2011 April feature on Parsons
In the second of our monthly features on independent shops and businesses in Sherborne, find out more about Sherborne’s family butcher shop, Parsons.
If we were in Wales, then Richard and Peter Baker would be known as Baker the Butcher, but in fact they are Baker from Parson the Farmer turned Butcher. Going back five generations, their great-great-great grandfather started selling meat from his farm and set up a butcher shop in Sherborne in 1840. Not many Sherborne shops can claim such a heritage!
As boys, Richard and Peter learned the business from an early age and picked up all of their knowledge as they grew, learning everything about the animals that provided the meat on sale. In their grandfather’s day, the animals were still slaughtered by the butcher at the back of the premises and meat would be cut from the whole animal according to the customers’ requests.
Richard and Peter have continued to provide their customers with top quality meat in the traditional way, using local suppliers and a local slaughter-house so that they know the exact origin of everything sold in the shop.
Richard explains that the major changes over the years happened in the early 1990s when supermarkets started packaging meat. “At this time, supermarkets made it convenient to pick up a small packet of pre-packaged meat while doing the rest of the shopping or on the way home when the other shops had closed. That meant butchers had to start investing in refrigerated display cases so that the meat was presented already cut in a more attractive way. Until then, you might have seen carcasses hanging along the wall or bigger pieces that were ready for cutting on request.”
The Baker brothers believe that there is room for both the big supermarket operators and the smaller independent butcher shops like Parsons. “Our business philosophy is based on personal service by knowledgeable staff who can cut any piece of meat according to the request,” adds Richard. “We also take all sorts of special orders – if you want pig’s trotters or ears, we can provide them, if you would like a rabbit, we’ll get you one. If you’re planning a big get-together and want a saddle of lamb, we can arrange it.”
Parsons creates its own products as well, most notably their home-made sausages which include Cumberland (with sage), Pork, Venison and very special Sherborne sausages according to their own secret recipe. As Parsons use locally sourced meat, the shop also reflects the changing seasons: Spring lamb at this time of year, pheasant and game in the autumn with venison from the Melbury estate and turkeys and geese at Christmas time, all the way from Glastonbury and East Coker respectively. Continuing the theme of local products, Parsons also offers other local delicacies: eggs, including duck eggs, and cheeses as well as honey produced by Richard’s own bees.
Parsons still offers the best traditions from the past, all served up by friendly, knowledgeable staff. There is a faithful clientele and a good future for this Sherborne landmark.