BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

13 November 2014

BBC Homepage

Local BBC Sites

Neighbouring Sites

Related BBC Sites

Contact Us


You are in: Suffolk > Don't Miss > Features > Fry's Berkshire Delight

Berkshire sow with 2 piglets

Patience and two of her litter

Fry's Berkshire Delight

A special pig - sponsored by Stephen Fry and others - has given birth to a litter at her Suffolk home. They're giving Patience an allowance in honour of literature's most famous porker - the Empress of Blandings from the PG Wodehouse novels.

Eight Berkshire piglets

The litter of eight at Baylham

The Empress was a Berkshire sow that obsessed her owner Lord Emsworth in the novels of PG Wodehouse.  The dotty peer is determined that his animal should eventually win the Shropshire County Show's Fattest Pig prize, but suspects his opponents are out to nobble her.

 Jeeves and Wooster are the author's most famous creations, but whether they're Wodehouse's best creations would be disputed by many.  Don't get involved in a debate with serious fans unless you've got a week to spare, simply start with the Blandings omnibus and take it from there.


The Empress of Blandings was a Berkshire, which is one of the many endangered breeds of British pig which has declined in numbers as the farming industry has concentrated on producing other larger, breeds.  As a result of this trend, the PG Wodehouse Society has decided to sponsor Patience.  She lives at Baylham House Rare Breeds Farm near Ipswich, Suffolk.  Gifts of sponsorship were given to a group of celebrities who performed at the Society's dinner.  They include Stephen Fry ( who played Jeeves in the ITV series), Anton Rodgers ( from the BBC sitcom May To December), PG Wodehouse's step-great-grandson Hal Cazalet (the US Broadway singer) and Tony Ring (who's written several books on Wodehouse). 

pigs and visitors at Baylham Rare Breeds Farm

Visitors at Baylham House Rare Breeds


 The Society's chairman Hilary Bruce has launched the Back The Berkshire campaign "We're confident that in a hundred years' time, Wodehouse's work will continue to be read and enjoyed. New generations will be captivated by the Empress and will want, in their turn, to pay respects to members of her breed.  But there are only three or four hundred Berkshires in the UK today. Only by increasing the numbers very substantially, perhaps fourfold, will the Berkshire get off the danger list."  Patience gave birth to eight piglets in August 2005 - three of them sows.

Baylham Rare Breeds Farm

Patience is the first Berkshire to be given a home at the farm which is between Ipswich and Needham Market in the pig-heavy English county of Suffolk.  The Farm's owner Richard Storer is trying to help the Berkshire become a viable commercial meat product again "A 100 years ago a lot of Chinese Neapolitan pigs were introduced to this country to cross with native pigs.  The Berkshire was a result of this, but it's the only one of the crossings that has survived.  It's a lot smaller than the usual British pig.   At the moment British agriculture is restricted to a few breeds.   For example, milk comes from black and white cows because that's the sort of milk we want at the moment.  But if these things change, then the rarer breeds all have an enormous gene-bank which could be used.  That's what we're trying to preserve here.  The Berkshire won't be raised as quickly as a modern pig but it will survive without the usual additives, it's a good mother, docile and produces tasty meat."

Meat production

Richard Storer says there's no room for sentiment.  The breed will only survive if people buy its meat "The piglets were born in August 2005 and will be sold for meat or to other breeders.   In fact we've already sold the three females in the litter to other breeders, but they're still here at the moment.   We'll be eating Berkshire meat soon ourselves and if we can't sell it it'll go in the freezer, no nonsense.  However, I haven't read any of the Blandings novels yet!" Since the photographs were taken one of the sow piglets has died. 

piglets in pen

The sponsorship sign at Baylham

In the meantime, you can look at the pictures of the litter and say "Aah" or "Pig-Hoo-o-o-o-ey" (which is the traditional call of the pig-man to his charges).  The surviving piglets will be off to market soon.....

last updated: 19/02/2009 at 12:32
created: 02/11/2005

Have Your Say

Are you prepared to pay extra for rare-breed meat? Does it matter if the Berkshire survives?

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

no i will now eat this reare breed or pay moreand it does matter

yes it matters, the berkshire pig has to survive, one its a lovely looking pig, two, (sorry) but it is the best pork you can buy, so of course its a bit more expensive bit like buying designer

The Berkshire breed is praised in the American swine industry for it's fine hams and bacon. The breed definately deserves it's chance to survive. And as for the cost, you get what you pay for. Buy a cheap piece of meat, it's going to taste cheap. Buy a spendy piece, you will taste why it's spendy.

Yes it does matter in fact it mmatters a great deal. All rare breeds should be allowed to survive and thrive. The meat is unrivalled and unbeatable.

Yes, meat gets worse and worse, and forces you to look elsewhere, so please tell me where I can pay my extra and get Berksire pork? I live in Peterborough where it;s all quantity not quality, but I do go to London every 4/6 weeks.
Michael Leggatt

Yes, I am prepared to pay more. I have stopped buying pork from the supermarkets because it is 'soapy tasting'. Grown too quickly and not developed any flavour.

If the disease effects the deer population then it will spread nomatter what the restrictions that is put in force
Peter Crack

Well, as long as the Berkshire pig wasn't THE Empress!
Anne Badger

Yes, I think they should beable to live life like everyone else. I think it is wrong to kill them.
December Wallace

I would love to try a Berkshire pig but I dont think I would be happy about paying extra with the prices of normal pig meat being so cheap, But i would not like to see the Berkshire pig Vanish
Andrew R

yes i wouldn't mind as i am great fan of PG and would definitely love to see berkshire survives.

I feel it is very important that rare breeds are supported, and look forward to the day when they are no longer rare. And as an avid fan of PG Wodehouse, long live the Empress of Blandings, and may the Berkshire live long and prosper.
Dave Kelley

I'm a vegetarian, so not interested in eating a Berkshire, but definitely concerned that it and other 'heritage' breeds survive! Of course, as a Wodehousian, I am particularly keen on the breed to which the Empress belonged. I wish I could keep one myself....
Leah Ray

It's great to see rare breeds of any animal being supported and encouraged. I wonder what Patience would spend the 'allowance' on?

You are in: Suffolk > Don't Miss > Features > Fry's Berkshire Delight

Felixstowe (photo: Derek Swann)
East Coast Floods 1953: Read eye witness accounts

Stories on the way to Honduras...
Read about Duncan's trip through South America to Honduras

Video Nation
Share your thoughts and experiences on camera

Gay Suffolk

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy