Matthew Steeples discovers the truth about the origins of the Gressingham duck
I grew up in North Lancashire and spent much time in the Lune Valley. Here, I was regularly told, in the 12th century village of Gressingham, a staple of the menus many English restaurants and the most common farmed duck had originated: the Gressingham duck.
Recently, whilst chatting to a restaurateur, the subject of Gressingham duck came up for some bizarre reason. When I told him of the bird’s Lancastrian origins, he firmly disputed this and told me that they were actually of East Anglian extraction.
Having chatted with several other foodies, they, equally, were of his opinion. After then having spotted it on yet another restaurant menu last week, I decided I simply had to establish the true origin of this bird before I went, excuse the pun, quackers.
A Google search didn’t come up with a great deal but it did produce the required evidence. As I believed, he Gressingham duck was first bred in Gressingham, Lancashire in 1980 by crossing a Pekin duck with a wild mallard.
The result was a succulent, tender bird with a high breast meat yield and a gamey flavour. Of it Delia Smith comments: “It’s the very best type of duck available… Because of it’s smaller frame, [it gives] more meat.”
A Suffolk based couple named Maurice and Miriam Buchanan began rearing and processing Gressingham ducks in 1989 and then bought the exclusive rights to breed them in 1996. Their company, Green Label Foods, now Gressingham Foods, are now the only firm licensed to produce the “Gressingham Duck®” and now employ over 500 people on their farms in East Anglia.
Separately in my Google search I also discovered that the main house in the village of Gressingham has recently come to the market through agents Fine & Country. 7-bedroomed Gressingham Hall, a Grade II* listed 17th century former farmhouse comes complete with 3 reception rooms, a Jacobean staircase and 10 acres of grounds.
A price of £1,350,000 is sought for Gressingham Hall whilst a separate cottage across the drive, Garden Cottage, has a guide price of £350,000. Whoever purchases it had better had get a Gressingham Duck® in the oven for their first night in residence.
Gressingham Hall, Gressingham, Lancaster, LA2 8LP is for sale through Fine & Country, 19 Castle Hill, Lancaster, LA1 1YN. Telephone: +44 (0) 1524 380560. View a brochure for Gressingham Hall at: http://media1.fineandcountry.com/v3/clients/171/properties/50018185/MED_50018185_50031560.pdf
For more details about Gressingham Duck® and Gressingham Foods, go to: http://www.gressinghamduck.co.uk
I also found that Wikipedia did not answer the question – Who developed the Gressingham duck?
Every article leaves out the name of the Lancashire pioneer who had the great idea, and mentions only the Suffolk farmers who commercialised the duck.
Surely someone in Gressingham can give the original breeders their due?