001 was dominated by the Foot & Mouth epidemic which curtailed all activities. A small number of Club members had their herds slaughtered.
2002 In 2002, once movements were resumed, the Club removed the boar from JSR where charges for feed and management had been maintained throughout the outbreak with no possibility of semen being distributed. Richard Lutwyche resigned as Secretary and was replaced by Carol Knights. In September, a farm visit was organised at Wick Court, Glos.
2003 2003 saw the publication of Rare Breed Pig Keeping, a 68 page book featuring a number of essays taken from Spot Press. Sales of the book quickly took off. Geoffrey Cloke was replaced by Dave Overton as Chairman and took over as President while George Styles became the Club’s Patron. The Club held a breed show within Stroud Show. A second social event was held in Lincolnshire.
2004 In 2004, Geoffrey Cloke retired due to ill health and Judith Sims was elected President. A second breed show took place at Stroud Show. Geoffrey Cloke died in August.
2005 In 2005 the Club introduced free public liability cover for members whilst showing in the UK. A Forum section was introduced onto the website to encourage members to converse on line and advertise pigs for sale.
2006 In 2006 the Club joined with Cotswold Sheep and Gloucester Cattle to hold a successful breed sale at Cirencester under the Breeds of Gloucestershire banner.
2007 In 2007 Carol Knights resigned as Secretary and Richard Lutwyche returned to the role. Dave Overton gave way to Andrew Robinson who also came back for a second term of being Chairman of the Club. Stephen Booth was elected Treasurer. The Club held a successful Workshop at Shuttleworth College in Bedfordshire by kind invitation of Guy Kiddy. The second Breeds of Gloucestershire Show & Sale was rudely interrupted by the Foot & Mouth outbreak in Surrey which also disrupted the later shows. All pigs already at the market managed to get home safely after an emergency evacuation after the news broke. Following a much overdue response from the EU Commission on the Club’s ongoing application for Traditional Speciality Guaranteed status for GOS pigmeat throughout Europe, the Club sought sponsorship of £10,000 and then arranged for Bristol University to undertake scientific analysis of GOS and commercial pork in an effort to finally secure some protection.
2008 2008 kicked off with a report that one of the major supermarkets – Waitrose – was selling GOS bacon. Investigation – including DNA analysis at a laboratory in Ireland and covert photography of the pigs in question – soon revealed that the product was the result of using AI from GOS boars on commercial gilts. A meeting with Waitrose management followed but failed to persuade them to label the produce more honestly. The Club involved other bodies and got the support of two MPs – Tony Baldry, a member, and Geoffrey Clinton-Brown and with their advice, approached the body that advised Trading Standards Officers on what was acceptable. After some protracted negotiations, LACORS eventually changed their guidance to cover the situation and it was published in January 2009. Waitrose changed their packaging no fewer than four times during the period to a version that was much more acceptable to the Club since it was obvious that it was not purporting to be purebred GOS.
In May we were alerted to a company registering Trade Marks for Bramley Old Spot pigs and pork. The Club engaged the services of specialist patent lawyers in an effort to get the TMs rejected.
In August, the third Show & Sale took place at Cirencester with a strong demand and good prices achieved, 580gns being the top bid.
2009 The Bramley Old Spot situation continued but later in the year, the Trade Mark for Bramley Old Spot pigs was rejected after a hearing. Efforts continue to have the other marks overturned.
In April the Club changed its policy of simply holding an AGM at Stoneleigh to incorporating a farm visit as a Members’ Day and the first was held at Daylesford Organic Farm in Gloucestershire. Later that month, Stephen and Steph Booth hosted a successful workshop at their farm in Cheshire aimed at informing breeders how to interpret standards and encouraging showing.
In June, the Club’s Patron, George Styles, died aged 83. The Club invited HRH The Princess Royal to become its new Patron and she agreed.
The last Royal Show was held at Stoneleigh with a better turnout of GOS pigs. Andrew Robinson was tempted out of showing retirement and won both the Breed Championship and the GOS Champion of Champions with Foston Ellen 83.
In October, the EU Commission eventually accepted the TSG application for Traditionally Farmed Gloucestershire Old Spots Pork and it was published in the Official Journal for a period of six months while other member states have the opportunity to raise queries or objections.
2010- In June an announcement was made by Secretary of State at Defra, Caroline Spelman at the Royal Three Counties Show that Traditionally Farmed Gloucestershire Old Spots Pork had been granted Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) status by the EU commission. Only the second such award in the UK. In July HRH Princess Anne visited the Great Yorkshire Show and awarded the TSG certificate to club President David Overton.
The AGM was held at Ludlow Food Centre in Shropshire by the Earl of Plymouth Estates.
Club Secretary Richard Lutwyche was awarded the Derek Cooper Award given for changing public perception on on food related issues by the BBC’s Food & Farming Awards at the BBC Good Food Show in Novemeber. –
2011 – The AGM moved to Rutland at the kind invitation of the Earl of Gainsborough and members were able to see his GOS herd and his Limousin cattle herd.
The Princess Freda line came perilously close to extinction and the club arranged with Elizabeth Hurley to breed from her sow and three gilts were retained which joined the Winterwood herd of Judith Sims. The BPA Breed survey later that year showed a revival in both the Freda and Primrose lines thanks to club initiatives.
The club was successful in its action against Axle Associates which resulted in their Bramley Old Spot trademark being withdrawn. The club was awarded costs but the owners of Bramley Old Spots took steps to wind up the company to get out of paying them and to date has not paid anything to the club.
2012 –The pig world lost one of its great champions upon the death of Nick Hunkin in March who would be sadly missed at the coming years shows.
GOS pigs featured on a new set of stamps issued by Royal Mail in April.
The AGM moved to the Somerset home of the Winterwood herd kindly invited by Judith Sims. A sausage competition was held judged by Gary Wallace, an experienced rare breed butcher. Sally Lugg from Cornwall was judged overall winner.
Judith Sims also won a special one off trophy awarded for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee for the most points gained at the Royal Three Counties Show.
The club agreed to market Canadian sourced Tattooing pliers as choice in the UK was limited. They offer larger characters(14mm) and are chisel pointed which helps make the tattoo much more likely to take and last longer.
2013 – The breed celebrated its centenary in some style with a Grand Tea Party attended by HRH Princess Anne, an exhibition in Gloucester museum, a turn out of over 70 GOS pigs at Royal Three Counties and a dinner. See http://old.gospbc.co.uk/celebrating-the-centenary/
A new website and facebook page moved the club forward into the social media age allowing for more member participation and helped the club maintain its position of having the best such website around.
2014 – After the non appearance of Spot Press issues it was suggested that the club placed too much burden on the Secretary and it was suggested some of the workload be redistributed amongst the other members of the committee. Richard Lutwyche chose to resign entirely with Marlene Renshaw taking on the role of Acting Secretary and Mandy Garbutt taking on editorship of Spot Press.
Judith Sim’s Ampneyknowle Princess Freda won the prestigious Interbreed competition at Royal Three Counties in June. A remarkable achievement given the strong competition of modern breeds and in July David Overton was presented at the Great Yorkshire Show with an award for his long service and dedication to the breed.
HRH Princess Anne agreed to continue as club Patron for another five years.
The online shop and merchandising side of the club was suspended due to operational difficulties.
2015 – Kicked off with the AGM at Jonathan Crump’s in Gloucestershire. The AGM was held in the local village hall with a lovely lunch to follow ably arranged by Jonathan’s wife Annabel of GOS ham provided by the Lightfoot family. A trailer tour of Jonathan’s farm to see his Gloucester cattle and pigs followed. A presentation was made to Richard Lutwyche in his absence for his 25 years service to the club.
A busy show season saw Mike Smith’s Cosscoombe Primrose crowned Champion of Champions and his Cosscoombe Princess winning the Southern Championship. Whitley’s Birchfield Bluebell 402 secured the Northern title.
In August club member Teresa Cook held an event at her pub in Snape, Suffolk complete with a fabulous mural in the marquee. Members enjoyed trying their hand at pig showing.
In October the club ventured to North Yorkshire for lunch and a look around the Fowgill herd. The pizza oven was lit and members enjoyed good weather for early autumn. Members saw pigs scanned using a hand held monitor system and met Gerry the ‘oldest’ GOS boar known at 11yrs old. Club President Judith Sims cut a GOS cake and Andrew Robinson was presented with a framed image of his prize boar Foston sambo 21 for his 25 years service to the club.
Areas of the website were revamped and updated. It was decided that the Club shop would remain closed.
2016 – Saw a successful year for GOS pigs in the show ring. Birchfield Bluebell 402 owned by the Whitley family from Harrogate was crowned Champion of Champions by Judge Guy KIddy at the Great Yorkshire Show alongside Teresa Cooks Millfields Princess 144 from Suffolk being chosen as Best Traditional Female Pig of the Year.
The Breed survey showed a healthy 206 breeders of GOS pigs with 1053 sows counted but frustratingly 300 females showed no birth noted litters
2017- The RBST put the GOS back on the ‘At Risk Register’ after sow numbers plummeted to just over 700 sows with only 416 with birth noted progeny, this was partly due to the demise of the large M&S herd which was included in previous survey figures by the BPA.
Andrew Robinson, Janice Wood and Mandy Garbutt resigned from committee. Spring and Summer Spot Press were produced by Janice Wood and Marlene Renshaw.
The AGM was held at Solitare Farm in Bedfordshire at the kind invitation of Mrs Mrs Guy Kiddy and a Henson Pig Trail led by Countryfile’s Adam Henson was held in Gloucestershire featuring 21 painted character GOS pigs for people to follow to help promote the breed.
2018 – This was a poor year for the Club after committee now reduced to just seven failed to recruit new officers, it was decided to reduce Spot Press to twice a year and Club membership dropped to just 140. Only one committee meeting was held all year. Mandy Garbutt offered to take the helm of Spot Press once again.
Andrew Robinson stepped down as BPA breed Rep and Mike Smith took his place alongside Judith Sims.
The Champion Of Champions contest at the Malvern Autumn Show in September and was won my Malcolm Hicks Windmill Princess 60.
The breed survey showed just 185 GOS breeders though both sow and boar numbers were marginally up on the previous year.
2019 Following further committee members taking a back seat over winter 2018/19 the GOSPBC appeared to be heading directionless. In February 2019 it was felt that action needed to be taken to secure the ongoing business and administration of the Club. After consulting the Constitution what remained of the committee gathered at Stoneleigh and HVP Richard Lutwyche agreed to preside as Acting Chairman with Teresa Cook and Mandy Garbutt co-opted onto committee with Marlene Renshaw and Mike and Jane Smith who were present and Judith Sims, Guy Kiddy and Martin and Sarah Whitley who were not.
Spot Press was put back to its a original quarterly issues and the website was refurbished with a fresh new look.
A butchery workshop was held in Surrey and the AGM went to Suffolk and both were deemed a good success.
A false swine dysentery scare cancelled the pig classes at the GYS and many shows on the Northern circuit.
The breed survey showed the GOS holding steady at 702 sows and 146 boars and no lines in single digits.
2020 A year that saw the United Kingdom closed down. In order to keep members informed the Club started monthly Covid Catch Up emails and it was among the first bodies to put Defra and BPA paperwork on-line to enable pig keepers to continue about their business during the crisis. Spot Press was printed during periods of relaxation of the lockdowns and featured some of our members experiences of the crisis and how they had coped and had to adapt to new trading conditions.
Sow numbers slumped to 568 with 123 boars and only 141 registered breeders. The lowest since 2001 although all lines remained in double figures both Star and Muriel looked precarious.
2021 As the Covid pandemic continues the Club endeavours to keep members informed, the monthly catch ups continue as does the production of Spot Press.
Defra launched the Protected Food Names logos to replace the EU TSG designations and we wait to see how this will work in practice.
Spot Press marked its 30th year of production, Breeder packs were introduced for members to use when selling weaners and stock to introduce new entrants to both the Club and the BPA. Relations were re-established with our sister organisation Gloucestershire Old Spots of America and we held an AGM by Zoom. Mandy Garbutt took over the reins as Secretary when Marlene Renshaw decided to retire from the role.
The breed survey showed 638 sows and 138 boars but only 58% of sows with birth noted progeny. Worryingly the Rufus boar line had dropped to just 22 and the total of registered breeders to 133.