Posted: 06/03/2019

Tributes paid to “grande dame of British goats’ cheese”

Mary Holbrook made cheese, including Tymsboro and Cardo, for 40 years at her Somerset farm

Mary Holbrook’s contribution to British cheese was celebrated last month in a stream of tributes, following her death at the age of 80.

The Somerset goats’ cheese specialist passed away after a short illness, prompting heartfelt messages from chefs, food writers and cheese professionals.

“Mary was truly the grande dame of British goats’ cheese,” said Neal’s Yard Dairy buyer Bronwen Percival. “Her vision – not only for her unique cheeses, but also the careful management of her farm to promote soil health and biodiversity – was something she carried out quietly, but the impact of her ideas on the rest of the industry was monumental.”

Martin Gott, who made cheese for Holbrook while setting up his own business, also paid tribute. 

“Working alongside Mary at Sleight Farm was one of the greatest experiences of my life, an experience that changed me and my outlook irrevocably,” he said. “We lived together, worked together, cooked together and drank wine together, we laughed together, we talked, we argued (a fair bit), we disagreed (especially over geotrichum!) and we challenged each other.”

Holbrook made cheese for 40 years at her 200-acre farm, including Tymsboro and Cardo, using milk from her 100-strong herd of goats. 

She previously did a PhD in ancient history and archaeology and worked in museums in Germany and Bath. Holbrook’s husband, John, died around 15 years ago and there is no immediate family. However, the current staff will continue making cheese until a decision is made about the farm.

This story appeared in the March issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

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