Dorset butchers is 'oldest family business in UK'

RJ Balson and Son RJ Balson & Son butchers shop is the oldest continuously trading family business in the UK

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When John Balson started off as a butcher in Dorset in 1535, Henry VIII was on the throne.

Hundreds of years later, the Balson family continues to trade just a few streets away from where their first market stall was set up in Bridport.

They have been identified as the oldest family business in the UK by the Institute for Family Businesses, a not-for-profit association.

The family business exports sausages as far afield as the United States.

RJ Balson and Son has been in its current West Allington premises since 1880.

'Heart of community'

In previous centuries the butchers traded from a stall on South Street, similar to a modern farmers market, according to current owner Richard Balson.

When asked the secret to his success, Mr Balson put it down to being at the "heart of the community".

Other events in 1535

  • Lima, Peru is founded by Francisco Pizarro
  • Fray Tom├ís de Berlanga discovers the Galapagos Islands
  • Sir Thomas More is executed for treason by King Henry VIII

"It's a meeting place, some people don't even buy anything, they just want to come in for a chat.

"Coming to our butchers is an experience and a joyful one, we have a laugh and a joke and talk a bit of gossip, we've got lovely customers."

Mr Balson said life had got easier in the years he had worked as a butcher.

"My father always said his first job every morning was catching the horse.

"My job when I started out was pumping up the tyres on the bike, because we had six delivery bikes.

"Now you just have to turn the key and start up the car."

Professional footballer

Mr Balson's 31-year-old son, Billy, has recently begun working for the business.

Billy also has a two-year-old son, Freddie, who it is hoped will continue in the family trade.

Mr Balson said he never considered any other career.

"I didn't try all that hard at school because I knew I was going into the family firm."

However, his older brother, Mike Balson, was a professional footballer who captained Exeter City in the 1970s.

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