Wiltshire is well known for its southern chalk and northern rich pasture dairy land, and cheese production was once a well established part of Wiltshire life, from cottage industry to factory production. Chippenham’s cheese market opened in 1850, reported in the London Illustrated News and the market soon became famous. Wiltshire Cheese was renowned from the 18th century and became highly sought after. The Wiltshire Loaf is a semi-hard cheese, smooth and creamy on the outside and crumbly in the centre. The North Wiltshire (or Wiltshire) Loaf reached the peak of its popularity in the 18th & early 19th centuries.
William Nichols was a Chippenham Chemist who developed the use of the substance annatto as a food additive. Annatto comes from the achiote shrub seed and is produced in South America. You can still see it as the orange skin on some cheeses today, and it is used to give colour to dairy products.
I am often guided by those twin pillars of research: serendipity and curiosity. It was these two trusty old friends that led me Henry Charles “inky” Stephens (1841 – 1918). While tidying my desk as part of my New Year resolution I was left with just a few paper clips and two rulers on the work surface, which reminded me of a patent I had spotted in our indexes for “the parallel ruler” (yes, sadly someone had invented this before me). The patent seems to enable …er…two parallel lines to be drawn, more seriously it was used by navigators to draw parallel lines on charts and originally invented by Fabrizio Mordente in 1584 and others sought to improve it. But there was more, with the documents were further patents for inkstands and an adjustable pencil, plus specifications for various ink manufacture and the chemistry behind them. Of course, what I had started to look at was part of an archive relating to the Cholderton estate, once owned by the family and an individual whose single small invention arguably helped change the course of writing.