Cosgrove Pig Club & Keeping Pigs in Cosgrove

The Cosgrove Village Hall Conveyance dated 15th November 1948 mentions names and address of Representatives. Jack Johnson, Bridge Road, Cosgrove was listed as the representative of the Committee of the Cosgrove Pig Club on the original conveyance from Captain P Y Atkinson .

Keeping Pigs in Cosgrove

In England, pig keeping was designed to keep a family fed throughout the year. In Bridge Road, in Cosgrove, we know that this art was continued until the early 1950’s, only stopped by changes to Health and Safety regulations, increased family income and the rise of the supermarket.

Gardens in Bridge Road, especially once the council houses were built from 1932, were very long, which enabled people to keep livestock far enough away from the houses. Families like the Tompkins’s and the Holmans kept a variety of animals for food, but the most valued were pigs. The Pig Club  supported home pig care by allowing pig fodder (like pig potatoes and barley meal) to be bought in bulk, and by swapping advice and selling young pigs on, as well as renting out a boar for “servicing”.

Families in Cosgrove bred their own pigs, and the Holmans, with a larger garden, had ten pigs and their young at one time. A pig could feed a family once it was around a year old. There was a tradition that you should only eat pork when there was an R in the month, so we know that slaughtering was usually done in the autumn.

Alf Smith, a Cosgrove man who lived at the Dog’s Mouth, and who was Cynthia Smith's father in law, was the butcher who was booked to come to houses needing pigs killing. Straw was spread in the back yard in an open space, and the pig was stunned with a gun and then its throat was cut. The blood was saved for black pudding. The straw was set on fire and the pig was singed on both sides to burn off the bristles.

The copper was already boiling water, which was used to scald the pig and then every part of it was scrubbed clean. It was then hauled to an outbuilding which had iron hooks in the ceiling. The pig was hung, and its belly sliced down to take out the offal. This was a delicacy saved to be wrapped in the “leaf”, a caul of fat from the pig, and faggots were made which were favourites with everyone.

The pig’s head was divided into two halves, and boiled in a big pan with herbs till the meat fell off the bone. It was set to cool in enamel bowls in its own jelly, making brawn – another real treat when it was turned out upside down.

The butcher divided the carcase into sections – two hams, two hocks, two shoulders, and two sides. These hams and sides were laid in a wooden trough lined with lead, which was called the “salting lead”. The knucklebones of the hams had crosses cut into them to rub in saltpetre to help the curing, and all the pieces were covered in salt. The pork was basted every day with the brine – which was John Holman’s chore as a boy.

It took up to eight weeks to cure the meat. After that each piece was hung in a muslin bag with a hole in the bottom, up on the kitchen wall. There would be the two hams on one wall and the two sides of bacon on the other. If cured meat was needed the muslin would be lifted and the amount required would be cut off, lasting right through the winter.

Even the pig’s manure came in handy – a stack of it would be layered with soil and cucumbers and marrows would be sown in the top. The plants sprawled all over the place and produced magnificent vegetables.

Only the pig’s squeak would be left, so they said………..