Dukeshill Ham - A Proud Pedigree

Aside from being descended from ten generations of butchers dating back to 1545 did I ever mention Neale Hollingsworth, proprietor of Dukeshill Ham happens to be related to the Marsh family of Marsh & Baxter fame?

Marsh & Baxter

Marsh & Baxter was famous for its York Hams, Wiltshire bacon, sausages and pork pies, held the Royal warrant for York Hams from the time of George V, and sold to Harrods.

It was founded by Alfred Marsh, Neale’s first cousin three times removed, who back in 1867 bought a pork butcher’s shop in the High Street, Brierley Hill. He went on to establish his ham curing and sausage manufacturing business in the shop and separate slaughtering facilities in Brierley Hill. Alfred Marsh died in 1918 but his family continued to expand and also absorb a number of smaller firms, eventually becoming a large processing business with new ‘state of the art’ facilities for the time.

Harris Bacon

One of the acquisitions was a stake in Harris Bacon, another famous meat producer. Harris Bacon was the chief employer in Calne in Wiltshire during the late 19th and 20th Centuries. The Harris family ceased to control the firm during the economic slump in the 1920s, and in 1925 some of the shares were acquired by Ernest Marsh of Marsh and Baxter.

Fatstock Marketing Corporation/Hillsdown Holdings

Marsh & Baxter was taken over in 1962 by FMC (Fatstock Marketing Corporation) and then by Hillsdown Holdings. Sadly they focused on maximising profit, and the Marsh & Baxter factory closed in December 1978 with the loss of a substantial number of jobs. Hillsdown switched to producing processed “ham” taking 24-48 hours to produce. The traditional, slow cured, genuine English hams made from whole legs were no longer considered viable by the business.


However before its demise the original founder of Dukeshill, George Morley (Neale’s fourth cousin and son of Joan Marsh) joined Marsh & Baxter and became a Director. When the company closed its doors George decided to set up Dukeshill Ham from his farmhouse kitchen in Shropshire. It was here that George recreated the Wiltshire, York and Bradenham Hams (which he re-named the Shropshire Black Ham) made to the exact Marsh & Baxter original recipes.

In 1997 Neale and I bought Dukeshill from George and remained based at his farm until our move to our new premises in 2005, which has seen several expansions, the most recent a third warehouse facility just this November to house our ever growing hamper and gift range. The hams are still made to the exact same, original recipes.

Whilst time has marched on, here at Dukeshill we take pride in producing everything by hand the old fashioned way. Our highly skilled workforce are key to this and the team is justifiably proud of everything we produce. Although the settings pictured below are a little out of date our sentiments and advice are the same as in the following pages, taken from a Marsh & Baxter brochure circa 1950. Elegant times!