MUSK & Co. Butchers
Musk’s Butchers shop in Newmarket High Street in the early 1900’s and in 1950’s. The premises are now occupied by the Nationwide Building Society.
James Musk was born in Stetchworth in 1860. His father, Robert Musk had been a farmer and the landlord of The King’s Head Dullingham and by past accounts was a well-respected local figure. He died 1n 1891.
In 1884 James married Mrs Elizabeth Drake who had been widowed and left with three sons and a daughter.
Both parties by this time had experience in the butchery trade and at the time of her marriage Elizabeth was running two butcher’s shops, one in Stetchworth, and one in Market Street, Newmarket. As a Master Butcher James took over the business, a union that must have been a relief for the hard-pressed Elizabeth.
Trade prospered and in 1905 they moved to the premises in the High Street which was to bear the Musks name until 1979, when the shop closed. Unfortunately, James Musk died of pneumonia in December of that year, shortly after the move to the new shop. He is buried at Dullingham. Once again Elizabeth had to take on responsibility for running the business, but she had the support of her sons.
With Elizabeth’s advancing years the management of Musks fell to her eldest son, Louis Frederick who had married Agnes (Gilbert). The marriage produced four sons, Louis Gilbert, William Edward (Ted), Vivien, Jack and a daughter Vera. Once again fate took a hand and their father Louis Frederick died in 1928, followed by the death of their grandmother Elizabeth in 1930. Agnes now found herself the matriarch at their Stetchworth home, Ivy House Farm.
The Drake brothers took the business forward, although after WWII Ted decided to emigrate to Canada.
Musk & Co., Family Butchers, had acquired a reputation for quality as suppliers of sausages and the business gained prestige by receiving Royal warrants. The first of these came in 1907 from the Prince of Wales (later George V) but they were renewed with subsequent monarchs, right up to the present Queen Elizabeth II.
The actual ingredients that set Musk’s sausages apart were kept a closely guarded secret but it was said that their unique flavour came largely from the special blend of spices that had been devised by Jim and Elizabeth Musk. A delivery of sausages was regularly sent by train to the Royal Household in London and to Balmoral, when the Royals were in residence there. On race days Musks did particularly well with many racegoers taking a pound or two of their favourite breakfast dish home with them.
Those were the days when many villages had their own slaughter houses, and so it was at Stetchworth where Musks had pigs brought in from their regular farm suppliers, to be turned into sausages and other pork products. Louis, Jack and Reg Human served in the shop with Vi (Vera) carrying out the duties of cashier.
John Woollard, who lived in Stetchworth in the 1940s, well remembers ‘Auntie Agnes’ mixing up the spices on a sheet of The Daily Telegraph, spread out on the kitchen table at Ivy House Farm. The spices were delivered to the Newmarket shop by van, where the sausages were produced.
The Drakes were a well know local family and Louis was organist at Woodditton and other local churches for many years during the twenties and thirties.
Peter Norman has pointed out an anomaly in that these images show the building as having 3 storeys up to 1947 at least, only two by about 1955.
In 1979 the Drake family relinquished the business which was sold by auction together with the Musk sausage recipe to Amanda Clarke. She put in a manageress, Mrs Heather Waddilove, at a delicatessen in the Rookery shopping centre, where it remained until the turn of the century.
In the early 90’s the Earl of Ronaldshay purchased the business and it was while under his ownership that the factory opened in the Goodwin Business Park, Newmarket, where it continues to the present day.
In 1999 the present owner, Chris Sheen, bought the business. He admits that at the time he had no experience in the butchery trade but having tasted the sausages he was convinced that he could make it a success. Ryan Human, Reg Human’s son, was still employed as sausage maker.
Under Chris’s management Musk’s sausages continue to thrive, introducing new varieties of the basic Musk sausage and negotiating contracts with well-known supermarkets. Chris explains that running the business is much more complicated than the old days owing to the need to comply with strict EEC certification and restrictions as to where the sausages are allowed to be sold.
Musk’s is one the oldest surviving business names in Newmarket. Nowadays people still travel long distances to visit the town in order to stock up on their favourite brand. The sausages are seen on supermarket shelves, on restaurant menus and in many other outlets, a different world to the small village butchers of well over a century ago.
Chris Sheen, the present owner of Musks, who has supplied much background information about the business as it was and is now. Musk’s website is at www.musks.com
David Rippington who has done much detailed research into the Musk and Drake family which can be viewed on David’s Newmarket Shops website see http://www.newmarketshops.info/No.49-51_High_Street.html
Jeff Fenton who has researched the history of Ivy House Farm and has many other details about the family. See http://newmarketsausages.blogspot.co.uk
Roger Newman who has once again provided pictures from his large postcard collection.
John Woollard when a boy in the 1940s lived in Stetchworth and through his mother had a family relationship with the Drakes.
Joe Moore who researched some 19th century records of the Musk family living in Dullingham.
John Theobold who has lived in Stetchworth for many years and well remembers the Drake family.
It should be noted that the title ‘Newmarket Sausages’ is not the sole copyright of Musks. Powters Newmarket butchers also have a long history of sausage making and have their own recipe that may well have some common ancestry with Musks.
In 2012 the title ‘Newmarket Sausage’ was granted a PGI (Protected Geographical Indicator) and in order to meet this standard sausages have to be manufactured in a defined area. Musks, Powters and Tennants butchers all qualify under the PGI rule and all three belong to The Newmarket Sausage Association that has a website at http://www.newmarketsausage.com
Since this article was published information has come to light from research carried out by NLHS member David Rippington, throwing light on the origin of Newmarket Sausages.
The following is from The Department for the Environment’s definition of the PGI rules applicable to Newmarket Sausages.
“The first reference to Newmarket and sausages dates specifically to 19th November 1618 when James I was visiting the area. He held a banquet to celebrate the 18th birthday of his son Charles (later King Charles I) described in a letter from the Chamberlain to Sir Dudley Charleton; “The king brought a great chine of beef, the Marquis of Hamilton four pigs incircled (sic) with sausages, the Earl of Southampton two turkies, another six partridges, and one a whole tray full of buttered eggs so all passed of pleasantly.
The Marquis of Hamilton, a Scottish nobleman would have obtained the sausages locally, there being no means of refrigeration in those days. The Newmarket Sausage is inextricably linked to the races. They were sold as a quick hot snack to eat at the races and in the various hostelries during the racing season. Race-goers also bought them to take home after the event.”
It appears too that that the time of the famed 19th century Newmarket trainers, the Dawson brothers, it was common practice to keep pigs at racing stables.
“The sausage evolved from the pig-keeping tradition associated with horse racing stables, where pigs were kept to graze on stable scraps and keep racing yards free of debris.”