My (re)search for Saxelby Stilton

Arguably New Zealand most famous cheese, and the most unknown.

John and Betsy Saxelby and their six children arrived in New Zealand from Kings Norton, near Birmingham, early in the 1880s. John a farmer, and Betsy a classified maker of cottage cheeses, set to making Stilton in their cheese factory at Roslyn Bush, Invercargill. Farmers were paid 3&½ d per gallon for their raw shorthorn milk, a much better price than butter. As a result, a Stilton operation was suggested for trial in Taranaki.

Milk was left to acidify in it’s own time, the addition of whey starter was used by some if acidification of make moving too slowly.

Stilton cheese is principally made in small dairies of from six to ten cows. The milk is “run” at a low temperature – from 74 to 78 Fahr.: the application of hot water or steam is dispensed with. The curds and whey are first dropped into a strainer, and the whey is drawn off until the curd is formed into a cake. This is often allowed to remain for twenty-four hours, then broken small, and salted during the process of being placed in a mould. It continues in the mould until it is firm enough to stand – about eight or ten days – being turned every day. It is then removed from the mould, and the outside is scraped to fill up the cavities and render it smooth. A piece of cheese-cloth is pinned round the cheese, and it is removed into a temperature of not less than 70 Fahr. No external pressure is used for Stilton cheese. In about five or six months the blue veins begin to appear, and the prime Stilton is ready for market.

taken from ‘The Manufacture of Cheese, Butter and Bacon in New Zealand’ 1883

Whether Saxelby Stilton was made in the same way I’m yet to find out, Betsy Saxelby’s cheesemaking records are said to be knocking about somewhere in an Invercargill collection somewhere. I’ve contacted every provincial archive and museum in New Zealand. I suspect the treasure I seek is in a family private collection.

The cheese won many certificates, medals and trophies, often due to being the only cheese entered in it class. It was also proclaimed that Saxelby’s Stilton was ‘better stilton cheese than was being made in England’.  Saxelby Stilton was exported around the world, it popped up on tables everywhere, yet its virtually an unknownn culinary treasure in New Zealand.




Saxelby Stilton jar seal from the Whanganui Museum.


(From left clockwise) Hawera & Normanby Star 15 April 1896, Evening Post 7 July 1897, Local & General Thames Star 18 Sep 1916.


Christmas advert from 1927.


A New Zealand Dinner in Paris, including NZ Stilton. Wanganui Chronicle – 1907


The famous NZ Stilton recipe hails from a Stilton producer from Leicestershire. Southland Times – 1907.sax5

Saxelby Stilton at Smeetons, 75 Queen Street, 1927.sax6Christmas advert from 1927.


Ads printed in the The Mecury, Hobart in 1911.



About Curd Nerd

Put it in my belly, especially if it's smelly.
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